8 books to help you read millennials

Here is a reading list that encapsulates the millennial voice, from the writers with their finger on the pulse of a generation. 

These books range from algorithmic dating and apocalyptic burnout to How To Get Away With Murder Using Instagram.

1. NORMAL PEOPLE

By Sally Rooney

The Irish writer, who is 28 this year, has been hailed as the "first great millennial novelist" by the likes of The New York Times.

In her award-winning second novel, schoolmates Marianne and Connell begin a clandestine relationship. As they go to university in Dublin and navigate relationships with other people, they keep gravitating back to each other. Unpretentious and incisive, Rooney elevates the mundane anxieties of young people to literary heights.

2. MINISTRY OF MORAL PANIC

By Amanda Lee Koe

Nothing unites the young like being the subjects of a good old moral panic. Lee Koe won the Singapore Literature Prize in 2014 with this sharp, sizzling selection of short stories that shuffles through a kaleidoscope of perspectives, from migrant workers to a local girl who visits parks with her foreign not-boyfriend to the Merlion reimagined as a "sarong party boy" working at Orchard Towers.

Her risque, refreshing tales pit an ultra-modern urbanity against a yearning for the past - fitting for a generation highly susceptible to nostalgia marketing.

3. YOU KNOW YOU WANT THIS

By Kristen Roupenian

The American writer's short story, Cat Person, about a bad date between Margot, 20, and Robert, 34, went viral in 2017, uncorking an online tempest around the divisive subject of millennial dating. Her discomfiting debut collection, which includes 11 other stories besides Cat Person, contains more dark tales of modern love, as well as twisted fairy tales and full-scale body horror.

Here is a reading list that encapsulates the millennial voice, from the writers with their finger on the pulse of a generation.

These books range from algorithmic dating and apocalyptic burnout to How To Get Away With Murder Using Instagram.

4. SABRINA 

By Nick Drnaso

The first graphic novel to be long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, Sabrina is a chilling portrait of the post-truth era.

In spare lines, where the most subtle nuance can have distressing effects, American cartoonist Drnaso crafts a story around a woman who goes missing and her loved ones who try to cope with the trauma of her loss in an environment thick with clickbait articles and conspiracy theorists.

5. TEACHING MY MOTHER HOW TO GIVE BIRTH 

By Warsan Shire

Shire, a Kenya-born Somali poet who was London's inaugural Young Poet Laureate, is best known for contributing verse to Beyonce's 2016 visual album Lemonade.

Her works are among the finer examples of poetry that first finds fame in social media virality. In this powerful collection, she moves from coming of age in the diaspora to the horrors of war and the refugee crisis.

6. SEVERANCE 

By Ling Ma

The recent news of the global spread of super fungus Candida auris makes this zombie apocalyptic satire for the "burnout generation" even more terrifying. In 2011, a fungal epidemic called Shen Fever spreads globally, reducing victims to a mindless state where they repeat tasks until they die.

Among the survivors is Candace Chen, the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Alone in Manhattan after the outbreak, she lives out of the office of the publishing company where she works and roams the abandoned city streets taking artistic photos for her blog.

7. GAZE BACK

By Marylyn Tan

Singaporean poet Tan's unapologetic debut collection does not flinch from taboo, be it menstruation, witchcraft or wondering how it might have gone if Jesus had been a teenage girl. She writes poems in computer code and evaluates potential lovers as if through the Python programming language. Gleefully provocative, it takes a sledgehammer to binaries.

8. SOCIAL CREATURE

By Tara Isabella Burton

Imagine Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr Ripley (1955), but for the Instagram age. That is what you get with this thriller, in which Louise - 29, juggling three jobs and broke - befriends decadent New York socialite Lavinia, who goes to all the best parties and has the Facebook feed to show for it: "Tag me. And make it public, okay?"

This is a wickedly fascinating look into toxic female friendship. Everyone is unlikeable and headed for disaster, but some are train wrecks you just cannot look away from.

 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 21, 2019, with the headline '8 books to help you read millennials'. Print Edition | Subscribe