Ted’s Top 50 Books of the 2000s

Originally posted January 06, 2010

OK, here’s one more end-of-decade list, a few days belated. I wasn’t planning on covering books, because I wasn’t sure how to combine fiction, journalism, memoir, history, biography, sports, gardening, cooking, and everything else into one big category, and I hadn’t read 50 books in any subcategory. Plus, I’d already lumped graphic novels in with the comics list. But I did want a place to lay out the really satisfying reads (and audiobook listens) I had over the decade. I decided to skip the academic works; that stuff already has a home on this website, in my syllabi and footnotes. Everything else, fiction and nonfiction, is on the list below. As with the other lists, series are lumped together, but only the volumes published in this decade; for example, the Harry Potter ranking only covers books 4-7.

All of my lists are inherently scattershot, but this one is probably the most unreliable. I managed to catch up with most of the most buzzed-about American comics, TV shows, records, and movies. But it takes a long time to read a book, and I have finicky tastes. I tried and bailed on lots of critics’ darlings, and ignored many more. And there are probably hundreds of books I would have enjoyed, if I’d ever heard of them.

As you’ll see, I read a lot of fantasy this decade, after reading mostly SF in the 1990s. Many of my favorite “literary” novels engaged fantasy culture as well, including The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I think this has something to do with the zeitgeist, as I argue here, but obviously it has a lot to do with the vagaries of my tastes, as well.

1 – The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
2 – The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga
3 – Absurdistan, Gary Shteyngart
4 – Game of Thrones series, George RR Martin
5 – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon
6 – The Time Traveller’s Wife, Audrey Niffenberger
7 – 3 Bags Full, Leonie Swann
8 - Love Is a Mix Tape, Rob Sheffield
9 – Consider the Lobster and Other Essays, David Foster Wallace
10 – The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss
11 – Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
12 – His Dark Materials series, Philip Pullman
13 – Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susannah Clarke
14 – Hunger Games series, Suzanne Collins
15 – Born Standing Up, Steve Martin
16 – The Book of Basketball, Bill Simmons
17 – The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
18 – Samaritan, Richard Price
19 – The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly
20 – Have a Nice Day, Mick Foley
21 – Foreign Babes in Beijing, Rachel DeWoskin
22 – Harry Potter series, JK Rowling
23 – The Post-Birthday World, Lionel Shriver
24 – Moneyball, Michael Lewis
25 – The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature, Neal Pollack
26 – Old Man’s War series, John Scalzi
27 – The Partly Cloudy Patriot, Sarah Vowell
28 – The Wife, Meg Wolitzer
29 – Karl Marx: A Life, Francis Wheen
30 – The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber, Julian Rubinstein
31 – Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, Michael Pollan
32 – Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain
33 – Gang Leader for a Day, Sudhir Vinkatesh
34 – Heat, Bill Buford
35 – The Geese of Beaver Bog, Bernd Heinrich
36 – Perdido Street Station, China Mieville
37 – The Magicians, Lev Grossman
38 – How I Became a Famous Novelist, Steve Hely
39 – The Areas of My Expertise, John Hodgman
40 – Little Children, Tom Perotta
41 – The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon
42 – The Columnist, Jeffrey Frank
43 – A&R, Bill Flanagan
44 – The End of Mr. Y, Scarlett Thomas
45 – Bangkok 8, John Burdett
46 – How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, Toby Young
47 – From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden, Amy Stewart
48 – Six Seconds or Less, Jack McCallum
49 – In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan
50 – Stardust, Neil Gaiman

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