My Favourite Books of the 00s

The rise of the internet and the mp3 has had a negative impact on music sales in traditional record shops over the last decade. The brick and mortar book trade has also faced competition from supermarkets and charity shops as well as internet sites like Amazon and eBay. In technological terms, hand-held reading devices have been introduced but these have failed to take off due to readers’ preference for the touch and feel of paper in their hands while reading. Personally, I only ever read books in the old-fashioned way and I prefer to do my browsing in bookstores rather than online. Without further ado, here are ten of my favourite fiction and non-fiction titles from the last ten years

This decade has seen the publication of many great books about music, particularly Continuum’s 33 1/3 series that focuses on classic albums. My favourite music book of the decade, however, came from a guy who’s best known for writing some of popular music’s most famous lyrics and whose previous forays into prose writing were a bit iffy. Volume One of Bob Dylan’s Chronicles is an excellent companion to Martin Scorsese’s No Direction Home documentary film and Todd Solondz’s biopic of Dylan, I’m Not There. The writing is fluid, funny and flippin’ brilliant. Another book that deals with music is Oliver Sack’s Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain. Sack’s treatment of catatonic patients through music was made into the film Awakenings and he has previously written about a classical pianist whose short-term memory lasts for only three minutes but whose long-term memory still allows him to perform music. In Musicophilia, he looks at a number of case studies who experience music differently to most people. Some of the most interesting chapters focus on those who see music as colours (synesthesia) to those who really cannot get a song out of their head

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America is Barbara Ehrenreich’s account of life on the breadline in the United States of America. To experience life as a low-wage earner, Ehrenreich went undercover as a low-paid worker from 1998 to 2000. She did not use her own savings or qualifications and would try to survive on the income she earned from these jobs. Her story recounts the long hours, hard work and repetitive nature of the entry-level jobs she took in the retail and food service industries. She also showed the difficulty of walking out on one of these jobs as it would have meant being unable to pay her rent at the end of the month. It is quite an eye-opening account of a side of America that is rarely seen in the media

The last decade has seen an increase in the quality of sports writing in general and writing about football in particular. Gary Imlach’s My Father and Other Working-Class Football Heroes was recommended to me by my friend John. The book chronicles Imlach’s attempts, through interviews and written accounts, to learn about his deceased father’s early years as a footballer for Nottingham Forest and Scotland in the fifties and sixties. As well as finding out a lot about his father, Imlach also paints a picture of a sport where even the top players had to take summer jobs to make ends meet. It seems a million miles away from the multi-million pound game that we now know. This is also the case with David Peace’s fictional account of Brian Clough’s forty-four days in charge of Leed Utd in the early seventies. In The Damned Utd, Peace draws on actual accounts but re-imagines those events through Clough’s eyes. His controversial depiction of Clough’s state of mind is one of the most interesting voices that I have ever read in either fiction or non-fiction

Another fascinating voice that I came across this decade is that of Alexander Perchov, a fictional Ukranian translator whose attempts to write in English are quite hilarious. Alex, along with the namesake of the book’s author, is one of the narrators of Everything is Illuminated, the first novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. The novel is worth reading for the story and the way it is structured, but it is Alex’s way with words that make it one of my favourites. In The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon creates another wonderful voice. The story is told from the perspective of fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone. Christopher’s voice is that of a boy who has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism in which the person is usually highly gifted, but who has difficulty interacting with people and with expressing and interpreting emotions. Yann Martel’s Life of Pi also concerns a young boy and was the winner of the 2002 Booker Prize. The story is basically your usual run of the mill story about a sixteen-year-old Indian boy named Pi Patel who gets stuck on a lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena and a tiger

Two of the titles named above and many books published in the last ten years were quickly adapted into screenplays and later filmed. A popular source for adaptation was the graphic novel and the one I enjoyed most was Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. Satrapi’s first two graphic novels in French have been translated into English and collected into one volume. The first part of this autobiographical memoir details young Marjane’s early years growing up in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution while the second part follows her life as a student in Austria and concludes with her return to Iran. The novel is simply drawn in black and white and chronicles her struggles against the religious patriarchy of the time. Her tale is quite moving but she manages to extract a a fair bit of humour from these events as well. It may seem unusual that I’ve chosen a screenplay as one of my favourite books of the decade. After all, a screenplay, even a great one, is merely a set of instructions for the filmmaker to make a film. The director of In Bruges, Martin McDonagh, turned his own script into an even better with the help of the Belgian town of the title and some tremendous performances from his cast. I enjoyed these aspects of the film when I saw it but I was very impressed by the dialogue and the story. McDonagh is also an established playwright and this may explain why his first full-length screenplay reads as well as any novel. I do hope that you have enjoyed reading about my favourite reads of the decade and that this list might give you some idea of how to spend any book tokens you may have received from Santa this Christmas

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  1. Pingback: 14 Loveswept Books 609 – 656 / Iris Johansen | Largestore Blog

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