Reading List

8 Underrated Books of the 21st Century

These books are must-reads to everyone who wants to enjoy some modern literature in its full variety.

It has only been about 20 years in the 21st century, so it is quite early to set the canon. At the same time, there are so many wonderful and important literary works so far. Some of the books got world recognition, but some are rather underrated and deserve more coverage.

Maybe one day they’ll be taught in college. Students will rush to the best writing service EssayHub to buy college essay on one of these novels. But today, these excellent books are still not quite popular. Here is the list of underrated modern classic books that everyone should read.


The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen

This book was released in 2001, so it is one of the first outstanding novels of the 21st century. It is a fascinating reading that analyzes and deconstructs the American idea of the middle class. The story revolves around the Lamberts family and their attempt to have “one last Christmas together”.

The family issues like father’s Parkinson’s progressing and the siblings who struggle with depression and professional failure are combined with a glance on socio-economic problems. It is about one family but in many ways, it is also about almost every family. It is intimate, epic, and has excellent storytelling. And there is a fair share of humor in it too.


Hollow Heart, Viola Di Grado

If you are into an unusual and provocative reading, this one is the way to go. The story begins after the death of the protagonist. It features what happens after suicide, a glance at what an afterlife could be. The story is told from the perspective of a decomposing body experiencing awful loneliness and a sense of loss.

Afterlife in this story is not a fun and light place; it is a dark and isolated experience. It is one of the most underrated books to read and not as gloomy as it sounds, there are some humorous moments as well.


Little Nothing, Marisa Silver

This is a truly marvelous story that is easy to call a hybrid book. The plot revolves around the protagonist, a little girl Pavla, born at the beginning of the 20th century to a peasant family. She is beautiful and loved, but she was born a dwarf. As the parents try to treat her with the help of a local doctor, the adventures and metamorphoses of Pavla begin.

This is a fantasy story featuring magic realism elements where Pavla is a dwarf girl one second and the wolf next time. It is extremely exciting to read. And it is not only about physical transformations, it is about love, war, and the shifting nature of humans.


Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson

It is a memoir of the author’s early career as an attorney helping disadvantaged clients. Not only is it beautifully narrated and interesting to read, but it also has a deep insight into the US legal system. Stevenson goes around several death row cases he had worked with.

One of the most heartbreaking stories is the case of Walter McMillian, an African-American man wrongly accused of murdering a white woman despite all the evidence pointing to his innocence. He also tells about other marginalized clients and the way the legal system treats them. It is a very inspiring and thought-provoking novel that everyone needs to read.


White Dialogues, Bennett Sims

This is one of the most underrated books with brilliant short story collections of the last decade. It is bizarre and features stories ranging from psychological thriller and horror to playful comedy. They are unsettling as well as unique and smart. The author is already a master in creating horror stories that include meaningful content.

The stories picture people looking for and finding their purpose in the modern world. Here is a Hitchcock researcher that is driven insane by his own theory of cinema. Here is a guy that watches his life rewritten in This American Life episode. The collection has a lot to uncover and to learn from.


Problems, Jade Sharma

Those who want something real but hilarious and very smart will love this book. It is raw yet so funny. It is a story of Maya, a young woman living in New York and dealing with heroin addiction. Her husband leaves her, her affair is over, and her life starts to fall apart. She now has a lot to deal with in the world that doesn’t really care about anyone.

The themes revolve around being a woman, being alone, struggling and recovering from addiction, and redemption. It has a fascinating and extremely wise narrative.


Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This is a story about war, but not only about it. It is about the Biafra conflict that scarred Nigeria and its people for many years. It starts before the Civil War, and the plot follows the lives of five characters – twin sisters and daughters of a businessman, a professor, a Nigerian houseboy, and a British expat. Biafra’s declaration is what changes their lives forever.

It is a serious novel that deals with politics and war, but it is also about people and love in wartime.


The Emerald Light in the Air, Donald Antrim

Here is another dashing collection of short stories on this list. It is a series of glances at men and women and their seem-to-be-ordinary lives. They are writers, lawyers, teachers, actors, etc. They hope, they feel, they achieve, and they fail. It is about being alive, living, and wanting to live.


In Summary

These 8 books are must-reads to everyone who wants to enjoy some modern literature in its full variety. They are excellently written and explore all parts of human experience from a unique perspective. They are dark, raw, funny, light, and smart.

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