Best of the Millennium

Best Fiction of the Millennium (So Far): Honorable Mention

By posted at 7:02 am on September 29, 2009 6

As we had hoped, our “Best of the Millennium (So Far)” poll stoked a fair amount of conversation around the web last week. List-making, as we’ve argued in the past, is an imperfect enterprise, and reactions ranged from “Great picks” to “Why didn’t you mention x?”

One of the difficulties of reaching consensus on books is that there are so many of them; The Corrections‘ appearance at #1 in our poll may reflect the likelihood of our panelists having read the book as much as it reflects inherent excellence. In our survey of 56 panelists – who had, collectively, 280 votes to allocate – something like 160 titles were mentioned. And so, as we sifted through the ballots, what struck us was not a “unified sensibility,” but an exhilarating diversity, which we plan to share with you in the coming days.

As we continue to discuss our “Best Fiction of the Millennium” results – and the heuristic value of list-making in general – we’ll announce the rest of the titles that received votes, and maybe some of those that came up in the comments. We hope that you discover some pleasant surprises on these lists, as we did, and we hope you’ll continue the conversation about what books from the last decade were worth your reading time. First, though, we thought we’d post an “Honorable Mention” list of 15 books that received multiple votes in our poll but didn’t crack our Top 20.


This massive – and massively popular – novel follows two comic book creators in the World War II era.

A series of journal entries documents the life of an Englishman and his century. (See our review.)

A Catholic priest embroiled in the hothouse of Chilean politics delivers a riveting dramatic monologue.

A flood of possibly divine provenance turns the titular hospital into an ark in this, the second novel from a hugely ambitious young writer.

Paired disasters – a divorce and a terrorist attack – mirror each other in this novel set in New York in 2001.


Stories of love knit together a community in Ann Arbor in this novel by a critical favorite.

The first and third installments of the His Dark Materials trilogy open up a parallel universe of daemons and Dust.

Traveling East Asia after World War II, an English war hero finds love among the ruins. (See our review.)

Class notes from a ne’er-do-well form the spine of this comic novel.

Two magicians spar in this novel, which is long and erudite in the Victorian manner. (See our review.)


Tóibín, an Irishman, recreates a pivotal period in the life of Henry James.

A half-Apache youth matriculates at the school of hard knocks and various other failing 1960’s institutions.

Wallace’s final collection of short fiction is dark and dense, bleak and exhilarating.

McCarthy bends the legacy of the Gallic avant-garde in the direction of pop perfection in this novel of memory and forgetting.

The final entry in Wagner’s cell-phone themed trilogy explores the glitter and emptiness of Hollywood.

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6 Responses to “Best Fiction of the Millennium (So Far): Honorable Mention”

  1. Anna
    at 4:39 pm on September 29, 2009

    It’s exciting to see all this discussion about list-making – I really glad to see Baxter mentioned

  2. evelyn
    at 12:09 am on October 3, 2009

    Madeline L’engle once said “If I have something I want to say that is too difficult for adults to swallow, then I will write it in a book for children.” I’m glad some adults were open enough to children’s literature to give it a mention. Pullman is certainly the best thing I’ve read this millennium.

  3. Book Group Buzz - Discussion of Book Clubs, Reading Lists, and Literary News - Booklist Online » Blog Archive » Best Books of a New Century?
    at 3:54 pm on October 8, 2009

    […] also published a reader poll which you can compare to list selected by the professional panel, 15 honorable mentions, and a long list of all the books that the panelists […]

  4. Themba Mabona
    at 3:12 am on January 13, 2013

    DFW is an honorable mention? And then it is “Oblivion”?
    This list is ludicrous; I thought “The Guardian” did a sh#te job on compiling literary best-of lists but I stand corrected.

  5. Themba Mabona
    at 3:23 am on January 13, 2013

    ….ah, so far!, I get it, my bad….

  6. Abby
    at 8:18 pm on July 10, 2013

    Susanna Clarke, not Samantha Clarke, wrote Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

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