The Guardian’s 100 Best Books of the 21st Century | reaction

Last week the Guardian posted a list of the Top 100 Books of the 21st Century, which, as lists like this are wont to do, has sparked quite a bit of debate on Twitter and booktube and in the comments section of the article.  I find stuff like this fun and terribly interesting, so I’ve been enjoying all of the heated discussions so far.

Kamil @ WhatKamilReads on booktube made a video about this list, breaking it into four categories: books he was happy to see on the list, surprises that he wasn’t happy to see, going through the top 10 one at time, and then listing what he thinks was missing from the list.  I loved watched this and it inspired me to use Kamil’s format to make my own reaction post, so, here we go.  (Also, Eric Karl Anderson has a great discussion video about the list here!)

I do just want to say right off the bat that I take all of these ‘best books’ lists with a massive grain of salt; quantifying ‘the best’ literature just isn’t possible and I think that in general people can get a little too worked up about something that’s ultimately so inconsequential.  So I am writing this post in the spirit of having fun: I’m not doing this in order to discern what Objectively Belongs on a list like this and what Objectively Does Not… these are just my very subjective opinions about these 100 books, of which I have read 16.

Happy to see on the list:

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara: I know you’re all sick of me talking about this book, so I’ll keep it short: I understand why this inspires so much ire in some readers, but it remains one of the most sensational books I have ever read.  Thrilled about its inclusion on here, even if I think it should be higher than 96.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin: One of the big surprises and delights for me was the inclusion of genre fiction on this list; so many lists like this all too readily dismiss the literary merit and cultural impact of genre fiction, so seeing a groundbreaking author like N.K. Jemisin get the credit she deserves on this list was excellent.  Even if I do still need to finish this series.

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones: Another huge surprise, not least of all because Tokarczuk’s novel Flights is the one that’s made a much bigger splash in the English-speaking world with its 2018 Man Booker International win.  I haven’t read Flights, but I thought Drive Your Plow was terrific.

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker: Another huge surprise to see this one over the oft-compared (and in my opinion inferior) Circe by Madeline Miller.  ‘Feminist mythology’ has become quite the publishing trend in the last few years, and The Silence of the Girls remains the best novel I have read from this subcategory.

Women & Power by Mary Beard: The inclusion of nonfiction on this list is interesting as well.  Women & Power is essentially one of those ‘feminism 101’ books, but I can’t help but to favor this one over other comparable titles I’ve read like We Should All Be Feminists, because Beard’s approach to writing these essays through the lens of a classicist added a spin that made this collection really speak to my own tastes as a reader.

Human Chain by Seamus Heaney: This was fortuitous as I only read this poetry collection a few months ago, but it instantly became an all-time favorite of the genre.  You can read one of the poems that most struck me from this collection here.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel: Another huge surprise and a huge delight; I read this after falling in love with its musical adaptation, and Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir did not even begin to disappoint.  This book is a great gateway into graphic novels (or memoirs), as Bechdel’s prose itself is the star of this book, I think.

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson: One of the best memoirs I’ve read in recent years, The Argonauts is frank and raw and candid and all of those overused adjectives.  But even if the adjectives are done to death, this book is so singular.

Normal People by Sally Rooney: It’s inferior to her debut Conversations With Friends, in my opinion, but the cultural stamp that Sally Rooney has left on contemporary literary fiction cannot be ignored, and I am thrilled to see her recognized on here.

Surprises I’m not happy to see on the list:

Compared to the list of books I’m happy about, this list is much shorter!

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry: What’s the opposite of a problematic fave – something that you think is so objectively good that you feel problematic for not loving it?  That’s how I feel about this book.  On the one hand I’m not unhappy to see this queer epic on the list… and on the other hand I hated the experience of reading this book too much to fully get on board here.

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin: I’ve only read a few books by Toibin and I think he is an excellent writer, but I remain unimpressed by Brooklyn, his rather by-the-book Irish immigration saga.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon: I’ve read this twice: once in high school (loved it) and once many years later for a book club (hated it).  I understand why this is a bestseller but I don’t think it goes deep enough into anything to really achieve what it’s trying to do.

There are other books like Gone Girl on the list that made me go ‘… really, that one?’  But I haven’t read Gone Girl so I don’t feel like I’m in a place to pass judgement.  Similarly, with something like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, my gut reaction was ‘… really?’ but of course, it’s hard to argue that book’s cultural impact (and ditto Gone Girl, to be honest), so maybe my inner literary snob should quiet down.  Especially as The Guardian was curiously vague about their criteria for this list: are we being literal about the word ‘best,’ or are we interpreting ‘best’ as ‘most influential’?

The top 10:

Spoiler alert: I have read one (1).

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: I haven’t been a fan of Ngozi Adichie’s nonfiction, but I have been wanting to give her fiction a shot.  All I have to say about this one is that I’m shocked that it’s this title and not Americanah.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell: I’ve read one Mitchell – Black Swan Green – which I loved, but which I fully understand is the least David Mitchell-y of his books, so I probably shouldn’t use it as an indicator of what his fiction is normally like.  I would like to read more from him, though, and I’m not surprised to see this here.

Autumn by Ali Smith: A surprise, and a welcome one!  I adore Ali Smith, but I have not yet read anything from her seasonal quartet.  I’m sure I will love it though.  I would have put How to be Both on this list, but I obviously can’t speak to how it compares to Autumn; I’m sure Autumn does more to capture the zeitgeist, which does seem to be one of the rubrics in lists like this.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: Speaking of the zeitgeist; I have not yet read this (I know, it is a shame) but I am very happy to see a book that discusses blackness in the U.S. make the top 10.

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman: I tried to read this series as a child and never made it very far.  Not my thing.  But I’m sure it fully earned its place here.

Austerlitz by WG Sebald, translated by Anthea Bell: This is the title and author off the top 10 that I know the least about, so I’m afraid I don’t have much to say here.  Should I read this?

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro: My favorite book of all time.  So.  I approve.

Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich, translated by Bela Shayvich: I am dying to read literally anything by Svetlana Alexievitch, but my local bookstore never has her.  (I should probably start looking elsewhere.)  But I’m happy to see her on here; as a Nobel Prize winner you can’t really argue her significance.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson: I’ll be honest – none of Marilynne Robinson’s books appeal to me at a glance.  But I’ve heard so many brilliant things that I should probably bite the bullet one of these days.  I’m sure it’s a very real possibility that I will end up loving her.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel: And another one that I feel a bit guilty for not having read!  I’m not at all surprised to see this here but a little surprised to see it take the coveted spot, especially over Never Let Me Go, but everyone who loves this book simply raves about Mantel’s skill.  I’m intrigued.

What’s missing:

Translated literature: this is one of the elephants in the room that I keep seeing discussed – obviously when you call your list the ‘best books of the 21st century,’ claiming that 86 of them are from English-speaking countries is… pretty bold.  But of course, I’m not sure we could really expect much else from a UK publication.  That said, there are some huge omissions of the translated lit variety: The Vegetarian and Human Acts by Han Kang, Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (even if I did not personally like this one).

Booker winners: given that the Booker’s tagline is ‘finest fiction,’ you’d think it would have zeroed in on a few more of the ‘best’ books of the 21st century, yes?  Some shocking omissions for me were Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, Milkman by Anna Burns, A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James, Life of Pi by Yan Martel, and The Sea by John Banville (though I have not read the latter three).

Other: just a few more that I might have included.

I’m not going to go through these one by one.  But they’re good books.

So, that’s that.  What did you guys think of the Guardian list?  How many have you read off it?  Do you enjoy lists like this?  What notably omissions would your own list have included?  Let’s chat!


46 thoughts on “The Guardian’s 100 Best Books of the 21st Century | reaction

  1. This is an excellent post, and I enjoyed seeing your reactions! Having read both Gone Girl and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and being (slightly) less of a snob, I can definitively say they do not belong on this list.

    I surprisingly HAVE read Austerlitz (once for a college English course, and again because I loved it so much the first time around) and think you should read it! I think I liked it less the second time, but it’s stuck with me for years and I got a lot out of it. I actually might give it a third read now that I’m more into literary fiction, since I think I’ll be able to read it from a completely different perspective.

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    • I was just talking about this in a comment on Emily’s post, but TGWTDT is one of those books that I never really know what to do with – I devoured that series when I was 18, but being… no longer 18 and much more #woke there are certain elements that make me really uncomfortable in retrospect… but I still feel a fondness toward it and can’t deny its cultural impact? (I feel similarly about Murakami lmao)

      Ooh interesting, thank you! Anything impactful enough to warrant a second and maybe third reading has to be worth a shot, I think.

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  2. Like you, I am also happy to see “A Little Life”, “Drive Your Plow” and “Never Let Me Go” on this list. I am also happy to see “Persepolis”. I would have put Donna Tartt’s “The Little Friend” there. I think that book is a masterpiece that was largely unjustly ignored. I also noticed a very slight bias in this list towards British authors and maybe towards “socially important” books which are not necessarily written all that well. I think the main job here was to include a variety of genres, hence there are criminal thrillers.

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    • I have been meaning to read Persepolis for ages!

      The Little Friend intrigues me – most people seem so lukewarm about it, and then there are randomly a few people who feel so passionately about its brilliance. I really must read that soon.

      And yes, I definitely agree that with lists like this, social importance is going to come into play – both in terms of cultural impact (e.g. Gone Girl) and books that tackle Big Social Issues, regardless of how effectively they do that.


      • I honestly do not know how anyone can feel lukewarm towards The Little Friend. I think most people missed the point with it. They compared it to Tartt’s The Secret History and said “it is not as good as that book”, but if Donna Tartt wrote only The Little Friend it would have been a brilliant book in their opinion worthy of all the awards. And now when The Goldfinch came out, The Little Friend is sidelined even further. Nor do I think Gone Girl was that revolutionary. For example, many screenplays and some books of the 1990s have done something similar, such as the unreliable narrator in Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho (1991). If one reads enough crime thrillers of the 1980s and 1990s, Gone Girl would feel like old news.

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      • Just scrolling through my Goodreads friends’ ratings it’s mostly 2 and 3 stars which I would describe as lukewarm, but maybe that word doesn’t capture the individual feelings of those readers – it’s hard to say. I don’t like to read too many reviews before I read a book. But I agree that there’s an unfortunate phenomenon where readers compare and contrast an author’s own books to an unfair degree, where they just want the author to write the same book over and over again.

        It’s hard to say why books like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train become as popular as they do – because they’re certainly not groundbreaking; I guess they just get the tone right where they’re considered ‘serious thrillers’ (as opposed to someone like Liane Moriarty who gets written off as writing like… chicklit thrillers? is there a word for that?) while still being compulsively readable.

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      • Yes, I am now reading some two star reviews of The Little Friend and people complain there that they do not find in The Little Friend “the brilliance” of The Secret History and also find the plot not really progressing. Obviously, I think it is wrong to compare books like that and I enjoyed the atmosphere in The Little Friend. I will be very interested to know your opinion of The Little Friend. It is just one book that stayed with me and will forever stay with me and I think it was pure excellence, especially in terms of portraying child psychology.

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      • That’s frustrating. I mean, The Secret History is one of my favorite books of all time and I doubt I’ll love either of Tartt’s other novels quite that much just because I adore TSH for personal reasons, but I have never held the criticism ‘x book isn’t enough like y book’ against an author. I’ll definitely be reading The Little Friend at some point (and I own a copy) – I’ll let you know what I think when I do!

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  3. I’ve read 18 (or 19, I honestly can’t remember which Michael Pollen book I’ve read, it might have been this one??) and yes, pretty good list! Agree, would love to see either of my fave Gen X future classics (The Idiot, My Year of Rest and Relaxation) on this list 🙂 Wolf Hall deserves to be #1, trust me.

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    • MYORAR is one of the most shocking omissions imo – The Idiot is my personal fave between those two, but MYORAR seems to have been more commercially successful, and it’s just objectively brilliant.

      Literally never even heard of Michael Pollen!

      Hmmm ok, until I read it I will adopt ‘Laura says it’s good’ as my official stance on Wolf Hall.


  4. TBH, as we’re not even a fifth of the way through the century I think it’s vaguely daft to be doing a list like this already – particularly a list that is really not diverse. But since I read a very particular kind of modern book I’m probably not the best person to comment! 😀

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    • Oh definitely – especially since it’s not qualified by ‘so far’ anywhere in the article 😂But inane as it may be, I still think it’s fun! Even if it’s overly UK-centric… The more fun part is seeing the books everyone starts listing as the ones that should have made the list, anyway.

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  5. Great post! I agree that lists like this will always be subjective – I see them as a bit of fun and also as a source of inspiration. Like you I highly approve of Never Let Me Go! I also enjoyed Pullman’s series, but can see the genre/style is not for everyone. Quite pleased to see authors like Richard Dawkins and Carlo Rovelli making the list; I wouldn’t have chosen these particular books though. Finally, I don’t mind at all including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It wasn’t particularly well-written and certainly not high-brow, but I thought it was a great story and I enjoyed it much more than some of the prize-winning literary fiction, I have been reading.

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    • Thank you! And yes! Actually fun + inspiration is a good way to describe how I feel about literary prize longlists as well; all of this is so inherently subjective that you’ve gotta just take it all with a grain of salt and use it to hopefully discover some new great books.

      I have conflicting feelings about TGWTDT – I think it’s a fun, compelling series with one of the most unforgettable protagonists I’ve ever read, but I’m also not sure its depiction of sexual assault was… the greatest? It’s so hard to talk about because I read these books a decade ago and loved them at the time, but now when I look back certain details strike me as being a bit off. But without rereading the books it’s hard to say where I stand for sure. But as for the merit of thrillers vs. literary fiction – no argument there! Sometimes having a good time reading a relatively mindless thriller can be a more meaningful experience than reading a ‘great novel’ that you aren’t engaging with.

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      • Ok, you do have a point about TGWTDT. I read it many years ago as well and can’t rule out that I would have been more critical of some of the content, if I read it today. But at least I have very fond memories of it, and Lisbeth Salander was a favourite heroine of mine.

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      • I feel the exact same! Nagging doubts about the way certain things were handled, but still feeling a very strong fondness for Lisbeth that I’m sure will outlive my criticisms.

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  6. These are great thoughts! I haven’t read all the additions you would make but the ones I have are excellent and definitely worthy additions. I was surprised to see a title like Gone Girl (which I have read) but my inkling is that it’s included because it was such a huge seller and because it has changed the way a lot of thrillers since then are written and marketed. Same for the Curious Incident of the Dog. I don’t think either of those are great literature but I think they had an impact on voice and on books that followed. I’ve read 4 of the top 10 and they are all excellent. I’ve read another book by Alexeivich and based on that one I think she belongs in the top 10 too. (I’m actually not surprised Half of a Yellow Sun made it in over Americanah; I think it is better.) And agreed as to translations. They probably should have either limited it to books written in English or widely diversified this list.

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    • I definitely agree re Gone Girl and Curious Incident – this list makes so much more sense if you look at it as ‘most influential books of the 21st century’ – that has to have been what they were going for, right?

      Which book by Alexievich have you read? Honestly they all appeal to me, I don’t even know where to start with her!

      That’s so interesting that you think HOAYS is better than Americanah – I don’t hear that opinion a lot. I’ll probably read HOAYS first since I’m (slowly) working my way through past Women’s Prize winners, but I’m looking forward to that, and to reading Americanah eventually.

      I completely agree with you on translations, that they should have either deleted those 14 books and called the list ‘best English-language’ or put in more of an effort. Definitely what I expected from a UK publication though.

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      • I read The Unwomanly Face of War last year when it came out in a new English translation. Very interesting. Her book on Chernobyl seems fascinating too; I was eyeing it in the bookstore just on Friday.

        Americanah is so good because it encapsulates something so big and important about immigration and culture and I think that maybe makes it feel more relevant for a lot of readers. But HOAYS is just such a powerful and beautiful and heartbreaking book. Honestly, it’s hard to choose but my gut says HOAYS. You should read both!

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      • I’m dying to read Voices from Chernobyl! But The Unwomanly Face of War sounds brilliant as well.

        And that’s interesting to hear – I’m looking forward to reading both!

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  7. I’ve read 13 from the list so far, and quite a few are on my TBR! Like you, I take these things with a hefty pinch of salt, but in comparison to some others I’ve seen, this one is decidedly more interesting and original.

    Loved seeing your translated picks; there are indeed wayyyy too many English language books for the list to be considered in any way reflective of 21st century lit as a whole. Still, for what it is it’s a pretty fun selection!

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  8. As we discussed on Twitter, I think this is more ‘good books that made an impact in publishing/the wider world’ rather than ‘100 best books’, and I quite like it as that kind of list. For me, it helps to explain why Gone Girl is there – it kicked off that tsunami of psychological thrillers and it is a pretty good thriller in its own right – and popularising the term ‘Cool Girl’ is also a good cultural contribution! Similarly, I agree that Americanah is so much better than Half of a Yellow Sun, but unfortunately I think the perception is that the latter was Adichie’s game-changing novel.

    However, for that reason, I 100% agree that Station Eleven should be there – a wonderful book, and hugely influential in promoting speculative and dystopia fiction to mainstream adult readers.

    I love your discussion with Diana about The Little Friend – I can’t reply directly to that thread but I’m one of the people who passionately loves that novel, and would say it’s my favourite by Tartt. I actually read it before The Secret History which might have helped! Basically, they’re VERY different books, and as I like things that get a bit sprawling and messy, The Secret History has always felt a bit too neat to me, though I am a fan.

    Finally! I can see that Gilead doesn’t have the most enticing synopsis but it’s one of my favourite novels, so I would recommend.

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    • I definitely agree – halfway through writing this post I actually found myself misremembering it as ‘100 most influential books of the 21st century’ and I had to double check what the title actually was – that’s the impression it’s left on me. That has to have been what the writer(s) had in mind, right?!

      I’ll probably read Half of a Yellow Sun before Americanah because I’m slowly making my way through past Women’s Prize winners, but I’ve heard so many better things about the latter! So that did surprise me, but since this list came out I’ve seen a lot of arguments that HOAYS was better so who knows. I trust your taste, though.

      And for that reason, I am appreciative of your endorsement of The Little Friend and Gilead! I was always going to read TLF sooner rather than later (and sprawling and messy sounds like something I’ll love), but Robinson was somewhere down low on my priorities list. Is Gilead a good place to start with her, do you think?

      Station Eleven was such a groundbreaking book in so many ways – it really did kickstart the resurgence of dystopia in adult lit. So with books like this, that’s where reading this list from a ‘most influential’ lens does become a bit frustrating.

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      • Half of a Yellow Sun never really came alive for me – it’s a brilliant historical exploration of the Nigeria-Biafra civil war, but IMO it doesn’t work as a novel.

        Gilead definitely the right place to start! (I wasn’t a big fan of its two sequels but I liked Robinson’s unconnected first novel, Housekeeping.)

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  9. I LOVE this post and how you framed it. Also: “quantifying ‘the best’ literature just isn’t possible and I think that in general people can get a little too worked up about something that’s ultimately so inconsequential.” YES!! I always read these lists too and have the ones I’m disappointed in or happy about but people get intense about it and there’s just no way to quantify any of this anyway. Also a bit odd that like you said, they didn’t include whether it was actually a measure of quality or cultural impact. Because The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo…yikes.

    And I also haven’t read Gone Girl but I still feel able to pass judgement, lol. If you read some of the excerpts of dialogue, like between the gone girl and her husband (I can’t be bothered to find their names) it is laughably RIDICULOUS. Mary Gaitskill wrote the ultimate scathing review:

    About Austerlitz, I don’t get the praise for that book. I limped through it, and I *think* I finished it but I’m sure there was skimming. It had some beautiful lines but as a whole I didn’t think it was impressive. You must read some Alexievich! Maybe your library has her or you can get something through the Libby app?

    The title I was most excited about and surprised to see was Patricia Lockwood’s Priestdaddy. That book was so funny yet gorgeously written and meaningful. I dreaded finishing it. And I think it kinda flew under the radar, I didn’t see it getting a ton of accolades but it was an instant favorite for me. But again, curious how they came up with this list, because it couldn’t have been considered to have a major cultural impact!! Weird. Nothing to Envy is also the best book about North Korea I’ve read, and just an incredible book of narrative reportage in general. I was also glad to see Underland on this list, it was amazing and captures a lot about nature and the human relationship to it in the 21st century and where things are going from here. And I think Atonement and White Teeth are deserving, if really common picks for any kind of list of important modern lit.

    Sorry to write you a novel as a comment. Loved this post!!

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    • Novel comments are the best!! So glad you enjoyed this and also have fun with lists like this! Because yes, the seriousness with which some people discuss these lists gets into embarrassing territory. I know how frustrating it is to come across a ‘best books’ list that feels like it’s personally attacking you for including books you hated and excluding books you loved, but all of this is SO subjective that it’s just… not worth getting worked up about. But worth discussing in a novel-length post because it’s still fun!

      But yes, my one huge qualm with this list is that I feel like it can’t tell whether it wants to be ‘best books’ or ‘most influential books’ – because if it’s the latter then fair play to including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but there are way too many ‘obscure’ books on here for that to be what they’re going for. But if it’s ‘best books’ then… The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, really?!

      That scathing review of Gone Girl was INCREDIBLE, thank you for sharing. Ok, fair play, I feel like I can judge now too. I mean, I already knew the twists and stuff from that book and knew that I was not interested in picking it up, but… wow.

      Ohh interesting re Austerlitz, I got another comment recommending it! Good to hear different perspectives on it… I think I might give it a shot eventually. And YES I must read Alexievich. I think my library should probably have her on Overdrive, I’ll check it out!

      Priestdaddy was on my radar but it never appealed to me – probably just because of the title, lol – but that’s interesting to hear that it’s such a favorite for you! I’m definitely more interested now! Nothing to Envy has been on my TBR for ages, I’m really looking forward to that one. Totally agreed that Atonement is deserving – I didn’t put that in either my excited or my disappointed categories, because I thought it was like… fine, but I completely understand its inclusion here.

      Oh and that’s so interesting to hear your praise for Underland – I know we’ve talked before about our dislike of ‘nature books’ and I kind of wrote it off because that’s the impression I got from it. Do you think I’d like it…?

      I think my comment managed to be even longer, lol!

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      • I never understood the hype around Dragon Tattoo. It was one of those that even non-readery types loved. For why?? I just didn’t get the appeal. I think there are some other reviews that excerpt some of the batshit dialogue from Gone Girl, it’s so pretentious.

        Priestdaddy is kind of weird because the premise sounds so odd or even unappealing but I thought it was really something special. The author is a poet and sometimes their prose can be so pretentious (sorry, not to generalize but it just can be) and I thought hers was lovely. She switches from irreverent humor to introspection and rich observations and examinations of memory so quickly, it felt really true to life. And it is just so so funny.

        Underland is nature writing at its absolute best, in my opinion. It’s not at all like the ones we’ve complained about, that are just singing the praises of trees and such. And he incorporates so many other topics – history, anthropology, climate change, cultural factors, travel, his own musings – and it all comes together brilliantly. I adored it and I think you would like it. It’s very “smart” nature writing, not the kind that just muses until a sentence wanders into nothingness or else becomes too specific for non-naturey times to care about.

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      • Dragon Tattoo is tricky for me – I actually LOVED those books and the Swedish film adaptations in college, but like, I don’t even know why! Other than that I wasn’t reading a whole lot at the time so they were addicting escapism, and Lisbeth was such a memorable protagonist. But looking back on those books a decade later I’m like…. this dude seriously named his protagonist after a girl that he watched being gang raped, and then he wrote multiple scenes of her being sexually assaulted with that much gratuitousness?! And we were all just okay with that???

        Oh I totally know what you mean about pretentious poets – especially with this discourse going on right now on Twitter: Like….. come the fuck on.

        But good to know about Priestdaddy! I’m definitely more open to giving it a shot now!

        And that’s so great to hear re Underland! That book always jumps out at me – I love the cover and have heard so many rave reviews – but I remained convinced that I’d hate it just because of the topic. But, I mean, I don’t hate nature and I’m not at all opposed to a book like this in theory, it’s just that trial and error has made me wary. But I’ll definitely check it out!

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      • I can see the Dragon Tattoo books/films being escapism of a kind, especially if it’s just something that entertains you. But yeah, so many troublesome things going on there.

        Re that Twitter thread: oh my GOD. Please no.

        Isn’t the Underland cover gorgeous? I was also not that into the synopsis when I first heard of it and kind of disappointed because I love the cover, lol. It’s the same for me as you know, so often nature writing just becomes something that doesn’t interest me at all when it feels like it should. But I really think he gets everything right in that book!

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      • It makes me wonder whether Dragon Tattoo would have become a phenomenon if it were published today – I feel like even in the last 20 years we’ve made so many strides in feminism and the way assault is portrayed in media… but then given our convo about GoT in the other thread, maybe not!!!

        But yay, that’s so encouraging re: Underland! Happy to have an excuse to check it out now.

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  10. What an excellent post! I’ve only read 10 from the list so far, but mostly liked them. I’ve had some of the others on my TBR, but this is the post that’s making me more excited to pick them up!
    I actually really liked Gone Girl when I read it, but admittedly it was one of the first thrillers (and one of the first books with an unreliable narrator) that I ever read, so it’s important to me for that introduction moreso than for the story; I was also surprised to see it on this list. Otherwise, it does look like an interesting set, if lacking in some regards, as you mention (ahem, diversity).

    I also loved that you included a list of possible additions; I completely agree with your opinion about the ones I’ve read, and am very much looking forward to most of the others. Can I put in a request for the Rachel version of the 100 best books of the century so far? I think it would be much more to my taste, lol. (No pressure of course, I don’t think I could even approach such a challenging task!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel like a lot of people have that experience with Gone Girl – that it was more their gateway thriller than anything. I don’t think I want to read it but I do want to read other books by Gillian Flynn after really enjoying her short story that I can’t remember the name of.

      Ohhh man I would love to do a Rachel version of the best 100 books but I feel like I would get stressed about how limited my own reading is! Maybe I’ll do a best 25 books or something instead?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ooh yes, I really liked Flynn’s other novels, I hope you enjoy them! (I think the short story was The Grownup, I thought that was good as well!) I think her writing is very solid in general, I hope she’ll publish more.

        A Best 25 list would be excellent! I think that’s a very respectable number, coming from just one reader. (I have no idea how many people contributed to The Guardian’s list, but I’m guessing a fair few.) I think anyone interested in your list would be understanding of your only being able to pull from what you’ve read so far. I’d definitely be curious to see what makes the cut! 🙂


  11. I love looking at lists like these! It always interests me to see which books make it onto the lists and which don’t. As for the top 10 – I had to read Austerlitz for university and I found it a real slog. Thematically it’s really interesting and important but it is very dense, in my opinion :/

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s two votes against Austerlitz in my comments now and one vote for it – I don’t know what to think! But yes, I love looking at these lists too, they’re so arbitrary but so fun.


  12. So, I am obviously super late to the party here, so I’ll echo the brilliant post sentiment and only have one tiny thing to add:
    I don’t think you’d like any of Mitchell’s other books, except maybe The Thousand Autumns of Jacod de Zoet. He does something fairly similar to magical realism but with scifi, as in the weird is just there and never explained and often not even commented on. I mean, I obviously love him and think his prose and characterization is worth it but then, I do love specfic more than you do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you might be right about Mitchell and I appreciate your perspective on it! I am curious to read more from him at some point, but they definitely seem like more your kind of books than mine. But hopefully I will prove you wrong. Do we even have any male authors in common?!


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