1k voters

The Best Postmodern Novels

Updated April 25, 2021 5.3k votes 1k voters 47.7k views57 items

List RulesTop works of postmodern fiction

List of the best postmodern novels from popular postmodern authors such as Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Pynchon, and Don DeLillo that are reactions against Enlightenment and Modernist literature. Postmodern novels use techniques like fragmentation, paradox and questionable narrators in their writing to be experimental in literature. The purpose of postmodern novels is to take serious subjects from a distance and disconnect and be able to depict the stories with irony and humor.

The list asks the question, “What is the best postmodern novel?” The list is voted on to decide the favorite postmodern novel. If some of the postmodern novels by the best postmodern writers aren't listed, then be sure to add them so that other readers can vote on them.

Some of the best themes and techniques that are used in postmodern novels are irony and black humor, metafiction, non-linear narratives and fragmentations, paranoia, minimalism, or maximalism. Novels that include these features are on the list, such as House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, The Unlimited Dream Company by J.G. Ballard and Lolita by Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov. Vote up the best postmodern novels right here.
  • 1
    Thomas Pynchon

    First Published1973-02-28

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Historical novel, Postmodernism, Science Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Gravity's Rainbow is a 1973 novel by American writer Thomas Pynchon. A lengthy, complex novel featuring a large cast of characters, its narrative is set primarily in Europe at the end of World War II...  more
    Amazon buy button
  • 2
    David Foster Wallace

    First Published1996-02-01

    SubjectsTennis, Substance dependence

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Satire, Tragicomedy, Fiction, Postmodernism

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Infinite Jest is a 1996 novel by David Foster Wallace. The lengthy and complex work takes place in a North American dystopia, centering on a junior tennis academy and a nearby substance-abuse...  more
    Amazon buy button

    #93 of 169 Books You'll Never Finish Reading#112 of 117 The Most Heartbreaking Novels Ever Written#1 of 14 The Best David Foster Wallace Books

  • 3
    Kurt Vonnegut

    First Published1969

    SubjectsLiterary, American science fiction, Classics, Prisoner of war, World War II

    Genres (Book)Philosophy, Speculative fiction, War novel, Black comedy, Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death is a satirical novel by Kurt Vonnegut about World War II experiences and journeys through time of a soldier named Billy...  more
    Amazon buy button

    #66 of 71 Required Reading That You Actually Ended Up Loving#4 of 20 20 Books That Deserve Much Better Adaptations Than They Got#20 of 99 The Best Sci-Fi Novels For Smart People

  • 4
    Don DeLillo

    First Published1985-01-21

    SubjectsLiterary, Death

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Fiction, Novel, Postmodernism

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    White Noise is the eighth novel by Don DeLillo, published by Viking Press in 1985. It won the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction. White Noise is an example of postmodern literature. It is widely...  more
    Amazon buy button

    #14 of 34 The Best Novels About College#10 of 25 Great Books They Haven't Made Into Movies Yet (But Should)#76 of 99 The Best Books With White in the Title

  • 5
    Joseph Heller

    First Published1961-11-11

    SubjectsDrama, World War II

    Genres (Book)War novel, Black comedy, Satire, Historical fiction, Absurdist fiction

    Original LanguageAmerican English, English Language

    Catch-22 is a satirical novel by the American author Joseph Heller. He began writing it in 1953; the novel was first published in 1961. It is frequently cited as one of the greatest literary works of...  more
    Amazon buy button

    Everything In The 'Catch-22' Book That The TV Adaptation Leaves Out#91 of 103 The Best Selling Books of All Time#127 of 331 The Top Must-Read Books of All Time

  • 6

    First Published1979

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction

    Original LanguageItalian Language

    If on a winter's night a traveler is a 1979 novel by the Italian postmodernist writer Italo Calvino. The narrative, in the form of a frame story, is about the reader trying to read a book called If...  more
    Amazon buy button
  • 7
    Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov

    First Published1955

    SubjectsLiterary, Literature, Classics, Drama, Erotica

    Genres (Book)Romance novel, Tragicomedy, Fiction, Novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language, Russian Language

    Lolita is a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, written in English and published in 1955 in Paris, in 1958 in New York, and in 1959 in London. It was later translated by its Russian-native author into...  more
    Amazon buy button

    #12 of 40 The Best Russian Novels#20 of 48 The Best Novels About Sociopaths#5 of 21 The Best Books About Incest

  • 8
    Guest_057e0091-8537-481d-b09c-6e6e164d32f3 addedCormac McCarthy

    First Published1985-02


    Genres (Book)Western, Fiction, Historical novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language, Spanish Language

    Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West is a 1985 Western novel by American author Cormac McCarthy. McCarthy's fifth book, it was published by Random House. The majority of the narrative...  more

    #7 of 102 50+ Good Books With Blood in the Title#1 of 13 The Best Cormac McCarthy Books

  • 9
    William S. Burroughs

    First Published1959

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Naked Lunch is a novel by American writer William S. Burroughs, originally published in 1959. The book is structured as a series of loosely connected vignettes. Burroughs stated that the chapters are...  more
    Amazon buy button

    #87 of 171 The Greatest American Novels#37 of 72 The Greatest Dystopian Novels#298 of 1,236 The Best Novels Ever Written

  • 10
    Don DeLillo

    First Published1997-10-03

    SubjectsCold War, Literary, Public Relations, United States of America, Shot Heard 'Round the World

    Genres (Book)Fiction, Novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Underworld is a novel published in 1997 by Don DeLillo. It was nominated for the National Book Award, was a best-seller, and is one of DeLillo's better-known novels. Underworld continues to receive...  more
    Amazon buy button
  • 11
    Guest_057e0091-8537-481d-b09c-6e6e164d32f3 addedThomas Pynchon

    First Published1963

    SubjectsLiterary, Literature, Classics

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Fiction, Novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    V. is the debut novel of Thomas Pynchon, published in 1963. It describes the exploits of a discharged U.S. Navy sailor named Benny Profane, his reconnection in New York with a group of...  more
  • 12
    Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov

    SubjectsLiterature, Classics

    Genres (Book)Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Pale Fire is a postmodern novel by Vladimir Nabokov. The novel is presented as a 999-line poem titled "Pale Fire", written by the fictional John Shade, with a foreword and lengthy commentary by a...  more
    Amazon buy button
  • 13
    Mark Z. Danielewski

    First Published2000-03-07

    SubjectsLiterary, Supernatural, Fear

    Genres (Book)Romance novel, Ergodic literature, Speculative fiction, Chivalric romance, Satire

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    House of Leaves is the debut novel by American author Mark Z. Danielewski, published in March 2000 by Pantheon Books. A bestseller, it has been translated into a number of languages, and is followed...  more
    Amazon buy button
  • 14

    SubjectsRock, Popular culture, Biography, United States of America, 20th century

    Genres (Book)Roman à clef, Autobiographical novel, Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream is a novel by Hunter S. Thompson, illustrated by Ralph Steadman. The book is a roman à clef, rooted in...  more
    Amazon buy button

    #91 of 171 35+ Books Everybody Lies About Having Read#13 of 52 The Best Absurdist Fiction Novels#21 of 30 The Best Binge Drinking Memoirs

  • 15
    Guest_057e0091-8537-481d-b09c-6e6e164d32f3 addedJohn Kennedy Toole

    First Published1980

    SubjectsPopular literature, Literary, Classics, French Quarter, New Orleans

    Genres (Book)Tragicomedy, Fiction, Comedy

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    A Confederacy of Dunces is a picaresque novel by American novelist John Kennedy Toole which appeared in 1980, eleven years after Toole's suicide. Published through the efforts of writer Walker Percy...  more
  • 16
    Jorge Luis Borges

    SubjectsLiterature, Classics, Argentina

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Labyrinths is a collection of short stories and essays by Jorge Luis Borges translated into the English-language. It includes "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius", "The Garden of Forking Paths", and "The...  more
    Amazon buy button
  • 17
    William Gaddis

    First Published1955

    SubjectsLiterary, Literature, Classics

    Genres (Book)Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Recognitions, published in 1955, is American author William Gaddis's first novel. The novel was poorly received initially, but Gaddis's reputation grew, twenty years later, with the publication...  more
    Amazon buy button
  • 18

    First Published1973


    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Fiction, Novel, Science Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday is a 1973 novel by the American author Kurt Vonnegut. Set in the fictional town of Midland City, it is the story of "two lonesome, skinny, fairly old...  more
    Amazon buy button

    #24 of 65 The Best Satirical Novels#5 of 20 The Best Kurt Vonnegut Books#9 of 47 The Greatest Experimental Literature

  • 19

    First Published1980

    SubjectsLiterary, Literature, Classics, Italy, History

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Suspense, Historical fiction, Historical whodunnit, Mystery

    Original LanguageItalian Language

    The Name of the Rose, a novel by Umberto Eco, is a murder mystery set in an Italian monastery in the year 1327. First published in Italian in 1980 under the title Il nome della rosa, it appeared in...  more
    Amazon buy button

    #34 of 61 The Best Crime Novels#20 of 49 The Best Books About Books#78 of 96 The Best Books With Rose in the Title

  • 20
    Philip K. Dick

    First Published1969


    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Ubik is a 1969 science fiction novel by American writer Philip K. Dick. It is one of Dick's most acclaimed novels. It was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 greatest novels since 1923. In his...  more
    Amazon buy button
  • 21

    SubjectsLiterary, Literature, Classics, Japan, 20th century

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Fiction, Novel

    Original LanguageJapanese Language

    The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a novel published in 1994–1995 by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. The first published translation was by Alfred Birnbaum. The American translation and its British...  more
    Amazon buy button

    #2 of 19 The Best Haruki Murakami Books#9 of 20 20 Books to Read in Your 20s#86 of 99 50+ Good Books With Bird in the Title

  • 22
    Guest_057e0091-8537-481d-b09c-6e6e164d32f3 addedCormac McCarthy

    First Published2006-09-26

    SubjectsSurvival skills, Literary, Adventure, United States of America

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, Fiction, Literary fiction, Science Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Road is a 2006 novel by American writer Cormac McCarthy. It is a post-apocalyptic tale of a journey of a father and his young son over a period of several months, across a landscape blasted by an...  more

    #5 of 62 The Best Pulitzer Prize Winning Novels#78 of 176 The Greatest Science Fiction Novels Of All Time#151 of 704 Books That Changed Your Life

  • 23
    Chuck Palahniuk

    First Published1996-08


    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Satire, Suspense, Mystery, Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Fight Club is a 1996 novel by Chuck Palahniuk. It follows the experiences of an unnamed protagonist struggling with insomnia. Inspired by his doctor's exasperated remark that insomnia is not...  more
    Amazon buy button
  • 24
    Thomas Pynchon

    First Published1966

    SubjectsLiterary, Literature, California, Classics

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Fiction, Novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Crying of Lot 49 is a novella by Thomas Pynchon, first published in 1966. The shortest of Pynchon's novels, it is about a woman, Oedipa Maas, possibly unearthing the centuries-old conflict...  more
    Amazon buy button
  • 25
    bugo99 addedHermann Hesse

    First Published1927

    SubjectsLiterary, Existentialism, Literature, Classics, Life

    Genres (Book)Speculative fiction, Existentialism, Fiction, Autobiography, Novel

    Original LanguageGerman Language

    Steppenwolf is the tenth novel by German-Swiss author Hermann Hesse. Originally published in Germany in 1927, it was first translated into English in 1929. Combining autobiographical and...  more
not on the list?add item #58add new item
List Rules: Top works of postmodern fiction