The 20 best books of the 21st century - according to Goodreads

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  • Goodreads is essentially a catalog and social networking site for book worms, and their public lists - where all users can submit titles and vote on their ranking - are a treasure trove for finding great new reads.
  • Below are the top 20 books of the 21st century - according to Goodreads readers.

Every time I step foot inside a bookstore, I find myself turning to the internet from my phone to winnow down the sheer expanse of books.

And there's pretty much no better place for book recommendations than Goodreads, which is essentially a social network and catalog for bibliophiles. You can track and rate the books you've read, curate the books you want to read, and participate in discussions, trivia, creative writing exercises, and "Ask the Author" threads if you're looking for community. It's also a great place to find the books most worth reading.

Below, you'll find the community's top 20 books of the 21st century - starting with the final "Harry Potter" book.

The 20 best books of the 21st century - according to Goodreads:

Captions provided by Amazon and edited for length.

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"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" by J.K. Rowling

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" by J.K. Rowling
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As he climbs into the sidecar of Hagrid's motorbike and takes to the skies, leaving Privet Drive for the last time, Harry Potter knows that Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters are not far behind. The protective charm that has kept Harry safe until now is broken, but he cannot keep hiding. The Dark Lord is breathing fear into everything Harry loves, and to stop him, Harry will have to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes. The final battle must begin — Harry must stand and face his enemy.

“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins

“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins
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In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, The Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed.

"The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini

"The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini
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The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father's servant caught in the tragic sweep of history, "The Kite Runner" transports readers to Afghanistan at a tense and crucial moment of change and destruction. A powerful story of friendship, it is also about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons — their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak
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It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can't resist: books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” by J.K. Rowling

“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” by J.K. Rowling
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When Dumbledore arrives at Privet Drive one summer night to collect Harry Potter, his wand hand is blackened and shriveled, but he does not reveal why. Secrets and suspicion are spreading through the wizarding world, and Hogwarts itself is not safe. Harry is convinced that Malfoy bears the Dark Mark: there is a Death Eater amongst them. Harry will need powerful magic and true friends as he explores Voldemort's darkest secrets, and Dumbledore prepares him to face his destiny.

“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” by J.K. Rowling

“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” by J.K. Rowling
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In his fifth year at Hogwart's, Harry faces challenges at every turn, from the dark threat of He Who Must Not Be Named and the unreliability of the government of the magical world to the rise of Ron Weasley as the keeper of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team. Along the way, he learns about the strength of his friends, the fierceness of his enemies, and the meaning of sacrifice.

“The Help” by Kathryn Stockett https://amzn.to/2Ms4lO7

“The Help” by Kathryn Stockett https://amzn.to/2Ms4lO7
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Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who's always taken orders quietly, but lately, she's unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter just graduated college. She's full of ambition, but without a husband, she's considered a failure.

Together, these seemingly different women join together to write a tell-all book about work as a black maid in the South, that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town.

“A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini

“A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini
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Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss, and by fate. As they endure the ever-escalating dangers around them — in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul — they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman's love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end, it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival.

“Life of Pi” by Yann Martel

“Life of Pi” by Yann Martel
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The son of a zookeeper, Pi Patel has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior and a fervent love of stories. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes.

The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days while lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his story and press him to tell them "the truth." After hours of coercion, Pi tells a second story, a story much less fantastical, much more conventional — but is it more true?

“Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins

“Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins
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Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson
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Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden's wealthiest families, disappeared over 40 years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.

“The Time Traveler's Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger

“The Time Traveler's Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger
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A dazzling novel in the most untraditional fashion, this is the remarkable story of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who travels involuntarily through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare's passionate love affair endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap, and it is Audrey Niffenegger's cinematic storytelling that makes the novel's unconventional chronology so vibrantly triumphant.

“The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green

“The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green
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Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning-author John Green's most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

“The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown

“The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown
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While in Paris, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is awakened by a phone call in the dead of the night. The elderly curator of the Louvre has been murdered inside the museum, his body covered in baffling symbols. As Langdon and gifted French cryptologist Sophie Neveu sort through the bizarre riddles, they are stunned to discover a trail of clues hidden in the works of Leonardo da Vinci — clues visible for all to see and yet ingeniously disguised by the painter.

Even more startling, the late curator was involved in the Priory of Sion — a secret society whose members included Sir Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, and Da Vinci — and he guarded a breathtaking historical secret. Unless Langdon and Neveu can decipher the labyrinthine puzzle— while avoiding the faceless adversary who shadows their every move — the explosive, ancient truth will be lost forever.

“The Road” by Cormac McCarthy

“The Road” by Cormac McCarthy
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A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food — and each other.

“Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen

“Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen
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Jacob Janowski's luck had run out ― orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was the Great Depression and for Jacob the circus was both his salvation and a living hell. There he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but brutal animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this group of misfits was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon
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Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.

This improbable story of Christopher's quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years.

“Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins

“Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins
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Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived. But her home has been destroyed. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

“Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides

“Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides
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"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974...My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver's license...records my first name simply as Cal."

So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of l967, before they move out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, "Middlesex" is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic.

“The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold

“The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold
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"My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973."

So begins the story of Susie Salmon, who is adjusting to her new home in heaven, a place that is not at all what she expected, even as she is watching life on earth continue without her — her friends trading rumors about her disappearance, her killer trying to cover his tracks, her grief-stricken family unraveling. Out of unspeakable tragedy and loss, "The Lovely Bones" succeeds, miraculously, in building a tale filled with hope, humor, suspense, even joy.

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