Monday, May 10, 2010

The Sunday Question

What were your favorite books of the Oughts?

This month marks the 10th anniversary of O magazine, and in it Oprah has listed her 10 favorite books of the Oughts. Now, you may love Oprah, despise her, or be totally indifferent to her, but she’s been incredibly influential in getting readers and non-readers alike to crack open all kinds of books. Books they might otherwise never have known about. She’s given huge boosts to the careers of many writers. Apart from J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer, she has gotten more people to walk into a bookstore than anyone else in history.

So, in her honor, I am asking you which were your favorite books of the Oughts? Now, I don’t mean the books you think are worthy, that have the most literary merit. What were the books that you devoured whole? The books you loved best? The books that you will re-read until they fall apart? Oprah's faves include books published during the Oughts as well as classics she read during the Oughts, like John Steinbeck's East of Eden. There are no rules. Write a comment. Let us know your faves.

Here are mine, in no particular order:


On Writing, by Stephen King, 2000. As a writer and writing coach, I am always on the lookout for great writing books, and this is one of the best. It also turned me on to Stephen King in general, who I’d always pretty much written off as a ‘commercial’ writer, churning out formulaic pot-boiler bestsellers. What a huge mistake!

Atonement (novel).jpg

, by Ian McEwan, 2001. A gorgeously written, twisty, provocative novel about the complexities of adolescence, betrayal, love and war.

I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence

I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence
by Amy Sedaris, 2006. A quirky entertaining, recipe and strange craft book. Amy’s more famous brother David has nothing on her for funky oddness.

Close Range: Wyoming Stories

Close Range, by Annie Proulx, 1999. I am a HUGE Annie Proulx fan, have even read her books on cider and wine making, but I am not a constant reader of short story collections. I thought Ms. Proulx’s earlier collection, Heartsongs was good, but...I hemmed and hawed and procrastinated, then when I read this collection was I stunned. Pretty much by every story. And I think "Brokeback Mountain" is probably the finest story I’ve ever read. The movie was pretty good, but read the story. Really.

The Given Day

The Given Day, by Dennis Lehane, 2009. A sweeping, gritty, intense historical novel set (mostly) in 1918-19 Boston, during the time of the Spanish Influenza pandemic, the policeman’s strike, and the molasses flood. A departure for crime writer Lehane, but in a good way.

Bag of Bones

Bag of Bones, by Stephen King, 1998. I love books that incorporate historical scenes which illuminate the present. In this one, Stephen King writes about an African-American woman blues singer from the 20’s really scarily haunting a Maine lake town, and a blocked mystery writer who’s haunted by his own past. Stephen King is also one of the best writers writing about the process of writing fiction. He perfectly describes what it feels like when you’re in the zone, and how terrifying it is when you can’t write a word.

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen

e and Julia, by Julie Powell, 2005. 365 days, 500-odd recipes. Julie Powell cooking her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking, trying not to have a cow and kill herself or her benighted husband every day. Spawn of her famed blog, and inspiration for the movie with Meryl as Julia Child. Something you’d never think will work, but does.

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse, by Louise Erdrich, 2002. The best first 50 pages ever written, in my opinion. And the rest isn’t too shabby either.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #1)

The Ladies’ No. 1 Detective Agency series, by Alexander McCall Smith, one pumped out practically every year of the Oughts. The wise and infinitely kind Mma Ramotswe, Botswana’s first and only lady detective, gently leads us and her clients through the intricacies of life. My current go-to books for comfort on a bad day.

A Dog Year: Twelve Months, Four Dogs, and Me

A Dog Year, by Jon Katz, 2003. I have to admit prejudice here. Jon Katz writes non-fiction books mostly having to do with Border Collies, his dog o’choice and mine. I’m on my third Border boy right now. That said, this is the perfect book for dog lovers, a hilarious tear-jerker about Mr. Katz’s relationship with a pathetic, panicky, abused Border named Orson. A cathartic book that made me laugh and cry out loud.

The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, by Reif Larsen, 2009. Yes, I know this is #11, but I can’t help myself. T.S. Spivet is one of those unforgettable, beautiful characters that should be on everyone’s list. A twelve year old cartographical (is there such a word?) prodigy, his maps have won a prize from the Smithsonian, and he runs away from his Montana home to claim it, hopping a freight and having many adventures along the way. Part road book, part historical novel, and illustrated by the author. Unique and lovely.

That’s my ten (or rather, eleven). Tell us yours.


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