December 30th, 2009
02:37 PM ET

Books of the year, books of the decade

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At my current rate of about a book a week, I’ll never read more books than I acquire - but that doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying. Here are some of the best books (from an admittedly limited stack) I read that came out this year –- I’m stretching the definition to include 2008 books released in paperback, too - as well as some picks for books of the decade:


“Netherland,” Joseph O’Neill (Vintage paperback): A Dutch immigrant finds his way through pre- and post-9/11 New York, guided by his love for cricket and his friendship with a shifty Trinidadian, told through O’Neill’s gorgeous, pitch-perfect prose. (The author’s description of a road-safety class and its “destroyed-looking” lecturer is a world in a handful of sentences.)

“Lords of Finance,” Liaquat Ahamed (Penguin hardcover): David Halberstam’s “The Best and the Brightest” showed how a group of brilliant men could get the United States mired in the Vietnam War, partly through their own hubris. Similarly, Ahamed’s book chronicles how another group of brilliant men watched the world financial system fall apart in the 1920s and ‘30s, thanks to their hidebound beliefs. The hero of the book is John Maynard Keynes, but nobody listened to him until it was too late.

“Closing Time,” Joe Queenan (Viking hardcover): I didn’t want to like Queenan’s memoir. He starts out pompous and hard-shelled, sneering at his brutal, alcoholic father and helpless mother. (In other works, this Queenan can be acidly hilarious, but here he seemed pointlessly cruel.) But by the end he’d become – dare I say it? – vulnerable, even compassionate. He’ll probably berate me for saying so.

“Last Words,” George Carlin (Free Press hardcover): If Carlin’s posthumously assembled (by Tony Hendra) autobiography is occasionally uneven, it’s worth it for his sharp observations, and above all for its gaspingly funny opening line. Grab a copy at your local bookstore and read it yourself.

“As They See ‘Em,” Bruce Weber (Scribner hardcover): Weber’s book about the trials of being a major league umpire actually made me sympathetic to the men in blue; they have an almost impossible task made harder by the lack of consideration they’re given by their employers. Still, Phil Cuzzi, how did you miss that call in the Yankees-Twins playoff series?

(Stacked and waiting: “Let the Great World Spin,” Colum McCann; “Lark & Termite,” Jayne Anne Phillips; “The First Tycoon,” T.J. Stiles; “Cowboys Full,” James McManus; “A Fiery Peace in a Cold War,” Neil Sheehan.)

Best of the decade

“The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,” Michael Chabon (2000): The roar of mid-century America never lets up in Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about a pair of comic-book artists and the woman they love.

“The Looming Tower,” Lawrence Wright (2006): In Wright’s gripping history, the grumbling, sniping group of people in al Qaeda is less SPECTRE than, at times, The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight. Which, given their determination to wreck the world, makes them even more dangerous.

“Middlesex,” Jeffrey Eugenides (2002): Another Pulitzer Prize winner – the notoriously hit-or-miss committee got it right a lot in the ‘00s – Eugenides’ work is about the coming-of-age of a Greek-American hermaphrodite. But it’s also the story of 20th-century Detroit, which is told with the same heartbreaking detail Philip Roth brought to Newark in “American Pastoral.”

“Oh the Glory of It All,” Sean Wilsey (2005): A memoir told with almost self-flagellating rectitude; Wilsey gives his side of the story as the skatepunk son of a divorced couple – and gives almost as much time to everyone else’s version.

“The Crimson Petal and the White,” Michel Faber (2002): First, I was daunted by this 800-page novel of Dickensian detail about a 19th-century London prostitute. Then, I was enraptured.

(Honorable mention: “Moneyball,” Michael Lewis; “Empire Falls,” Richard Russo; “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell,” Susanna Clarke; “No Country for Old Men,” Cormac McCarthy; “America: The Book,” the writers of “The Daily Show.”)

soundoff (126 Responses)
  1. flevaValO

    Интим знакомства красноармейск (саратовская область)

    June 23, 2010 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Alex

    This list is REALLY incomplete. It seems very "turned in at last minute" I mean blocks of good if not important books are missing, Wicked, Harry Potter, Team of Rivals, Nixonland, any one of those, and I know I'm missing quite a few. Just not a very good list.

    January 2, 2010 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Christy

    Barb Boxer..."who is the man in the photograph?" I really hope your joking...the man in the photograph is not the writer of the article. That’s George Carlin who wrote one of the books on this list, has been a well known comedian for decades including the very controversial "7 words" and also passed away this year....

    January 2, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Samantha Brown, Denver CO

    The Good Journey - by Micaela Gilchrist - an undiscovered gem - do yourself a favor and read this author.

    January 2, 2010 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  5. Facondro

    Well least we can all agree that the twlight series is a peice of crap and doesnt deserve any recognition.

    January 2, 2010 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  6. Anon

    The Harry Potter books aren't good, just popular...BIG difference.

    January 2, 2010 at 5:39 am | Report abuse |
  7. Sian

    Pretentiousness at its finest...

    I have to agree with Adam...if you don't approve of this list, post your own...go ahead...I dare you...

    January 1, 2010 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Margaret Lindsey

    I am heavy reader and like a variety of books. I came from a family of readers and had read most American and English classics by the time I graduated from school in 1952. I graduated from college at age 54 Magna Com Laude. My favorite book, among many this year was the Help, My grand son wanted to read Harry Potter and it was being banned by some churches in Texas as evil, She knows I love to read and asked my opinion (I'm also a christian). I bought the first book, and just fell in love with the innovative and imaginary writing. I ended up reading all the books, as did my grandson. I felt like a kid again, and I ended up recommending them to adult friends and family. I am female, 75 years old, and considered intelligent , occasionally.

    January 1, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. AMR

    ...Hello? All of Dan Brown's books...?

    January 1, 2010 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  10. Anne

    This book is a MUST read. Three Cups of Tea

    December 31, 2009 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Anne

    Where is 3 Cups of Tea?

    December 31, 2009 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. arielle

    harry potter and twilight are not on there because they are books for adolescents. if you are an adult and happen to read them, that is just sad. there are no women on here because there were few good books put out by women this year. plain and simple. get over it, feminists.

    December 31, 2009 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Casey

    i would like to see something by Neal Stephenson on this list. Anathem to be specific.

    Oh and someone said something about how is Stephen King not on this list. A huge LOL to that. That's like tipping Michael Bay for an oscar based on plot and screenwriting.

    December 31, 2009 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JTesla

    Adam, the irony of your post brought a smile to my face. Complaining about the complainers, add a statement about them having too much time... classic.

    December 31, 2009 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. adam

    You people make me laugh... you clearly have too much time on your hands. Why is it that people with nothing to do, spend all their time trying to figure out what they can complain about next. The list was made based on one persons opinion... not sales, or best sellers, or popularity. Make your own list and post it online if you don't agree with this one.

    December 31, 2009 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  16. Snook

    The best book I have read this year is 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. This should be required reading for all kids 8th grade and up!

    December 31, 2009 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  17. John


    December 31, 2009 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  18. MoBo

    Why is everyone so stuck on the idea that books have to have some great meaning or thought provoking premise. Books are written for all sorts of reasons; to entertain, to elighten, to educate or possibly because the author was bored. No one has the right to say one type of writing is better than the other just because it is more "intellectual" All this discussion is so one sided, there is no possible way to make a true comprehensive list about the best books, this was one mans opinion. Everyone has their own tastes. Personally I love a good story, and I have found good stories in mainstream fiction, but I am usually a fan of the classic sci-fi from asimov, heinlein and scott card. But am also an avid reader of the satirical fantasy of Terry Pratchett.

    I just though i would get my to two cents in. and recommend what i like.

    December 31, 2009 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  19. Sarah

    It seems some of you are quite confused about the difference between true literature and novels of entertainment. In definition literature consists of books with artistic value and I believe the author of this article meant to hightlight great works of LITERATURE when he compiled this list, not novels of entertainment.
    Comparing "The Da Vinci Code", "Twilight", and various other suspense novels to books like "No Country for Old Men" and "Middlesex" makes as much sense as actually thinking the Harry Potter books or any book from the Twilight series could be considered the greatest book of the year or decade. There is nothing wrong with reading a book and enjoying it simply because it was entertaining, even if it provided no intellectual stimulation, but don't expect those same books to be on any intelligent list of good reads.
    And might I add that those of you who are upset because this list doesn't contain any books you've ever read or heard of perhaps read this article for the wrong reason in the first place. I read it because I wanted some new books to add to my list, not because I had some egotistical desire to see a list that validates my literary genius by describing a bunch of books that I, in my vast experience, have of course already read...only to be disappointed when I didn't see any mention of the Shopaholic series OMG!!!

    December 31, 2009 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  20. Vic

    The Harry Potter books were first released LAST decade. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone came out in the US in 1998, but I believe it was released in the UK even earlier.

    December 31, 2009 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  21. kroc

    I thought "The Road" was wonderful. A few others were, "Kite Runner", "Lovely Bones", The Harry Potter Series.

    December 31, 2009 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  22. Patricia Cohen

    "Bush's Brain," by Moore and Slater: how could you leave this definitive analysis of the strange story of Karl Rove off your list. You are not completely educated without it! And for our efforts to comprehend the minds of the Arab people, though not of this decade even, actually gives understanding and insight which is critically needed on this issue of Kipling's "never the twain shall meet" problem, read "The Closed Circle, an Interpretation of the Arabs," by David Pryce-Jones. A classic!

    December 31, 2009 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
  23. saul

    "Confessions of a Fighter" by Peter Wood. Brilliant!

    December 31, 2009 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  24. C A T

    There is nothing wrong with this list. It is his personal opinion, so that's fine. I would definitely add "The Glass Castle" as well (someone else mentioned it). I too prefer books that stimulate my mind, not just my imagination. The Harry Potter series is truly imaginative and unique, and worth reading for fun. The Twilight series was terrible. I'd rather tell my children to read nothing at all. I can't help but mention "The Time Traveller's Wife"by Audrey Niffennegger. Please do not bring up the movie. It was a great book. Maybe not one that will stand the test of time (sorry for the pun) but it was quite refreshing to read. Not your average, mushy-gushy romance novel that everyone thinks it is. Also "The Book Thief" by Makus Zusak was a terrific book as well. There's my opinion. 🙂

    December 31, 2009 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  25. Trev

    Wow, people who think that the Harry Potter books should be on a list of the best books of the year (or decade) is laughable. Obviously, these people never made it past sixth grade. The Harry Potter books are entertaining, but they hardly deserve to be on a list such as this.

    Please, think before you post people...

    December 31, 2009 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  26. Mary

    Harry Potter yes. Twilight, NOT.

    December 31, 2009 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  27. Beth

    Yes, the big sellers of the decade, including Harry Potter and the Twilight series, have been left off of this list. So has every Nicolas Sparks novel, no matter how many women between the ages of 18-34 have swooned over his stuff. Neither did The DaVinci Code, or any of the other popular but over-publicized Dan Brown novels. This list is supposed to be the best writing, not just the most popular writing.
    I did enjoy the Twilight series, all of which I finished in four days. That being said, it is clearly not the most intelligent, polished, well written literature of the decade.
    For those clamoring for more female authors, I do agree that there are a few great female writers from this decade. To leave off works such as The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold seems wrong. There were definitely female authors giving strong contributions to literature. In his comment, the author did mention Marjane Satrapi's "Persepolis" duo, which was brilliant. Maybe the author's only major fault was his limited reading list. But, if nothing else, consider this list a few books to add to your own collection, instead of attacking his taste. And, if you want to find the most popular list, look at the New York Times Bestseller list. You'll find all of these other popular books there.

    Final note for those of you saying the decade isn't over until 2010:
    2000-2009. Count the years. There's 10 of them:
    2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009

    So, yes, the decade is over.

    December 31, 2009 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  28. Wilde

    Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

    December 31, 2009 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
  29. Holly

    Chacun a son gout. Brook 19652 is absolutely right–but this is an article based on opinion and personal taste. It may be biased, intentionally or not, but that's why opinion and taste are different from objective evaluation. I think Life of Pi is one of the worst books ever written. I think Stephen King is a hack who can't bring one good idea to a decent conclusion. Obviously lots of people disagree with me. I write my own book reviews for my own pleasure and disseminate them among my friends and acquaintances. Facebook is a great tool for that kind of thing. Maybe some other readers here would benefit from trying the same approach—at least they'd have the satisfaction of knowing that their own opinion is out in the world for others to hear. I, for one, would like to read multiple reviews of books rather than one critic's opinion precisely because personal taste is so variable. CNN, take notice.

    December 31, 2009 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  30. Devryn

    Joan: JK Rowlings world was hardly detailed and BARELY innovative. You want a detailed world, read The Wheel of Time. THAT is detail. Huge backstory, massive story arc, a deep politcal system, deep characters with truely unique personalities (not just a couple of stereotypes).

    December 31, 2009 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
  31. Devryn

    Harry Potter & Twilight Fans: Millions of sales does not necessarily equal a good book. I read Harry Potter, and while it was entertaining for the most part (the last book was horrid), they were not particularly deep or insighful.

    The Wheel of Time series by the late Robert Jordan on the other hand...

    December 31, 2009 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
  32. Mark

    Listen up people I will address this issue one time and one time only.

    Anyone who mentions Harry Potter as a serious literary contribution has their priorities out of whack. You people need to grow up. There are real issues in the world that need to be addressed. You should be expanding your conscientiousness with legitimate material instead of placating to your fantasies of a fairytale wizard. Leave it for the twelve-year-olds. Get it together and fast, or else.......

    Oh yeah, and the reason there are no women on this list is due mostly to the fact that they make terrible writers. If you need evidence of that pick of anything Peggy Noonan has ever wrote or just read Harry Potter.


    December 31, 2009 at 8:59 am | Report abuse |
  33. Dystopiax

    Not a single book by post-surgery, transgender Asians. Cancel my subscription to electrons.

    December 31, 2009 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
  34. ryan

    its an opinion... no woman authors made the cut this year, oh well, get over yourself.

    cheers to you mr. leopold for not putting J.K. Rowling on this list

    December 31, 2009 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
  35. Steve

    I am almost finished with "The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao". It is a wonderful book–funny, sad, moving and yes, terrifying.

    As for women writers, he did place "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell" on his Honorable Mention list. (I dub it the "Harry Potter for Adults"). I highly recommend it.

    The one novel that I really liked not mentioned in this discussion is "Special Topics in Calamity Physics" by Marisha Pessl. It is just a wonderfully funny and inventive novel.

    December 31, 2009 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  36. Debra R

    Just what I would expect....snotty article, snotty remarks from the peanut gallery of self proclaimed "intellectuals"...this is why I left academia for the real world....

    Literature IS entertainment..... time is the TRUE indicator of what is great. Years from now when the above books are in the bargain bin, you will still see literature like Harry Potter on the shelves. Are they really children's books? I think they are TIMELESS books for all ages. I also have "children's book" To Kill A Mockingbird, the Bronte's, Shakespeare, The illiad, Peter David's Star Trek New Frontiers, ,jowl to jowl with Asminov and Checkov...

    a book should take you into it's world, keep you there, entertain you and if it is very, VERY good provoke you to think....

    December 31, 2009 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
  37. Blake

    This list is Leopold's opinion of the ten best books. He is only voicing his opinion just like we are. CNN should have had several people from diverse backgrounds generate lists. This discussion wouldn't be so one sided then and being able to compare different lists would be more interesting. But then again, there are some great suggestions for good reads in the comments, so not all is lost.

    December 31, 2009 at 5:47 am | Report abuse |
  38. johan

    as always real weird picks

    December 31, 2009 at 4:53 am | Report abuse |
  39. SB

    The plain and simple fact of the matter is that this is a list based on one mans personal opinion. The fact itself that he hasn't decided to use a woman, or a gay author should not be a issue at all. Create your own lists if you feel it's biased.

    Michael: Harry Potter is a beautiful collection of book that mean a lot to a lot of people. I have to agree with Joan's quick review of it and say that even though I don't think it's standards should be on a list intended for adults, it should receive a special mention.

    December 31, 2009 at 4:49 am | Report abuse |
  40. Paul

    The Gathering Storm, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. It takes quite a lot of balls to finish an epic tale started by someone else, but that is just what Brandon is tryong to do.

    December 31, 2009 at 3:18 am | Report abuse |
  41. Russ

    People... this is one person's opinion. Don't like his picks? No need to trash-talk him. Start your own blog. Geesh...

    December 31, 2009 at 3:07 am | Report abuse |
  42. Anonymous

    Should have included "House of Leaves" by Mark Z. Danielewski.

    December 31, 2009 at 2:54 am | Report abuse |
  43. Anne

    Thanks, reader 2009-didn't realize I don't demand intelluctually stimulating material. I wish that I had time to read more books, frankly.
    But tastes in reading are VERY subjective. I did enjoy Harry Potter and the Twilight series- though I admit the Twilight series was light reading- entertaining.
    But sometimes entertaining is better than great literature- after spending 8 hrs/day working with some very small minded twenty -somethings, I need a break!

    December 31, 2009 at 2:40 am | Report abuse |
  44. Brad

    What about Better Days by Preston Kerr... That was a remarkable book. Not out in stores, but you should all read it... Better Days by Preston J Kerr

    December 31, 2009 at 2:34 am | Report abuse |
  45. BarbJ

    ..we continually hear about the decline of books/reading...not so if discussions like this are any indication...not sure when this book was written but I found it to be one of my all time favorites: Peace Like A River by Leif Enger...absolutely beautiful...didn't want it to end...have read none of the books on "the list" but that"s ok..he's probably never read any of my mysteries and cop novels and political novels...but that's ok...we're reading

    December 31, 2009 at 2:07 am | Report abuse |
  46. Jerseydave

    The Daily Show's writers have females writing.

    Everybody has their own taste so this list is garbage to one person and gold to another.

    The real kicker in here is the fact that Irma thinks the decade is over after 2010. I guess we don't count the year 2000.

    December 31, 2009 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
  47. susanith

    I have read about 50 books this past year. Some of them so-so, some wonderful, some fiction, some non-fiction. Some easy reads, some challenging.

    None of the books on your list interest me. They are just your choice. You should have made that clear.

    December 31, 2009 at 1:35 am | Report abuse |
  48. KP

    "The Road" is, in my opinion, one of the most compelling books of the decade. Not sure how it could have been left off this list. It is both timely and timeless. Brilliant in its simplicity yet richly layered and endlessly thought-provoking.

    To the Richard Dawkins fan: Reread "The God Delusion" and see if you can find the spot where he inadvertently renders his own argument moot. It's in there, I promise.

    December 31, 2009 at 1:24 am | Report abuse |
  49. annie

    Love all you people who love Harry Potter. But seriously, imho, I think this list is leaning more towards serious reading... and as wonderful as Harry Potter is, there are better... much better...writers and books out there for young readers. So, I'm glad I didn't find HP on this list. I'm not a feminist... I just appreciate a good book... so I have nothing against this list... and will tweet my own soon elsewhere.

    December 31, 2009 at 12:46 am | Report abuse |
  50. Barb Boxer

    So, sorry, but who is the man in the photograph, and what are his credentials, to choose his favorites? I have many during the past decade; I;d like to know his background to compare to mine??

    December 31, 2009 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
  51. Joel

    Really? My feminist friends take a break. This a bloggers opinion hardly the consensus the masses. WATHEVER!!! I believe that the Harry Potter series (or any of the last five books) is well diserving. And since I'm a warmonger shallow individual I'm throwing The Davinci Code and Not A Good Day To Die. Saying that the Davinci Code is one of the worst books ever written is no different than our blogger writting that The Looming Tower is one of the best books ever (hell no). Totally subjective.

    December 31, 2009 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
  52. Arlene

    Where is the "The Shadow of the Wind" or "The Kite Runner????

    December 31, 2009 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  53. abyss

    Twilight should really not be compared to Harry Potter. The only similarity is that they share fanbases that are roughly the same age. The Twilight books are horribly written, the plot is full of holes and the main characters are a whiny high school girl with no ambition except to get married as soon as she can and an emotionally abusive, stalkerish vampire. On the other hand, the Harry Potter books are intricately crafted with detailed character stories and endless background details. The plot is well thought out and innovative, and presents ethical questions which the Twilight series doesn't even go near. They aren't just entertainment, they are significant works of literature, similar to the Lord of the Rings series. The Twilight books pale in comparison to the Harry Potter series.

    Another book that no one has mentioned so far is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It may not be the most intellectually stimulating work of literature, but it is highly entertaining.

    December 30, 2009 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
  54. GT

    I'm not one to weigh in on an argument of literary merit–if you read something that profoundly impacted you, who am I to say anything otherwise? That said, if anyone is interested, my favorite book this decade was "House of Leaves" by Mark Z Danielewski–the book pushes the boundaries of form and simultaneously tells three separate stories.

    As testimony, the book is 700 pages in total, and isn't exactly light reading, but the story was so well crafted, and so exciting that I read it in a weekend.

    I hope everyone has a safe and happy new year!

    December 30, 2009 at 11:44 pm | Report abuse |
  55. Karen

    Don't forget about The Financial Lives of Poets by Jess Walters!

    December 30, 2009 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  56. S Callahan

    irony....if one were to look at a book that sells the most, inspires the most, creates the most discussion either pro or against, is stimulating, has many characters in various episodes, flows well, and so just surprises me you haven't mentioned the Bible..not only the best of the year, decade, but also many many centuries....How can one ignorethat in both the litterary and monetary. Baffles me.

    December 30, 2009 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
  57. Joan

    So Michael, enlighten us. What books are you referring to that you feel have enlightened you and provoked thought? Have you ever read Harry Potter? It's a story of a boy who suffered a tragedy, faced evil and survived because of love. The world JK Rowling created was so detailed it was like she'd actually been there and just came back and wrote about it. What is it that you are reading that can compare to that?

    December 30, 2009 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
  58. L K

    How can this list be taken seriously by anyone when it includes almost exclusively straight white men? I hope the writer of this article will widen his gaze in the future.

    December 30, 2009 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
  59. clifford stone

    Leaving "the Road" off the list, huge mistake. Must read of the decade.
    Especially "No Country" over it.

    December 30, 2009 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
  60. Michael

    Harry Potter? Are you serious? Anyone who states that Harry Potter or Twilight should be on a best of anything list should just stop reading books. They're great for entertainment value but that's about it. You won't find any enlightenment or thought provoking premises in either of these series. They're mindless reads aimed at young kids who have never read a book before in their lives.

    December 30, 2009 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
  61. dan

    I would nominate Zadie Smith's "On Beauty" and Claire Messud's "The Emperor's Children."

    December 30, 2009 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
  62. Joan

    Val, you are insane if you think Da Vinci Code was the worst book ever written. I'm not even sure how you could think that. I could not put that book down. But, I do agree with you about people who try to classify literature vs. entertainment. I actually feel really sorry for those people. Because it seems like they don't honestly enjoy reading and the fantasy and escape that it can provide. I mean, how could anyone open up Harry Potter and not be transported to another world? It is such a joy and luxury to curl up with a good book and get lost in it. These people that feel like they are above a good story are just ridiculous. So what if Stephen King wrote it–if it was a great story who cares? And lastly–The Help and Lovely Bones (along with all things Harry Potter and The DaVinci Code) are some of the best books I've ever read.

    December 30, 2009 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  63. wanda

    I doubt if any of these books are good because they are not truned into movies yet, and none of them are wrote by women too.

    December 30, 2009 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  64. Sara

    Irma – The decade started with 2000, and is 10 years, so this is the last year. 2010 starts the next decade

    December 30, 2009 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
  65. Val

    "Literature vs. entertainment" is in the eye of the beholder. Any list of the "greatest" books of the decade is moronic, it's totally subjective. Who cares what's on anyone else's list? One thing I do have to say... Da Vinci Code really is the WORST book ever written. Okay, maybe not the worst, but it's up there.

    December 30, 2009 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
  66. Andy

    "The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls

    December 30, 2009 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
  67. Beth

    I am glad the Crimson Petal and the White is a great choice. Its a long book, but its a reall good read. Very visual and WELL written. I bought it many years ago and thought I was the only one to read it. One of my favorites. Glad it was on the list.

    December 30, 2009 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  68. gina

    I agree with Chloe, Brief and Wonderous should be on here, as should The Road. A couple by women that could have made it: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson or Lit by Mary Karr.

    December 30, 2009 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  69. Gail

    Harry Potter, along with Stephen Kings work, is good entertainment, not in this league of literature. I do not enjoy reading McCarthy but can understand why his writing is usually noteworthy. It is such a personal thing to identify what to consider outstanding.

    December 30, 2009 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  70. Tito

    "No Country for Old Men" over "The Road"? You are talking about the books, and not just the film adaptations, right?

    December 30, 2009 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
  71. Hanif Chauhan

    I was sooo glad to note that in this age of IT, we have still a huge lot of people who ACTUALLY READ BOOKS. They are the world to me!

    December 30, 2009 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  72. Saly

    Yes, this is one person's opinion. I'm sure these are fantastic books. And I'm also sure there are hundreds of other fantastic books out there that did not make the list. "Good" means so many different things to everyone in so many levels. And, the author's gender is completely insignificant (I'm a female).

    December 30, 2009 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  73. chris

    Middlesex was one of the most boring self important books I was ever forced to read. If that's on the list I don't want to read any of the others.

    December 30, 2009 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  74. Jim

    Steve, how do you determine that a book was "poorly written?" Do Rowling's books contain bad grammar? Is there some plotting error? Or is there some other criteria by which you determin "poorly written?" Rowling's books are fully of imagination and invention, and she is almost single handedly responsible for getting a whole generation of children to read who almost certainly would have rather played video games instead. Rowling definitely belongs on a "Best of the Decade" list.

    December 30, 2009 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  75. hunter

    I'm all for Harry Potter and hated Middle sex. It was one of like three books I have never been able to finish. I feel that his first book The Virgin Suicides was a hundred times better.

    December 30, 2009 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  76. Punchy

    Martel's "Life of Pi." I'm not the first one of this comment, nor will I be the last!

    December 30, 2009 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
  77. Angela

    GT–what a profound statement. Thank you for your rational thought. I am just thrilled people are talking about books. I would have to put on my personal list this year's Pulitzer winner Olive Kitteridge.

    December 30, 2009 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
  78. Big Pulp

    Richard Russo?!

    December 30, 2009 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  79. Max

    To irma: so when I was born in 1970, I was really born in the 1960s? I'm not buying it. Did you get much mileage trying to convince people to wait a year b/4 they celebrated the end of the century 10 years ago?

    December 30, 2009 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  80. Kath

    This is a pretty short list for The Best whether we are talking this year much less a decade! Seems to me I, in my limited fashion, read considerable more Bests than this!

    December 30, 2009 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  81. Max

    INKLINGS a memoir by editorial cartoonist Jeff Koterba was one of the best books I read this year. The accounts of his dysfunctional childhood in which his mother dressed him in girls clothes and his alcoholic abusive father filled up their dilapidated house with garage sale junk made me want to both laugh and cry.

    December 30, 2009 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
  82. Jamie

    For teenagers between the ages of 14 to 18, I would recommend reading some of Sarah Dessen's books. They are 'coming of age' books and are pretty good to read.

    December 30, 2009 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  83. Dianne

    Oh you have got to be kidding about this list. I DO read most of my pile. And this is not a list to print, folks.

    December 30, 2009 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  84. JTesla

    Yes Irma it does bother me, but I figure CNN is borrowing on next years stories to sell some ads after the rapid decline of revenue for television and other media outlets.

    December 30, 2009 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  85. irma

    doesnt it bother anyone that this article should not have been written untl next year. the decade isnt over. 2010 is the last year... not 2009....

    December 30, 2009 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  86. Linda Rivera

    I love America. All these opinions. The list of best books would be endless. Such a personal choice

    December 30, 2009 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  87. Reader 55

    How about Sandra Brown or James lee Burk, J A Jance

    December 30, 2009 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  88. reader2009

    Ha ha, much talk here of the "awesomeness" of Harry Potter and Twilight series. No offense, folks, but these are terrific books aimed at children and teenagers. Yes, they sell well and yes, a lot of adults read them, but these are adults who generally don't demand much of themselves intellectually. There is nothing wrong with science fiction, romance novels, Stephen King horrors, detective mysteries, etc., but they aren't generally classified as serious fiction (i.e. great works of thought that stand the test of time). A generation from now nobody will remember Twilight or Potter but a century from now Kavalier & Clay will still be read. Again, no offense, but the same minds that fret about the sex of the authors likely wish Potter was listed here.

    December 30, 2009 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  89. GT

    The fact of the matter is that books are so subjective and thus we all feel differently about them. Everyone has a right to their own opinion and no one should be judged for what they happen to enjoy. When authors write, they don't all have the same purpose in mind, nor should we while we read. Some books are meant for inspiration, others for entertainment, and whereas one may be "better written" or "more influential", it doens't mean we have to savor the prose of one more or less than the other. I happen to love many of the books on this list, but whereas it may not correlate with my personal list, I don't feel as though it is wrong or in any way sexist. This list is merely and opinon, and one that should be respected.

    December 30, 2009 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  90. Liz

    I can't comment. I'm an avid reader (4-5 a week) and I haven't read a one of those mentioned... that's the trouble with best of lists. We won't really know if they are the best until 50-100 years from now.

    December 30, 2009 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  91. Lindsay

    You have got to be kidding me with these "no female author" comments. Good literature is good literature. This list is merely a brief summary of the enormous amount of books published over the recent years. I think it's a good resource for 'suggested reading'. How about more "Hey guys this was a good book – look into it" comments rather than gender bashing.

    That being said: "What is the What" by Dave Eggers was an amazing book.

    December 30, 2009 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  92. Jaime

    Good grief! Mr. Leopold specifically states:

    "Here are some of the best books (from an admittedly limited stack) I read that came out this year –- "

    He doesn't state or even imply that this list is in any way all encpomassing or representative of the BEST anything other than the best HE read this year from HIS "limited stack". The reason those other authors and books were not included were that HE did not read them, or they weren't in HIS stack. Pretty simple.

    December 30, 2009 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  93. COL

    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay was just excellent, I was so glad to see it on this list. And if you are looking for a superb book that happens to have been written by a woman, grab Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, required reading for anyone aspiring to be a leader. I am surprised it wasn't included, it was absolutely enthralling.

    December 30, 2009 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  94. Mac

    IMO, 2666 belonged on this list, but I guess its a sleeper.

    December 30, 2009 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  95. Piece of Mind

    Why is everyone wasting their time on responding to this? This is clearly one person's opinion. Only of best books "I have read" ( stated clearly by the person writing. It is NOT a list of the best written books or anything close to literary. This is implied nowhere in this piece.
    So everything you are all saying is only your opinion too and no one agrees with you.

    December 30, 2009 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  96. Ron

    I cannot believe that you left out the phenonem of the largest selling books in history – Harry Potter series, and the Twilight series. They may not be intellectually stimulating, but they were the biggest sellers of all time, and got people reading again.

    December 30, 2009 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  97. Rosalind Dawes

    I can't believe you missed off books by David Adams Richards. He walks on water!

    December 30, 2009 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  98. Christy

    I don't see the big deal with the gender of the book's authors or the article writer either. I am female and if I were making this list it would probably have all male authors as well. This article does bear the label "The Marquee Blog" blog to me the term blog automatically inplies opinion of the one writing it, so why should Mr. Leopold have have to modify or justify this as "his list." What we read is generally a matter of personal taste, personally, I couldn't get through the first Harry Potter book, but it's not my taste and so if I was writing a top list it probably wouldn't be on it. But then, my taste doesn't include very many books that were written in my lifetime. As for the Oprah comment... why does it matter why he read the book. I have read many books that others have recommended to me; does that make my opinion on those books any less valid?

    December 30, 2009 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  99. steve

    Harry Potter didn't make it because they are poorly written books for children.

    December 30, 2009 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  100. Jau Poon

    I also vote for Stephen King. Under The Dome was a awesome novel!

    December 30, 2009 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  101. d3tsui

    Harry Potter fans: Yes, Rowling's books are influential, popular and deserve some recognition on any list of books for the decade, but they are not future literary classics. Sorry.

    Man/Woman argument: Really? Have we really come to this? Do we need to make sure everyone is represented here just because that'd be fair?

    DaVinci Code: Sorry but that was really an awful book. The fact that it sold so well should not affect our opinions of the writing.

    Dawkins fan: You need to read more.

    Check out this list. Go to the library and read a few.

    December 30, 2009 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  102. Linda Pagnani

    I was thrilled to finally find someone who was as impressed with "The Crimson Petal and the White". A wonderful book that, until now, I never knew anyone else had read. Its size is a little off-putting, but the pages fly by. All you'll ever want to know about life in Old London, and sometimes a bit more; with a vivid portrait of prostitution in the 19th century thrown in for good measure. Read it, you'll love it.

    December 30, 2009 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  103. LKV

    "The Crimson Petal & the White" was the most awesome book I have EVER read. I couldn't put it down!
    Why does the gender of the author matter, or the reviewer? A good book is a good book and perhaps the reviewer didn't have time to read everything under the sun?

    December 30, 2009 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  104. TS

    "Shakey" – Jimmy McDunnough

    December 30, 2009 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  105. Mike

    I think the snub of Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is more egregrious than Harry Potter.

    Also, The Help is not the best book written by a female this decade, let alone this year.

    December 30, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  106. Noelle

    I think this guy wants us all to bow at his intellectual prowess and all of the lengthy books he can read, and that's why the books are not that diverse or popular. Remember, Dickens was once considered popular culture fluff reading as well. J.K. Rowling changed reading and writing for an entire generation; she should have gotten a mention.

    Also, he probably did not even read "Middlesex" until Oprah recommended it.

    December 30, 2009 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  107. MKK

    this list is awful one sided. they need to do a poll to find out the best book list. this one should be called "His List" as the previous commentor stated

    December 30, 2009 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  108. Marisa

    What about The Davinci Code's probably one of the biggest books of the Decade...........

    December 30, 2009 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  109. Amy

    Because it was "Posted by: Entertainment Producer Todd Leopold." Though for someone who says he reads "about a book a week" and is even "stretching the definition to include 2008 books released in paperback, too," you'd think there would be a bit more variety
    Oh wait, there is one female under "Stacked and Waiting" and one under "Honorable Mentions." I suppose, like with earning 70% of what a man makes for the same job, us girls should be grateful to be mentioned at all

    December 30, 2009 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  110. brook19652

    Really it's because Men tend to like books written by men. And Men tend to value other Men's opinions... etc. and before anyone nay says me, I point to some recent studies one specific blind study regarding publishing/peer review of scientific papers... when no one knew who wrote what paper(s) the (male) peer reviewers chose relatively equal numbers of men/women papers BUT when they KNEW the names (sexes) of the authors – women were chosen far less often...

    December 30, 2009 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  111. silvio

    What no Steven King? Must be biased against males from Maine.

    December 30, 2009 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  112. alexismom50

    I am an avid reader, I read two to three books a week and I can say I have not read any of these books and probably wont. We are talking books that the average reader would enjoy. Yes what about Harry Potter that got a whole generation of kids into reading. There are so many authors that right novels that you want to read over and over again. Barbara Taylor Bradford, James Patterson, David Baldacci, to name a few.

    December 30, 2009 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  113. Todd Leopold, Entertainment Producer

    Whew. I didn't even realize there were no women on the list until it was pointed out. For the decade, Ann Patchett's "Bel Canto" could have made it. So could have Marjane Satrapi's "Persepolis" duo. (And Susanna Clarke IS in the honorable mentions.)

    I loved "Oscar Wao" and have read every Harry Potter book, but what can I say? What made the list made the list. (Philip Roth, Julian Barnes and Margaret Atwood didn't make it either.) Ask me next year, the list will probably change.

    December 30, 2009 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  114. Emily

    Seriously, no Harry Potter? You might want to read a few and then promptly put them on your list. Thanks.

    December 30, 2009 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  115. Lupe Ramos

    The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins is the greatest book ever written.

    December 30, 2009 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  116. JTesla

    Why do there need to be books written by women on this list? Is there some quota that needs to be met?

    December 30, 2009 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  117. Beth

    These books are hardly the best of the decade.

    Why wasn't Margaret Atwood's The Year of The Flood mentioned? Why wasn't Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones mentioned? How about Martel's The Life of Pi? Steven Hall's The Raw Shark Texts?

    Thankfully you DID acknowledge No Country for Old Men and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.

    December 30, 2009 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  118. John


    Because its HIS list of books that HE read this year... Maybe he doesn't read any books by female authors or none of them made the cut for HIS list. It's a free country.... make your own list and put whomever you wish on it.

    December 30, 2009 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  119. Nancy

    The Crimson Petal and the White?? You're kidding, right?

    December 30, 2009 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  120. Leslie

    What, no Harry Potter?

    December 30, 2009 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  121. chloe

    No mention of "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao"? Really? Another Pulitzer winner, only this novel actually changed the possibilities of both content and structure of the contemporary novel. Perhaps on your list, along with women, Latino writers don't make the cut?

    December 30, 2009 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  122. Jenni

    This is a list of best books. It doesn't matter who wrote it, man or woman. I'm a woman and I don't care whether or not there are females on the list.

    December 30, 2009 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  123. Lea

    Ever hear of Harry Potter ?

    December 30, 2009 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  124. joe

    because this year no woman wrote a book that was good enough to be on this list.

    maybe next year

    December 30, 2009 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  125. barb

    I would have to add The Help to this list – wriitten by a woman, by the way.

    December 30, 2009 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  126. Nauntie

    Why are there no books written by women on this list?

    December 30, 2009 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |

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