Atonement by Ian McEwan. See my comments here.
The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever. Number 63 on the Modern Library list.
The last 50 pages of An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser. Number 16 on the Modern Library list. I started this book in July 2005, then stalled at the halfway point for about a year. Somewhere in the middle, before Clyde commits his crime, there are about 150 pages where Clyde continues to string Roberta along and nothing much else happens, and that is where I and probably half the readers get stuck.
The second half is interesting in that the narrative shifts into a procedural investigation by the district attorney. The character of the DA is so relentless that it makes you sympathetic to Clyde, though you know he is guilty and quite doomed.
One indicator this novel has earned a significant place in literature is the reaction it continues to produce, from Ayn Rand’s angry condemnation to the pathological defense of capitalism by the “Brother’s Judd”. These criticisms never address the story itself, they simply attack its thinly veiled premise — that untempered ambition is a destructive force.
Handicapping the Great 21st Century Novels v0.5.0 – an interactive experience
I have made some updates to the interface and the data set.
One major change is that the list is limited to two books by the same author. Now all those pesky NYT bestseller writers won’t clog up the list so much. (This will be a configurable feature in the future.)
Authors can now be scored on origin (US or non-US) and historical generation. See the “Author” category for the new options. Want your list to only include Baby Boomers (1946-1960)? Looking for books by young, non-US authors? Dial away.
Also, authors are categoried by year of first publication: those published before 1991, from 1991 to 2000, and since 2001. This allow you to select “new” authors”, or select “established” authors, and so on.