My Best of the Decade: An Idiosyncratic List

The Millions has just finished its countdown of the “Best of the Millenium.” Through their polling processes, they’ve ended up with two lists, one representing the top picks of their panel of “pros,” the other representing the results of a Facebook poll of their readers. There are lots of potentially interesting aspects of both lists, including which books were favored by readers but not by the ‘pros’ and vice versa. I was interested that of the thirty unique titles listed, I have read only nine: The Corrections, The Known World, Never Let Me Go, Atonement, Middlesex, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, White Teeth, and The Known World, plus half each of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and Austerlitz. A lot of the other books on the lists seem tilted towards a somewhat different readerly sensibility than my own (the kind that finishes Austerlitz, for instance). And that’s fine, of course…but the sense that even those on the lists that I had read weren’t all really among my ‘best of the millenium’ (Middlesex and White Teeth, for instance, neither of which I thought really deserved quite the hype it got) prompted me to browse my bookshelves to see what my own list would be. Here’s what I came up with–but because one of my very favourite recent reads was published in 1999 and so just missed the millenial cut-off, here’s My Best of the Decade, 1999-2009. The list is in alphabetical, not ranked, order, and I’ve linked to any corresponding reviews, though several of these I read before I started blogging. I’ve cheated a little and included one work of non-fiction, only because if I had to rank the new books I’ve read in the past decade, it would be at or very near the top.

  1. Nadeem Aslam, The Wasted Vigil
  2. Michel Faber, The Crimson Petal and the White
  3. Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  4. Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
  5. Yann Martel, The Life of Pi
  6. Ian McEwan, Atonement
  7. Ian McEwan, Saturday
  8. Daniel Mendelsohn, The Lost
  9. Ann Patchett, Bel Canto
  10. Vikram Seth, An Equal Music
  11. Carol Shields, Unless
  12. Sarah Waters, Fingersmith

It’s an odd exercise, doing this. For one thing, it reminds me just how many of the books I’ve loved recently were not in fact recently published (The Enchanted April, for instance, or The Balkan Trilogy).

So? Which recent favourites of yours are missing, both from my list and from the lists at The Millions, or which listed titles would you heartily endorse–or dispute?

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