I read a lot of books this decade. I love putting together lists at the end of arbitrary periods of time. Seems like a perfect excuse to share some of my favorite books I read over the past ten years. Please note that the focus is on the date read rather than the date published. There are a few in here that were published before 2000. So, in no particular order, a few of my favorites.
40 Watts From Nowhere – Sue Carpenter. Geeking out with my pirate radio fantasies.
A Prayer For the Dying – Stewart O’Nan. I discovered O’Nan through his work with Stephen King, Faithful, covering the 2004 Red Sox. Thank goodness, as he’s become one of my favorite authors. Of the several O’Nan books I read, this was my favorite, a harrowing tale of death and rumors of death in post-Civil War Minnesota. Includes the second most uncomfortable scene I read this decade.
Fever Pitch – Nick Hornby. I’ve read this, what, 3-4 times? Even though it’s about growing up in England as a soccer fan, any sports fan can relate to the experiences Hornby shares. Also it turned me into an Arsenal fan, for better or worse. Like about a billion other people.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Michael Chabon. I struggled to get through the first 100 pages or so, not understanding what the hell he was writing about (Obscure Eastern European Jewish culture). Then it got interesting and I couldn’t put it down. I remember being disappointed when a flight from the west coast to Kansas City landed and I had to put it down. The one time I was hoping for a weather delay. Perhaps my favorite of the decade.
Fantasyland – Sam Walker. A journalist jumps into the world of big-time fantasy baseball. He loses his mind a little. Good, clean fun.
Winter’s Bone – Daniel Woodrell. Right up there with O’Nan as favorite discovered author of the decade, I’ve poured through several of his books. This was the finest, a haunting story of crime and survival in the Ozarks. Woodrell was the author of the single most disturbing scene of the decade, which came in his book The Death of Sweet Mister.
Now I Can Die In Peace – Bill Simmons. Simmons defined sports writing for the decade. This was his collected work about the Red Sox, through their 2004 World Series championship. Thanks to my love of Simmons’ writing and my hatred of the Yankees, I hopped on the Red Sox bandwagon big-time for most of the decade. I won’t pretend my joy or pain compared to those of real Red Sox fans, but there were some nights when my heart rate was seriously tied to their fortunes. In fact, let’s go Simmons-style and rank the five most disappointing sports losses of the decade for me.
1 – Syracuse 81, Kansas 78, 2003 NCAA championship game. It’s always a good idea to keep your best perimeter defender off the guy who is lighting you up until you’re down 20. Oh, and all those missed free throws.
2 – UCLA 68, Kansas 55, Regional Final 2007. 19 missed shots within five feet of the basket.
3 – Texas 27, Kansas 23 football, November 2004. Charles Gordon, Vince Young, and dollar signs.
4 – Game seven, 2003 ALCS. Grady Little and Aaron Bleeping Boone keep the Red Sox out of the World Series. It took me hours to sleep after this one.
5 – Texas Tech 80, Kansas 79, 2OT, February 2005. Down two, Texas Tech tries to foul Aaron Miles with four seconds left in the second overtime to stop the clock. They shove, beat, scratch, and claw at Miles. Miles takes a finger in the eye and covers up. Whistle blows. Traveling?!?!? Naturally a 6’9” center swishes a three on the next possession to win the game for Tech. Things were thrown in my basement that night.
Wanna guess what my favorite games of the decade were?
We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With our Families – Philip Gourevitch. Genocide was kind of my obsession this decade. This account of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda was one of the key books in my self-education on the issue.
The Fortress of Solitude – Jonathan Lethem. Up there with Kavalier and Clay as the finest book of the decade. Lethem hit every angle of both growing up as an outsider and of childhood friendships perfectly.
Three Bags Full – Leonie Swann. In the spirit of Watership Down, Swann focused on sheep in Ireland, who diligently investigated the murder of their shepherd.
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – Dave Eggers. One of the best authors going. This mostly autobiographical tale is almost too much to take. Truly heartbreaking, but also quite funny.
Into The Wild – Jon Krakauer. One of the finest non-fiction authors of our time, Krakauer reconstructs the final months of Christoper McCandless, a child of privilege who left it all behind and ventured to the wilderness of Alaska. A disturbing and thought-provoking work.
The Dark Tower – Stephen King. After nearly 30 years of work, King finally finished The Dark Tower series, cranking out the final three episodes over the middle of the decade. In many ways this is a lifetime achievement award. The Dark Tower doesn’t rank with his best works as a single novel, but putting the seven volumes together does earn it a spot on the list. Also one of the more maddening, yet completely appropriate endings ever.
Cryptonomicon – Neal Stephenson. Some of Stephenson’s work is too densely geeky for me, but this struck the perfect tone and balance.
Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace. Perhaps I did not enjoy it as much as others, but it did make a lasting impact on me.