My Favorite Novels of the 2010s

The GoldfinchAs visitors to this blog know, I often write about novels that date back decades or centuries. But I also read some recent fiction, and thought I’d list my favorite novels published since 2010 — some literary, others mass-audience-oriented. Not necessarily the best novels of the past nine years (that’s so subjective anyway) but my personal favorites. Then I’ll ask for yours!

Here they are, in reverse order from my 12th to 1st picks:

12. Three Stations (2010), Martin Cruz Smith: The seventh of the mostly Russia-set Arkady Renko novels that started with 1981’s Gorky Park isn’t the best of the series, but it might be the most poignant. The book begins with the horrifying scenario of a baby stolen, after which investigator Renko investigates — with some important help.

11. Everybody’s Fool (2016), Richard Russo: This sequel isn’t as good as the 1993-published Nobody’s Fool, but is still pretty darn good. The funny, unambitious, not-so-healthy, basically good-hearted Sully is a great character creation.

10. The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion (2013), Fannie Flagg: The author once again finds the perfect balance between sentimentality and tough-minded storytelling in this tale that flashes back to women pilots of World War II.

9. Flight Behavior (2012), Barbara Kingsolver: A vivid combination of a cry against climate change and a chronicle of a brainy rural woman’s efforts to improve her life.

8. The Lowland (2013), Jhumpa Lahiri: The author skillfully mixes politics with dysfunctional but at times inspiring family dynamics. A revolutionary dies, his brother marries the deceased’s pregnant wife, that marriage takes an unusual turn, etc.

7. The Luminaries (2013), Eleanor Catton: A novel set during the 1860s New Zealand gold rush that’s a bit too long but impressive and innovative. Catton was only in her 20s when she wrote it!

6. Freedom (2010), Jonathan Franzen: An overhyped novel, but still a compelling and sweeping view of the U.S. via its well-drawn characters and its takes on marriage, war, the environment, and more.

5. 61 Hours (2010), Lee Child: I could name several of Child’s page-turning Jack Reacher novels from our current decade, but this one is my favorite. Roaming, justice-supporting loner Reacher travels to snowy South Dakota, and mayhem ensues.

4. Cormoran Strike series — The Cuckoo’s Calling and three subsequent novels (2013, 2014, 2015, 2018), J.K. Rowling writing as “Robert Galbraith”: Private sleuth Strike and his assistant-promoted-to-investigative-partner Robin Ellacott are VERY charismatic characters who bravely and smartly solve murders while dealing with complicated private lives and feelings for each other.

3. So Much for That (2010), Lionel Shriver: Her book is both a brilliant screed against the problematic U.S. health-care system and a story of several memorable characters — topped off with one of the best endings I’ve read in recent years.

2. The Goldfinch (2013), Donna Tartt: The current movie version didn’t get great reviews, but the long novel is riveting. After a museum explosion kills his mother and others, 13-year-old Theo Decker dazedly leaves with the famous painting “The Goldfinch” — and a fascinating life unfolds into his adult years. (The above photo shows Theo and his mom just before the explosion.)

1. Big Little Lies (2014), Liane Moriarty: This superbly written novel, which spawned the popular TV series, focuses on three unforgettable suburban women whose children attend the same Australian school — and the abusive bank executive married to one of the women. Dead serious, yet with plenty of humor.

Hmm…2010 and 2013 were especially nice years for novels I liked! 🙂 And while some people feel modern literature isn’t as appealing as various long-ago classics, there were some pretty darn good novels published during the past nine years. Your favorites from this decade?

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest weekly piece — which includes discussion of climate-strike protests in my town — is here.

60 thoughts on “My Favorite Novels of the 2010s

  1. Dave, there was a time I used to read all of John Grisham thrillers and all of them were in some blockbuster movies, not any more.

    Couple of books, one The Racketeer 2012 the main charactor is African American is an excellent thriller, I even bought the book.
    Mr. Grisham wanted to have a movie with Mr. Denzel, obviously he was not available. I think there alre so many black actors who could do an excellent job..

    The second one is Camino Island is a crime fiction thriller novel written by John Grisham and released on , 2017 , another excellent one away from court drama.

    I was also thinking perhaps I read the Millennium series Dragon Triology by Steig Larsson after 2010, we moved in OH in 2008 and after that I started reading and returned after a few pages and one patron convince me to read the whole series.
    And what a series it was.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There was a recent Lee child book, I have read so many of his I could not figureout which one it was. I did search the titles still…
    It was a tender one where a woman he discovered was into drugs to hide her pains…later he helped Her…I would say what ever the title was is one of my favorite Dave.

    Oh yes then Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

    ” In One Person “…by John Irving.

    Charcoal Jow ..by Walter Mosley

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, bebe! I think the Lee Child book you described is “The Midnight Line,” and it is indeed an EXCELLENT and poignant Jack Reacher novel.

      And, yes, “The Lowland” and “In One Person” (both of which I read after you recommended them to me) are great novels. I haven’t gotten to “Charcoal Joe,” but did read Walter Mosley’s first two Easy Rawlins books and thought they were really compelling.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Aside from some Lee Childs, and some later Moseleys, I have hardly dug into the 21st catalog– so I’m going to fudge a bit and books from its first decade.

    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Christopher (2003), was a good mystery, especially successful, I thought, in conveying the thought processes of John Francis Boone, the teen-aged boy who is somewhere along the autism spectrum and first-person narrator of the book.

    The Financial Lives of the Poets, by Jess Walter (2009) is another first person novel; a timely and more than occasionally funny social commentary centered around the mostly desperate misdeeds of the narrator and former financial writer for a failing newspaper, and his enforced redemption.

    I’m sure you’d like it too, Dave, if ever I got around to sending it to you, as I have periodically threatened to do. My latest excuse: I wanted to send along a copy of the only music I ever made that I consider might be considered art, also from the first decade,commercial considerations none whatsoever. But mine was an edition limited 100 cd’s, and though I’m pretty sure somewhere in a box under a box in a closet there are more, I can only lay my hands on 1, and I’m afraid to send it away till I’ve dug up another. I would advise patience, but there always seems to be time in my life for procrastination.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, jhNY! Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books have also been a good chunk of my post-2010 reading — 10 novels.

      The 2000-2009 period was indeed a fruitful one for excellent novels. You liked the two you mentioned a lot (great summaries!), and I enjoyed ones such as J.K. Rowling’s last four “Harry Potter” books, Barbara Kingsolver’s “Prodigal Summer” (2000), Zadie Smith’s “White Teeth” (2000), Michael Chabon’s “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay” (2000), Richard Russo’s “Empire Falls” (2001), Jeffrey Eugenides’ “Middlesex” (2002), Margaret Atwood’s “Oryx and Crake” (2003), Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner” (2003), Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” (2006), etc.

      Thank you for thinking of me re “The Financial Lives of the Poets” and the CD of your music! But no rush, of course, and definitely don’t part with that CD until you find other copies. 🙂 Happy to return anything you send.

      Like

  4. Hey! The article is well written. Really loved the list of books mentioned 🙂

    BTW if you have time, please visit my site. Tell me what you think of “Top 10 books you need to read in October 2019” article that I have written 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Dave,

    Like you, I think I mostly read books that were published before I was born, but there have been a few from this decade that I’ve greatly enjoyed:

    2011 – Ready Player One. This novel came so highly recommended that I was sure I’d be disappointed. But Ernest Cline’s book is the funnest dystopia I’ve ever read.
    2012 – Where’d You Go, Bernadette?. It took me a while to warm to Maria Semple’s style of writing, but once I did, I couldn’t put this down.
    2012 – The Casual Vacancy. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about JK Rowling writing non Harry Potter but I found this incredibly engaging.
    2012 – Comic (and Column) Confessional. Dave Astor’s memoir is incredibly moving, and very, very funny.
    2013 – The Luminaries. In my own very humble opinion, I thought this Eleanor Catton novel was the perfect length. It was long, but I was completely riveted by every page.
    2015 – The Natural Way of Things. Charlotte Wood’s novel that combines The Handmaid’s Tale with Lord of the Flies is incredibly harrowing, but hard to put down.
    2018 – Boy Swallows Universe. Trent Dalton grew up in the same suburbs where I now live and it was such fun to read such a terrific novel, that was also set in familiar locations.

    Dave, I wish I could find an excuse, or even the most tenuous link for the following off-topic paragraph, but the truth is, I just don’t know anybody else who will understand the disappointment of bad novels. I feel like I’ve been surrounded by them lately! I was so looking forward to The Secret History. The fact that Donna Tartt is number two on your list above should automatically give her some sort of award, but I just found her writing so pretentious and self serving. So I was glad when it was over, and I could get to the highly rated On the Road. Pfft, beats me why it’s so well regarded. I’m finding it stilted and pointless. Kate Grenville’s The Secret River is supposed to be one of the top ten Aussie books of all time. Maybe it was designed for insomniacs to help put them to sleep. Then today at lunch, I was going to start Nabokov’s Pale Fire. I’ve only read Lolita and while I found the actual story too icky, I loved the writing. I was really, really looking forward to finally having something good to read, and then I realised it was poetry, which I just can’t follow. At least with this blog, I can think of some good things that I’ve read in recent years, so thanks for that, Dave!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sue! Excellent list, and I loved your perfectly crafted descriptions of each novel!

      “The Casual Vacancy” and “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” would definitely crack my top 20 for novels of this decade. And I hope to read at least a couple of the other books you mentioned as favorites.

      I didn’t mind the length of the brilliant “The Luminaries” — which you highly recommended to me — until perhaps the last 100 or so pages. But I’m still very glad I read it, and would highly recommend it to anyone else.

      I totally get your reaction to “The Secret History.” While I liked it more than you did, I also found it off-putting in various ways. Very weird and very preppy, or something. While “The Goldfinch” also had some off-putting moments, I overall found it infinitely better than “The Secret History.”

      I agree with you that “On the Road” is overrated, but it’s innovative and vivid in its way.

      Nabokov IS a great wordsmith — and “Pale Fire” is an example of that. The writing is absolutely off-the-charts good, it’s quite funny at time, and there is prose along with the poetry. But it’s a book with little human warmth.

      Last but not least, thanks so much for your kind words about my memoir! 🙂 I greatly appreciate it! 🙂

      Like

      • Hi Dave,

        Any praise for your memoir is well deserved. As is praise for this website. I’m grateful to you for allowing me to blather on and on, and I apologise that the length of my comments makes it look like I’m trying to take over your blog!

        I’m glad to hear you call On the Road overrated. I’m finding it all very phony – to borrow from another teen angsty book that I thought was overrated.

        I am actually excited about one upcoming read though. I’ve decided to replace the Nabokov with The Girl who Played with Fire. I didn’t love Dragon Tattoo but I did find it an easy, engaging read. I’m sure Larsson won’t disappoint with the sequel.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks again, Susan, for your reference to my memoir! As for comment length here, long or short or medium are welcome. 🙂

          I thought Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy was riveting. (Coincidentally, I wrote a post for tomorrow that will include a mention of it.) Given that you had mixed feelings about the first book, I hope you like the second more!

          Like

  6. I haven’t read Flight Behavior yet, but I did just recently finish “Unsheltered” by Barbara Kingsolver. I really really enjoyed it. I better add a couple more of these to my list, because I haven’t read any of the others either 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dave, Our book club read Barbara Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior”, back in Feb ’13, so it must have been fresh when we read it. My one-liner:
    I loved the her use of names, and her explanation of their origin. I took advantage of the ability to scan an e-book, to see where “Delarobia” entered the narrative.
    —–
    I’ve found that feature useful. the novel of the moment is Laura Lippman’s “Lady in the Lake”, where she moves the first person narrative into the different characters. It was a few chapters before I figured that out, by throwing up my hands to answer the question: “now when does this person first appear”, and realized the value of the e-reader to overcome my unfamiliarity with the literary device. The book leapt to life after that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, literaturepoliticsfamilylife! Great that your book club read “Flight Behavior” not long after it was published, and I loved the first name of that novel’s protagonist!

      While I’ve literally never read a novel in eBook form, I definitely acknowledge that there are advantages to that form. What you mentioned — as well as being able to change font size, easy portability, and so on.

      Like

    • Thank you, Elena! That novel is just fantastic on so many levels. And other Liane Moriarty books are great as well (“The Husband’s Secret,” “The Hypnotist’s Love Story,” etc.). Moriarty is such a smart, funny, insightful, page-turning writer; one of my very favorite living authors. I’m grateful that several people on this blog recommended her work.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I ALSO enjoyed “The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion” and “The Cuckoo’s Calling!” Other books from this decade that I liked include “Gone Girl” (Gillian Flynn, 2012), “Little Fires Everywhere” (Celeste Ng, 2017), “Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine (Gail Honeyman, 2017), and “Landline” (Rainbow Rowell, 2014).

    Liked by 1 person

  9. 1. I`ll have more the write Dave but my number one would be an autobiographical book by Michelle Obama ” Becoming”. the book has surpassed all the best seller`s non-fiction of all time.

    The book has nothing to do with politics, it is Michell`s story from childhood , her wholesome family and then extended family. Her hard working handicapped Father and so on.

    I urge all to read the book even Barack Obama is not your choice of a President.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Howdy, Dave!

    — Your favorites from this decade? —

    An easy one this week! On the one hand, I have read very few novels published during this period. On the other hand, I have liked almost all of them, most notably Kate Quinn’s “The Alice Network: A Novel” (2017)* and Tom Rachman’s “The Imperfectionists: A Novel” (2010). (Note to any novelist — or novelist’s publisher — who believes it necessary to label a novel “A Novel”: I generally can figure out this kind of stuff all on my own.)

    I also liked the television version of Liane Moriarty’s “Big Little Lies,” but I did not actually read the book . . .

    J.J. (Alias MugRuith1)

    *Is Kate Quinn one of M.B. Henry’s noms de plume?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, J.J., for mentioning those two books you liked and for the humor! I wonder if anyone ever wrote “A Novel: A Novel”? 🙂

      I’m the opposite with “Big Little Lies” — read the novel but have never seen the TV series. Not having cable seems to be an issue in that instance…

      Like

      • — I’m the opposite with “Big Little Lies” — read the novel but have never seen the TV series. Not having cable seems to be an issue in that instance… —

        I have basic cable-TV services, but I do not have premium cable-TV services, such as the HBO network that carries “Big Little Lies,” the first season of which I binge-watched during one of the network’s free preview weekends. (Another seven hours of my life completely wasted!)

        Liked by 1 person

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