Mike Thorn’s 100 Favorite Books of the 21st Century (So Far)

It might seem strange to assemble a list of the 21st century’s best books as early as 2021, given that less than a quarter of the century has passed. However, from 2000 onward, I made my biggest personal strides, both as a writer and as a reader. Around 2001 or 2002, at the age of eleven or twelve, I completed my first novel, a crude imitation of Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings that I unimaginatively titled Long Ago (it will never again see the light of day). In 2014, I finished my B.A. in English literature at Mount Royal University, where I wrote my honors thesis on Stephen King’s It (1986). In 2015, I sold my first short story, “Long Man,” to EMP Publishing for their anthology Creepy Campfire Stories (for Grownups). In 2016, I began writing freelance criticism for Bright Lights Film Journal, Vague Visages, MUBI Notebook, and various other outlets. In 2017, I completed my M.A. in English literature at the University of Calgary; that same year, Unnerving published Darkest Hours, my debut short story collection. In June of this year, JournalStone re-released that collection in an Expanded Edition. In February 2021, they published my debut novel, Shelter for the Damned, and they will release my second short story collection, Peel Back and See, this October. 

Here is a list of 100 books (both fiction and non-fiction) that have resonated most loudly with me during this personally formative period. I have organized the list chronologically, with alphabetical sorting by authors’ last names in each respective year.

Mike Thorn’s 100 Favorite Books of the 21st Century (So Far)

An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter, by César Aira [translated by Chris Andrews] (2000)

House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski (2000)

On Writing, by Stephen King (2000)

Monkey Beach, by Eden Robinson (2000)

White Teeth, by Zadie Smith (2000)

Whore, by Nelly Arcan [translated by Bruce Benderson] (2001)

The Body Artist, by Don DeLillo (2001)

Dreamcatcher, by Stephen King (2001)

The Barrens, by Joyce Carol Oates (2001)

Beasts, by Joyce Carol Oates (2001)

Antwerp, by Roberto Bolaño [translated by Natasha Wimmer] (2002)

Everything’s Eventual, by Stephen King (2002)

From a Buick 8, by Stephen King (2002)

Waiting Period, by Hubert Selby Jr. (2002)

Cosmopolis, by Don DeLillo (2003)

The Interpreter, by Suki Kim (2003)

Regarding the Pain of Others, by Susan Sontag (2003)

Hysteric, by Nelly Arcan [translated by David Homel & Jacob Homel] (2004)

Crooked Timber: Seven Suburban Faerie Tales, by A.M. Arruin (2004)

The Cinema of John Carpenter: The Technique of Terror, edited by Ian Conrich and David Woods (2004)

The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower, by Stephen King (2004)

Fledgling, by Octavia E. Butler (2005)

Lunar Park, by Bret Easton Ellis (2005)

A Brief History of Neoliberalism, by David Harvey (2005)

Autoportrait, by Édouard Levé [translated by Lorin Stein] (2005)

Expressway, by Sina Queyras (2005)

Becoming Abigail, by Chris Abani (2006)

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel (2006)

The Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror, by John Clute (2006)

The Animal That Therefore I Am, by Jacques Derrida [translated by David Wills] (2006)

Lisey’s Story, by Stephen King (2006)

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy (2006)

Blood Sports, by Eden Robinson (2006)

Breakneck, by Nelly Arcan [translated by Jacob Homel] (2007)

The Shore, by Robert Dunbar (2007)

The Cinema of Tod Browning: Essays of the Macabre and Grotesque, edited by Bernd Herzogenrath (2008)

Just After Sunset, by Stephen King (2008)

A Mercy, by Toni Morrison (2008)

Exit, by Nelly Arcan [translated by David Scott Hamilton] (2009)

Mourning Diary, by Roland Barthes [translated by Richard Howard] (2009)

Bluets, by Maggie Nelson (2009)

White is for Witching, by Helen Oyeyemi (2009)

Inherent Vice, by Thomas Pynchon (2009)

Unleashed, by Sina Queyras (2009)

Point Omega, by Don DeLillo (2010)

Imperial Bedrooms, by Bret Easton Ellis (2010)

Oil on Water, by Helon Habila (2010)

Full Dark, No Stars, by Stephen King (2010)

Blue is the Warmest Color, by Julie Maroh [translated by Ivanka Hahnenberger] (2010)

A Dark Matter, by Peter Straub (2010)

Burqa of Skin, by Nelly Arcan [translated by Melissa Bull] (2011)

The Agony of Power, by Jean Baudrillard [translated by Ames Hodges] (2011)

Open City, by Teju Cole (2011)

The Angel Esmerelda, by Don DeLillo (2011)

11/22/63, by Stephen King (2011)

The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, by Thomas Ligotti (2011)

Monoceros, by Suzette Mayr (2011)

Autobiography of Childhood, by Sina Queyras (2011)

My Friend Dahmer, by Derf Backderf (2012)

Home, by Toni Morrison (2012)

Inscriptions for Headstones, by Matthew Vollmer (2012)

My Mother Laughs, by Chantal Akerman [translated by Corina Copp] (2013)

Where the Sun Shines Best, by Austin Clarke (2013)

Daddy Love, by Joyce Carol Oates (2013)

Selling the Splat Pack: The DVD Revolution and the American Horror Film, by Mark Bernard (2014)

The Thing: A Phenomenology of Horror, by Dylan Trigg (2014)

Melancology: Black Metal Theory and Ecology, edited by Scott Wilson (2014)

The Streets, by Robert Dunbar (2015)

Cosmic Pessimism, by Eugene Thacker (2015)

Horror of Philosophy, volumes 1-3, by Eugene Thacker (2011-2015)

The Night Marchers, by Daniel Braum (2016)

The Sadist’s Bible, by Nicole Cushing (2016)

Odd Man Out, by James Newman (2016)

What is Not Yours is Not Yours, by Helen Oyeyemi (2016)

Everything That’s Underneath, by Kristi DeMeester (2017)

Ugly Little Things: Collected Horrors, by Todd Keisling (2017)

And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, by Gwendolyn Kiste (2017)

I Wish I Was Like You, by S.P. Miskowski (2017)

Strange is the Night, by S.P. Miskowski (2017)

Son of a Trickster, by Eden Robinson (2017)

The Wilderness Within, by John Claude Smith (2017)

Full-Metal Indigiqueer, by Joshua Whitehead (2017)

Drawn Up from Deep Places, by Gemma Files (2018)

Anonyma, by Farah Rose Paterson-Cisco (2018)

Jonny Appleseed, by Joshua Whitehead (2018)

Only Pretty Damned, by Niall Howell (2019)

I’m from Nowhere, by Lindsay Lerman (2019)

Arctic Smoke, by Randy Nikkel Schroeder (2019)

The Worst is Yet to Come, by S.P. Miskowski (2019)

Inside the Castle, by Josiah Morgan (2019)

The Sorceress Who Left Too Soon: Poems After Remedios Varo, by Erin Emily Ann Vance (2019)

Bleedthrough and Other Small Horrors, by Scarlett R. Algee (2020)

Nightfall, by Daniel Barnett (2020)

The Wingspan of Severed Hands, by Joanna Koch (2020)

Velocities, by Kathe Koja (2020)

The Ahuman Manifesto: Activism for the End of the Anthropocene, by Patricia MacCormack (2020)

The Seventh Mansion, by Maryse Meijer (2020)

Circles, by Josiah Morgan (2020)

Porno Valley, by Philip Elliott (2021)

Beautiful Bait, by Erin Emily Ann Vance (2022; forthcoming)


Credit: Ash Thompson

Mike Thorn is the author of the novel Shelter for the Damned and the short story collection Darkest Hours. His second collection, Peel Back and See, is coming soon from JournalStone.

His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies, and podcasts, including Vastarien, Dark Moon Digest, The NoSleep Podcast, and Tales to Terrify. His film criticism has been published in MUBI Notebook, The Film Stage, Seventh Row, and Vague Visages.

He completed his M.A. with a major in English literature at the University of Calgary, where he wrote a thesis on epistemophobia in John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness.


Author website: https://mikethornwrites.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MikeThornWrites/

Instagram: https://instagram.com/mikethornwrites/

Buy Shelter for the Damned: https://journalstone.com/bookstore/shelter-for-the-damned/

Buy Darkest Hours: Expanded Edition: https://journalstone.com/bookstore/darkest-hours/


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