Top Twenty Books That Defined The Noughties


The Telegraph has done a feature on the hundred books that defined the noughties. I’m listing the top twenty here:

20. Schott’s Original Miscellany – Ben Schott

19. Snow – Orhan Pamuk

18. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

17. Madoff: the Man Who Stole $65 billion – Erin Arvedlund

16. The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – Alexander McCall Smith

15. Samuel Pepys – Claire Tomalin

14. Boyhood / Youth / Summertime – J.M. Coetzee

13. 9/11 Commission Report – WW Norton

12. Jade: My Autobiography – Jade Goody

11. The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell

10. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson

9. Atonement – Ian McEwan

8. White Teeth – Zadie Smith

7. The Savage Detectives – Roberto Bolano

6. Being Jordan – Katie Price

5. The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins

4. A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius – David Eggars

3. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

2. Dreams From My Father – Barack Obama

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – JK Rowling

Am I the only one really depressed after seeing this list? Tabloid celebrities. Big Brother stars. 9/11. The Financial Crisis. And, Dan Brown. Are those the highlights of the last ten years? The things the noughties will be most remembered for?

I haven’t read all the books on the list, but, surely, Dan Brown doesn’t deserve to feature there. And, despite enjoying the Stieg Larsson, does it really merit a place in the top twenty books that defined this decade? I loved Summertime to bits, but, if a Coetzee has to be on the list, why isn’t it Disgrace, or Diary Of A Bad Year. In fact, I would’ve thought the latter would be the default choice.

I know there’s going to be a lot of debate about Harry Potter taking the number one spot, but, considering the raves, the queues, the anticipation and the waiting lines for the final book of the series, I’ll go out on a limb and say I can’t complain. At least, it’s not Twilight (which is on the list, at 32).

The only book I’ve read in the above list, which hasn’t taken me completely by surprise and horror is Ian McEwan’s Atonement. I hope the tens (is that what this decade is going to be called?) ends with more substance…

I mean….

  • Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is at 52
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half Of A Yellow Sun is at 62
  • David Vise’s The Google Story is at 64 – Google and Apple have defined this decade in terms of technology! Madoff makes it to the top twenty, Google doesn’t?
  • Gregory David Roberts’ Shantaram is at 69
  • Ed Husain’s The Islamist is at 73 – a story about a young extremist doesn’t make it to the top fifty in the decade of 9/11 and 7/7?

What books define the decade for you? Do you agree with the above list?

16 Responses to “Top Twenty Books That Defined The Noughties”

  1. I’m afraid that I agree with the above list. I don’t really like it, but it is a good reflection of what happened in the past 10 years.

    I’m afraid that Disgrace was published in 1999, so is the wrong decade for the list.

    I’ll have to go and have a look at the rest of your list, but itsounds as though I should read The Islamist – I han’t even heard of it.

    • Ah, my bad. Completely forgot Disgrace was in the nineties. The noughties suddenly seems like a depressing decade.

      Islamist is a really interesting, albeit scary book. I’d recommend it.

  2. I don’t like most of those but do agree a lot of them defined the decade. At least The Savage Detectives is number 7.

  3. What did they base this on, sales I guess? I can’t argue with Harry Potter either, but the celebrity/Big Brother stuff has got to be based on sales… sad.

    • No idea, to be perfectly honest. You’re probably right… Sales, or weeks on the bestseller chart. I can’t believe Katie Price + Jade Goody exist on that list!

  4. 7 Pam

    Yikes! That’s a pretty terrifying top 20 list there… How on earth did Jordan and Jade get in there? (I only ever see their ‘books’ in the bargain bins!)

  5. I agree that it is a horrible list, but I also agree with Jackie. It is intended to define the noughties, which doesn’t necessarily mean highlighting anything positive. But was the last decade really as bad as that?!

    • I’ve been asking myself the same question ever since I saw that list! I don’t really have an answer. I guess, at the end of 2019, we’ll see stuff on Jedward!

  6. Can’t say whether these twenty define the noughties, but I did read “Snow,” which I recommend to everyone I can. I hated “The Kite Runner” -its depressing theme, its structure, the whininess of its main character. It certainly should have been better; the view into the world of Afghanistan was good. I liked “A Heartbreaking Work” very much. I’ve read a different novel by McEwan and don’t think I’ll read another, and a different one by Coetzee, about whom I have mixed feelings. Definitely want to read something by Alexander McCall Smith and something by Roberto Bolano.

    Thank you for publishing the list; it was thought-provoking.

    • Thank you! I hated Kite Runner myself, and absolutely despised the main character. Found that I was one of the few people who did so – solidarity much appreciated! :)

      I haven’t read Heartbreaking Work yet. Which McEwan did you try? In 2008, I went through a phase, where I read about six of his books back-to-back! I quite like Coetzee’s style of writing, but his books do get difficult to read at times.

      Am planning on reading Bolano’s 2666 this year, and am yet to read any Alexander McCall Smith!

  7. I never heard of a few books in the list (The Big Brother one?) I’m not surprised that Da Vinci Code and Harry Potter are there. You can’t really deny their popularity. But I’m confused of why The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is there. Sure it’s a fun cozy book, but how does it define the noughties?? But wait, I just realized that this is Telegraph’s list and they feature Alexander McCall Smith’s online novel, so of course they think very highly of him. My favorite book Persepolis is at number 98 :(

    • You’re lucky :) Jade Goody’s book is the Big Brother one, and I never quite understood the fuss around her. She was participating in a Celebrity Big Brother thing-a-do, and said a few racially offensive things to another Indian participant, for which she later apologised. Call it a conspiracy theory, but am convinced the whole thing was staged by the producers of Celebrity Big Brother, to generate hype around the show!

      I grudgingly admit you’re right about the Dan Brown, and I haven’t read the Alexander McCall Smith – but what you said makes sense! Might well be down to the online novel on their site.

      I haven’t read Persepolis, but, I’ll try seeking it out! :)

  8. I’m very disgusted that a ‘book’ by Jordan is up there. I’ve never even heard of it. In regards to Dan Brown, I do believe it merits a place on the list. Love it or hate it, it was a remarkably successful ‘marketing’ campaign – it was largely spread through word of mouth. The only reason I read it was because I saw every second person on the train reading it. Pretty amazing.

    • I read it because my mother told me it was worth a read. My mother normally has a good taste in books, and I’m still struggling to come to terms with her giving this book the thumbs up. That’s the day I told her : “Mum, the time’s come for me to start recommending books to you. Not you to me.” She wasn’t amused!!

      It does pain me to see rubbish (sorry – my opinion) like Da Vinci Code make it to that list!

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