I don't have a good enough memory or record of what I was reading in the late 1990s or early 2000s to know if this is the truth - but the way I remember it is that after a lull where I had trouble finding any science fiction I was interested in reading I came across Alastair Reynolds's (official site and blog) Revelation Space and that was the start of renewed love for science fiction!
If you like 'hard' science fiction everything in the Revelation Space Universe that I have read is - in my opinion - worth reading (maybe even worth reading more than once...). However, I am pretty much a complete 'fan' of this series and it would be absurd to actually trust my opinion - so I guess you should just start reading!
I would consider the books below the 'core' novels - I would recommend reading these first and 'in-order':
Revelation Space - Amazon Chasm City - Amazon Redemption Ark - Amazon Absolution Gap - Amazon
I think the books/stories below are better read after you have read some of the 'core' novels above:
The Prefect - Amazon Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days - Amazon Galactic North - Amazon
Rating: 5 of 5 First Read Date: Starting early 2000s (most books after Revelation Space just after the US release)