Monthly Archives: April 2017

Best Books of the 21st Century (So Far)

I’m completing a mini-series of “Best of the 21st Century (So Far)” meta-lists with a list of the best books.  I collected over 7 lists of best books of the 21st Century and combined them into two lists: fiction and non-fiction.  I’ve also included my personal five-star-rated (out of five) books since 2000.

For the other “Best of the 21st Century” meta-lists, go to:
Best Albums of the 21st Century (So Far)
Best Films of the 21st Century (So Far)

FICTION
On 7 Lists
The Corrections (2001). By Jonathan Franzen

On 6 Lists
White Teeth (2000). By Zadie Smith
Atonement (2001). By Ian McEwan
Middlesex (2002). By Jeffrey Eugenides
The Road (2006). By Cormac McCarthy
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007). By Junot Díaz

5 Lists
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000). By Michael Chabon
Kafka on the Shore (2002). By Haruki Murakami
The Namesake (2003). By Jhumpa Lahiri
Oryx and Crake (2003). By Margaret Atwood
Gilead (2004). By Marilynne Robinson
Cloud Atlas (2004). By David Mitchell

4 Lists
Austerlitz
(2001). By W. G. Sebald
American Gods (2001). By Neil Gaiman
Bel Canto (2001). By Ann Patchett
The Kite Runner (2003). By Khaled Hosseini
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003). By Mark Haddon
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2004). By Susanna Clarke
2666 (2004). By Roberto Bolaño
Never Let Me Go (2005). By Kazuo Ishiguro
No Country for Old Men (2005). By Cormac McCarthy
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007). By J. K. Rowling
The Art of Fielding (2011). By Chad Harbach

3 Lists
The Secret Life of Bees (2001). By Sue Monk Kidd
The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003). By Audrey Niffenegger
The Line of Beauty (2004). By Alan Hollinghurst
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2005). By Stieg Larsson
The Book Thief (2005). By Markus Zusak
The Thirteenth Tale (2006). By Diane Setterfield
The Name of the Wind (2007). By Patrick Rothfuss
The Hunger Games (2008). By Suzanne Collins
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2008). By Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
The Help (2009). By Kathryn Stockett
Wolf Hall (2009). By Hilary Mantel
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (2010). By David Mitchell
The Night Circus (2011). By Erin Morgenstern
The Fault in Our Stars (2012). By John Green
Gone Girl (2012). By Gillian Flynn

NON-FICTION
On 5 Lists
Persepolis (2000). By Marjane Satrapi

4 Lists
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America (2003). By Erik Larson
The Year of Magical Thinking (2005). By Joan Didion

3 Lists
Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000). By David Sedaris
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000). By Dave Eggers
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (2003). By Lynne Truss
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (2005). By Steven D. Levitt
The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (2006). By Michael Pollan
Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time
(2007). By Greg Mortenson

2 Lists
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (2000). By Malcolm Gladwell
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000). By Stephen King
London: The Biography (2000). By Peter Ackroyd
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (2001). By Barbara Ehrenreich.
John Adams (2001). By David McCullough
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2005). By Malcolm Gladwell
The Glass Castle (2005). By Jeannette Wells
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia (2006). By Elizabeth Gilbert
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006). By Alison Bechdel
Enrique’s Journey (2006). By Sonia Nazario
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007). By Naomi Klein
The Hemingses of Monticello (2008). By Annette Gordon-Reed
Zeitoun (2009). By Dave Eggers
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (2009). By Chris McDougall
The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (2011). By Stephen Greenblatt
Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011). By Daniel Kahneman
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (2012). By Susan Cain
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (2012). By Cheryl Strayed

MY FIVE-STAR BOOKS OF THE 21ST CENTURY

Fiction
Peace Like a River (2001). By Leif Enger
Atonement (2001). By Ian McEwan
Austerlitz (2001). By W.G. Sebald
Middlesex (2002). By Jeffrey Eugenides
The Known World (2003). By Edward P. Jones
Never Let Me Go (2005). By Kazuo Ishiguro
Europe Central (2005). By William T. Vollmann

Non-fiction
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000). By Dave Eggers
John Adams (2001). By David McCullough
Charles Darwin: The Power of Place (2002). By Janet E. Browne
A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003). By Bill Bryson
They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967 (2003). By David Maraniss
The Stories of English (2004). By David Crystal
Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (2004). By Steve Coll
1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (2005). By Charles C. Mann
The Rough Guide To Classical Music (2005). By Duncan Clark
The Year of Magical Thinking (2005). By Joan Didion
James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon (2006). By Julie Phillips
American Movie Critics: An Anthology From the Silents Until Now (2006). By Philip Lopate, ed.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (2006). By Michael Pollan
Cleopatra: A Life (2006). By Stacy Schiff
The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (2007). By Alex Ross
The Hemingses of Monticello (2008). By Annette Gordon-Reed
Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood (2008). By Mark Harris
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (2010). By Isabel Wilkerson
Lennon: The Man, the Myth, the Music – The Definitive Life (2011). By Tim Riley
Conversations with Scorcese (2011). By Richard Schickel
The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code (2013). By Margalit Fox
Lawrence in Arabia; War, Deceit, Imperial Folly, and the Making of the Modern Middle East (2013). By Scott Anderson

Best Albums of the 21st Century (So Far)

People who like to make lists have little patience, so it’s not surprising that even though our century is less than two decades old, I was able to find a bunch of “Best Music of the 21st Century” lists online.  Most of the lists focus on popular genres such as pop, rock, hip hop, R&B and alternative, so there is little or no jazz, classical or even country in this meta-list. For fun, I have also appended my personal five-star albums of the century so far (to match the meta-list, I’ve excluded classical and jazz).  Here are the albums on two or more of the original source lists I collected.

NOTE: Most of these lists were made long before 2017 – one of them is from 2009  and a few are from 2012 and 2013 – so there is a definite bias towards the first decade of the century.

On 10 “Best Music of the 21st Century” Lists
Elephant (2003) – The White Stripes

On 7 Lists
Stankonia (2000) – OutKast

6 Lists
Kid A (2000) – Radiohead
Is This It (2001) – The Strokes
Discovery (2001) – Daft Punk
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010) – Kanye West

5 Lists
Funeral (2004) – Arcade Fire
Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006) – Arctic Monkeys
Sound of Silver (2007) – LCD Soundsystem
In Rainbows (2007) – Radiohead
Fleet Foxes (2008) – Fleet Foxes   

4 Lists
American Idiot (2004) – Green Day
Back to Black (2006) – Amy Winehouse
Let England Shake (2011) – PJ Harvey
Channel Orange (2012) – Frank Ocean

3 Lists
The Blueprint (2001) – Jay-Z
Vespertine (2001) – Björk 
Up the Bracket (2002) – The Libertines
Songs for the Deaf (2002) – Queens of the Stone Age
Original Pirate Material (2002) – The Streets
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002) – Wilco
Fever to Tell (2003) – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Savane (2006) – Ali Farka Touré
xx (2009) – The xx 
Lost In The Dream (2014) – The War On Drugs

2 Lists
Relationship of Command (2000) – At The Drive In 
The Marshall Mathers LP (2000) – Eminem
Rated R (2000) – Queens of the Stone Age
Weezer [The Green Album] (2001) – Weezer
Lateralus (2001) – Tool
Radio Tisdas Sessions (2001) – Tinariwen  
Time (the Revelator) (2001) – Gillian Welch
American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002) – Johnny Cash
( ) (2002) – Sigur Rós 
The Black Album (2003) – Jay-Z
Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge (2004) – My Chemical Romance
A Grand Don’t Come for Free (2004) – The Streets
Aha Shake Heartbreak (2004) – Kings of Leon
College Dropout (2004) – Kanye West
I Am A Bird Now (2005) – Antony and the Johnsons
Gypsy Punks Underdog World Strike (2005) – Gogol Bordello
Sam’s Town (2006) – The Killers  
Donuts (2006) – J Dilla
Untrue (2007) – Burial 
Raising Sand (2007) – Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
For Emma, Forever Ago (2007) – Bon Iver
Sky Blue Sky (2007) – Wilco
Dear Science (2008) – TV on the Radio  
808s and Heartache (2008) – Kanye West 
The ’59 Sound (2008) – The Gaslight Anthem
The Hazards of Love (2009) – The Decemberists
Good Kid, m.A.A.d City (2012) – Kendrick Lamar  
AM (2013) – Arctic Monkeys
Black Messiah (2014) – D’Angelo
To Pimp A Butterfly (2015) – Kendrick Lamar

And, for those who care, here are the albums from 2000 to present that I rated five out of five stars, in chronological order (excluding classical and jazz):

I Am Shelby Lynne (2000) – Shelby Lynne 
Fado em Mim (2000) – Mariza  
Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea (2000) – PJ Harvey
All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000) – U2 
Sweet Tea (2001) – Buddy Guy     
The Id (2001) – Macy Gray  
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002) – Wilco    
Sea Change (2002) – Beck 
One Beat (2002) – Sleater-Kinney   
Fever to Tell (2003) – Yeah Yeah Yeahs   
Electric Version (2003) – The New Pornographers     
Funeral (2004) – Arcade Fire   
Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out (2005) – Petra Haden
Illinois (2005) – Sufjan Stevens   
Z (2005) – My Morning Jacket      
Boys and Girls in America (2006) – The Hold Steady
Let’s Get Out of This Country (2006) – Camera Obscura
Neon Bible (2007) – Arcade Fire
Challengers (2007) – The New Pornographers
Once: Music From the Motion Picture (2007) – Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova
White Chalk (2007) – PJ Harvey    
Hold On Now, Youngster… (2008) – Los Campesinos!     
Bird-Brains (2009) – Tune-Yards         
The Suburbs (2010) – Arcade Fire      
Majesty Shredding (2010) – Superchunk      
Cannibal Courtship (2011) – Dengue Fever       
Bad As Me (2011) – Tom Waits
Yuck (2011) – Yuck
The King Is Dead (2011) – The Decemberists 
Let England Shake (2011) – PJ Harvey
Visions (2012) – Grimes
Pedestrian Verse (2013) – Frightened Rabbit
Sleepwalker (2013) – Angel Olsen  
Alvvays (2014) – Alvvays  
My Woman (2016) – Angel Olsen