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The Best Books of the Decade (2010-2019): TOP 15

In this first year at The Book Slut, we wanted to commemorate the last ten years of our reading. We are but a few excited readers—representing only a small slice of people—and so our list is very long with those who wanted to get out the word on what they believe are the best books published since 2010. However, we still managed a consensus among the 18 that voted in what would represent the best.

The list covers all manners of genres and perspectives. From fiction to non, fantasy to thriller, short to long, and translated works as well. Eighteen of our writers submitted their votes and words. Two authors and two books that cracked the top 15—and each book was not voted for by the same people. Sally Rooney and Celeste Ng, your books have made an impact amongst us, and in such different ways.

While reading over the submissions, I loved how sometimes the writers called out the same reasons for loving a book, and oftentimes opposite reasons. Sometimes: contradictory! No one can read the same book in the same way. It’s lovely to see the ones that stayed with us, and will continue to. I know now that I must get my hands on Swamplandia!, the only book in the top 15 I haven’t read. The entire list has added to my TBR while editing, and I hope you find similar discoveries here, and add your own in the comments.

The list below is ordered by number of votes, and then ascending year of release if has the same amount of votes.

Our top 15: the books that garnered more than two votes from writers at

The Book Slut

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, 2015 (8 votes)

Along with The Goldfinch, arguably the most talked-about novel to emerge from this decade. A Little Life will absolutely fucking destroy you and leave an indelible mark on your psyche. If you’re not literally blind with tears at the end, you’re in the minority. (Nikki Michaels)

The book that saved from my English lit degree-induced reading ennui. I am still searching for a misery so fulfilling. (Jessica Riches)

I'll always acknowledge that this book is not for everyone (it is oh-so-long and full of trigger warnings) but it is a masterpiece for those that can stomach it. This book, these characters, that are almost real people to me taught me more about life, love, friendship, grief, and trauma than any other piece of writing and it will always have a place in my heart. (Michaela O’Keefe)

If you’ve read this book, you understand why it is such a big deal and why everyone can’t stop talking about it. I had to take a four month break halfway through this book because it got to be too much. By the time I finished it, I was a sobbing mess. I’ve never cried so hard reading a book and I probably never will. I suffered from the worst book hangover after I finished reading it. There’s so much that I can say about how special this book is to me. How much it means to me that Yanagihara wrote this and shared it with the world. I’ve tried writing my thoughts down and organizing them, but I’m still unable to. A year later and I’m still carrying Jude, Willem, JB, and Malcolm around with me. (Karla Mendez)

I started reading this six weeks postpartum and if there’s any one book that could wrench you out of your own miserable existence to find catharsis in someone else’s tragic story: meet Jude. A few people warned me I should not have read this after just having a baby. And it did make me cry, of course, but not only out of sadness. Jude’s relationship with Harold, perhaps the only loving father-figure he encounters, made me feel so much joy. The book is a heartbreaker, and its deep emotional pull is magnificent. (Jessica Maria Johnson)

It’s perf. (Hunter Mclendon)

My heart still hurts thinking about this. (Courtney Dyer)

Buy it here.


Just Kids by Patti Smith, 2010 (7)

Patti Smith's memoir of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe is one of the most lyrical and beautiful pieces of writing I have encountered. The story of a starving artist working on her craft and revelling in the company of other artists and intellectuals transported me to another time and place I didn't want to leave. (MO)

It's telling that in a genre as crowded as ‘New York memoir,’ this has become the quintessential. (Victoria Storm)

Memoirs aren’t usually my jam, but a friend recommended this to me several years ago, and I am honestly forever in her debt. I remember thinking that if I can ever be half the writer Patti Smith is, I’ll have achieved something truly remarkable. Smith’s writing is transcendent and luminous, and Just Kids is a masterpiece. (NM)

I’m not sure what I can say about this book that hasn’t been said already. This was my introduction to Patti Smith’s writing and I have been hooked ever since. This book inspired me, changed me, and broke my heart. The way in which she romanticized and described her bohemian life in 1970’s NYC is something most artists can only dream about living. (KM)

I’d been living New York for four years when I picked this book up, but Smith did something to my vision while I read. I walked the city with the book in hand, and felt best when I was sitting on a park bench reading it, occasionally looking up and feeling Smith’s lyrical voice continue to resonate even when I wasn’t reading. She makes New York a poem. (JMJ)

A dark exploration into the seedy underbelly of New York City in the 60’s and 70’s. A prelude to fame, Just Kids recounts the friendship of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe whose passion fueled their lifelong pursuit of art. An equally confusing yet simplistic relationship that emerged upon a chance meeting in New York which eventually descends into a beautiful lifelong romance which started with them being lovers, and evolved and merged to become muse/artist/artist/muse affair, and a lifelong unconditional loving friendship which transcended time. The backdrop is a dirty and debaucherous Brooklyn, the iconic Chelsea Hotel, Max's Kansas City, Scribner’s and The Strand Bookstore, (Patti also goes down to San Francisco and visits City Lights bookstore, which coincidently is where I bought and fell in love with this book) Coney Island, and the infamous Andy Warhol's Factory. Among their friends, literary lights, musicians and artists from the beat generation such as Harry Smith, Bobby Neuwirth, Allen Ginsberg, Sandy Daley, Sam Shepherd, William Burroughs, Jimi Hendrix, and spend some last moving moments with Janis Joplin and other unfortunate members of the 27 club. It was a heightened time politically and culturally; the art and music worlds exploding and colliding. In the midst of all this, two kids made a pact to always care for one another. Scrappy, romantic, committed to making art, they prodded and provided each other with faith and confidence during some very physically and emotionally hungry years. Just Kids begins as a love story and ends as an elegy. Beautifully written, this is a profound portrait of two young artists, often hungry, satisfied only by art and experience. And an unforgettable portrait of New York, the rich and poor, hustlers and hellions, those who made it and those whose memory lingers on upon the cities breeze. This novel was based on a promise Patti made to Robert upon his deathbed. And so I shall make one to you, read this. I promise you won’t regret it. (The Book Slut)

Buy it here.


Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2013 (6)

The framework of this novel alone is brilliant, but everything it has to say is even better. (HM)

Another classic brought to us by the 2010s! Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a gorgeously observant writer, and Americanah is one of those rare gems that will have you aching for more after you turn the final page. (NM)

I still remember my first Adichie and knew only pages in that her writing was something special, something that I would remember and reflect on. I fell for Adichie's silken prose, and both the protagonists—opposites with quirk and flaws I didn't grow sick of even after five hundred pages and a no bullshit honesty about lives as immigrants and people of colour in an unforgiving western world. (MO)

Everyone should read this. Part love story and part study on what it is like to experience being black for the first time in a foreign country. I particularly enjoyed reading about Ifemelu’s experience being a student in the US and having to navigate her way through racism, a somewhat new concept for her. Having been raised in Nigeria, it wasn’t really something she had to deal with. Once she moved overseas to attend university, she had to grapple with being black, but not African American, the importance of a black women’s hair, and interracial relationships. To me, Ngozi Adiche presented something that I don’t think is really discussed too much and that it is, how does it feel to be an individual from Africa who has just moved to the States? What is their experience? (KM)

Buy it here.


THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt, 2013 (6)

This can't not make the list because we're all still recovering from the emotional damage it did. (VS)

The 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner and arguably the most famous book to come out of the 2010s. Iconic author Donna Tartt’s third novel, The Goldfinch, blends rich language, exquisite detail, and an intricate plot to create one of those genuinely life-changing novels. I remember being so blown away by the last 10 pages that I read them five times in a row. (NM)

I have minimal words beyond, so fucking good. (CD)

I often wonder how the simple story of a boy and a painting could be so gripping, and then I remember that Donna Tartt is an unrivalled genius who deserves endless praise and love. I cannot allow myself to watch the film, lest it destroy Theodore Decker's life in my memory. (JR)

The first tome I can remember reading for enjoyment. And I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I read this and envisioned every scene, every movement, every word spoken. It was like a film playing in my mind. It’s one that I still think about quite frequently and one that I recommend to basically everyone who asks me for book recommendations. I really enjoy books that span several years in a character’s life and this is one of those special ones that shows the trials and tribulations and the growth a person can experience in several years time. (KM)

While reading this book I thought it was pretty good, but not completely great. Then I was walking around after finishing it, kind of in a daze at the last few pages, and realized I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I stumbled upon a notice that the titular painting would be on show for a limited time at The Frick Museum in New York, and I knew I had to witness it in person. A book that grew into a living, throbbing heartbeat of art for me. (JMJ)

Buy it here.


Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, 2014 (5)

I'm a sucker for dystopian literary fiction and Station Eleven is one of the best. I remember being struck by how it had a little more hope than your average dystopian and one of the most unforgettable chapters about all the small moments you lose when the world as you know it ends. (MO)

Perfectly written, and when I finished I looked up and was thankful for the world I lived in. This was obviously pre-2016. (HM)

Station Eleven did many of the same things that The Goldfinch does, but instead of an age-old painting we get a futuristic plague. Art and literature can still hold us all together. (JMJ)

Buy it here.


CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS by Sally Rooney, 2017 (4)

I think most ‘Best of the Decade’ lists will swap this novel of Rooney’s for Normal People (tied here, see below! — ed.), but I’m firmly in the Conversations camp. This portrait of love and lust and infidelity perfectly illustrates the magic of Sally Rooney: turning ordinary, everyday, universal human experiences into brutally realistic, honest, extraordinary moments. (NM)

A book you will love to hate and hate to love. (Maggie Chidester)

You will hate everyone in this book, yet love every second of it. (The Book Slut)

Buy it here.


Normal People by Sally Rooney, 2018 (4)

It's hard to add much to what has already been said about Normal People but Rooney has a simple, understated way of giving the reader a window into the intricacies of a relationship. The damaged edges, the power dynamics, the outside influences that all dominate how we relate to each other and how nothing and everything changes. This is a quietly beautiful and honest meditations on relationships and ultimately being human. (MO)

A complicated and heart wrenching love story I felt like I could relate to. (CD)

Rooney is out here writing modern day classics. Her writing style confident as she deftly creates portraits of two young people today. She’s weaving contemporary technology and life and social mores into a relationship that could be recognized in any century. (JMJ)

Buy it here.


SWAMPLANDIA! by Karen Russel, 2011 (3)

Swamplandia! sparked my abiding love for magical realism, and to this day thinking of it plants me right back in the sweltering, hazy heat and humidity of the Everglades. This is a vividly realized coming-of-age story that will lodge itself in your memory and never let go. (NM)

Deserving of all awards and accolades, this is a novel about a girl living with her family in a swampy island in southern Florida. It's vivid. (VS)

An amazing voice, beautifully written and plotted, great characters. Belongs alongside other great Southern classics. (See also Salvage the Bones, below.) (HM)

Buy it here.


Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, 2012 (3)

A story of a marriage gone sour, Gone Girl is a domestic thriller miles above the rest. We follow the story of Nick and Amy in alternating perspectives; from Amy’s diary entries gushing over the beginning of their relationship to Nick’s unusual reaction to Amy’s suspicious disappearance. Flynn portrays the ugliest side of love through betrayal, violence and lies. (Lucy Wadelton)

Game changer for the thriller genre, funny and intense, a cultural phenomena that we all still think about. No one can deny its power. (HM)

I have a vivid memory of throwing this book across my parents living room my senior year of high school. It's just that good. (MC)

Buy it here.


Outline by Rachel Cusk, 2014 (3)

In Outline, Cusk's main character, Faye, tells her story in ten conversations with other people in which she does little of the talking. The reader gets glances of Faye, an outline of the space she occupies. She tells her story through others, and I loved this structure as it felt like commentary. We don't exist alone, we exist because others see us (literally and metaphorically—I exist as someone whose words you are reading). And these characters Faye (& we) are listening to in Outline, they are telling Faye aspects of their own stories. It may be auto-fiction or meta or just a story. I’m okay not categorizing it. (JMJ)

Buy it here.


The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, 2015 (3)

At once academic, personal, and artfully written, Maggie Nelson's book-length meditation on family, queerness, love, and parenting is one of the most compelling books published in this decade. This book is a perfect distillation of Nelson's sharp wit, tender heart, and ability to render life's deepest mysteries into beautiful prose. She not only cites scholars, artists, and various professionals (Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, DW Winnicott), but weaves their thoughts into her own, drawing meaning from their work and expanding upon it in surprising ways. (Angela Morrison)

Another this-will-change-you book. Maggie Nelson writes with such intelligence and feeling. (VS)

Reading this a few months after my daughter was born, it felt like it was speaking directly to me at times. I underlined whole pages, dog-eared every other page, and felt like Nelson had imparted some ancient, deep knowledge directly to my mind so that my journey on this earth as a woman and a mother may be less treacherous. (JMJ)

Buy it here.


EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU by Celeste Ng, 2015 (3)

This was an eyeopener for how good writing can be. I could go on and on about how unlikeable the characters are (not a bad thing) but Ng’s prowess was abundantly apparent in how seamlessly she can create and then deep-dive into a character’s past while describing an event in the present while also segueing into the inner thoughts of a separate character. Stellar. (Mel Rosenthal)

I love a book that makes me snottily sob in bed. This is basically a book about being unable to communicate honestly with the people you love the most. (MC)

Where ordinarily, prose which bounces between protagonists and time can sometimes feel haphazard, with Ng, it is seamless. She stitches the passages together with the grace of a minuscule needle and an invisible thread. A stunning portrayal of life behind the viewfinder, an intimate portrait of a family behind the apparent, and the self-poison that festers when constantly trying to please people. A subtle reminder that no matter how much you think you know someone, you never really will see the truth beyond your own perception.

Buy it here.


Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, 2017 (3)

Impeccable writing about two families and how they are connected that will instantly draw you in. (MC)

I feel like everyone who reads this book loves it. And for good reason! The characters are so colorful and alive; they practically jump off the page. I can’t wait for the Hulu series to come out! (Melissa Weirick)

This is a truly compassionate read with a full exploration into the love, loss and heartbreak that lies within each and every home. May it be the words that have been told, the words you wished you said or the words you wish that had never left your lips as they can never be fully retracted or forgotten. The story flows seamlessly, the narratives are intertwined with such an ease I have never come across before, it is a truly alluring and riveting read with such delicate introduction of a questioning of morals and the internal investigation and inquiry on whether in some matters; is there ever a categorical right or wrong? (The Book Slut)

Buy it here.


The Girls by Emma Cline, 2016 (3)

The hype hurt this one a little, but I think if this book had come out in our current climate, it would’ve received all of the awards. (HM)

A remarkable work of creeping tension. Everything’s just slightly off; even when it feels apparent, there’s something the reader can’t quite touch on. The narration as flashback holds some of it—the leering ghost of an imminent murder as well—but perhaps it comes down to Cline’s ability to quietly draw in (distract?) the reader to the cult scene while examining the roles women are assigned and the prices they pay. (JMJ)

The hypnotic mystery of swaying, dirty girls in a cult is a tale as old as time. Reading this my first time in San Francisco left me longing to see them on the side of the road, waving me in. (JR)

Buy it here.


MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION by Ottessa Moshfegh, 2018 (3)

This book has no right to be as perfect as it is. The protagonist is literally asleep for most of it, neither making memories nor sharing them with us. Also the winner of ‘the single sentence that changed the most’ award. (JR)

Moshfegh is a writer of the grotesque; she has a way of making you laugh along with this willowy, white model who’s so vapid she just wants to take enough pills every day to keep her sedate and sleeping for an entire year. And yet just beneath that premise, a melancholy permeates and Moshfegh manages a quiet twist not just within the plot, but with perspective. The reader realizes their nameless main character wasn’t even the protagonist after all. (JMJ)

Buy it here.



Are there any you are surprised didn't make the cut? Or are you shocked by the ones that did?


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