10 Best Novels of the Decade: 2010 to 2019

The 2010s were the first decade of my blog. Well, almost – I began whatcathyread in 2011.  I’ve read a lot of great books in that time, although I certainly can’t claim to have read everything that was published! But looking back on the books I did manage to read that were published in the last 10 years, my criterion was simple: could I remember why I fell in love with it in the first place?

I hope you enjoy this quick tour of my favourite books. And I’d love you to share your own favourite books of the 2010s by leaving a reply in the comment box below.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Ok, I’m cheating slightly because Wolf Hall won the Man Booker Prize for 2009.  But because the winner isn’t announced until November, I only got to read it in 2010.A fictionalised account of the rise of Thomas Cromwell from low-born boy to Chief Minister in Henry VIII’s court.  Historical fiction at its best.  Subsequently made into a BAFTA award winning TV series starring Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell.

Pure by Andrew Miller
Blog post 8/7/13
Paris, 1785: revolutionary fervour is rising. A young, provincial engineer, Jean-Baptiste Baratte, is tasked with disposing of the cemetery of les Innocents, which is collapsing into neighbouring properties and poisoning the city. Macabre, yet strangely compelling. Winner of the 2011 Costa Book of the Year.

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Blog post 25/11/13
Sequel to Wolf Hall. Won both the 2012 Man Booker Prize AND Costa Book of the Year. Mantel is the only author ever to win both awards in the same year and became the third author to win the Booker twice (after J M Coetzee and Peter Cary).

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Blog post 10/8/14
What if you had the chance to live your life again and again and again, until you finally got it right? Winner of the 2013 Costa Novel Award.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
Blog post 28/1/17
In a Japanese POW camp on the Burma Death railway, surgeon Dorrigo Evans tries to save the men under his command. Apparently Flanagan’s father was a survivor of the Burma Death Railway. Winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize.

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
Blog post 16/7/16
Jamaica, 1976. Seven gunmen storm Bob Marley’s house, machine guns blazing. Marley survives and the gunmen are never caught. A Brief History of Seven Killings was inspired by this incident, but the story spans three decades and includes a host of disparate characters: slum kids, drug lords, gunmen, girlfriends, journalists, and even the CIA. Ditch the Kindle – I guarantee when you first start reading you’ll need to refer to the “Cast of characters” at the front of the paper copy. Winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize.

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
Blog post 18/1/19
I was spoilt for choice in 2016 because I also really love The Sellout by Paul Beatty (winner of the 2016 Man Booker Prize). In the end, though, I plumped for this tale of two friends/lovers who fight in the Indian Wars and the American Civil War and ‘adopt’ a little native American girl. Winner of the 2016 Costa Book of the Year.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Blog post 4/5/18
February 1862: the American Civil War rages. President Lincoln’s eleven year old son, Willie, takes ill and dies and is trapped in a strange, transitional realm – the Bardo. Saunders experiments with the novel-form but if you’re prepared to strap in and go along with the ride you’ll be rewarded with a genuinely funny, sad, and thought-provoking read. Winner of the 2017 Man Booker Prize.

Milkman by Anna Burns
Blog post 23/8/19
Winner of the 2018 Booker Prize, the first time a Northern Irish writer has been awarded the prize. Ostensibly set during the ‘Troubles’, Burns’ device of shunning conventional names for people and places means the story transcends nation and time. This is contemporary history as dystopia.

The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattachaya
Blog post 26/7/15
I’m finishing my top 10 as I began, by cheating slightly. I was soooo tempted to pick Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, which was joint winner of the 2019 Man Booker, making her the fourth author the win the prize for a second time – but that would be purely because she’s a long-standing, favourite author of mine, I haven’t even read it yet! The winner of the 2019 Costa Book of the Year is yet to be announced. So my final top 10 pick is The Watch (published 2012) which takes Sophocles’ Antigone and reinvents it for the modern day within the context of the US War in Afghanistan, which started in 2001 and is still continuing.

And for 2020? The book I’m most looking forward to getting my nose into, apart from Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, is The Mirror and the Light, the final book in Hilary Mantel’s ‘Wolf Hall’ trilogy due to be published March 2020.

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!

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