Modern = written since 1980
Classic = will still be read 100 years from date of writing
(Selections mine, blubs via Amazon. I stuck with novels written in English because I don’t know enough lit in translation to judge.)
Flaubert’s Parrot – Julian Barnes, 1984
A kind of detective story, relating a cranky amateur scholar’s search for the truth about Gustave Flaubert, and the obsession of this detective whose life seems to oddly mirror those of Flaubert’s characters.
The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks, 1984
Meet Frank Cauldhame. Just sixteen, and unconventional to say the least:
Two years after I killed Blyth I murdered my young brother Paul, for quite different and more fundamental reasons than I’d disposed of Blyth, and then a year after that I did for my young cousin Esmerelda, more or less on a whim.
The Bonfire of the Vanities – Tom Wolfe, 1987
After Tom Wolfe defined the ’60s in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers and the cultural U-turn at the turn of the ’80s in The Right Stuff, nobody thought he could ever top himself again. In 1987, when The Bonfire of the Vanities arrived, the literati called Wolfe an “aging enfant terrible.”
The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris, 1988
A serial murderer known only by a grotesquely apt nickname–Buffalo Bill–is stalking women. He has a purpose, but no one can fathom it, for the bodies are discovered in different states. Clarice Starling, a young trainee at the FBI Academy, is surprised to be summoned by Jack Crawford, chief of the Bureau’s Behavioral Science section. Her assignment: to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter–Hannibal the Cannibal–who is kept under close watch in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro, 1989
Here is Kazuo Ishiguro’s profoundly compelling portrait of Stevens, the perfect butler, and of his fading, insular world in post-World War II England.
L.A. Confidential – James Ellroy, 1990
L.A. Confidential is epic “noir”, a crime novel of astonishing detail and scope written by the bestselling author of The Black Dahlia. A horrific mass murder invades the lives of victims and victimizers on both sides of the law. And three lawmen are caught in a deadly spiral, a nightmare that tests loyalty and courage, and offers no mercy, grants no survivors.
Regeneration – Pat Barker, 1991
In 1917 Siegfried Sasson, noted poet and decorated war hero, publicly refused to continue serving as a British officer in World War I. His reason: the war was a senseless slaughter. He was officially classified “mentally unsound” and sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital. There a brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. William Rivers, set about restoring Sassoon’s “sanity” and sending him back to the trenches.
Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin, 1996
Winter is coming. Such is the stern motto of House Stark, the northernmost of the fiefdoms that owe allegiance to King Robert Baratheon in far-off King’s Landing. There Eddard Stark of Winterfell rules in Robert’s name. There his family dwells in peace and comfort: his proud wife, Catelyn; his sons Robb, Brandon, and Rickon; his daughters Sansa and Arya; and his bastard son, Jon Snow. Far to the north, behind the towering Wall, lie savage Wildings and worse—unnatural things relegated to myth during the centuries-long summer, but proving all too real and all too deadly in the turning of the season.
The Wishbones – Tom Perrotta, 1997
Everything is going pretty well for Dave Raymond. He’s 31, but he still feels young. He’s playing guitar with the Wishbones, a New Jersey wedding band, and while it isn’t exactly the Big Time, it is music. He has a roof over his head…well, it’s his parents’ roof, but they don’t hassle him much. Life isn’t perfect. But it isn’t bad. Not bad at all. But then he has to blow it all by proposing to his girlfriend.
Pym – Mat Johnson, 2011
Recently canned professor of American literature Chris Jaynes has just made a startling discovery: the manuscript of a crude slave narrative that confirms the reality of Edgar Allan Poe’s strange and only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.