As the decade comes to a close, readers are rounding up their favorite books from the 2010s. While millions of books have been published in the last 10 years, only a few can stand out as masterpieces of storytelling. Here is some of the best literary fiction, young adult fiction, children’s fiction and nonfiction of the past decade.
“The Idiot” by Elif Batuman, 2017
In her semi-autobiographical novel, Batuman introduces readers to Selin, a Turkish-American freshman at Harvard in the ‘90s. Selin is witty, sarcastic and intelligent but finds herself entangled in a strange romantic relationship with the captivating senior Ivan. They exchange emails, but their face-to-face interactions are often cringeworthy due to their lack of social skills. As Selin develops over the course of the novel, readers will laugh at her dry humor, be frustrated by her inability to express herself and ultimately relate to Selin’s growing pains. Batuman’s prose does ramble a bit, but this is part of the novel’s charm. “The Idiot” was a 2018 Pulitzer Prize finalist.
“All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr, 2014
Doerr’s novel about a blind French girl and a young German soldier set during World War II is a powerful story about the human spirit and wartime’s effects on people. Told in alternating chapters, AtLWCS features two endearing leads who each try their hardest to overcome the difficulties life has thrown their way. Marie-Laure must flee to the refuge of her uncle’s home after the Nazis occupy Paris, while Werner learns how to build and fix radios and uses his skills to help the Nazis find the Resistance. The novel is beautifully written and fast-paced, though you’ll want to savor every word. Doerr does a great job intertwining Marie-Laure and Werner’s stories, and their eventual meeting is touching. AtLWCS won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
“Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, 2012
This highly acclaimed young adult novel develops themes of racial and sexual identity as it unfolds the story of Mexican-American teenagers Aristotle (Ari) and Dante in 1987 El Paso. The two start off as unlikely friends, quite opposite in their personalities and beliefs. The boys grow to have romantic feelings for each other, and the novel explores the different manners in which Ari and Dante come to accept and express these emotions. A skillful, understated writer who lets his characters grow naturally, Sáenz writes Ari and Dante’s falling in love in the most subtle, graceful way possible. “Aristotle and Dante” is romantic but not oversentimental, telling a love story as well as presenting a bildungsroman. The novel has won numerous awards, including the Belpré Medal and Printz Award.
“Echo” by Pam Muñoz Ryan, 2015
Adults and children alike have enjoyed Ryan’s “Echo.” With complex, layered storytelling and lovable characters, this middle grade novel weaves a tale across time and place. Framed by the magical, fairytale-esque story of Otto, the first child to discover the harmonica, the novel also follows Friedrich, a child facing the hardships of life in Nazi Germany, Mike, an orphan who wants a better life for himself and his younger brother Frankie, and Ivy, a migrant worker’s daughter. The novel treats some heavy subjects in a tasteful manner, and Ryan’s narrative shows how music can unite people from all walks of life and how believing in oneself allows a person to reach their dreams. This children’s book was awarded the Newbery Honor in 2016.
“Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” by Laura Hillenbrand, 2010
The biography of Louis Zamperini recounts his mischievous boyhood, track stardom, enlistment in the Army Air Corps and then imprisonment as a POW. Readers follow Louie through his toughest times, rooting for the tenacious young man while he’s floating on a life raft in the Pacific, trapped in a POW camp and learning to move past the war. Zamperini’s life story is a lesson in courage and hope, and Hillenbrand masterfully tells it. Her storytelling is engaging, clear and true to Louie and his story. Hillenbrand presents Louie realistically, not shying away from his faults or darkest moments. Louie’s triumph as an American in the war and as a soldier returning to normal life demonstrates that no matter what obstacles life put in his path, Louie’s spirit remained unbroken.
Stephanie Santillo is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.