I stumbled across this recap of books 2000-2009 (http://www.cleveland.com/books/index.ssf/2009/12/a_disjointed_but_dazzling_deca.html), and it got me thinking about my own list. I’m not qualified to discuss all literature and the movements that followed in the past decade, but there have been a lot of books that made me love the capabilities of language and stories in one way or another. My list of favorites isn’t academic or researched. I haven’t spent months debating the following results, but a rather thoughtful hour was spent examining the possibilities:
2000 – Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Language that drips with wit and beauty, popularly and critically acclaimed, who knew non-fiction could be so captivating? To be honest, I didn’t until stumbling upon this one.
2001 – Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. The New York Times Book Review proclaimed, “Life of Pi could renew your faith in the ability of novelists to invest even the most outrageous scenario with plausible life,” and I whole-heartedly agreed.
2002 – Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated. The voices of the characters are so startling different, yet so telling of truths and history. My own family’s Ukrainian background and stories of World War II perhaps brought this book closer to me, but it touches chords of reality and language that any novelist can admire.
2003 – Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. Timely and astonishingly powerful, Hosseini takes his readers to an unknown world and fills that world with tumultuous emotions and transforming lives.
2004 – James Lee Burke’s In the Moon of Red Ponies. When a mass market fiction writer also attains the critical success of being considered a ‘literary writer,’ some people raise eyebrows in suspicion. This fourth book in the Billy Bob Holland series was not only a compelling story; it was also nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Writers also can take heart in the fact that Burke was rejected 111 times over a period of nine years before The Lost Get-Back Boogie (1986) – also nominated for a Pulitzer – was published.
2005 – Steve Berry’s The Third Secret. In the words of the New York Times, “The links to religion in The Da Vinci Code and [Dan Brown's] previous, Angels and Demons, pale beside those in The Third Secret.” In a world hungry for intelligent, international thrillers, Berry succeeds masterfully.
2006 – Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants. This novel is a demonstration of the power of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). While surely editing ensued outside of the bounds of November, the majority of this book was written in a month’s time. Impressive, motivating, and awesome.
2007 – J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. 2007 marked the completion of the seven-book series that entranced children into reading hundreds of pages and that peaked the imaginations of adults who remembered the power of children’s literature. Rowling can’t be ignored.
2008 – Paulo Coelho’s The Winner Stands Alone. Coelho has been one of my favorite authors since my first reading of The Alchemist. Yet while this novel is the Brazilian writer’s first thriller, it still retains the beautiful writing, the examination of the human essence, and the social commentary which seeps into his work.
2009 – Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge. 2009’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel is woven from short stories. The New Yorker wrote, “Strout animates the ordinary with astonishing force. . . .” Isn’t that what we all attempt to achieve as writers? Kudos to Strout for giving us further inspiration.
The more I debated and researched the above, the more I realized how many books really are on my reading list. Perhaps I’ll add on that as another resolution in 2010: find more time to read! What a torture that would be (note the sarcasm here).
Now, this is only what I’ve been reading. I know I’ve left off so many great works. What do you think? What would you rate as the top books or authors of the past decade?