Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday Five: 5 Favorite Books of the Decade

We already listed our favorite albums of the decade, now it's time for books. Man, I love these books.

5) Home Land by Sam Lipsyte

This did not immediately occur to me as a favorite, but then I realized I had recommended this book to several people and always think about it in my own meager efforts. While much of these decade lists shower those books that somehow connect the "now" to the "past," Lipsyte makes us unflinchingly aware of the present. In all of its humorous glory. It also struck me that books, serious literary books, are not funny. There aren't many funny novels in general, and there aren't many as well-written with so many zingers as Home Land. If you do not know what is to fail as a Catamount, then you don't know what it is to fail. Just to let you know I'm not completely crazy, Believer named this one of their best books in 2005.

4) The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

Forget the weight of history, let's just relive it through the inexhaustible weight of pop-artistry achievement. Using comics as a motif, Chabon makes the grand connections between history and the human condition (see above), but presents it with classic suspense. As a reader, I really want to know what happens to these characters, so much so I plunge through its heft and am satisfied all the way through.

3) The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Liked this book the first time I read it, surprised by all the accolades its receiving. Apocalypse now.

2) A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

Fiction/non-fiction, it doesn't matter. In recent books, Eggers has traded postmodern garrulousness for more sparse words, and I sorely miss that style. It was compulsive overanalysis on the state of being young and responsible and a word explaining is rarely misused. His Real World stunt would've been a gamechanger for sure, both for the series and for the resulting stories. Instead, we only have a book that changed us.

1) House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski

Don't approach this book with the same frame of mind used for reading other novels, but think of it instead as a graphic novel that doesn't have as many illustrations. The connections between the words, the footnotes, the font will open up a new structure that mirrors the narrative structure of the house. To write off this book as only a gimmicky esoteric exercise is to possibly write off all interesting books in the future.

AHWOSG and HOL were released in the same year and they've held up over the past ten. The books were prophets to what was to come in the decade--a focus on the concept of reality TV and the desire to chronicle all our moments.

Most important book of the decade: Million Little Pieces by James Frey
People, real people!, discussed the differences between fiction and memoir unprompted by grades, college admission essays or the teacher's dirty looks. Amazing!

Honorable mentions: the devil and the white city, a generous orthodoxy, nickel and dimed, fast food nation, ovenman, blankets, the great perhaps, the known world, the lost boys of sudan, await your reply, on beauty, interpreter of maladies, arkansas, moneyball, then we came to the end.


  1. I would definitely have included, "Eleanor Rigby," by Douglas Coupland. It might be my favorite book of all time.

  2. actually never read gen x, then something i didn't like. will try that one & i want to read gen. a


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