Welcome, avid readers! The passing decade has been exciting, to say the least from the point of view of a bookworm like me. Like most years, we saw the best novels of the decade focusing on political and social changes but what was new were Hollywood adaptations of novels such as the Game of Thrones and Hunger Games, which ignited the spark of reading among the uninitiated.
The rise of audiobooks and Kindle has added new dimensions to the reading circles but the days of the old paperback are not yet numbered. Literature, be it in any form has been around for centuries with its quality to help humans understand each other, express their creativity and be a form of catharsis. As the famous French philosopher said:
“Imagination and fiction make up more than three-quarters of our real life.”-Simone Weil
So, without further ado, let’s check out some of the greatest books that came out in the last 10 years. Although classic literature is valuable due to its enduring nature still, it’s about time we start appreciating contemporary literature and get over books written by old white men!
A Decade in Review – Top 10 Best Novels of the Decade to Refresh Your Perspective
The best novels of the decade are written with an aim at societal progressions. They will spark conversations about real-life events to celebrate glee or overcome pain and suffering.
10Gone Girl (2012) – Unforgettable Thriller to be remembered for the next several years!
Definitely, a page-turner and probably the best crime thriller novel to be written in recent years. It is highly praised for its use of an unreliable narrator and plot twists to create a sense of suspense that keeps the reader guessing what’s to come next. Flynn is undoubtedly one of the best female artists of our era.
Author(s): Gillian Flynn
Synopsis: A psychological and crime thriller that centers around a married couple, Nick and Amy who are struggling with a strained marriage. One day Amy goes missing and all the clues point at Nick for her disappearance. A chilling investigation ensues and the plot twist will have you turning pages at rapid speed.
Awards and Nominations: Edgar Awards for the Best Novel 2013, Shortlisted for Women’s Prize for Fiction 2013, and Goodreads Choice Awards Best of the Best Novel 2018
Goodreads Rating: 4.1/5 Stars
“Gone Girl is Flynn’s dazzling breakthrough; the novel is willy, mercurial, subtly layered and populated with characters so well imagined that they’re hard to part with.”-The New York Times
9The Day the Crayons Came Home (2015) – Best Children’s Literature of the Past Decade
Are you wondering about a life of a crayon? From the authors of New York Bestseller “The Day the Crayons Quit (2013)”, this new book is just as funny, interesting, interactive, and insightful as its prequel. One of the best children’s books ever. The beautiful illustrations and graphics make it an even more enjoyable and attractive read for kids.
Author(s): Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers
Synopsis: Say hi to Duncan’s crayons! The maroon crayon is lost under the couch. The turquoise crayon broke when Duncan’s dad sat on it. You don’t want to know what happened to the green crayon. The illustrated book engages the audience with glow-in-the-dark pictures, a treat for readers of all ages.
Awards and Nominations: Jeffers’ Daywalt’s children’s book won Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Book 2015 with a mention in the Time Magazine’s top 10 children’s books in the same year.
Goodreads Rating: 4.3/5 Stars
“A colorful (pun intended) tale begging for a reading. It is a necessary addition to your collection.”-School Library Journal
8Tenth of December (2013) – Best Short Stories Collection of the Past 10 Years
Without a doubt, Saunders is one of the most important writers of our era, especially in the field of short stories, which is decidedly harder than other forms of literature. This collection profoundly explores love, loss, sex, despair, work, war, class, gender, family, and identity in this new age. The stories carry unsettling, insightful, and hilarious energy, similar to what Alan DeNiro did in his debut collection “Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead”. So, if you like him, you must check this one out too.
Author(s): George Saunders
Synopsis: It’s a collection of short stories by renowned author Gorge Saunders published between 1995 to 2012. All the stories revolve around different characters and seem, at the surface, to not be interlinked. However, a closer study reveals they are tied together by a string of misfortune. A boy is faced with a harrowing choice after seeing his neighbor get kidnapped. A traumatized soldier moves back home with his mother and learns to live again. Two mothers struggle to do what is right. A middle-aged cancer patient on his way to freezing himself to death meets a troubled young boy and realizes what is really important in life. These and many more stories you’ll find in this collection are sure to touch your heart.
Awards and Nominations: Bram Stoker Award Finalist 2011 (“Home”), Winner of 2013 Story Prize for the best short story collection and Inaugural Folio Prize (2014)
Goodreads Rating: 3.9/5 Stars
“Unpredictable, stealthily funny, and complexly affecting stories of ludicrousness, fear, and rescue”-Booklist
7The Broken Earth Trilogy (2015) – Finest Sci-Fi Book of the Last 10 Years
The three books in this series are ‘The Fifth Season”, “The Obelisk Gate” and “The Stone Sky.” All are internationally acclaimed with people linking the author’s writing to famous female poets and Sci-Fi writers like Ursula K. Le Guin, J. R. R. Tolkien, and George Martin, etc.
Author(s): Nora Keita Jemisin
Synopsis: In the far future, the earth is a single supercontinent called The Stillness which is wrecked by periodic disasters. People live in constant fear of these apocalyptic disasters which they call “Seasons” that last for generations and completely alter the world, its inhabitants, and their way of life. There are also special humans called the Orogenes who have the power to control Earth. Feared, hated, and discriminated by other humans, Orogenes live in hiding. The story revolves around three Orogene women, Damaya, a young girl taken by the Fulcrum (the organization that controls Orogenes) to train & become an Imperial Orogene; Syenite, a prominent Imperial Orogene on a mission to help a coastal community with the highest ranking Orogene Alabaster; and Essun, an older Orogene woman living in hiding to protect her children.
Awards and Nominations: All three books in this trilogy won the Hugo Award for Best Novel for three consecutive years (2015, 2016, 2017). Moreover, they were nominated for the Locus, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards for the best science fiction and fantasy novels.
Goodreads Rating: 4.3/5 Stars
“Jemisin brilliantly illustrates the belief that, yes, imaginative world-building is a vital element of fantasy—but also that every character is a world unto herself.”-NPR
6A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (2013) – Best Debut Novel of the Past Decade
This book is truly gut-wrenching. The narrator, the girl from the title starts telling her story while she’s in her mother’s womb. Eimear McBride’s “A Girl is a Half-formed Thing” follows a stream of consciousness writing style and the first few pages are painfully difficult to read and understand. However, as the narrator grows up, it becomes more coherent. Truly, it is one of the most unique and painfully insightful novels to come out in the last decade. Curiously, it was also the author’s debut novel. Talk about starting with a bang!
Author(s): Eimear McBride
Synopsis: This book is literally about the half-formed girl of the title – an unnamed young woman who suffers both physical and emotional abuse throughout her life. As a result, she has a fractured sense of identity and finds it difficult to even define, much less accept herself. Her main source of suffering is her brother who suffers from a brain tumor and her religious mother who only focuses on her son. The book follows her as she grows up and goes through various troubled experiences throughout her life.
Awards and Nominations: Winner of Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year 2014, The Goldsmiths Prize 2014, The Desmond Elliot Prize, The Geoffery Faber Memorial Prize, and the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, all in the same year.
Goodreads Rating: 3.4/5 Stars
“McBride has written a blazingly original novel, conveying her protagonist’s psychic collapse in unflinching prose, fuelled by fractured, adventurous language and raw emotion”-The New Yorker
5Americanah (2013) – Outstanding Book Exploring Racism in the Last Decade
In this list, there are a number of books written by black authors but none explore the black experience as realistically as this book does. Undoubtedly, this is one of the best books for college students to read. It is insightful and leaves a meaningful impact on people on readers to make them deeply understand the different forms of subtle racism still persisting in the 21st century.
Author(s): Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Synopsis: The story revolves around a young Nigerian woman who moves to the US for studies and her boyfriend who goes to the UK in pursuit of a better life and more riches. They both grow up idealizing the West however, the reality is far different than what they had imagined. Rich with themes of Americanization, gender, migration, and culture that are so prominent in today’s globalized world.
Awards and Nominations: Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction 2013 and Heartland Award for fiction by The Chicago Tribune in the same year.
Goodreads Rating: 4.3/5 Stars
“Americanah is a deeply felt book, written with equal parts lyricism and erudition. More than that, it is an important book – and yet one that never lets its importance weigh down the need to tell a truly gripping human story.”-The Guardian
Hand-Picked Article: 10 Books Based on True Stories that you need to Read Right Now
4Eleanor & Park (2012) – Best Romance Novel of the Past Decade
Relatively speaking, contemporary literature hasn’t produced many good romance novels. Most of them are corny with overly sexualized young people. But this book is a gem that shines among the rubble. Exploring the first loves of our 16-year-old protagonists, it highlights gender expression and the importance of identity for young people in today’s world. Full of inspirational quotes and experiences that young people will find extremely relatable.
Author(s): Rainbow Rowell
Synopsis: Eleanor is a chubby redhead from a broken household while Park is a gloomy half-Korean from a loving household with parents who love each other madly. Both start bonding over music and comic books at first but soon fall in love and build a deep connection with each other while also stepping fully into their own unique personalities and self.
Awards and Nominations: Winner of Michael Printz Award for Honor Book in 2014, The Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for fiction in 2013. Other honors include Goodreads Choice Awards for Best YA Book of the Year 2014 and Audible’s Best Teen Audiobook of the Year 2013.
Goodreads Rating: 3.9/5 Stars
“Its observational precision and richness make for very special reading.”-New York Times
3My Year of Rest and Relaxation (2018) – The Most Gripping Psychological Fiction Written in Recent Years
My Year of Rest and Relaxation is not our new year’s resolution but the name of Ottessa Moshfegh’s literary composition. Our Protagonist is a truly unique character who goes into hibernation to get over her traumas. This oddly comforting but unsettling book takes a beautiful exploration of the human mind and our deep psychological recesses.
Author(s): Ottessa Moshfegh
Synopsis: The protagonist wishes to escape from the emptiness in her heart caused by her parents’ passing. Furthermore, the toxic relationship with Reva, her best friend, has become extremely strained. It would be wise to mention here the protagonist is very well off. She resides in an apartment on the Upper East Side. Everything is paid for through inheritance, yet she still feels empty. She decides to take a year off and “sleep it off” – as much as possible, with the help of her psychiatrist and the hordes of sedatives she prescribes.
Awards and Nominations: The literary piece won the PEN-Hemingway Reward while shortlisted for the National Books Critics Circle Award and the Man Booker Prize.
Goodreads Rating: 3.7/5 Stars
“Vulnerable and mature, very unexpected from a debut.”-Boston Globe
2A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010) – The Most Refreshing Book in Contemporary Literature
Probably the most unique and refreshing novel of the last decade is this book. Filled with baffling characters and bewildered coincidences – it follows a large group of characters as they all play their parts in these interlinked stories. Moreover, the book shifts back and forth in time, mostly from the 1970s to the present day. The narration style is new and refreshing and there’s no lack of hilarious incidences in the book. Definitely, worth a read!
Author(s): Jennifer Egan
Synopsis: Centered around a group of self-destructive characters both young and old, this book is a collection of interlinked stories that follow these characters through various stages of life and explores their unique life experiences. Intermingled with time and music, it’s a story about survival and transformations.
Awards and Nominations: Winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.
Goodreads Rating: 3.6/5 Stars
“An inventive investigation of growing up and growing old in the digital age, displaying a big-hearted curiosity about cultural change at warp speed”-The Pulitzer Prize Board
1Sing, Unburied, Sing (2017) – Greatest Coming-of-Age Book of the Previous Decade
Widely praised and a finalist for multiple literary awards, this is an enduring tale of the American dream and the ugly truths residing at its core. The book beautifully examines the coming-of-age experiences of boys, how they become men and the legacies of love and violence.
Author(s): Jesmyn Ward
Synopsis: The book introduces a black mother to pick her white husband back from prison. Leonie is driving with her two children while balancing a very fragile ego that bruises very quickly. One of Leonie’s kids is Jojo. He is 13 and severely lacks a role model in his life. Other than an absent father, his white grandfather refuses to acknowledge Jojo’s existence as he is busy grieving the sudden death of his son and Jojo’s uncle, Given.
Awards and Nominations: The National Book Awards of 2017, Kirkus Prize, Aspen Words Literary Prize, and Andrew Carnegie Medal finalist.
Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
“The author captures our hearts again with another domestic piece set in the rural Mississippi.”-The Philadelphia Inquirer
Honourable Mentions – Some Remarkable Books of the Last Decade
Of course, there are many other really amazing and great books that came out in the last decade that deserve a mention in this list. Here are some of them:
- Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (2017)
- Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (2017)
- The Fault in Our Stars (2012)
- I’ll give you the Sun by Jandy Nelson (2014)
- The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (2016)
- Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky (2015)
- The Sellout by Paul Beaty (2015)
- The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (2015)
- A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman (2014)
- Life Afterlife by Kate Atkinson (2013)
- And many more…
Best Novels of The Decade: Over to You, Readers!
Choosing only one best book of the decade in each category was not easy since preferences are personal. But since these books are so widely acclaimed all over the world by people of all cultures and backgrounds, we are sure that you won’t be disappointed by any of them. So, what do you think of this list? Did we miss an important one? Do share your top 10 books of the last decade in the comments below!