Notes from the Now

Best Books of the Decade?

In literature on November 27, 2009 at 12:49 am

I don’t believe we’ve already reached this year’s season of lists, much less that we’ve reached the point where “Best Blanks of the Decade” lists are being circulated.  But, as Pete Lit points out, we’ve already got the Times Online UK’s Best Books of the Decade list to ponder.  For the most part, I think ranked lists of literature like this are only useful in establishing what books are well regarded generally, and not useful in any comparative sense. So #98 is not necessarily much “worse” than #12.  Still, I have to admit that I’m always interested (from a cultural literacy standpoint) in finding out what’s what.

Here are the books from the the Times UK list that I’ve read, and a quick comment:

  • #89 The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie (2008) — Certainly the best book of Rushdie’s from the past decade.
  • #81 The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud (2006) — A meditation on morality that leaves you liking almost none of the characters.
  • #50 No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies by Naomi Klein (2000) — Klein is very persuasive & thorough in looking at the psychology of branding and corporate identity formation (her subsequent books on economics are nowhere near as solid)
  • #44 Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (2005) — Uchicago prof makes you go hm…
  • #33 Chronicles: Volume One by Bob Dylan (2004) — I was stunned by how good Chronicles was.  The distinctness of Dylan’s voice and the uniqueness of the literary style made this a thoroughly enjoyable read.
  • #24 Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005) — Ishiguro steps lightly into the world of science fiction with magnificent results.
  • #20 White Teeth by Zadie Smith (2000) — Eventhough the story fell apart in the end, Smith’s pacing and voice was fresh.
  • #12 A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (2000) — I didn’t much like AHWOSG when I read it in 2001, but have loved everything else by Eggers that I’ve read since then.  Makes me want to revisit this book.
  • #6 The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell (2000) —  Gladwell’s gift is his engaging writing-style and the fresh perspective he brings to most topics.   He’s often guilty of over-simplification, and of ignoring established disciplines when they don’t suit him, but he always makes you think.
  • #3 Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama (2004) — A great book that was really released in 1995, Obama would have been lauded as a great writer had he not ventured into American politics.
  • #2 Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (2003) — A remarkably good graphic novel, packed with much more history than the film version.

The rest of these are on my “to read” shelf or a wish list of some variety

  • #1 The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2006) — I’ve been meaning to read this for a year now, and am now going to wait until we get to the desolate part of the Chicago winter
  • #98 Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2007) — want to read
  • #54 Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss (2003) — Bought, traded away, still want to read
  • #32 Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer (2002) — On my waiting to read shelf at home
  • #28 The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century by Alex Ross (2007) — On my waiting to read shelf at home
  • #The plot against america by Philip Roth (2004) — On my waiting to read shelf at home
  • #14 Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi (2003) — On my waiting to read shelf at home
  1. Definitely check out Atonement too. McEwan’s storytelling skills there are nothing short of astonishing.

  2. Will do! I read “Saturday” by McEwan and was impressed.

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