One of my favorite writers of contemporary fiction in Johnathan Franzen. The first book I read was The Corrections and I loved it. It was one of the most deeply observed and nuanced portraits of modern life and family that I have ever read.
I went on to read his first book The Twenty Seventh City. It is set in St. Louis where I live and offers the kind of sprawling urban overview that usually is only directed at New York or London or LA. It was really cool to be able to read a novel about the place that you live that encompasses the history, the politics, the architecture and the character of your city.
A few months back I read his most recent book Freedom and it is probably my favorite one yet. Through a very limited cast of characters he is able to explore the entire history of the first decade of the 2000s. Any one trying to make sense of the recent past owes it to themselves to read this book.