View Full Version : The Best Books of The ’00s .

11-27-2009, 08:16 PM
Here are The Onion's A/V Club's picks for the 30 most unforgettable books published this decade.

Anyone looking for trends in our selection of the best books of the ’00s might have a hard time finding them amid the wizards, 19th-century serial killers, dysfunctional families and such. Narrowing down our decisions was pretty tough, and the process required a number of back-and-forths about what was significant as well as beautifully executed, which book from a given author represented his or her best of the decade, and so on. So consider these alphabetically listed selections 30 of the many, many memorable books published this decade, and as always, let us know what we missed.


Devil In The White City (2003), Erik Larson
It’s easy to imagine Devil In The White City as a historic true-crime novel, devoted to telling the chilling story of the serial killer H.H. Holmes, with the Chicago World’s Fair simply serving as a backdrop. But what makes the book so remarkable is the level of detail provided by Larson’s research into the setting and the protagonists. Architect Daniel H. Burnham wanted to parlay the fair into a forum that would make Chicago a global city; his quest gets as much page time as the grim details about how Holmes murdered more than 27 young women, and it’s just as compelling. The result is a non-fiction thriller, a tale of creation and destruction filled with bizarre facts and stories that expose the best and worst of human ingenuity.
Fargo Rock City (2001), Chuck Klosterman
The trouble with High Fidelity is that it’s a great book about relationships and a miserably anachronistic one about music: Nick Hornby’s steadfast, monolithic devotion to the super soul hits of the ’70s fails to get anything right about the intersection of ’90s music and love. Enter Chuck Klosterman’s Fargo Rock City, the most trenchant book ever written about that ’80s punchline, “hair metal.” Over the course of his engaging, infinitely quotable discursus, Klosterman unpretentiously maps what music can mean, both within its own imposed narrative, and once it reaches the outside world. He veers all over the place: one moment he’s giving readers a detailed analysis of Guns ’N Roses’ Use Your Illusion video trilogy, and the next, he’s talking about why metal turned him into an alcoholic, and why it’s weird that Pavement never talked about the beer they were drinking.
Freakonomics (2005), Steven D. Levitt and Steven J. Dubner
There’s often profit and acclaim in writing books that make abstruse fields of study accessible to the layman: Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History Of Time, for instance. But there’s even more glory in writing books that make those fields fun. The bestseller Freakonomics, co-authored by journalist Steven J. Dubner and “rogue economist” Steven D. Levitt, is an excellent example. By defining economics as “the study of incentives” rather than anything specifically tied to money or commercial interests, Levitt freed himself up for economics-style analysis of everything from dropping crime rates to the outcomes of sumo-wrestling matches. e.
Nickel And Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America (2001), Barbara Ehrenreich
Barbara Ehrenreich’s exploratory journey through the struggling underbelly of American society, undertaken when she realized how many women were being forced into minimum-wage jobs, and decided to try some herself, is emotionally draining but intellectually illuminating. Now, after the great financial collapse of 2008, the work reads more and more like prophecy, as untold millions struggle to scrape up enough change to just make rent, to say nothing of trying to buy food, or care for their kids.
Nixonland (2008), Rick Perlstein
The long 5 o’clock shadow over American politics gets his due in Perlstein’s exhaustively detailed tome on how the 37th president shaped his country. Richard Nixon’s long-building resentment toward the privileged, plus his conviction that disadvantaged men like himself deserved to be in charge, allowed him to exploit a widening gap between the counterculture and the counter-counterculture, invoking the cues that built a majority to carry him to the White House.
Pictures At A Revolution: Five Movies And The Birth Of The New Hollywood (2008), Mark Harris
This account of the making of the five movies nominated for the Best Picture Oscar of 1967—Bonnie And Clyde, Doctor Dolittle, The Graduate, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?, and the winner, In The Heat Of The Night—is one of the great Hollywood books: deeply reported, sharply nuanced, and hugely entertaining even when diving into production minutiae. Harris doesn’t caricature subjects even when the temptation must have been overwhelming, such as drunken, racist Dolittle star Rex Harrison, soft-liberal Dinner producer-director Stanley Kramer, and haughty New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther, whose one-man crusade against Bonnie And Clyde cost him his job.
Them: A Memoir Of Parents (2005), Francine Du Plessix Gray
In a decade marked by the memoirs of angry children determined to mine some authorial gold from their unhappy early lives, Du Plessix Gray’s chronicle of growing up as an immigrant in mid-century New York relates history rather than agony, building subtly toward judgment while still acknowledging a debt of gratitude. Francine’s mother and stepfather, Russian émigrés who fell in love in Paris while they were both married to other people, were artistic geniuses and unrepentant social climbers, too exhausted or indifferent to be proper parents.
The Tipping Point (2000), Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller looked to epidemiology to explain how ideas and phenomena blew up, and ended up becoming its own proof for the theory. Who doesn’t know what a tipping point is now? Who could have said that a decade ago, before Gladwell started playing with the idea, then saw others popularize and spread it?
The Wisdom Of Crowds (2004), James Surowiecki
Crowd sourcing would have remained an empty dot-com buzzword if James Surowiecki, the perceptive New Yorker business writer, hadn’t put real-life example and surprising science behind it. His persuasive book shows how properly constituted groups outperform individual experts, even on tasks where no member of the group seems to contain the relevant expertise.


11-28-2009, 02:02 AM
That article lost all credibility when it included a Harry Potter book.