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The Best Books of the Decade (2010-2019): TWO VOTES

These books nearly made the cut into the top of our list, but failed by one vote. Good thing each book had a pair of champions voting for them. In the second part of our retrospective, these are the books with two votes among the writers.

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


BOOKS WITH Two votes each

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, 2010

A book that takes a look at cellular theft and how one Black woman's cells have changed the entire face of medicine while her surviving family can't afford health insurance. (MC)

Fill yourself with rage and heartbreak, and learn about the woman who's name everyone should know. (The Book Slut)

Buy it here.


A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard, 2011

The kidnapping case that shook the world, this memoir surrounding Jaycee's 18 years in captivity is phenomenal. (MC)

True crime, unsurprisingly, is one of my big interests, and Jaycee Dugard’s case is so famous. Before this book, we saw the case from the public’s point of view. By putting her story on paper in her own words, she’s reclaiming her life and taking back what was stolen from her. (MW)

Buy it here.


Salvage The Bones by Jesmyn Ward, 2011

An amazing voice, beautifully written and plotted, great characters. Belongs alongside other great Southern classics. (HM)

I read this book after experiencing two active hurricane seasons which made reading this book a little emotional at times. The love that what Esch and her brothers have for each other is so strong and really shows when they’re trying to survive Hurricane Katrina. From the family’s financial troubles, to Esch’s pregnancy, to Skeetah’s new litter of puppies, and the incoming storm, it felt like such an honest telling of a family’s perseverance in the face of adveresity. (KM)

Buy it here.


The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, 2011

A novel that probably needs no introduction, Miller turns the traditional myth of Achilles into an epic love story blossoming from a simple friendship. Evocative and touching, I immediately fell for Miller's writing and couldn't put this one down until I had finished it. (MO)

The greatest, most heartfelt love story of all time. (CD)

Buy it here.


A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, 2013

I’m a huge fan of books that play with perspective, and Ozeki crafts something that may lose the reader occasionally—where am I and what is happening?—but the weaves come together into something so beautiful and sad and moving. A gift of a book. (JMJ)

My copy is destroyed. I read it in one day whilst travelling and then immediately re-read it even though I had 9 other books with me. The book never left my hands until I turned the last page, eyes transfixed and enchanted by Ozeki's words. (The Book Slut)

Buy it here.


DEPT. OF SPECULATION by Jenny Offill, 2014

A story about love and marriage that you will swallow whole. (VS)

I didn’t think this slim little novel had much impact on me until I realized I was still thinking about it a year later. And now, years. When it first dawned on me I may be reading something great was when Offill changes her point-of-view narration of the same character from first to second. The narrator removes herself from the proceedings, and it only made me more enthralled. (JMJ)

Buy it here.


Just Mercy: A Story of Redemption by Bryan Stevenson, 2014

Just Mercy was the first book I read this year and I cried my eyes out. MacArthur Fellow and Equal Justice Initiative founder, Bryan Stevenson has written a heartbreaking book about the extent to which scads of innocent Alabama Black men have spent years on death row biding their time for crimes they did not commit. More heartbreaking are the youth sent to adult prison instead of processing through the juvenile justice system. I followed this one up with An American Marriage and let’s just say the first weeks of the new year proved to be an emotional opening of my year in reading. (Marian Perales)

The real stories of Black men who are on death row for crimes they did not commit that gives you a peek into the absolutely corrupt justice system. (MC)

Buy it here.


BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME by Ta-Nehisi Coates, 2015

Coates wrote this to his son, as a warning, and he keenly dissects how society continues to denigrate Black bodies. All the praise is well deserved. (MR)

A letter from a Black man to his Black son. Moving is an understatement. (MC)

Buy it here



Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, 2015

Lauren Groff is the author of all time and everyone could learn from her. (HM)

The complications shared between the couple were immense due to Groff’s writing prowess. I’d read anything she writes. (MR)

Buy it here.


HERE I AM by Jonathan Safran Foer, 2016

I read this when I was about to get married, and, while it's a horrible book to read when you're about to get married, I do think it's very real. (VS)

Here I Am is not a perfect book; it’s clunky at times and and it takes a minute to get into, but there are several lines and scenes in this novel that I still think about on a regular basis. The characters and story are deeply relatable, and there’s a sort of pure, truly sad, sometimes-that’s-just-life vibe humming through the pages that I think captures the essence of an ordinary existence. (NM)

Buy it here.


The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker, 2017

It's rare to find a story about female friendship through creative collaboration—I want more! Whitaker is a master at dialogue and scene-setting. I felt intricately enmeshed in the lives of Sharon Kisses (what a name!) and Mel Vaught. I laughed with them, felt their pain, confusion, anxiety, and exhilaration. I don't have much background with animation, but I do understand creative drive and Whitaker encapsulates that feeling wonderfully. As a debut I am extremely impressed. (JMJ)

Buy it here.


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, 2017

I laughed, I cried, I cringed, I devoured. This book was something special and really has something for everybody in it. (CD)

Pick for book club, I went into it with a cynical mind, but damn if Honeyman didn’t blast that right back at me and make my eyes shine with tears—happy and sad—by the end. (JMJ)

Buy it here.


HER BODY AND OTHER PARTIES by Carmen Maria Machado, 2017

Easily one of the decade’s most impressive and powerful short story collections, Her Body and Other Parties will slap you in the face and leave you speechless. These stunning pieces explore every aspect of womanhood, from love to grief to violence to power. The standout among a standout: “The Husband Stitch.” (NM)

One of the most innovative short story collections I have ever read. (MC)

Buy it here.


Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie, 2017

A modern retelling of Antigone, this one was tragic, beautiful, and compelling. Shamsie is a wizard with how she perfectly adapts this old Sophocles tale to a modern setting. This reading experience was so incredible I was compelled to seek out the original story. (MO)

A compelling and beautiful novel. I finished in one sitting. (HM)

Buy it here.


Marlena by Julie Buntin, 2017

This book made me want to hug all my girlfriends and tell them how much I love and appreciate them. So many of us can relate to meeting a new friend and finding ourselves pulled into their web, wanting to spend everyday with them. Julie Buntin weaves a story of love, loss, and friendship that pulled me in and kept me turning the pages late into the night. (KM)

Buy it here.


Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, 2017

Writing about a family in Mississippi that you will still be thinking about years later. (MC)

Ward is one of the best working writers in the United States. Sing, Unburied, Sing is at once realistic and truly depicting what life can be like for a Black family, but also uses fantastical elements to drive home the horrors and sadness of racism and an unjust prison system. (JMJ)

Buy it here.


Everything Under by Daisy Johnson, 2018

I wondered how Johnson would manage the retelling of Oedipus and I was left in awe of how this novel falls into place. At first a confusing puzzle with breathtaking prose, I was drawn in to the intricate words and unique style. The urgency of the bonak, the exploration into gender fluidity, and the examination of family lent complexity to an already compelling tale. (MO)

I had no fucking clue what was going on most of the time in this book but I thought it was phenomenal. (CD)

Buy it here.


How To Write An Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee, 2018

Chee is a gift and this collection will be known as one of the greatest essay collections of life. (HM)

The best essay collection about writing in this era; Chee will be cited by up-and-coming writers over the next few decades as an influence and and inspiration. (JMJ)

Buy it here.


KNOW MY NAME by Chanel Miller, 2019

A heartbreaker for sure, and an all-around important read. It’s timely in that we as a society are finally starting to pay more attention to the atrocities of rape culture and sexual harassment in the workplace and on college campuses. The cherry on top is that Miller can really write. I’d like to send her a thank you for all that it must have took her to share her story with us all. (MR)

Buy it here.



A book that will make you only want to read novels by poets from this point forward. (VS)

It felt like reading my life, but with greater insight. (HM)

Buy it here.


Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine, 2019

The prose is exacting, the Chicanx characters are richly drawn, and the Denver scenery is picturesque in Anstine-Fajardo’s award-winning debut collection of short stories. Many of the women-centered stories will break your heart; however there are hopeful moments. The women are flawed but resilient. No one beats Anstine-Fajardo on writing about Denver. (MP)

Sabrina & Corina is a collection of short stories about indigenous Latinx women in Colorado. Fajardo-Anstine has crafted something quite singular in perspective and prose. The sense of place grounds the collection, while the cycles of violence and racism and fractured families repeatedly break the reader's heart. (That the cover features an anatomical heart makes sense.) I was trying to figure out which story was my favorite, but I can't discount a one. They're all tremendous works for how short they are; I feel as though I inhabited these characters for how intimately they're presented. The first story "Sugar Babies" certainly set the tone for the entire collection, and the final story "Ghost Sickness," left me in tears for its last line to the story and to the farewell of everything that preceded it. That this is Fajardo-Anstine's debut is astounding; I'm awaiting her sophomore effort excitedly. (JMJ)

Buy it here.


And what, dear friends,

did we forget?


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