Best Novel Of The 21st Century? Junot Diaz’s ‘The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao’ Tops Critics Poll

In perspective, very little time has passed since the turn of the century. So little, in fact, that the majority of human beings on the planet were alive much longer in the 20th century than the current one.

Still, that doesn’t stop culture writers and other important voices in literature from posing the question, “What is the best novel of the 21st century thus far?”

BBC Culture recently released one such poll, where they asked American critics what their pick for top 21st century novel was, reported the Guardian. Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering the growing Latino population in the United States, the novel chosen for its number-one slot was the Spanglish-using, Dominican history-packed The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.

Diaz’s novel recounts the story of a family of Dominican immigrants whose mother flees the brutal regime of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina after becoming romantically entangled with a married army officer. The primary plot of the novel is made up of stories of her two children, Lola and Oscar Wao, whose New Jersey upbringing is heavily influenced by American culture.

Critics were near unanimous in their praise for Junot’s work when it was first released, garnering it a win for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Of the critics surveyed, many still seemed to be under the spell of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao more than five years later.

“‘Díaz’s deft mash-up of Dominican history, comics, sci-fi, magic realism and footnotes totally rocks,’ found [Gregg] Barrios, while critic and author Rigoberto Gonzalez said the debut ‘re-energized these questions: Who is American? What is the American experience?'”

Despite the list being compiled by American critics, several of the books that made the cut for best novels of the 21st century were imports. You can view the full top 20 below.

1. Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007)
2. Edward P Jones, The Known World (2003)
3. Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall (2009)
4. Marilynne Robinson, Gilead (2004)
5. Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections (2001)
6. Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000)
7. Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010)
8. Ben Fountain, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2012)
9. Ian McEwan, Atonement (2001)
10. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006)
11. Zadie Smith, White Teeth (2000)
12. Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (2002)
13. Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
14. WG Sebald, Austerlitz
15. Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend
16. Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty
17. Cormac McCarthy, The Road
18. Zadie Smith, NW
19. Roberto Bolaño, 2666
20. Shirley Hazzard, The Great Fire

Do you think there was a better choice for the best novel of the 21st century than Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao?

[Image via Flickr]