The end of a decade is a time for reflection and, even more importantly, it’s a time for top 10 lists from your favorite blogs. Over the last 10 years, I’ve done a lot of reading, so as 2019 winds down, I thought I would look back at my favorite books of the 2010s:
10. The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries by Marilyn Johnson
Yes, you read that right. I really did enjoy a book about obituaries. I loved every page of this darkly funny, deeply human exploration of the underappreciated art form of commemorating our lives in the pages of a newspaper (remember those?).
9. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
I first picked up Ernest Hemingway when I was in high school. I was instantly captivated by his terse, staccato style of writing and exciting themes. His early work is all about war and manly, suppressed emotions, but The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway’s last major work before his death, is his most mature work. In this short fable, he immerses the reader into the timeless struggle between humanity and nature.
8. To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild
This unique history of the Great War contrasts pacificists and soldiers on both sides of the conflict to detail the moral complexity of the war that shattered Europe. Hochschild’s research and use of journal entries and personal letters serve to illustrate the conflict in strikingly human terms and make the issues of a hundred years ago feel as urgent as if it was happening today.
7. Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett
In this mile-a-minute pageturner, Follett takes a known historical event — WWII’s D-Day landings — and imbues it with suspense. This novel revolves around a strong cast of characters, each with their own secrets, struggling against their personal demons and each other, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.
6. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Station Eleven is a rare post-apocalyptic novel that gives me hope for the future. Despite the loss of life and leads to the collapse of modern society, the characters in St. John Mandel’s vision of a future years after a catastrophic plague find purpose in beauty, art, and human connection.
5. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
This short novel about censorship and losing touch with both our past and each other foreshadows so much of our present-day issues. It’s a book I find myself coming back to every few years and one that continues to remind me of the power of science fiction to warn us away from our darkest impulses as a species.
4. All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer
All the Old Knives is a slow burn, told primarily in flashbacks as two spies circle each other in a deadly game of cat and mouse in the idyllic setting of a sleepy Northern California town. Steinhauer is masterful in continually raising the stakes. It’s as tense as dinner with an old friend could possibly be and it’s wonderful.
3. Lost City Radio by Daniel Alarcón
Alarcón is one of my favorite writers I’ve discovered over the past decade. I highly recommend his short story collections, but Lost City Radio is a beautiful introduction to his incredible sense of place. In Lost City Radio, individual tragedies are set against the backdrop of an endless war in a nameless country that feels so real it hurts.
2. Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg
As a writer, I’m a sucker for books about writing, but this one is not your average writing book. Unlike the more popular choices like Bird by Bird or On Writing (which are both excellent), Klinkenborg examines the building blocks of all writing — sentences themselves — and deconstructs the process of writing in a stream of consciousness style which makes it hard to put down and really changed my thinking about my own process.
1. The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
Okay, it’s technically cheating to have my last pick be three books, but the Broken Earth series blew my mind. Jemisin is a game-changing voice in science fiction today and to say anything more about her epic three-part story about converging factions in the land of the Stillness would be giving away too much. Close your browser and read it now. It’s amazing.
In the 2020s, I hope to make more time for amazing books like these. I also hope to add new voices to my bookshelf and more diverse voices in the coming years. What are your favorite books from the past 10 years? I’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments!
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Jonny Eberle is a writer in Tacoma, WA. He’s (slowly) working on a novel manuscript and seeking publication for a pretty cool time travel short story. His previous fiction has appeared in the pages of Creative Colloquy and Grit City Magazine.
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