50 Great 21st Century Novels for 6th Formers

What do English teachers do best? Pore over the minutiae of the latest proposed changes to GCSE specifications? Commit to memory the most recent accountability system by which schools are measured? Or argue about what makes a good book? The answer is obvious so, to provide material for debate, EMC has produced a list of 50 Great 21st Century Novels for 6th Formers.

We’ve narrowed the list down to books written since 2000 for two reasons. First, we believe that young people deserve the opportunity to experience literature relevant to the world in which they live. Second, it anticipates changes to A Level English Literature specifications, which are likely to require students to study texts published since the turn of the Millennium rather than post-1990, as is currently the case (though this has yet to be confirmed).

We make no claims for the list being definitive. Each novel included, however, has been read by at least one member of the EMC team, so we are confident about the quality of the selections. And we are prepared to argue our case!

We also expect everyone who reads the list to have several favourites they feel should be included. Please let us know what they are and we will add them to the mix when making updates in the future.

We have shied away from ranking the list from 1-50 and, instead, have opted to set the novels out in chronological order. If you are interested in sharing the list with your students, please forward the blog, or access a copy on PDF here. You can read more about each book by clicking on its cover image.


The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon

Kavalier and clay


The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen

Atonement, Ian McEwan

The Siege, Helen Dunmore

The Correctons Atonement the siege


If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, Jon McGregor

if nobody speaks of


We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver

The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri

Brick Lane, Monica Ali

keven namesakeactual brick lane


Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell

The Dew Breaker, Edwidge Danticat

The Man in My Basement, Walter Mosely

Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami

Small Island, Andrea Levy

cloud atlas small islanddew breaker kafka on shoreman in basement


Out Stealing Horses, Per Peterson

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro

out stealing never let me go


The Road, Cormac McCarthy

Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This Book Will Save Your Life, A.M. Homes

The Book Thief, Marcus Zusak

Suite Francaise, Irene Nemirovsky (date of publication in English)

Old Filth, Jane Gardam

Winter’s Bone, Daniel Woodrell

What is the What, Dave Eggers

The Inheritance of Loss, Kiran Desai

what is the what winters bone olf filth save yoiur life half sun road

book thiefinheritnace

suite franc


Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (two volumes in full)

The Song Before it is Sung, Justin Cartwright

The Road Home, Rose Tremain

The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mohsin Hamid

The Girls, Lori Lansens

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz

breif wondros the girls releuctant road home cartwright persepolis


The Rehearsal, Eleanor Catton

Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout

The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga

The VagrantsYiyun Li

white tiger olve kitt rehearsalvagrants


Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel

A Gate at the Stairs, Lorrie Moore

Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann

Brooklyn, Colm Toibin

brooklyn let the great gate stairs wolf hall


A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan

goon sa


Ours are the Streets, Sunjeev Sahota

A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness

Snowdrops, A.D. Miller

The Tiger’s Wife, Tea Obrecht

tigers wife monster snowdrops ours are the streets


NW, Zadie Smith

Leaving the Atocha Station, Ben Lerner

This is Life, Dan Rhodes

Canada, Richard Ford

The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt

The Panopticon, Jenni Fagan

sisters canada this is life atocha nw9780099558644


Life After Life, Kate Atkinson

life after


6 thoughts on “50 Great 21st Century Novels for 6th Formers

  1. Pingback: Wider Reading, Anyone? | English Blog

  2. Great list. Several on here I haven’t read and now will do. Very helpful – thank you! (‘The Universe Versus Alex Woods’ and ‘Flight Behaviour’?)

  3. Pingback: 50 Great 21st Century Novels for 6th formers | BGS LRC Blog

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