Monday, January 4, 2010

Books of the Decade

A lot of bloggers seem to be riffing on their top books of the decade.  Sadly, I lost track of all the books I'd read before I got on Goodreads, so I can only imagine how many books I read in the 2000s (what do we call that decade anyway?  The Zeroes? The Aughts? The Naughts?)

Anyway, I think the most significant changes I made to my reading habits were 1) starting library school -- I took three childrens/YA lit classes and got hooked on all the great authors writing for youth -- and 2) rediscovering the classics.  I've probably written before about how few classics I read in high school and college -- I'm really regretting not taking more lit classes (I sometimes fantasize about going back for another Master's!).  Anyhow, I'm really making up for lost time, and have discovered so many great classic authors and their works.  What really amazes me is how many classics I've read since I started on my quest -- my Goodreads list of "Classics Read" numbers 150; of those, I counted how many I'd read before 2000.  Only about 30, which means I've probably read One hundred and twenty classic books in the past ten years, most of them, really, since I got serious about it in 2005.  I've probably read more than 100 classics since 2005.  Wow.  I have another 150 classics on my to-read list, hopefully I'll make a pretty good dent in the list in the next ten years.  (Who am I kidding?  The list never gets smaller since I keep adding to it.  Oh, well, I suppose it's better than running out of books to read!)

These are the books first read this decade that I really think will stick with me. It was tough to choose, but I realize that all of these are books that I want to read over and over, so there you have it.  In alphabetical order by author, because I can't possibly rank them:

Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen -- I love them both so much, I can't choose one over the other.

West with the Night by Beryl Markham --  Nonfiction that's as good as fiction.  This book is so wonderful, I tried to read it slowly to make it last longer.  Get the illustrated version if you can.

Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier -- now I'm fascinated by Vermeer.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens -- the ultimate Victorian writer.  You can't beat the cliffhangers and brilliantly intertwining plots and characters.  (Also a brilliant TV adaptation by the BBC!)

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman -- Fat Charlie is the son of a god and learns to deal with it.  The audio adaptation by Lenny Henry is hands-down my favorite audiobook of all time.  I bow to my librarian friend Melissa for recommending it.  I am forever in her debt.

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell -- like Jane Austen, but with more pages so it lasts longer!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. Heartbreaking and fascinating.

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones -- I seriously love this book as much as Harry Potter.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith --  Why did I wait so long to read this book.  Kicking myself! 

Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck -- completely converted me to Steinbeck.

The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope -- I couldn't put it down, I've never read an 800 page book so fast.  And the timeliness of the financial scandals is pretty eerie.

The House of Mirth and Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton.  Both beautiful and tragic, but I can't choose one over the other.

So -- a great look back a great decade of reading!  I'm already immersed in some great books for 2010.


  1. You know, I hadn't t hought about the best books of the last decade. Your goodreads talk about classics made me go back and look at how many classics I had on there. About 150 that are read, but i know I've read more than that as I read 45-50 in 2001 and about 35 each in the last two years. That doesn't count all I read in the intervening years when I didn't keep track. Plus I don't have on goodreads half the books I read in 2001 because stupid me didn't keep track of them! Grr!

    Anyway, Interesting to think of the best books fo the decade. I might do that sometime in the near future. Maybe for a Salon post.

  2. Interesting post! I've been wanting to read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for a few months now (I hadn't heard of it pre-blogging) and Howl's Moving Castle sounds wonderful - I'll keep an eye out for a copy.

    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time would be in my list too - fantastic book.

  3. You have a few on your list that I have read & love. Now, even more that I will need to read myself.
    I enjoyed what you said about each book.

  4. I get so excited with all the classics I know I'll get to read in the next year!

    I am not sure I've heard of West with the Night. I must add it to my list. I love engaging nonfiction!

  5. Amanda -- I'm looking forward to reading about your books of the decade. Maybe we should ask everyone at the book group on Saturday.

    Jackie -- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of those books that frequently named most beloved. It's a great coming-of-age story. And Howl's Moving Castle is fantastic, Diana Wynne Jones is so underrated in the US.

    Julie -- Thanks! I'd love to hear about your favorites of the decade.

    Rebecca -- I think you'd love West With the Night. One of the best nonfiction books I've ever read, hands down. I think it's on the Modern Library Top 100 Nonfiction books.