In Chris Pavone's new novel, Two Nights in Lisbon, a vacationing American searches for her enigmatic younger husband after he vanishes from their hotel room. Below, the best-selling author of The Expats names his favorite novels of the current century.
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (2013)
Atkinson's spectacular doorstop might be described as a reincarnation story, but also might be called a deeply insightful examination of how a single character would experience the whole of the tumultuous 20th century. A remarkable achievement of the imagination. Buy it here.
A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (2010)
I don't think there's anyone writing today as adept as Egan at running a completely different race every time she leaves the gate. Goon Squad is, I think, her biggest triumph: a collection of fascinating characters, swirling around a music producer, in stories that span a half-century. Buy it here.
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (2001)
Franzen is a master of the family novel, and this one delves into the Midwestern Lambert family and their progeny transplanted to the East Coast. It's a deep, rich, insightful look at The Way We Live Now, with a sharp eye turned upon the best and worst of what it means to be an American. Buy it here.
Mercy Street by Jennifer Haigh (2022)
A generous, deeply empathetic, and heartbreaking novel about a Boston abortion clinic besieged by the type of violent political threat that has become all too common. Yet Mercy Street also manages to be one of the funniest books I've ever read — enjoyable on every single page. Buy it here.
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (2004)
Wholly original, genre-bending, thought-provoking, emotionally resonant, and a constant pleasure to read: Cloud Atlas has it all. A book that's nearly impossible to categorize — it is, in a way, every type of novel — with sections that reach back to the 19th century and forward to a postapocalyptic future, with a few stops between, exploring the commonality of the human experience. Buy it here.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (2013)
This sprawling masterpiece is about nearly everything — family and loss, grief and despair, art and betrayal, and many different types of love — in a thrilling, expansive plot with beautiful prose and a rich cast of compelling, original characters. No one can create a world like Donna Tartt. Buy it here.
This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.