Nominated for the Pulitzer, Batuman's 2017 The Idiot may seem like it was published a lifetime ago by Information Age standards. That said, this sprawling account of a Harvard freshman circa 1995 makes readers feel like they've bought a one-way ticket to a prehistoric era. It's a world full of Chekhovian emails sent from campus libraries, anticlimactic love-triangles, and sad dining-hall food. Timeless, though, is the unique sense of existential dread and fruitlessness shared by all college freshman. As protagonist Selin notes: "I hadn't learned what I had wanted to about how language worked. I hadn't learned anything at all."
The Idiot, by Elif Batuman