The best books of the decade

The best books of the decade

Part two of Asia Literary Review Editor Chris Wood's interview highlights the best books of the decade

This is part two of the Asia Literary Review's Chris Wood interview series where he shares his picks for the best books of the decade. In part one, Wood picked the best books of 2009.

The decade's best books according to Chris Wood

Ian McEwan's Atonement (2001)

Chris Wood says: Outstanding. Perhaps the perfect novel.

Amazon Reader Review: "This is an engaging story and so finely written that the reading is both effortless and seductive. After I had finished (that is, after drying my eyes and regaining my breath,) I was amazed to realize how complex a plot it is considering how smoothly it is told. By far, it is the best book I have read in years."

JM Coetzee’s Disgrace (1999)

Chris Wood says: A mesmerizing exploration of post-apartheid South Africa.

Amazon Reader Review: "The novel is highly pessimistic, almost nihilistic, but, at the same time, it is one of those few contemporary novels that are necessary to make people think about what changes must be done inside as well as outside. If anybody is looking for a literary introduction to the new South Africa, this is, definitively, the novel to read."

Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang (2000)

Chris Wood says: Harsh and brutal historical fiction set in the Australian outback.

Amazon Reader Review: "If one were to combine the narrative vernacular genius of Twain and combine it with the offbeat storytelling qualities of Cormac McCarthy, one might well come up with a synthesis approximating Peter Carey. In this prize winning installment from one of Australia's premier writers, Carey presents a tale that is every bit as authentic and poignant as director Arthur Penn's American cinema classic, "Bonnie and Clyde." "

Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking (2004)

Chris Wood says: A moving memoir recounting a year in the shadow of the loss of a loved one. Everyone should read this book.

Amazon Reader Review: "This book will remain on my bookshelf and I expect I'll be thumbing through it for solace time and again. Reading it was both painful and cathartic and strangely comforting, with an intensity that left me awestruck. I am still amazed that she was able to produce such a beautifully written book in the throes of so much pain."

Ha Jin’s War Trash (2004)

Chris Wood says: Without doubt a classic war novel. A Chinese prisoner of war struggles to survive and return home.

Amazon Reader Review: "If this book is not widely received I can only blame it on its intelligence, detailed historical research (and accuracy), and its grasp of what humanity really means under different circumstances. I guess not enough sex and car crashes."

Philip Roth’s Everyman (2006)

Chris Wood says: Set in New Jersey, a man reflects on his past and ponders his impending death.

Amazon Reader Review: "This is writing of the highest order, brief, touching, illuminating, caring. To read Roth is to look in the mirror, reminding us that while living we can make changes and alter destiny - to a point: and that does help. Highly recommended."

Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies (1999)

Chris Wood says: A debut collection of short stories as good as any I’ve come across. Picked up the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Amazon Reader Review: "It's hard to believe that "Interpreter of Maladies" is a first book, it is so beautifully and subtly written. Lahiri reveals the deepest feelings, emotions and motivations of her characters seemingly effortlessly; with a few simple startling details she suddenly reveals all."

Martin Amis’ Experience (2000)

Chris Wood says: An extremely clever, funny and moving memoir.

Amazon Reader Review:"This is simply haunting, concise and perfectly evocative prose. With Amis, we've come to expect nothing less."

Junot Diaz’s The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007)

Chris Wood says: An epic story of an overweight Dominican boy growing up in New Jersey, and another Pulitzer Prize winner.

Amazon Reader Review: "This guy's writing is superb. It's the sort of writing that leaves you staring - jaw dropped, eyes widened - at a page. Each paragraph (maybe each SENTENCE) is a work of art, blending sheer humanity with beauty and pain and humor. This is truly a book that you can't stop reading...and it never lets you down."

Richard Ford’s The Lay of the Land (2006)

Chris Wood says: The third in the trilogy that began with The Sportswriter in 1986.

Amazon Reader Review: "If you enjoyed The Sportswriter and Independence Day, you should read The Lay of the Land. Even if you didn't like the first two books, though, you may want to give the third one a chance. Like me, you may end up hoping that Ford doesn't tire of Frank Bascombe and continues his story further."

Jenara, a Harvard graduate, splits her time between Kathmandu and Miami Beach as a writer, producer, entrepreneur, and on-camera personality.
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