The Greatest Reads of the Past Decade | A Look at Contemporary Fiction From A Retrospective Lense

The books represent the political challenges or societal misconceptions from the era they came, be it a year or decade.

best novels of the decade

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 has 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 and release the inner creative chakra.

The List of 10 Best Novels of The Decade (IMO)

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 suffrage.

1The Art of Fielding—2011

Chad Harbach is an American author of The Art of Fielding, centered at a Westish College. It is located on the edge of Lake Michigan. The captivating story introduces us to the protagonist, Henry Skrimshander, a baseball star in the making. However, his fate goes off the chart, implicating five people.

The Art of Fielding was a close win for the Guardian First Book Award in 2012. It was also named one of Best Books for September in 2011 by Amazon. In addition, the Art of Fielding was also mentioned in Wall Street Journal, Kansas City Star, and Los Angeles Times.

“First novel this complete and consuming come along very, very seldom,”

-Jonathan Franzen

2Beautiful Ruins—2012

Greetings to Dee Moay, a struggling actress who has just walked off the set of Cleopatra, the epic tale starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. This top-of-the-list New York Times bestseller takes us to 1962, with spring on the horizon in April. Jess Walter creates the novel storyline in the make-belief city of Porto Vergogna in southern Italy. Upon browsing the culture, the young actress is captivated by a village only accessible by water. What will she do next?

“Absolute masterpiece!”

-Richard Russo, Pulitzer winner

3Bleeding Edge—2013

The finalist for National Books Awards in 2013 takes us back in time to New York, 2001. Thomas Pynchon introduces a dulled version of the city, completely opposite from its present. The city was recently hit with the mass-terrorist attempt as everyone mourns the September 11th victim. Silicon Valley is an inhabitant town with the internet still in its early development stages. The story involves Maxine Tarnow, a private investigator on the Upper West Side. The majority of her clientele involves more minor crimes, but that is about to change. Turn pages to unravel the story when she takes on a new client, a security firm with a billionaire CEO.

“Ruin your sleep cycle with this darkly humorous read.”

-Library Journal

4All My Puny Sorrows—2014

Prepare yourself for a rollercoaster of emotions when reading All My Puny Sorrows. Miriam Towels shares the story of two sisters, Elf and Yoli. The sisterhood between them is unmatched, despite living separate lives. Elf is married, wealthy, and a pianist. On the other hand, Yoli finds herself in a one-sided relationship where her love is not reciprocated.

All My Puny Sorrows won the Rogers Writer’s Trust Fiction Prize in 2014. In addition, it was on the shortlist for the 2015 Wellcome Book Prize and the 2015 Folio Prize for Literature.

“All my Puny Sorrows is a genius blend of sadness and laughter, combined into the magical potion that reflects the essence of life.”

-Ron Charles, the Washington Post

5The Day the Crayons Came Home—2015

Are you wondering about a life of a crayon? Drew Daywalt’s children’s books 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.

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 color. The illustrated book engages the audience with glow-in-the-dark pictures, a treat for readers of all ages.

“A colorful (pun intended) tale begging for a reading. It is a necessary addition to your collection.”

-School Library Journal

6Negotiating the Non-negotiable – One of the best novels of the decade

The Grand Prize Winner of the 2017 Nautilus Book Award introduces techniques to resolve conflicts between colleagues, politicians, and families. The book is coyly titled Negotiating the Non-negotiable. It is one of the most insightful novels of the decade for the conflict courtrooms.

Daniel Shapiro, a Harvard graduate, hones onto you the necessary framework tested in the real world. Purchase the book to learn to empathize the subject with religion, culture, and ethical values.

“A constitution for triumphant negotiation.”


7Sing, Unburied, Sing—2017

The National Book Awards of 2017 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. Sing, 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.

We strongly suggest reading this Kirkus Prize, Aspen Words Literary Prize, and Andrew Carnegie Medal finalist.

“The author captures our hearts again with another domestic piece set in the rural Mississippi.”

-The Philadelphia Inquirer.

8My Year of Rest and Relaxation—2018

My Year of Rest and Relaxation is not our new year’s resolution but the name of Ottessa Moshfegh’s literary composition. 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 fees empty. Why?

The literary piece won the PEN-Hemingway Reward while shortlisted for the National Books Critics Circle Award and the Man Booker Prize.

“Vulnerable and mature, very unexpected from a debut.”

-Boston Globe

9The Nickel Academy—2019

The book grabbed the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2020 and the Kirkus Prize for Fiction in 2019. In addition, the Nickel Academy also won the Alex Reward in 2020.

It is a story about Elwood Curtis’s life taking an unfortunate turn when he was wrongfully sentenced to the Nickle Academy because of juvenile disobedience. It is a correction school in Florida that goes to the extreme to “fix” young rebels. His hope grows light when he befriends Turner, his new roommate. However, the friendship is constant back and forth due to Elwood’s naivety and Turner’s superficial deduction of worldly matters. Regardless of their ideologies, the two must come together to survive and stay away from havoc in the juvenile prison.

“A powerful book by an influential writer portrays a society in America we do not wish to see again.”

-Toronto Star

10The Promise—2021

The problematic Swart family is crumbling internally after the unfortunate death of the matriarch. Damon Galgut tells the story involving the lives of three siblings residing in remote waters of South Africa. Anton always highlights his unfulfilled wishes, Astrid uses her beauty to puppet her lovers, and Amor holds guilt for reasons unknown.

The engaging story is the winner of the 2021 Booker Prize and was mentioned in the New York Times Editors’ Choice. The Promise sold 24,000 hard copies in the initial two weeks of release, with Chatto and Windus receiving an invoice for a further 153,000 copies.

“The family saga in the 1980s is intense, complicated, astonishing, and brilliantly written to explore the Southern African culture.”

-Financial Times (U.K.)

Best Novels of The Decade: Over to You, Readers!

Choosing the first among the best novels of the decade was not easy since preferences are personal. What do you think of this list? Did I miss an important one? Do tell in the comments below.

“Imagination and fiction make up more than three-quarters of our real life.”

-Simon Weil

Images From: Wikipedia, Pexels.

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Houria Baqir
I am a writer and I keep on experimenting with different niches to expand my intellect. I like things that are either related to psychology or myths.