Reading the millennium – my favourite 100 books published since 2000

The end of this decade is coming into view – which means a raft of articles on the best of the 2010s, be that books, movies, music or whatever else. I haven’t listened to much new music since around 1998, and couldn’t be bothered checking out most new films (Scream is demanding to be rewatched for the millionth time, after all). But I do, and have, read quite a lot of new books.

The other day I wrote a short piece for the Irish Independent on my two favourite books of the decade…and it was hellishly difficult, narrowing the choice down to just two. So I’ve decided to expand the concept, numerically speaking, and throw up my favourite 100. However – and following the Guardian’s recent example – I’ve further decided to go the whole hog and select from the entire millennium so far. The final results, after much head-scratching, are presented below.

(These aren’t, by the way, necessarily my favourites of what I’ve read during the last two decades. I’d tend to skew towards older stuff/classics etc. etc. But these are the best I’ve read which were first published since the millennium.)

A few brief notes:

  • I’m cheating a little here in including Ballard, Orwell, Calvino and Zweig. These stories or essays were written long before the 20th century ended. But they were first published in this complete form post-2000, so for me, these count as books of the new millennium.
  • Publication dates for non-English books are for the first English translation (as far as I can work it out). Some of them were out in their original language several years before that.
  • A few mildly interesting stats (interesting to me, at any rate): 29 of the books on this list are non-fiction, 63 are novels and there are seven short story collections; 80% men versus 20% women (no particular reason, just how it worked out; I guess more men get published in general? I’m certainly not one of those ridiculous people who “only” reads one or other sex. A good book is a good book, full stop); 12 books in translation; nine Irish works make the cut.
  • The most common entries? Don DeLillo with four (ish*), Margaret Atwood with three and JG Ballard with 3 (also ish*). No big surprise there, as those three are probably my all-time favourite authors. (William Gibson on the subs’ bench.) * The “ish” refers to the fact that one DeLillo, and one Ballard, are actually collections of interviews with them, not fiction. But – it’s all their own words and thoughts, so again, I’ll allow it.
  • Decade by decade, my top 100 breaks down thus: the 2000s get 39, the 2010s get 60. Meanwhile the “worst” years, for my liking, were 2001, 2002 and 2003 – each with just one entry. “Best” year was 2017, with 11. In fairness, there’s probably a weighting towards later years because I didn’t start reading for review/work purposes until c. 2006, so would have read more (and probably better) books from that time onwards…
  • AND FINALLY: eagle-eyed and/or mathematically minded people might have noticed that some of my sums don’t add up, e.g. 39 plus 60 does not make 100. That’s because I left the list at 99 – in the hope that you, dear (fellow) reader, might suggest a hundredth in the comments section below…

 

MY FAVOURITE 100 BOOKS OF THE MILLENNIUM SO FAR

The Blind Assassin (2000), Margaret Atwood

Shirker (2000), Chad Taylor

The Consolations of Philosophy (2000), Alain de Botton

True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), Peter Carey

Europeana (2001), Patrik Ourednik

Essays (2002), George Orwell

Cosmopolis (2003), Don DeLillo

2666 (2004), Roberto Bolaño

Oryx and Crake (2004), Margaret Atwood

Cloud Atlas (2004), David Mitchell

The Plot Against America (2004), Philip Roth

How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World (2004), Francis Wheen

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2004), Susanna Clarke

A Short History of Nearly Everything (2004), Bill Bryson

Mutants (2004), Armand Marie Leroi

Conversations with Don DeLillo (2005), Thomas DePietro ed.

The Trudeau Vector (2005), Juris Jurjevics

Empires of the Word (2005), Nicholas Ostler

Molly and the Cyclops (2006), Ailbhe Keogan

Complete Short Stories Vol I (2006), JG Ballard

Complete Short Stories Vol II (2006), JG Ballard

A Brief History of Misogyny (2006), Jack Holland

Blindsight (2006), Peter Watts

Special Topics in Calamity Physics (2006), Marisha Pessl

Tenderwire (2006), Claire Kilroy

Darkmans (2007), Nicola Barker

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (2007), Michael Chabon

The Savage Detectives (2007), Roberto Bolaño

The Rest is Noise: Listening to the 20th Century (2007), Alex Ross

The Ghost (2007), Robert Harris

The Raw Shark Texts (2007), Steven Hall

Return of the Player (2007), Michael Tolkin

Falling Man (2007), Don DeLillo

Netherland (2008), Joseph O’Neill

The Book of Silence (2008), Sara Maitland

The Complete Cosmicomics (2009), Italo Calvino

The City and the City (2009), China Miéville

Blood’s a Rover (2009), James Ellroy

You Are Here: A Portable History of the Universe (2009), Christopher Potter

Day for Night (2010), Frederik Reiken

The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe (2010), Andrew O’Hagan

Lights Out in Wonderland (2010), DBC Pierre

Zone One (2010), Colson Whitehead

Red Plenty (2010), Francis Spufford

1Q84 (2011), Haruki Murakami

The Prague Cemetery (2011), Umberto Eco

The Sisters Brothers (2011), Patrick deWitt

Ready Player One (2011), Ernest Cline

The Angel Esmeralda (2011), Don DeLillo

HHhH (2012), Laurent Binet

Extreme Metaphors: Interviews with JG Ballard (2012), Simon Sellars and Dan O’Hara eds.

The Last Testament: A Memoir by God (2012), David Javerbaum

Shooting Stars: Ten Historical Miniatures (2013), Stefan Zweig

Night Film (2013), Marisha Pessl

The Circle (2013), Dave Eggers

Autobiography (2013), Morrissey

Consumed (2013), David Cronenberg

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (2013), Mohsin Hamid

I Am Pilgrim (2013), Terry Hayes

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2014), Yuval Noah Harari

Bleeding Edge (2014), Thomas Pynchon

Sinker (2014), Jason Johnson

The First 15 Lives of Harry August (2014), Claire North

We Are all Completely Beside Ourselves (2014), Karen Joy Fowler

Aurora (2015), Kim Stanley Robinson

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (2015), Salman Rushdie

The Pier Falls (2016), Mark Haddon

I Am No One (2016), Patrick Flanery

The Gene (2016), Siddhartha Mukherjee

Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany (2016), Norman Ohler

The Secret History of Twin Peaks (2016), Mark Frost

Time Travel: A History (2016), James Gleick

Beautiful Pictures of the Lost Homeland (2016), Mia Gallagher

Solar Bones (2016), Mike McCormack

The Zoomable Universe (2017), Caleb Scharf

Amberlough (2017), Lara Elena Donnelly

We Have No Idea (2017), Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson

Universal Harvester (2017), John Darnielle

Eat Me: A Natural and Unnatural History of Cannibalism (2017), Bill Schutt

Hag-Seed (2017), Margaret Atwood

Madness is Better Than Defeat (2017), Ned Beauman

The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve (2017), Stephen Greenblatt

Manhattan Beach (2017), Jennifer Egan

Artemis (2017), Andy Weir

Before the Fall (2017), Noah Hawley

The Line Becomes a River (2018), Francisco Cantú

Dictator Literature (2018), Daniel Kalder

The First Sunday in September (2018), Tadhg Coakley

The Consolations of Physics (2018), Tim Radford

Coal Black Mornings (2018), Brett Anderson

The Silence of the Girls (2018), Pat Barker

How to Change Your Mind (2018), Michael Pollan

The Paper Wasp (2019), Lauren Acampora

Underland (2019), Robert Macfarlane

Daisy Jones & The Six (2019), Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Moon (2019), Oliver Morton

The Chain (2019), Adrian McKinty

Paris Syndrome (2019), Lucy Sweeney Byrne

The Last (2019), Hanna Jameson


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