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50 Notable Works of Fiction from the Past 50 Years

To mark the occasion of Bookshop Santa Cruz’s golden anniversary, we thought it would be fun to look back at the incredible books published during our 50 years and come up with a list of 50 significant fiction titles. As you might imagine, selecting the 50 most notable works of fiction published since 1966 was a nearly impossible task. At first a delight to delve into the rich history of literature over the past several decades, it quickly became torturous, as we kept bumping up against the firm limit of 50 spaces. What a pleasure to think back on such commanding works as we considered them for inclusion—the power of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, the weight of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried! And what pain to pass over so many others.

In the end, it is only a list, albeit our list, one that attempts to reflect the breadth of our reading here at Bookshop over time, our interests, and our perspective. We hope you enjoy it with the knowledge that it could be recreated with a hundred different titles with little hesitation. Isn’t it indeed a burden of plenty to have so many from which to choose? Because literature at its best is about being inclusive, not exclusive, please look around Bookshop Santa Cruz throughout the year for in-store displays of more “50 Notable” lists as we celebrate cooking, science fiction/fantasy, and more. Plus, we get to relish in our suffering all over again for our “50 Notable Works of Nonfiction” that will be featured in the winter newsletter. Enjoy!

Tell us which of these 50 notable works of fiction you've read

50 Notable Works of Fiction (In chronological order)

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, 1966

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, 1967

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin, 1969

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner, 1971

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, 1972

Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, 1973

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, 1973

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carré, 1974

Turtle Island by Gary Snyder, 1974

Dream of a Common Language by Adrienne Rich, 1978

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, 1979

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler, 1979

A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul, 1979

Maus by Art Spiegelman, 1980

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, 1980

Waiting for the Barbarians by J. M. Coetzee, 1980

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie, 1981

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, 1982

The Color Purple by Alice Walker, 1982

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, 1984

Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich, 1984

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, 1985

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy, 1985

Watchmen by Alan Moore, 1986

Beloved by Toni Morrison, 1987

Where I’m Calling From by Raymond Carver, 1988

Sandman by Neil Gaiman, 1988

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, 1989

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, 1989

Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell, 1990

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, 1990

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, 1992

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie, 1993

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King, 1994

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, 1994

View with a Grain of Sand by Wisława Szymborska, 1995

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, 1996

Selected Stories by Alice Munro, 1996

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, 1996

Underworld by Don DeLillo, 1997

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, 1998

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, 1999

White Teeth by Zadie Smith, 2000

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, 2001

Snow by Orhan Pamuk, 2002

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, 2004

The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño, 2004

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson, 2005

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, 2010

Citizen by Claudia Rankine, 2014