Summing Up the Decade: Memorable Books

I have no recollection of which books I read in 2010-2011, because I did not keep a record of them on a blog or a spreadsheet. I know I borrowed a lot from the library during that period, so I can’t even look at my shelves and guess from the purchases I made. So my books of the decade will in fact be the books which most stuck in my mind during the past 8 years. To be even more precise: books that I happened to read in the past 8 years, not necessarily books published during this period.

I didn’t have a set number in mind, but have come up with a list of 30, which seems like a nice round number. I did not include rereads in this category, otherwise it might have been skewed in their favour (you reread things for a reason). Not all of them have comprehensive reviews, but I’ve tried to link even the brief ones where possible.

Minae Mizumura: A True Novel

Katherine Boo: Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Joan Didion: The Year of Magical Thinking

Claudia Rankine: Citizen

Sharon Olds: Stag’s Leap

Claire Messud: The Woman Upstairs

Svetlana Alexievich: The Womanly Face of War

Olga Tokarczuk: Flights

Pascal Garnier: How’s the Pain

Jean-Claude Izzo: Marseille Trilogy

Romain Gary: La Promesse de l’aube

Emmanuel Carrere: L’Adversaire

Delphine de Vigan: Nothing Holds Back the Night

Gerhard Jager: All die Nacht uber uns

Jenny Erpenbeck: Gehen ging gegangen

Julia Franck: West

Heather O’Neill: Lullabies for Little Criminals

Javier Marias: A Heart So White

Elena Ferrante: The Days of Abandonment

Mihail Sebastian: Journal

Max Blecher: Scarred Hearts

Tove Jansson: The True Deceiver

Hanne Orstavik: Love

Antti Tuomainen: The Man Who Died

Lauren Beukes: Broken Monsters

John Harvey: Darkness, Darkness

Eva Dolan: Long Way Home

Kathleen Jamie: Sightlines

Denise Mina: Garnethill Trilogy

Chris Whitaker: Tall Oaks

What conclusions might be drawn from the above list? I like rather grim and sad books, clearly, preferably with the words ‘dark’ or ‘night’ in the title. I like world literature: 18 are written in a language other than English, and even the English-speaking authors include a South African, a Canadian and 5 Americans (two Scottish authors – that might count as a distinct category soon). 19 out of 30 are women writers. I much prefer fiction and particularly novels, almost to the exclusion of everything else (only five non-fiction books on this list) Finally, I am attracted to ‘difficult’, controversial subjects – poverty, death, dysfunctional families, social ills, bad physical and mental health, trauma, crime.

So, on that cheery note, here’s to next dystopian decade!

15 thoughts on “Summing Up the Decade: Memorable Books”

  1. This post just shows how wonderful book blogging is – it introduces me to so many books that I would otherwise never even have heard of. Your ‘favourite’ subjects are so different from mine – I’ve only got one of the titles on your list (the Didion) and I haven’t read that. I’m going to make a note of these books, as it is so good to have our horizons widened (and so easy to get into a reading rut). Thank you for such an interesting post.

    1. So what are your favourite subjects, Rosemary? Tell me more about it. I too could do with getting out of my preferred rut occasionally. I tend to read most genres and topics, but of course we all have our ‘comfort reads’, don’t we?

  2. Rather like you, I read a great deal of fiction, much of it gloomy although if labelled dystopian I tend to run away from it. My partner prefers happy endings but, as I’ve told him, that doesn’t make for interesting fiction. Here’s to another decade of brilliant, stimulating reading for all of us!

    1. I do often struggle with dystopian – I think there’s enough darkness in our real world, no need to imagine worse! And I love the Anne Sexton quote (that Dani Shapiro refers to in her book Still Writing): Pain engraves a deeper memory. That’s why darkness makes for more interesting fiction. Although goodness knows, I could have done with some lightness this decade!

  3. You do read a lot of world fiction, Marina Sofia! And I like the variety that brings to what you read. And, while I must say that bleak, dystopian fiction hasn’t been as much my thing, there are some excellent examples of it out there, and I’m going to use your list to explore it a bit more…

  4. Hi Marina Sofia, What a great idea! I had enough trouble picking my best books of the year, and I wouldn’t know where to begin with a whole decade, but clearly you keep much better records 🙂 From the books I’ve read or the authors I recognise, I think we share similar literary tastes. Bring on those dark and difficult subjects!

    1. In a way, it’s easier to choose the books of the decade, because you just pick the ones that you can still remember very clearly a few years later, while when it comes to just one year’s summary, they jostle a lot more for your attention. Ah, yes, as Anne Sexton once said that pain engraves a deeper memory – so perhaps the darker, more painful books are the ones that truly stay with us…

  5. A fascinating list of books, which show the wonderful breadth of your reading. Only two there I have read, Love and Days of Abandonment, but I do have one other on my tbr.

  6. Some really interesting choices there, and only a few I’ve actually read. I love the variety of books you cover! Like you, I don’t have reading records from before 2012, so despite being tempted I shan’t do this post – but I do like to see other people’s lists!

  7. I’ve read very few of your selection but The Adversary (in the English translation) made it onto my TBR because of your posts on the book and your personal connection to the location, and I thought it was great. Keep up the good work – someone has to read all the grim ones… 😉

  8. I’m so HAPPY to see Romain Gary on your list.
    I haven’t read the others but I totally understand why the De Vigan is on the list. It stays with you and describes the corporate world and city life very well. It is a memorable book.

    1. Thank you for introducing me to him – or rather, for insisting I read him, since I’d heard of him but never investigated further. I can assure you I will read more by him as soon as I can.

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