Contemporary Fiction, the first-year course

Teaching a course called "contemporary fiction" is a bit daunting. What's contemporary? Who do I pick? What will my first-year students (imagine your 18-year old self but as a business major) not only enjoy but also struggle with, in a good way? I put up some ground rules: 

1. No novels before 1990. I had to pick a year and 25 years ago seems like a good place to begin. The short stories go back a bit further, but all of the writers are still alive and writing to the best of my knowledge.

2. No novels over 350 pages. It's a first-year class, so anything more than that will be difficult to teach. 

3. It has to be a "quick read." Hence, no Cormac McCarthy. I love Cormac McCarthy but not in this class. Not even The Road. A little too bleak to spend a week talking about. 

Here's the list:  

Short Stories: 

Banks, Russell, "Sara Cole: A Type of Love Story."

Cisneros, Sandra, "Never Marry a Mexican."

Gaitskill, Mary, "Tiny, Smiling Daddy."

Jones, Edward, "Marie."

Klay, Phi, "Redeployment."

Lahiri, Jhumpa, "A Temporary Matter."

Link, Kelly, "Stone Animals."

Moore, Lorrie, "People Like that...."

Nelson, Antonya, "Female Trouble."

O'Brien, Tim, "The Things they Carried."

Orringer, Julie, "Pilgrims."

Richter, Stacey, "The Cavemen in the Hedges."

Saunders, George, "Sea Oak."

Silber, Joan, "My Shape."


Baxter, Charles. Feast of Love. 

Diaz, Junot. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. 

Fountain, Ben. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.

Johnson, Charles. Middle Passage.

Johnson, Denis. Jesus’ Son: Stories.

Mandel, Emily St. John. Station Eleven.

Morrison, Toni. Jazz.

Offill, Jenny. Dept. of Speculation. 

Woodrell, Daniel. Winter’s Bone.