Favorite Novels From the Previous Decade

Empire FallsLast week, I listed my favorite novels published between 2010 and 2019. This week, I’ll go back a decade to rank my favorite novels with 2000-to-2009 releases. Don’t worry, there’ll be no list of 1990s fiction in next week’s post… 🙂

As was the case with my previous post, I’ll mention my favorite novels rather than necessarily the best ones. We all differ on what’s best, just as some people think Trump’s The Art of the Deal is the worst book of all time while others think it’s ABSOLUTELY the worst book of all time.

Here are my favorites (and I’ll ask for yours at the end of this post):

25. American Gods (2001), Neil Gaiman: Very original fantasy work about (surprise!) deities in the United States. Interesting, quite varied deities.

24. March (2007), Geraldine Brooks: Intense novel about the harrowing Civil War experiences of the father in Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women.

23. Still Alice (2007), Lisa Genova: Heartbreaking story of a Harvard professor’s descent into early-onset Alzheimer’s. Skillfully told from Alice’s point of view.

22. The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003), Audrey Niffenegger: Quirky, moving novel about time travel (duh!) and how that effects a Chicago-based couple when only the guy is doing the (involuntary) traveling.

21. A Redbird Christmas (2004), Fannie Flagg: Touching tale of a dying (?) man who moves from wintry Chicago (that city again!) to a small town in Alabama.

20. Ellington Boulevard (2008), Adam Langer: A New York City-set comedic novel that says a lot about gentrification and more.

19. The Namesake (2003), Jhumpa Lahiri: The author gravitated from a Pulitzer Prize-winning story collection to novel-writing with this absorbing work about a Bengali immigrant couple and their Americanized son.

18. The Lovely Bones (2002), Alice Sebold: Haunting novel about a murdered girl (who remains “alive” in a kind of limbo), her grief-stricken family, and the frustrating search for the killer.

17. The Road (2006), Cormac McCarthy: Gripping post-apocalyptic novel from a prose master. A departure for McCarthy, who set a number of his previous novels in the past.

16. From a Buick 8 (2002), Stephen King: It “stars” a spooky automobile that’s a portal to another world, but the book is more subtle and moving than many of King’s novels.

15. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007), Junot Diaz: A novel — set in New Jersey and the Dominican Republic — that’s a potent mix of politics and pop culture. Amazing footnotes, too. (Yes, footnotes in a fiction book.)

14. Middlesex (2002), Jeffrey Eugenides: Ambitious novel that’s primarily about its gender-confused protagonist but is also an immigrant story.

13. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000), Michael Chabon: It’s about two cartoonists sort of based on Superman’s co-creators, but there’s a lot more sweep to the novel than that storyline implies.

12. The Kite Runner (2003), Khaled Hosseini: Very dramatic tale that takes readers from Afghanistan to the U.S. and back to Afghanistan — where a grisly Taliban encounter occurs.

11. Winter Solstice (2000), Rosamunde Pilcher: The final novel of any author’s long career rarely gets this good. Heartwarming story of a former London stage actress who moves to a small English village and what happens after that.

10. The Lacuna (2009), Barbara Kingsolver: A gay part-Mexican/part-American man works for iconic artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, is later victimized during the McCarthy era, and more.

9. Oryx and Crake (2003), Margaret Atwood: As clever as dystopian fiction can get. Funny and apocalyptically harrowing.

8. The Blind Assassin (2000), Margaret Atwood: Emotionally wrenching story of two sisters that includes a big surprise and a novel within a novel.

7. The 2000s decade’s many Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child, with my favorite being Bad Luck and Trouble (2007): In that can’t-stop-reading-it book, loner Jack reunites with his old team of elite military investigators.

6. The Corrections (2001), Jonathan Franzen: Compelling depiction of a dysfunctional family coupled with scathing social satire and excellent (if occasionally over-the-top) writing.

5. Prodigal Summer (2000), Barbara Kingsolver: Several seemingly separate storylines eventually converge in an extremely satisfying way.

4. The Millennium Trilogy — The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2005), The Girl Who Played With Fire (2006), and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest (2007), Stieg Larsson: An as-page-turning-as-it-gets chronicle of abuse, murder, corporate corruption, and more that co-stars a journalist and the brilliant/angry/highly original character of computer hacker Lisbeth Salander.

3. White Teeth (2000), Zadie Smith: A potent combination of laugh-out-loud hilarity, serious social commentary, and a memorable multicultural cast of characters in London.

2. Empire Falls (2001), Richard Russo: A pitch-perfect novel set in a small Maine town. The characters are unforgettable, and the action is low-key (but never boring) until things get VERY dramatic.

1. The fourth-through-seventh books of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series — Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2005), and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007): The wildly popular series that deserved every iota of its popularity. As its readers know, the wizard-world books got longer and more complex in the 2000s but never became less than exciting, funny, and poignant.

Your favorite novels published between 2000 and 2009?

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 discusses a heated Board of Education meeting (during which delayed teacher raises were criticized) and climate-strike protests in my town — is here.

41 thoughts on “Favorite Novels From the Previous Decade

  1. You always make the best lists, Dave! So many things to add to my reading list along with remembering some fantastic books I’ve already read! I was a little surprised you didn’t list All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend this novel!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Michelle, for the kind words!

      Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten to “All the Light We Cannot See” yet, so I couldn’t rank it. That novel is now definitely on my to-read list! I know it’s held in high regard by many people, of which I now see you are one. 🙂

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  2. Thought I’d exhausted my list of novels written in the 2000’s with my last week’s comment, but it appears I outdid myself that decade, having read the Stieg Larsson trilogy and Atwood’s “The Blind Assassin” as well.

    I wish Larrson had been able to live to know his international fame and success, and to have had time to write more. The Atwood novel I enjoyed most of all for what it contained– the scifi novella– more than I enjoyed its surroundings.

    I have just finished– Tuesday– another book, published in 2006– but it’s a translation of “The Tales of the Heike”, and derives from a 1371 recitation of this sung saga (to biwa accompaniment, usually performed by blind singers), about a civil war between the Heike and Genji clans of medieval Japan. Unlike other versions, this one has been reduced to its barest plot essentials, plus a bit of poetic imagery and an overlay of Buddhist themes as contained in the original, and has a glossary and a name index too

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    • Thank you, jhNY!

      I agree — a real shame that Stieg Larsson didn’t get to enjoy his mega-success. I loved his trilogy, and don’t want to read the sequels that have been written by another author.

      “The Blind Assassin” was indeed uneven — I also loved some of it, and only liked other parts. But certainly a very original mix of elements.

      That “abridged” book you finished Tuesday sounds like quite an offbeat read!

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      • My interest in the Heike tales began maybe 20 years ago when I saw a scene in a teevee show about evolution. There are, in a bay where the decisive battle between the Heike and Genji clans were fought, crabs that look like helmeted samurai faces. The narrator opined that people for generations since the battle have thrown back the samurai crabs, out of respect for the dead or fear of same, and harvested those who bore no such resemblance, resulting in a high count of samurai crabs today. Guess it was a way of illustrating a kind of selection, though obviously, not a natural selection.

        Then about 10 years ago, I read Lafcadio Hearn’s “Kwaidan”, a collection he made of Japanese ghost stories. “Hochi the Earless” is the story of a blind biwa-playing singer who is asked for many nights to travel to a remote palace and there to sing tales of the Heike. Being blind, he cannot know that his hosts are ghosts of the Heike family who mourn as he recounts in song their defeats in battle and the death of the Emperor, a boy who drowns in his grandmother’s arms rather than endure the humiliation of capture.

        A few years ago I saw the 1965 Japanese movie Kwaidan”, which dramatizes some of Hearn’s collection, among them “Hochi the Earless.” If you can rent it, this is a pretty fabulous piece of film-making from end to end.

        I especially like the “Tales of the Heike” I read last week because it is literally the copying down of a blind singer’s recitation– the means by which this saga was communicated to most who knew it– before later theatrical entertainments superseded the singers. I have a much larger “Tales” that I can now read with more confidence, given what I’ve learned by reading this one.

        Tales of warrior clans told around a fire at night by blind singers invite, inevitably, comparisons with Homer. Unlike the “Iliad”, there are no intercessions by gods into the affairs of men in the Heike tales I read,though there is a framework of Buddhist thought upon which the tales hang, mostly having to do with the impermanence of all conditions of life and the heedless folly of such ambition as upsets good governance.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks, Dave.

    I find Neil Gaiman to be a bit of a gift actually. I had been disappointed with a few fantasy series before I forced myself to try American Gods and just loved it. His writing is so clever, but so fun, and kind of absurd that I found it impossible not to enjoy. And even the interviews that I read at the back of the book were fun. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I can feel Neil Gaiman’s fun coming off the page. I’m also really enjoying the T.V. adaptation.

    I’m very much looking forward to getting to Good Omens but it’s a long way down my list. I might bump it up to the top of my list as a Christmas present to myself!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sue! “American Gods” is the only Neil Gaiman work I’ve read, but I was impressed with his writing. There were certainly many fun moments in that novel along with the serious stuff.

      (I think one of Gaiman’s American gods moved your comment… 🙂 )

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      • See! Because they’re fun!! I mean, sometimes they’re a bit crush, kill, destroy, but mostly they just want to mess with my blog comments 🙂

        Gods, and the follow up Anansi Boys are the only Gaiman novels that I’ve currently read, but I’ve also seen / read a lot of interviews and seen him on shows like The Simpsons and he’s just so funny, and seems so down to Earth that I’ve become a bit obsessed. I’m definitely bumping Good Omens up on my list!

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  4. Some really good reads there – the Time Traveller’s Wife has been on my list for some time, I just haven’t managed to get a copy from the library yet. Soon! 🙂 I would totally agree on Harry Potter. All the books were good, but they just kept getting better as they went along. It’s hard for me to think of reads I would add, you covered a lot here 🙂 Besides, I was in college at that time and pretty engrossed in the classics, for both academic and reading for pleasure purposes haha! 🙂

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  5. Dave, I’ve only read three of these — Empire Falls, The Corrections, and The Namesake. Loved them all. Some of my favorite new fiction from those years: Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, by Alice Munro; Border Crossing, by Pat Barker, Persepolis (graphic novel), by Marjane Satrapi; The Crazed, by Ha Jin, The Dogs of Riga, by Henning Mankell; The Plot against American, by Philip Roth; Ward Four, by Ba Jin; Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin; and Deaf Sentence, by David Lodge. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Jean! Very impressive list of 2000-2009 fiction you have there! The only one I’ve read is “Brooklyn,” which I liked. I’ve read Munro and Roth and Lodge, but works by them other than the ones you mentioned.

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  6. I have to second the Harry Potter books! Deservedly classics.

    I think I’ve mentioned them before, but this was when the Kushiel series came out, which in my opinion is one of the best epic fantasy series ever written. Simply stunning, if a little too kinky for some people’s tastes. I think Robin Hobb also release the Tawny Man trilogy, the second trilogy in the Farseer series, then. Another simply fantastic epic fantasy series. I’m currently listening to “Assassin’s Apprentice” (came out in 1996, so a little earlier), the first book in the series, on audiobook. I had to get rid of all my hardcopy books as part of the mold purge, so I’m restocking in Kindle and audiobook, and this was a must-have!

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    • Thank you, Anonymous! Yes, the Harry Potter books are fantastic. And I think J.K. Rowling’s other novels (“The Casual Vacancy” under her own name and the Cormoran Strike crime series under the Robert Galbraith pen name) are also terrific in a different, non-wizardly way.

      Sounds like you’re very widely read in fantasy! I’m not, but have usually enjoyed the few fantasy novels and/or series that I do read. Nice paragraph about some of your fantasy likes.

      Sorry about losing your hard-copy books to mold. 😦

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  7. I also LOVED “The Time Traveler’s Wife” and “A Redbird Christmas,” which I listened to and was mesmerized by Fannie Flagg’s wonderful voice. From that decade, I also enjoyed “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” (Mitch Albom), which was so thought-provoking, and “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris (always so entertaining!).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Becky! Fannie Flagg is so multitalented — her writing, her acting, etc. I can imagine how good she must have been doing the “A Redbird Christmas” audiobook!

      I’ve never read Mitch Albom’s fiction, but have enjoyed his columns over the years.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. There are actually two novels that I thought of last week, which didn’t quite fit, but lucky me was able to save them for this week! I’m so glad to see American Gods on top of your list, even if top doesn’t mean best, or favourite. I distinctly remember going out for breakfast on my birthday in 2017 and being immediately swept up in this novel. It felt like Gaiman had given me my own personal birthday gift.

    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time as mentioned by jhNY last week, was another gripping read, even if not quite as much fun, though it had its moments.

    I’ve also read, and completely agree with your take on: The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Lovely Bones, The Road (very different novel than ON the road!), The Kite Runner and the Harry Potter series.

    I’ve also devoured the first part of The Girl Who Played With Fire. While I’m not the biggest fan of Lisbeth Salander, Larsson’s writing is definitely keeping the pages turning!

    Dave, I like the way you describe favourite books vs, best books. It got me thinking about the Twilight series, which are definitely not the best books of this century, but for whatever reason, I really enjoyed them, and so I guess I must count them as some of my favourite books from the 2000s.
    I haven’t read The Art of the Deal, but completely agree with the people who vote that it’s ABSOLUTELY the worst book of all time!

    PS. Any news on that “I” word that I’m too scared to say out loud in case it doesn’t come true?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sue!

      I like the way you described “American Gods” as your “own personal birthday gift.” A gift of a lot of originality. 🙂

      Ha! “The Road” is indeed a very different (and better) novel than “On the Road.”

      Stieg Larsson definitely had the knack of keeping readers glued to the pages of his novels.

      And, yes, favorite books can be mass-market novels (like the “Twilight” series, the Jack Reacher books, etc.) in addition to literary novels.

      Impeachment is still looking like it’s going to happen, and I’m glad!

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