Favourite Books of the Decade

I am in constant awe of the fact that soon we will be living in the 20s. These last ten years were eventful ones for me, mostly because this is the case for most people in their twenties, I reckon. I am not going to reminisce about that though because let’s talk about what really counts: my favourite books published between January 2010 and December 2019. I tried for weeks to narrow it down to ten but I just couldn’t, so here are be eleven absolutely incredible books in chronological order by publication year.

9214995The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch (2011)

The memoir against which I judge all other memoirs, Lidia Yuknavitch’s raw and honest and breathtakingly beautiful account of her life is a book I cannot recommend highly enough. Her sentences are stunning and this book is painful in its brilliance.

23593321Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (2014)

I found this post-apocalyptic story hauntingly beautiful and impeccably structured. Told in vignettes of before, during, and after a world-altering outbreak of a disease, the story is a rummination of what makes us human as much as it is just a brilliant piece of story-telling. I didn’t love the other book by Emily St. John Mandel I read but I have an ARC for her upcoming novel and I could not be more excited.

20174424City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (2014)

This first in an urban kind of Epic Fantasy trilogy combines many things I adore in books: incredible worldbuilding, stories about gods, sharp characterisations, and main characters I could not help but root for even if they weren’t always perfect. I am not quite as invested in his newest trilogy, the first book of which I read last year, but this whole trilogy is among the best things written in the last decade.

23398763._sy475_Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (2014)

This short, little, perfect book made Celeste Ng an auto-buy author within a few pages. I loved everything about this – but especially the nuanced characterisations of people who seem too real to have come from somebody’s imagination. I found this book a lot stronger than Little Fires Everywhere and it is one I keep recommending to people in real life. (it also started my tradition of gifting my incredible stepmother sad books for Christmas)

23995336The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra (2015)

It seems like I never talk about this book which is a shame because I love it so. This novel is more a set of interconnected short stories set in Chechnya but they built to something more than just the sum of its parts. I do not think I have read any author who is better at characterisation with just a sentence or two. Marra’s prose is near painfully beautiful and his stories are incredibly well-structured.

19161852The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin (2015)

Of course this book made the list. I have not stopped shouting its praise since reading it and N. K. Jemisin is probably my favourite author of all time. This book is near perfect for me. Jemisin’s brand of fantasy with its political core and incredibly structured narrative is just everything to me. I also love books told at least in part in second person – so yes, perfect book is perfect. (If I had to name an absolute favourite of this list, this would be it.)

25622828The Unfinished World and Other Stories by Amber Sparks (2016)

My all-time favourite short story collection by my favourite short story author. Sparks’ prose in connection with her exuberant imagination, made this a near perfect reading experience for me. Amber Sparks’ language is neither too flowery nor too sparse but hits that sweet spot of being evocative without being too much, and of being precise without being boring.

27313170All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (2016)

This book sits comfortably in smack in the middle of my reading preferences, combining fantasy and sci-fi, chronicling in an interesting way a friendship slash love story, this firmly established Charlie Jane Anders as an auto-buy author for me. I love the weirdness and the emotional core of this book and have not stopped thinking about the ending in the years since I read it.

32187419._sy475_Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (2017)

At this point, I feel like I find a way to talk about this book constantly – but damn, do I love this. Rooney has written the perfect book for me. Her characterizations are so sharp they cut deep, I felt so very much for Frances and even Nick (and I never feel for the older man having an affair with a younger women!). I like the understatedness of her prose which does nothing to hide the clear and precise picture she draws of human interactions.

37590570The Pisces by Melissa Broder (2018)

Another one of those books that I constantly bring up, The Pisces in unforgettable for me. Broder has written an incredibly sharp and honest portrayal of a woman who keeps hitting rock bottom and still manages to always choose the most damaging course of action – while also making her, at least for me, deeply relatable (and seriously hilarious). This is not a book for everybody but it is very much a book for me.

35840657Heart Berries by Marie Terese Mailhot (2018)

I adored this and have had troubles ever since articulating exactly what worked for me. Terese Mailhot packs an unbelievable punch into a book this short. I could not stop reading it: her language is hypnotic, her turn of phrase impressive, her emotional rawness painful. This book does not follow conventions, Terese Mailhot tells her story the way she wants to and needs to. She is unapologetically herself. She bares her soul and hides it at the same time.

Recommendations: Short Story Collections

I love short stories. I only started properly reading them a few years ago but I have developed such an appreciation for the format. When a short story is done right, it can pack an unbelievable punch.

16158505I am currently reading A Guide To Being Born by Ramona Asubel, a rather brilliant collection, with twisty, dark, wonderful, magical stories (I understand why Jen Campbell names this as one of her favourites) and the reading experience got me thinking about what I like in the collections I adore. I gravitate towards short stories with a bit of a magical twist – I find these stories to be super mesmerizing. I also appreciate more realistic stories but here I often find that these collections are overall rather bleak which can get too much for me.

Here are some of my favourite short story collections, in case you are (like me) always looking for more collections to read.

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

28818921Nobody is surprised to see this collection of this list: I adored every second of it. I am in general a huge fan of Roxane Gay’s writing and these stories are a perfect example for her prose and her characterization, which I am just in awe of. The stories are well-plotted and purposefully structured. You can find my review here.

 

The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra

29236311One of my all-time favourite books, everything about this spoke to me. Marra tells an overarching story in wonderfully structured short stories. His command of language is impressive, his way of characterising people with a sentence and a half something that I find fascinating, and his sense for pacing and plotting is absolutely on display here. Be warned though, the book and its subject matter is bleak (it is after all set in Chechnya and unblinking in its depiction of war and atrocities), but Marra infuses it with just enough hope to be a stunning ode human connection. I cannot wait for his next book.

The Brink by Austin Bunn

22693283I loved this (and its perfect cover!). The stories all deal with some sort of Brink – often the end of the world as we know it. I adored the vagueness of the stories and the punch they had. Bunn is a another of those authors whose next work I am eagerly awaiting. You can find my review here.

 

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

32874103Another set of interconnected short stories where I found the whole even greater than the sum of its parts. Strout shows great tenderness for her characters while being unflinching in her portrayal of their short comings. Her stories are wonderfully structured and impeccably paced. She excels especially in depicting families in all their dysfunctional glory. I adored this. My review is here.

Tales of Falling and Flying by Ben Loory

33570520These stories are peculiar. They feature anthropomorphic animals (amongst other things) and revel in their weirdness. But for me, these stories worked exceedingly well and I had a blast with this collection. There is just something poetic and lyrical in the way Loory’s language flows and his imagination is glorious. My review can be found here.

 

The Unfinished World and Other Stories by Amber Sparks

25622828These stories just combine everything I adore in short fiction: they are magical and weird, wonderfully written, and often feature sibling relationships (I adore that). Her language flows wonderfully and every story in this collection is strong on its own. My review can be found here. (Sparks is apparently working on a new collection, an angry, feminist collection, which I cannot wait for.)

Do you read short stories at all? What are your favourite collections?

Recommendations: Books told differently

I keep saying that I like books that are told in an unconventional manner or unchronologically or just plain differently. This is the thing that link most of my favourite books. So it seems only necessary to recommend some of those books in the hope that you might like some as well and so that you can tell me about your favourite books that might be a bit different.

Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

23574514I adore everything I have read by David Mitchell. His characterisations are brilliant, his tone is pitch-perfect, and his way of loosely structuring his books just works extremely well for me. Most of his books are told in intersecting short stories and even more so, all his books allude to each other in one way or another – and ugh, I love that.

Ghostwritten might be my favourite of his – even though I also admire Cloud Atlas beyond everything. Mitchell is just a genius.

Kassandra by Christa Wolf

4412083Christa Wolf is possibly my favourite author – and Kassandra is definitely my favourite book of all times. I don’t even have the words to describe how much this books means to me. Told in stream of consciousness during the last few hours of Kassandra’s life, this book goes forward and backward in time in just the perfect way. Every sentence, every word is pitch-perfect.

The Zsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra

29236311Anthony Marra should really get to writing more books because I have five-starred both books he has written so far and I don’t think I have done that with any other author. He has a way with words that makes me speechless and he is able to make characters of every single person in his books, often with just a sentence in a half. This book is (again) in the form of intersecting short stories that span years and genres and it is just absolutely breathtaking and sad. You really should read it if you haven’t already.

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

9549746Again, a book told in short stories that span genres and feelings, this book made me so very happy while reading it. It very deservedly won the Pulitzer Prize and shows how different styles can be used without feeling gimmicky. Also, I do love pretentious books, so this was right up my alley. I was less impressed with Egan’s newest book, so I in no rush to read the rest of her oeuvre, but this one is really something.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

24612118I am a big fan of Lauren Groff’s writing in general (I am slowly making my way through everything she has ever written), but this book in particular was just made for me. Written first from the perspective of Lotto (often employing his horribly pretentious plays to do so), Groff than changes everything we know by telling the same (but very different) story from his wife’s (Mathilde) perspective. And I LOVED this. This book is just the right amount of indulgent and pretentious for me.

Have you read any of these? What were your thoughts? Do you have any recommendations for me based on these books?