This list of books will appeal to readers of all generations. Generation Y can connect to the stories, while those from older and newer generations can come to understand something about millennials, and read about the strange and captivating confusion that marks this period of history. These authors have captured what it is like to grow up in a time of ever-advancing technology, over-abundance of consumer goods, continuous connection through the internet, a fascination with the lives of others (reality TV, celebrity gossip, social media, etc…), and great expectations for the future whose path’s are often disheartening. Many of the books on this list show a bleak outlook of this generation and its impact on the future, like Don Delillo’s White Noise or C.E. Medford’s Magic America. Others are not so dismal, even displaying a sliver of hope for this generation’s youth. Follow these young characters as they navigate the perplexing, high-tech, post-modern world that marks the life of a millennial.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
What it’s about: Oscar Wao, an extremely overweight, ghetto nerd living in New Jersey, tries to find true love. However a family curse, known as fukú, haunts the Wao family, dooming them all to tragedy and disastrous love affairs. Diaz’s story is funny, informative, and both heart-warming and heart-wrenching.
Connection to millennials: As a self-proclaimed nerd, Oscar is obsessed with pop-culture, like many millennials. He also deals with obesity, ethnic confusion (as an American Dominican with strong ties to both cultures), and a longing for sex- all elements that define the youth and emerging adults of Generation Y.
Citrus County by John Brandon
What it’s about: A junior high boy, Toby, who is dissatisfied with his creepy home-town and his own life, strives to be different then his Floridian community. Brandon’s novel includes eerie kidnappings, rednecks, manatees, criminals, and descriptions of life in contemporary Citrus County.
Connection to millennials: Millennials are often described as youth without much guidance, and this book hones in on that theme, Toby and his friend Shelby get away with appalling acts as they try to add excitement to their lives in modern Florida, a state characterized by strip-malls, suburbs, swamps, and materialism (none of which is particular to Florida, besides the swamps).
Magic America: Coming of Age in an Altered State by C.E. Medford
What it’s about: Hope, her fairy Godmother, and their family, live in an alternate version of Trenton, New Jersey in the 1980’s, where LoboChem, a chemical manufacturing company, is destroying lands and lives as long as there’s a profit. But Hope is determined to make her fluorescent, urbo-suburban home-town a safe place for all the funky and enchanting creatures who live there (including radioactive cats).
Connection to millennials: This story is about growing up in a magical-realistic version of the modern world. Major themes include corporate greed, environmental abuse, and the belittlement of individuals in mass society, which many choose to ignore while going about their daily routine. Ublike many of the books on this list, optimism can be found in Magic America and the lead character, Hope.
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
What it’s about: A murder mystery in a postmodern world; aptly named (in a modern-alternative way) Blue van Meer finally makes some eccentric friends in a clique known as the Bluebloods. This book is as much about the plot as it is about poetic, quirky, and complex writing.
Connection to millennials: Part of what makes this book seem so Generation Y is it’s gimmicky use of visual aids, over-intellectualized writing and unconventional character names. the characters themselves are pretty conventional, modern-day teens, especially Blue, who professes to know a lot about pop-culture.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
What it’s about: Nine-year-old Oskar, a New-Yorker living in the wake of 9/11. Oskar fills his time trying to figure out the mystery behind a key he found in his recently deceased father’s closet. He adventures around all the boroughs of New York, meeting strange characters with vast backgrounds and amazing stories to share, and learning about his own family history in the process.
Connection to millennials: As one of the most historically defining moments of the 21st century, 9/11 has had an enduring effect on millennials who grew up with increasing fears of terrorism alongside excessive precautionary measures. Oskar is a young protagonist who has to deal with two incredibly difficult and confusing tragedies at once, while trying to understand and adjust to the rapidly changing world.
The Circle by Dave Eggers
What it’s about: The Circle is an incredibly modern internet company which has created a universal operating system, connecting users’ personal email, social media, banking, and purchases to create one easy online identity. Mae Holland feels more than lucky to get to work for the Circle, considered the most influential company in America. But uncomfortable things happen on the Circle’s campus, where workers have little privacy and hardly leave. Eggers’ story is eerie and suspensful that will make the reader quesiton how much of a role the ever-pervasive internet should play in society.
Connection to millennials: This book would not exist without the internet. The same could be said about the social lives and identity of most millennials. In an age where concerns over privacy is an increasing issue, The Circle will heighten some of our worst fears about the internet.
Shoplifting from American Apparel by Tao Lin
What it’s about: This is Tao Lin’s autobiographical novella, which takes place mostly in Manhattan over the course of 2 years. Lin is often described as an irritating, awkward, and incredibly intelligent artist capable of catching the voice of his generation. Shoplifting smartly follows Lin to posh clubs in New York City and not-so-hip jail cells, to NYU’s campus and his battles with contemporary ailments (depression, boredome, etc…)
Connection to millennials: How many jokes about stylish twenty-somethings wearing only American Apparel have you heard? Have you ever heard kids from Generation Y boasting how much they could steal from American Apparel? If not, you’re probably not a millennial (if you are, don’t worry about it). Lin gives readers a glimpse of millennial life in America’s city that never sleeps, where failing and running out of cash are common fears and obstacles. Fittingly, Lin’s novella was sold at Urban Outfitters.
White Noise by Don Delillo
What it’s about: Teacher Jack Gladney, living in Middle America, with Babette, his fourth wife, has his world shaken when a black chemical cloud created by an industrial accident floats over his town. But Delillo makes you question; what is more harmful, this obvious black cloud or the invisible, unnatural chemicals floating through the air, like microwaves, radio transmissions, and the dull hum of a highly consumerist society.
Connection to millennials: Delillo mocks society’s easy acceptance of mass culture, name-branded ultra consumerism, and the disappearance of individual identity. Jack’s four kids are attachted to modern technology, and demonstrate technologies scary ability to desensitize us, starting from youth. Also notable is the fact that Jack has been through multiple divorces.
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
What it’s about: A world where social-media is no longer confined to the screen and people walk around with hotness ratings and credit scores on display. Set in near-future New York City, this dystopian novel shows readers what it’s like to be a middle-aged immigrant amongst a hedonistic generation obsessed with social media and buying things. It is a tale of love, and the difficulty in pursuing romance, especially among two people who are not quite up-to-date with modern society.
Connection to millennials: Like White Noise, Shteyngart’s novel comments on what he finds to be the ills of contemporary society, mainly our ability to ignore individuals and focus on superficial traits deemed important by consumerist culture and social media. Unlike many Generation Y-based books, this slight-dystopian story focuses on what it’s like to be on the outside- to not quite fit in to a dysfunctional, emotionally detached, un-romantic, and economically burdened life.
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