Sean Cloran asked me to recommend some novels that I thought were worth reading.
I actually don't read a whole lot of fiction and what I do read tends to be short story collections and the classics, such as Charles Dickens, mixed in with not so classics such as Tarzan, or genre fiction, mostly horror. I don't read a lot of contemporary fiction.
With that in mind, here are some recommendations of more current fiction that comes to mind that I really enjoyed. I'm not going to say too much about the books themselves, as I often think it's best to just dive in with no expectations. I will say that each of these is a novel that I highly recommend.
My favorite novel of all time is The Tin Drum by Günter Grass. It's a masterpiece told in first person by Oskar Matzerath who is born with full adult cognitive awareness and decides at age three to stop growing. The story recounts his odd, touching, and often humorous adventures through World War II and postwar Poland.
The Cement Garden by Ian McKewan is the unsettling story of children who hide the fact that their mother has died and try to resume their lives as if nothing is wrong.
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow should be required reading for everyone under the age of twenty and adults can certainly benefit as well. It's the story of four high school students in an San Francisco where freedoms have been stripped away even further than they have now who decide to fight back against the Department of Homeland Security instead.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy was one of my two favorite books the year I read it. It was so compelling that I read it in one sitting (which is actually not difficult to do). It's a bleak post apocalyptic journey of a father and son trying to survive in a world which has been reduced to ashes and it's absolutely amazing.
The Brief History of the Dead - Kevin Brockmeier deals with a devastating world wide plague , a woman isolated in the Antarctic, and The City which exists in the afterlife which has a major population surge and then depletion, all somehow connected. This is a charming read full of ideas and engaging characters.
Motherless Brooklyn (and pretty much everything else by) Jonathan Lethem is a fun detective novel of sorts whose protagonist also has Tourette syndrome.
The Night Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko is simply one of the best offerings of supernatural intrigue out there. Two groups of supernatural beings with varied powers try to manipulate each other and the human world while maintaining an equilibrium that is to one group's advantage over the others. Very imaginative. While it diverges from the book quite a bit, I also recommend the movie adaptation of Night Watch. Day Watch, not so much.
Fledgling - Octavia Butler follows an apparent young girl with amnesia as she slowly pieces together who she is and the answers are a bit unsettling for her. This book is riveting all the way through. It stands alone, but it's clear Butler was planning to further explore this world she created before her untimely death intervened. I would have loved to have seen what came next.
Titan/Wizard/ and Demon - John Varley are the three books I would buy the rights to if I could turn any work of fiction into a movie. An expedition to Saturn discovers a strange satellite which turns out to be an artificial inhabited world run by a madwoman. Fun, crazy imaginative, funny at the right times, and simply fantastic, this trilogy rocks and main character Cirroco Jones is one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. I devoured these books until I got to the last thirty pages or so of Demon, then began slowing down because I didn't want this story to be over.