• The cover of the book A Place for Us

    A Place for Us

    An Indian wedding reunites an estranged family in Mirza’s debut: youngest child Amar, incommunicado for three years; his father, Rafiq, whose attempts to level with his son are more missed connections; eldest daughter and bride, Hadia, who requested Amar’s return. But while the siblings repair their bonds in the present, it’s the flashbacks to their childhood in the early 2000s that provide context for what drove a wedge between Hadia, middle child Huda, and Amar.

     
  • The cover of the book The Lost Night

    The Lost Night

    A contemporary true-crime thriller turns personal when Lindsay revisits the sudden, inexplicable death of her friend Edie a decade earlier. Drawing upon her skills as a fact-checker, Lindsay delves into her spotty memories of their time together in drug-fueled hipster lofts in Brooklyn, interrogating whether Edie’s death was actually a suicide—or whether Lindsay herself played a part in cutting Edie’s young life tragically short.

     
  • The cover of the book Netherland

    Netherland

    Spanning the first five years of the decade, O’Neill’s thoughtful meditation on the immigrant experience unites Hans van den Broek, a Dutch banker debating whether to stay in New York City post-9/11 or join his family in London, with Chuck Ramkissoon, a charismatic Trinidadian Indian who desperately wants to be be embedded in American life. They meet on Chuck’s cricket pitch in Staten Island, where they play alongside men from India, Pakistan, Jamaica, Guyana, and more.

     
  • The cover of the book Gone Girl

    Gone Girl

    While Amy Dunne officially goes missing on her and Nick’s fifth anniversary, the damage begins back in 2008, when the recession claims their magazine jobs. “I wanted to explore what it meant to lose a job [for] people in their late 30s,” Flynn said. “I had Nick and Amy, two people who had always thought their jobs would be very safe. And to have that taken away from them… to be forced to reinvent themselves a little bit.” Wow, do they ever.

     
  • The cover of the book Prep

    Prep

    Sittenfeld’s poignant account of scholarship student Lee’s four years at a prestigious Massachusetts boarding school is so keen that some critics have wondered just how much the author drew from her own experiences teaching in those kinds of high-pressure, socially stratified settings. Lee’s attempts to assimilate with the preppy, privileged peers she sharply scrutinizes while cementing her alienation from her humble middle-class origins—including a fling with an out-of-her-league boy—capture the yearning push-and-pull of mid-2000s adolescence.

     
  • The cover of the book The Emperor's Children

    The Emperor's Children

    Messud’s novel follows 30-something New Yorkers Marina, Danielle, and Julius, all failing to live up to the wunderkind promise of their 20s, through a year of professional and personal scrambles. The year, however, is 2001. While the arrival of former it-girl novelist Marina’s 19-year-old cousin Bootie seems poised to disrupt their lives—by way of an affair and an exposé—the September 11 attacks puts all of their petty squabbles into harsh perspective.

     
  • The cover of the book Zeitoun

    Zeitoun

    After meeting through a McSweeney’s anthology collecting the voices of Hurricane Katrina, Eggers profiled Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a Syrian-American immigrant who stayed in New Orleans through the storm, traveling via canoe to aid people trapped in their homes. Until, that is, Zeitoun was arrested by the U.S. National Guard and detained for weeks on suspicions of terrorism. Despite the fallout in Zeitoun’s personal life in subsequent years, his narrative is a compelling snapshot of a particular time and place.

     
  • The cover of the book Bleeding Edge

    Bleeding Edge

    Pynchon’s surreal modern noir set between the dot-com bubble burst and 9/11 name-drops everything in that short era, from Mossad to Madoff. The story finds its “detective” in unlicensed fraud investigator Maxine, whose insights into the workings of various startups takes her from bizarre house visits in Montauk to police chases on the East River. As various confidants and conspirators start winding up dead, Maxine encounters clues that mean plenty to readers aware of the terrible context.

     
  • The cover of the book My Year of Rest and Relaxation

    My Year of Rest and Relaxation

    While Moshfegh initially set out to center her second novel on 9/11, she wound up broadening that focus to the year before: in June 2000, the unnamed narrator seemingly has it all, as a slim Columbia graduate living off her inheritance. But that money comes at the loss of both her parents, and it’s not enough to offset her emptiness. So she embarks on a self-imposed hibernation through various sleeping aids, to sleep through the next 365 days. But what will she awake to?

     
  • The cover of the book Envy

    Envy

    Despite everything, Will is approaching middle age with a surprising amount of stability. Even as he and his wife are mourning the loss of their son, they’re still emotionally and physically intimate; estranged from his famous swimmer twin, Will still takes pride in his work as a psychoanalyst. However, attending his 25th college reunion stokes old flames and has this shrink pondering, and actively envying, the potential paths—of romance and fatherhood—not taken.

     
  • The cover of the book The Autograph Man

    The Autograph Man

    For her second novel, Smith captured the era of celebrity fame immediately preceding the advent of social media, when movie stars seemed inaccessible and fans would drain their savings for a mere autograph. Alex-Li Tandem is the eponymous autograph man, collecting and selling these treasured scribbles as cold business transactions—except for the one autograph, from 1940s movie star Kitty Alexander, which will for some reason be the cure for all his ills.

     
  • The cover of the book House of Leaves

    House of Leaves

    This matryoshka-doll narrative starts with unreliable narrator Johnny Truant appending footnotes to a manuscript by a man called Zampanò. The manuscript is an academic exploration into a documentary, The Navidson Record: Will Navidson’s investigation into why his house is expanding in size internally (including eerie rooms like “The Five and a Half Minute Hallway”) while retaining the same external dimensions. The ensuing, spiraling account brings to mind the best kind of early-2000s Snopes entry or convincing creepypasta.

     
  • The cover of the book Pattern Recognition

    Pattern Recognition

    While Gibson’s previous novels were set in imagined cyberpunk futures, this was his first one to be set in the then-present—August 2002, to be precise. After a traumatic start to the decade, in a time when people are looking for meaning in seemingly random patterns, advertising consultant Cayce is distracted from her usual work of evaluating the effectiveness of famous corporate logos to investigate who’s uploading enigmatic film clips to the internet and why.

     
  • The cover of the book The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

    The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

    A decade ago, the closest way to stay in touch with your besties wasn’t a text thread or Facebook group, but a pair of denim. That is, denim that perfectly conformed to each of your bodies no matter their different measurements and somehow matched every occasion: Lena’s misunderstanding-turned-love in Greece; Tibby’s documentary about her leukemia-afflicted neighbor Bailey; Carmen’s friction with her father on the eve of his second wedding; and Bridget’s illicit pursual of a soccer camp coach.

     
  • The cover of the book Instant Love

    Instant Love

    Through the interconnected stories, three women compare heady first loves to the adult lives they’ve settled in (and which they’re tempted to disrupt). Holly kisses plenty of internet frogs through online dating, while reminiscing fondly on her burnout boyfriend. Maggie lets her husband in on her inner life, especially one particularly crazy summer, only to fear his reproach. Sarah Lee also ponders the one who got away, but in order to help her approach someone else.