The Best Books of the 2000s

This is one of the 200 lists we use to generate our main The Greatest Books list.

  • Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman

    "Fargo Rock City" is a humorous and nostalgic exploration of the author's love for heavy metal music, especially as it was expressed in the 1980s. The book is a blend of personal memoir, music criticism, and social commentary, as the author reflects on growing up in rural North Dakota and how the music of bands like Guns N' Roses, Mötley Crüe, and Poison provided a vital outlet for his teenage angst and dreams. The author's witty and engaging style provides a fresh perspective on the cultural impact and artistic merit of a genre often dismissed by critics.

  • Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

    This book explores the hidden side of everything, debunking conventional wisdom and revealing surprising connections between seemingly unrelated things. It uses economic theories to explain social phenomena such as the decrease in crime rates in the 1990s, the impact of a person's name on their life outcomes, and the inner workings of drug gangs. By using data and statistics, it challenges the way people think about the world and encourages them to question the accepted truths in society.

  • Nickel And Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich

    The book is a firsthand journalistic account of the author's experiment to survive on minimum wage jobs in America. She gives up her middle-class life to understand the reality of low-wage workers, working as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing home aide, and a retail chain employee. The book reveals the harsh and often overlooked conditions of the working poor, highlighting the struggle to afford even basic necessities, the lack of job security, and the physical toll of such work.

  • Nixonland by Rick Perlstein

    "Nixonland" is a detailed historical account of the political and social climate in America from the mid-1960s to mid-1970s, focusing on the rise and fall of President Richard Nixon. The book explores the divisive issues of the time, including the Vietnam War, civil rights, and the Watergate scandal, and how Nixon's manipulation of public fears and prejudices led to a new era of American conservatism. It also delves into the impact of these events on American politics and society, creating a landscape that still resonates today.

  • Pictures At A Revolution by Mark Harris

    "Pictures at a Revolution" is a detailed exploration of the five films nominated for Best Picture at the 1967 Academy Awards, which marked a turning point in Hollywood. The book examines how these films - two old Hollywood movies, two upstart productions, and a French New Wave import - reflected the cultural and political shifts of the time. Through behind-the-scenes stories, the book provides insight into the changing landscape of the film industry and its impact on American society.

  • Them: A Memoir Of Parents by Francine du Plessix Gray

    "Them: A Memoir of Parents" is a compelling exploration of the author's complex relationship with her glamorous and larger-than-life parents. The author delves into her mother's past as a Russian émigré and fashion icon, and her stepfather's career as a renowned magazine editor. The memoir is a study of the glittering world of mid-20th century New York, the impact of war and displacement, the power dynamics in her parents' marriage, and the author's struggle to carve out her own identity amidst these overwhelming personalities.

  • The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

    This book explores the concept of "tipping points," or the specific moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold and spreads like wildfire. It delves into the science behind epidemics, both in terms of diseases and ideas, and dissects the factors that can cause a sudden shift in public consciousness. The author uses various case studies, from the sudden popularity of certain shoes to the decrease in New York City's crime rate, to illustrate these concepts.

  • The Wisdom Of Crowds by James Surowiecki

    This book explores the concept that large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, no matter how brilliant, and are better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions, even predicting the future. The author delves into a wide range of disciplines, including popular culture, psychology, and behavioral economics to demonstrate how this concept works in the real world. The book also examines how group decisions can go wrong and provides insights on how to prevent these errors.

  • The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

    This book is a thought-provoking exploration of what would happen to the natural and artificial world if humans suddenly disappeared. It delves into how our massive infrastructure would decay and how, over time, the Earth would heal from human impact, erasing all traces of our civilization. The author uses this premise to illustrate the lasting impact of humanity on the planet, providing a unique perspective on issues like climate change, pollution, and deforestation.

  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

    The book follows the lives of two Jewish cousins, one a skilled escape artist and the other a talented artist, before, during, and after World War II. They create a popular comic book superhero, which brings them fame and fortune. However, their success is complicated by personal struggles, including the escape artist's attempts to rescue his family from Nazi-occupied Prague and the artist's struggle with his sexuality. The narrative explores themes of escapism, identity, and the golden age of comic books.

  • Atonement by Ian McEwan

    Atonement is a powerful novel that explores the consequences of a young girl's false accusation. The narrative follows the lives of three characters, the accuser, her older sister, and the sister's lover, who is wrongly accused. This false accusation irrevocably alters their lives, leading to the accused's imprisonment and eventual enlistment in World War II, while the sisters grapple with guilt, estrangement, and their own personal growth. The novel is a profound exploration of guilt, forgiveness, and the destructive power of misinterpretation.

  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

    In an unnamed South American country, a lavish birthday party is thrown for a powerful businessman, with a famous opera singer as the guest of honor. The party is interrupted by a group of terrorists who take everyone hostage, demanding the release of their imprisoned comrades. As weeks turn into months, the hostages and their captors form unexpected bonds. The story explores the relationships that develop under these extraordinary circumstances, and the transformative power of music and love.

  • The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

    The novel is a complex narrative that weaves together the story of two sisters in early 20th century Canada, one of whom publishes a scandalous novel that leads to her suicide. The surviving sister, now an elderly woman, reflects on their lives, revealing family secrets, heartbreak, and the truth behind the scandalous novel. The narrative is interspersed with excerpts from the controversial book, a science fiction story within a story, adding layers of intrigue and mystery.

  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

    This novel tells the story of Oscar de Leon, an overweight Dominican boy growing up in New Jersey who is obsessed with science fiction, fantasy novels, and falling in love, but is perpetually unlucky in his romantic endeavors. The narrative not only explores Oscar's life but also delves into the lives of his family members, each affected by the curse that has plagued their family for generations. The book is a blend of magical realism and historical fiction, providing a detailed account of the brutal Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic and its impact on the country's people and diaspora.

  • Carter Beats The Devil by Glen David Gold

    Set in the early 20th century, this novel follows the life of a renowned magician, Charles Carter, who becomes embroiled in a dangerous game of deception and intrigue after he performs a trick on President Harding, who dies mysteriously hours later. Carter is forced to use his skills to clear his name, while also dealing with other challenges including a beautiful, elusive woman, a blind lion tamer, and a rivalry with Houdini. This historical novel weaves together a tale of magic, love, and suspense.

  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

    The novel revolves around the lives of the Lambert family, an old-fashioned midwestern couple and their three adult children. The parents, Alfred and Enid, are dealing with Alfred's Parkinson's disease and their own marital problems, while their children are each facing their own personal and professional crises. The narrative explores the themes of family dynamics, societal expectations, and the struggles of modern life. The story climaxes with the family's last Christmas together at their childhood home.

  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

    This novel follows a 15-year-old boy with autism as he tries to solve the mystery of who killed his neighbor's dog. Along the way, he uncovers other secrets about his family and must navigate the world using his unique perspective and abilities. The book offers an insightful look into the mind of a character with autism, highlighting his struggles and triumphs in a compelling and empathetic way.

  • Empire Falls by Richard Russo

    "Empire Falls" is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that explores the life of Miles Roby, a man who has spent his entire life in a decaying, blue-collar town in Maine. Miles, a kind-hearted man, runs the Empire Grill, a local diner, and dreams of escaping the town and his manipulative, wealthy boss. The novel delves into the complex relationships and social dynamics of the town, examining themes of love, loss, and the economic decline of small-town America.

  • The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem

    The novel follows the lives of two boys growing up in Brooklyn, New York in the 1970s. Despite their racial differences, one being white and the other black, they form a deep friendship bonded by their shared interest in comic books, music and a magical ring that grants them superpowers. As they grow older, their paths diverge due to their racial and societal differences, with one becoming a successful music journalist and the other succumbing to a life of crime. The book is a profound exploration of race, identity, friendship and the impact of gentrification.

  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

    The novel is a series of reflections written by an elderly dying pastor in 1956 in Gilead, Iowa, as a letter to his young son. The protagonist, John Ames, shares his family history, personal thoughts, and the struggles of his life, including the tension with his namesake and godson who returns to their small town. The book explores themes of faith, regret, and the beauty of existence, providing a profound meditation on life and death.

  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K Rowling

    In the sixth installment of the series, the protagonist returns for his sixth year at a magical school, where he excels in potions class with the help of an old textbook once belonging to the mysterious "Half-Blood Prince". As he delves deeper into his enemy's past through private lessons with the headmaster, he learns more about the Dark wizard's history and his own destiny. Amidst this, the school is no longer the safe haven it once was, and danger lurks within the castle walls. The year ends with a devastating loss, setting the stage for the final showdown.

  • Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

    Set in a parallel 19th-century England, this novel tells the story of two practicing magicians, Mr. Norrell and Jonathan Strange. Norrell, who aims to restore magic to respectability in England, is initially thrilled by Strange's natural aptitude for magic, and the two form a student-teacher relationship. However, their partnership soon deteriorates into rivalry as Strange, driven by the loss of his wife to the fairy realm, seeks to reintroduce the old, wilder forms of magic that Norrell disdains. Their conflict escalates, culminating in a magical duel that has profound consequences for the future of magic in England.

  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

    The book follows the life of Calliope Stephanides, a Greek-American hermaphrodite, who narrates her epic story starting from her grandparents' incestuous relationship in a small village in Asia Minor to her own self-discovery in 20th century America. The novel delves into themes of identity, gender, and the American dream, while also providing a detailed history of Detroit through the eyes of three generations of an immigrant family.

  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

    The novel is a haunting tale of three friends, who grow up together at a seemingly idyllic English boarding school. As they mature, they discover a dark secret about their school and the purpose of their existence, which is to become organ donors for the rest of society. The story is a profound exploration of what it means to be human, the morality of scientific innovation, and the heartbreaking reality of love and loss.

  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy

    In a post-apocalyptic world, a father and his young son journey through a desolate landscape, struggling to survive. They face numerous threats including starvation, extreme weather, and dangerous encounters with other survivors. The father, who is terminally ill, is driven by his love and concern for his son, and is determined to protect him at all costs. The story is a haunting exploration of the depths of human resilience, the power of love, and the instinct to survive against all odds.

  • The Story Of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

    "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" is a coming-of-age tale about a mute boy, Edgar, who communicates with his family and dogs through sign language. He lives on a farm in Wisconsin with his parents, where they breed a fictional type of dog. After his father's mysterious death, Edgar suspects his uncle, who has recently returned to the farm, is responsible. The boy flees into the wilderness with three of his dogs, where he must learn to survive on his own. When he eventually returns home, he faces a dramatic confrontation with his uncle, leading to a tragic, yet transformative end.

  • The Terror by Dan Simmons

    "The Terror" is a historical fiction and horror novel that follows the ill-fated Franklin Expedition. The crew of two British Royal Navy ships are trapped in the Arctic ice, where they face not only the harsh environmental conditions but also a mysterious and brutal monster that stalks them in the endless night. The novel combines historical and survival themes with supernatural horror, creating a chilling and suspenseful atmosphere.

  • The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

    The novel tells the story of a man with a genetic disorder that causes him to time travel unpredictably, and his wife, an artist who has to cope with his frequent absences and dangerous experiences. Their love story endures many separations and dangerous experiences due to his condition. The story's central theme is the effects of time travel on their marriage and their passionate love for each other.

  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith

    This novel follows the lives of two friends, a working-class Englishman and a Bangladeshi Muslim, living in London. The story explores the complex relationships between people of different races, cultures, and generations in modern Britain, with themes of identity, immigration, and the cultural and social changes that have shaped the country. The narrative is enriched by the characters' personal histories and the historical events that have shaped their lives.

  • The Devil In The White City by Erik Larson

    This book intertwines the true tales of two men during the 1893 Chicago World's Fair: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor. The narrative alternates between the story of Burnham, his challenges and successes in building the fair, and the chilling story of Holmes, who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. It's a vivid portrayal of the Gilded Age and a chilling exploration of one of America's first known serial killers.

About this list

The Onion AV Club, 30 Books

The Best Books of the 2000s according to the Onion AV club. Includes Fiction and Nonfiction.

Added about 10 years ago.

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