Contemporary Authors Reading List

A Select List of Important Contemporary Authors

(Complied by Students in ENG 340 Contemporary Literature, Spring 2020)

Drew Magary – writes novels that have dark humor and writes a variety of fiction and nonfiction. He was a columnist turned book writer and has used his gain of attraction from writing columns to his book passion. He is on the up and coming end of the popularity spectrum. The Postmortal,, written in 2011, is one of his most famous works. Authors page on Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drew_Magary 

Myraim Gruba – she is a Mexican-American author. She is the author of several books, many chapbooks (street literature), and various articles, essays and short stories which have been internationally published. Her most acclaimed work is MEAN. Even gaining recognition in 2019 in O, The Oprah Magazine as one of the “Best LGBTQ Books of All Time”. Here is the authors website https://www.myriamgurba.com/ 

David Small – is a prolific author writing a variety of works but is an illustrator and graphic novelist. His most famous work is Stitches and was published in 2009. It tells the story of Small’s journey from sickly child to cancer patient, to troubled teen who ran away from home at sixteen to become an artist. It was a #1 New York Times Best Seller, and was named one of the ten best books of 2009 by Publishers Weekly and Amazon.com. It was a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Stitches has been translated into seven different languages and published in nine different countries. Authors website http://www.davidsmallbooks.com/ 

Yasmina Reza – is a French playwright, actress, novelist and screenwriter best known for her plays ‘Art’ and God of Carnage. God of Carnage was published in 2006 in English. It has been extremely well received and Jeff Daniels even played in the Broadway version. It also was the winner of the 2009 Tony Award for Best Play. Here is the Wikipedia page of the play https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_of_Carnage 

Tomi Adeyemi – an up and coming young adult author. Most famously known for The Children of Blood and Bone series (2018), which has been picked up by Disney. This series has been well received and in 2018, the viewers of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon selected Children of Blood and Bone as the first ever “Tonight Show Summer Read”. Here is the authors website http://www.tomiadeyemi.com/ 

Natalie Diaz: born and raised in Fort Mojave Indian Village in California, has published several renounced collections of poetry, including When My Brother Was an Aztec, where she delves deep into the dynamics and cultural background of a family rooted deeply in tribal life. Her poems tackle real world problems, even opening up about a family member’s addiction to meth. She received the MacArthur Fellowship Award in 2018, and the Narrative Prize in 2012. Here is a link to the author’s website: https://www.nataliegermainediaz.com/about

Jesmyn Ward: an American novelist, won the 2011 National Book Award for Fiction for Salvage the Bones, a novel that explores an African American family preparing for Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi and the aftermath. While depicting Southern life and culture, Ward brings to light the severity of the damage the storm caused and how quickly the world and the media seemed to forget about it. She received the 2018 Time 100 Award, the 2017 National Book Award, and the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award. Author’s early life, as well as list of achievements: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesmyn_Ward#Awards_and_honors

Natasha Trethewey: was the United States Poet Laureate in 2012 and 2013. In 2007, she won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her collection Native Guard. Her work often features the overlapping of the past and future while exploring the history and intersection of race in the United States. She received the 2016 Academy of American Poets Fellowship and she was the 2012 Mississippi Poet Laureate. Author’s page on Poetry Foundation: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/natasha-trethewey

David Mitchell: is an English author, whose work makes the unfamiliar world seem familiar by blending together cultures from around the world with our own culture, in multiple interwoven stories. His novel, Cloud Atlas, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and was adapted into a film of the same title. Mitchell also contributed to the script of Netflix’s show Sense8. In 2007, Mitchell was also named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine. Author’s about page: http://www.davidmitchellbooks.com/about-david-mitchell/

Colson Whitehead: is an American novelist, who tackles race and politics with honesty, humor, and innovative switches in perspective in his novels. Whitehead is the winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction and the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel The Underground Railroad. He also received a MacArthur “genius grant.” Author’s website: https://www.colsonwhitehead.com/

Kate Quinn: is a New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction. Possessing both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Classical Voice she turned her hand to writing. Her work, The Alice Network (published 2017), was her first foray into the 20th century. (Website: katequinnauthor.com)

Lisa Samson: is the author of  over twenty-five books. Her novel, Songbird won the Christy Award. Samson’s books have a way of plumbing our emotions and conditions with grace and love. Her novel, Embrace Me (published 2000), takes an interesting look at how we view ourselves and how we relate to each other. (Website: lisajoysamson.com)

Angela Hunt: is a winner of the Christy Awards and the best selling author of more than 180 works of literature. Her works range from picture books to non-ficion to novels. There are over 500 million cioues if her books sold worldwide. Some of her works include The Immortal (published 2000) and Five Miles South of Peculiar (published 2012) (Website: angelahuntbooks.com)

Jan Karon: is the New York TImes best-selling author of twenty-three books. Her most popular books are the MItford series chronicling the life of an Episcopal priest in a small town.  The first book in this series, At Home in MItford, has been reprinted more than eighty times and was nominated for an ABBY  (American Booksellers Book of the Year Award) three times (1996, 1997, 1998). Her most recent book, To Be Where You Are, continues the Mitford story and was published in September 2017. (Website: mitfordbooks.com)

Andrew Peterson; is an American singer/songwriter who believes in the power of story in the human experience. His only ventures into the world of contemporary literature is his fantasy/adventure series, The Wingfeather Saga (published 2008).  Peterson won a 2019 Dove award for his song, Is He Worthy.  (website: andrew-peterson.com)

Zadie Smith- is a tenured professor of Creative Writing at New York University. At the age of 24 her debut novel White Teeth, published in 2000, became a sensation in the literary world. All her novels, poetry, and short-stories deal with race, religion, and cultural identity in a relatable, eye-opening way.  Author’s Amazon page https://www.amazon.com/Zadie-Smith/e/B001D0P4CA%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share. 

Johnathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen is a contributor of essays to The New Yorker and Winner of the National Book Award in 2001, and a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction finalist. He is the author of five novels and five works of nonfiction. His work touches on social criticism and family troubles. Here is his website, with a new essay collection out!! This 60 year old American author is not only an influential author, but fought with one of Americas’ biggest icons, Oprah. Franzen was the only author to be pictured on the Times cover during in the entire decade.https://jonathanfranzen.com/ 

Amy Hempel– Hempels’ work is often taught but not read for fun. She was put in the category as a “writers writer” She has been reviewed as an author who’s stories will reward readers again and again. She is a 68 year old American short story author who was influenced by many great authors such as Raymond Carver.

Helen Oyeyemi– she is a 35 year old British novelist. She wrote many books one in particular called What is Not Yours is Not Yours. This story and author are considered contemporary because it is a series of short stories turned into a novel. The women in the stories are all lost just like many people in todays society.

M John Harrison– a 74 year old prose writer. His work consists of short stories and novels. He is reviewed as one of the most underrated prose writers.

Malala Yousafzai:  At just 22 years old today, Malala Yousafzai has been one of the youngest global political influencers of our time. She is an incredibly talented author and student. Her first book was published in 2013, and she has tackled many emotional issues about war, religion, education, and racism. Here is the link to one of her websites where she shares her stories and advocates for a variety of worthy causes.  https://www.malala.org/.

Edwidge Danticat: As an American-Haitian novelist, with ten published novels and 25 short stories that have been translated into seven languages, Danticat is a contemporary author to keep on your radar in the future. She writes memoirs that focus on family relationships, the search for identity, and political issues. Here is her Wiki Link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwidge_Danticat.

Khaled Hosseini: Most famous for his book Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini has had a profoundly serious impact on contemporary literature, I do not know of any students that have not read this book or at least heard of it. What you might not know is that he was also a doctor and has five other published works. He mostly writes about themes of humanitarian and cultural issues. He also has the CEO of a nonprofit foundation. Here is a link to more info about him.   https://khaledhosseini.com/.

Markus Zusak: If I could pick a second “guilty pleasure” author, it would be Zusak. His many famous contemporary works are all awe-inspiring. From Bridge of Clay to The Underdog, all modern themes are covered, including family, identity, loss, bravery, and love. https://www.chipublib.org/markus-zusak-biography/.

Natalie Baszile: Queen Sugar. Could there be a better title? Nope. Baszile is the ideal definition of a contemporary author; she has fresh ideas and can express the human experience in a way you have not seen before. She has two books so far, but I would suspect she will be a familiar household author soon. http://nataliebaszile.com/.

David Walton is the author of eight sci-fi books. All his books have relatable characters and big ideas. He grabs ahold of current events, like the rise of artificial intelligence and pandemics, and runs with them. His most recent novel Three Laws Lethal was named by the Wall Street Journal as their Best Science Fiction of 2019. Author’s page on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/David-Walton/e/B002BMID4K%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share.

Sara Gruen is the author of five novels, a #1 New York Times bestseller, and U.S.A Today best seller. Her books deal greatly with animals, history, and love. As a writer, she weaves together modern voices and historic experiences. Check out my favorite book by her, Water for Elephants, which is now a movie and on it’s way to Broadway. Here is the Goodreads review for this amazing book  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43641.Water_for_Elephants

Alice Munro has had a long career in writing. Focusing on her career in 2000, with a boom in creative writing, she won the Nobel Prize for literature and cited as a master of the contemporary short story by the Swedish Academy. You must get your tissues, dreams, and hopes ready when you pick up any of her collections. Author’s Goodreads page with amazing quotes, https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6410.Alice_Munro

Roxanne Gay – She has brought social issues to light through her superb writing and critical thinking skills.

Cormac McCarthy – With works like ‘The Road’ and ‘No Country for Old Men’, he has a unique writing style mixed with human themes of what it means to be a monster and what it means to be a human.

Gillian Flynn – She was part of the revitilization of the true crime genre with smart characters and utilization of  the audience’s skepticism.

Angie Thomas – While there has been other great political YA, she adds nuance and understanding to difficult subjects.

Percival Everett: has published fifteen novels, several collections of short fiction and one collection of poetry, tackling a wide variety of issues and genres, including race in America, crime fiction, African American culture and identity; his “westerns” often include African-American characters and the perspectives of other marginalized people. Author’s page on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Percival-L.-Everett/e/B001H6L4QK%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

Richard Powers: is an American novelist best known for his explorations of the impact of science and technology on our lives, is a national book-award winner, recipient of the MacArthur “genius grant,” and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award in 2019 for Overstory, his epic exploration of humans and their relationships with large forests, already considered an important contribution to the genre of environmental literature. Author’s Website: http://www.richardpowers.net

Claire Vaye Watkins: is an American author and academic who is an emerging voice in contemporary fiction, whose short story collection Battleborn (2012) garnered critical attention, and whose novel Gold Fame Citrus (2015) is often included on lists of the best recent environmental literature; she was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 2014 and has been shortlisted for many prominent literary prizes in the last several years. Publisher’s webpage: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/230586/claire-vaye-watkins

Robin Wall Kimmerer: is a professor at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry whose long meditations on the intersection of science, spirituality and indigenous wisdom is reflected in works like Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses (2003) and her highly acclaimed Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants (2013). Faculty webpage: https://www.esf.edu/faculty/kimmerer/

W. S. Merwin: published over fifty collections of poetry across his long career, and maintained his influence in the 21stcentury by winning the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2009 for The Shadow of Sirius, serving as Poet Laureate in 2010, and publishing several critically-acclaimed poems and collections in his declining years, focusing on his interests in aging, Buddhism and ecology before passing in March of 2019. “Merwin Conservancy” Website: https://merwinconservancy.org/about-w-s-merwin/


GUILTY PLEASURES

Antonio Iturbe – He is a Spain based writer and has mostly written books in Spanish one book was translated to English titled The Librarian of Auschwitz (2017) which is a historical fiction and biographical fiction novel. Even though he has only done the one he has gained massive attention from it because he did a ton of research and interviews to get this as accurate as possible. It is a riveting and moving story. Books page on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/de/book/show/43362414-the-librarian-of-auschwitz

Bianca Spriggs: is an American poet who received the AI Smith Individual Artist Fellowship Award in Poetry and was named one of the Top 30 Black Performance Poets in the U.S. Her work often draws from folklore, science fiction, and mythology interwoven with topics in race relations. Although she hasn’t gained as much attention, she continues to break boundaries in the fields of race and women in the South, telling her own story “through [other people], and telling their stories” through her own. Author’s Bio Page: https://www.ohio.edu/cas/spriggsb

Jameson Parker:  was a working actor for over twenty-five years. Parker is best known for starring in the 1980’s hit detective drama series, Simon and Simon. He currently makes his living writing on his ranch near the Sierra Nevada mountain range.  He currently has written seven books and has authored numerous articles.  His book, An Accidental Cowboy tells the story of his being shot and nearly killed by a madman in California and the ensuing PTSD and depression he deals with as a result of that. (website: readjamesonparker.com)

Vickie Johnstone: I am not sure why I am so obsessed with this author’s poetry. She has 18 books so far, but my favorite is Traveling Light. I first encountered her work as an assigned reading several years ago, and I try to sneak her into any academic conversation that I can. If you need some lighthearted inspiration to keep you going, she is your girl! She lives in London and mostly writes YA about animals. https://books.google.com/books/about/Life_s_Rhythms.html?id=FaFULwEACAAJ&source=kp_author_description.

Christopher Poindexter uses a typewriter to fill pages with poetry, short stories, and escapism. Each one evokes feeling of love, loss, and the meaning of humanity. Here is a link to some of his quotes on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/8197776.Christopher_Poindexter

Stephen King. While I believe some of his books have merit, ultimately his writing tends to be cheesy, filled with cliches, and overwriting that hurts sometimes interesting concepts.

Rock On! The 2000s saw the publication of some very influential and critically-acclaimed “rock” memoirs: Bob Dylan’s Chronicles: Volume One (2004); Keith Richard’s Life (2010) and Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run (2016)—elements of all three of these autobiographies garnered attention for their “literary” quality. Click on each of the titles to read the reviews in the New York Times: ChroniclesLifeBorn to Run: