Friday, November 27, 2009

Best Books of the Decade

The AV Club has been running a series of "Best of the 00's" listicles. Given how slow my rate of book reading has been since I became an adult, I was rather pleased to see that I'd read 5 of the 20 books on the fiction list for "The best books of the ’00s." And since even better than a listicle is a ranked listicle, I thought I'd better order that subset of books:

1.) Never Let Me Go

I try to review the books I read at Each book can be rated on a five star scale. None of the I've rated so far have reached 5 stars. Never Let Me Go is the fabled 5 star worthy book. It's incredibly difficult to talk about this book without giving away the plot; I'm not going to even try. It's very short. It's easy to read. But it's impossible to put away. I think that the works of art I appreciate the most are those that strive to be the simplest. It's why Spirited Away is my favorite Miyazaki film.

I read this book in one sitting from 8pm to 4 am or so. Then I crawled into bed and stared at the ceiling and thought about it.

2.) Middlesex & 3.) The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay

I really love The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay, but Middlesex may be a little better. Kavalier & Clay is a fantastic story set about the "Golden Age" of comic books -- before, during, and after World War II. It's the kind of book you wish you were talented enough to write, the kind of book the grown-up version of any book-obsessed kid would have to love. I was in the Canary Islands when I read it (the Canary Islands!), and I'd steal some time after lunch to go back to my hotel room to finish reading it. With its pulp influences, it's a great story.

Middlesex is a great story too: like Kavalier & Clay it's about family, adventure, and the making of Americans with a historical setting. But it's one that that seems so real and yet so unique that I could never have conceived of it as a kid. I had to read the book first.

4.) Gilead

I read this book while severely jet-lagged and I remember thinking it was very good, but I'm not sure I found it particularly original or unmissable.

5.) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Of the 2000s Harry Potter books, I'm not sure I'd pick this one as the best. Way better than The Order of the Phoenix, probably a little better than The Deathly Hallows. But I seem to have very fond memories of The Goblet of Fire. What do you guys think?

By the way, most of these I reviewed on goodreads and Eugene wrote a whole bunch on Never Let Me Go at his blog.


t said...

What? No Rule of Four? (hahaha)

I haven't read Never Let Me Go but it sounds cool. I think I may have to pick up a copy. Definitely agree on the other four you mention.

From the rest of the AV Club list I also really, really liked White Teeth, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, the Blind Assassin and Bel Canto.

It's funny you mention that you've never rated any book 5 stars. I feel like I am very promiscuous with my stars on goodreads. I have to consciously talk myself down from rating every book I enjoy (at least) 4 stars. That probably means I would make a terrible professional critic.

Jackie said...

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is definitely on my 'to read' list.

And while I'm very stingy with the 5s, I'm flush with 3s and 4s. Basically if I was entertained it's a 3 and if I thought it was a good book it's a 4. Pretty shabby.

Eugene said...

Heh, it's funny to read the reviews of Never Let me Go by others on what-it-all-meant. I seems to have the most bleak interpretation though...

Jackie said...

Hmm. I'm not sure which reviews you're referring to. But I just skimmed a few of the reviews for Never Let Me Go. Some of them are shockingly scathing (one star? are you kidding me?). Have these people no heart? And I do think the book lends itself to bleak interpretations. At the same time, though, it's so beautiful.