#2: The Known World by Edward P. Jones

September 24, 2009 | 7

coverThe Known World, Edward P. Jones’ gorgeously written novel, turns the world of race relations as we know it upside down. The lines that divide the races in his antebellum are not so much blurred as crooked, doglegged, and doubling back on each other. And race is only one vector: family, power, history. and love are also in play here. Jones’ refashioning of antebellum history is profoundly subversive and profoundly satisfying. In his telling, our nation’s story is one of contradictions and cruel ironies, halting progress and lost opportunities. I hope that someone, some day, will write a novel just as good about race relations in our current vexed era. If they do, I imagine they will conclude that Mr. Jones had it right all along.

The Millions review of The Known World.
The Known World tops The Millions Prizewinners list.
More Best Fiction of the Millennium (So Far)
Best of the Millennium, Pros Versus Readers

is the author of the acclaimed short fiction collections Do Not Deny Me and Throw Like a Girl as well as the novel City Boy; the short story collection Who Do You Love, a 1999 National Book Award finalist for fiction; and the novel Wide Blue Yonder, a New York Times Notable Book for 2002.


  1. I hadn’t thought of The Known World for this list, silly because “it’s part of our known world” is a stock phrase of mine. The book is wonderful, but as with all good books, the conversations that follow it are excellent. What is part of our known world that 100 years from now people will look back and wonder what was wrong with us to allow it? What is so ingrained that we accept it even though it’s wrong? This question has started some of the best conversations.

  2. Wow. No Philip Roth. No David Foster Wallace. No Michel Houellebecq. No Colson Whitehead. No Nicola Barker. No James Kelman. But worst of all…


    Your list is highly deficient without Markson. He is the most innovative fiction writer of this decade.

    Shame on you guys.

  3. Well, DFW published some short stories since 2000, but does the “Oblivion” collection really belong in this company?
    (I do have my own complaints about “this company,” but will wait till No. 1 is posted to say more.)

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