Top Young Fiction Writers

The New Yorker names its top writers under 40. Three talk to us.

From left: Joshua Ferris, Yiyun Li, Nell Freudenberger (Credits: author Websites; Freudenberg picture by Marion Ettinger)

How do you pick the very best young fiction writers in North America? Not easy. 

The New Yorker magazine did it last week, naming twenty under age 40 as the best of the best, for a mastery of language and storytelling and – beyond that – “a palpable sense of ambition.” 

We have three of the twenty with us today. Joshua Ferris. Yiyun Li. Nell Freudenberger. And we’ve got questions. 

Are they looking to step into the shoes of big writers just gone? Mailer? Updike? J.D. Salinger? Or are they looking to make new shoes?  Like what? 

This Hour, On Point: top writers of literary fiction under 40.


Joshua Ferris, 35, is an American writer and author of “Then We Came To the End” and “The Unnamed.” Read an excerpt from “The Unnamed.”

Yiyun Li, 37, is a Chinese-American writer and assistant professor of English at the University of California – Davis. She’s author of “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers” and “The Vagrants.” Read an excerpt from “The Vagrants.”

Nell Freudenberger, 35, is an American writer and author of “Lucky Girls” and “The Dissident.” Read an excerpt from “The Dissident” (go to the Table of Contents and scroll to Chapters).


Check out the full New Yorker list of the top 20 fiction writers under 40. And read the New York Times’ Sam Tanenhaus’ critique of the premise of the New Yorker list.

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