10. Snow, Orhan Pamuk (2004)
With Snow, Nobel winner Pamuk crafted a novel as dazzling and complex as a handwoven tapestry, one that brought to life all the disparities in his beloved Turkey: the tensions between East and West, rich and poor, religious and secular.
9. Case Histories: A Novel, Kate Atkinson (2007)
Its feels insufficient to call this riveting book a crime novel, but the basics are familiar: Jackson Brodie, an ex-cop now working as a P.I., digs into three seemingly unrelated cold cases. Atkinson’s great achievement, though, is that she writes with such warmth, wit and insight about fate, character, and the way everyone’s lives are ruled by one or the other — or both.
8. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
The fourth Potter novel was the darkest yet, forcing poor Harry to contend with Death Eaters run amok and the loss of a major character. That it also encompasses some of the series’ most purely fun moments of escapism is proof of Rowling’s versatile gifts.
7. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
This illustrated memoir about growing up with a closeted gay father proves a comic can pack just as much pathos as any novel.
6. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
Forget all the Oprah hoo-ha: Franzen’s doorstop of a domestic drama teaches that, yes, you can go home again. But you might not want to.
5. Zeitoun, Dave Eggers (2009)
He kicked off the decade as the look-at-me stylist behind 2000’s A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. The fact that Eggers bookended it with this gut-wrenchingly poignant and selfless Katrina story proves that even boy wonders can grow up.
4. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
With this magnificent novel about a well-educated mixed-race family in Boston, Smith successfully fulfilled her idol E.M. Forster’s exhortation: Only connect.
3. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
This 2000 novel blended comic books, Jewish mysticism, and American history into something truly amazing.
2. Say You're One of Them, Uwem Akpan (2008)
Against all odds, the Nigerian priest’s searing African stories imparted both joy and hope.
1. The Road, Cormac McCarthy (2006)
With his spare prose and rat-a-tat sentences, McCarthy’s postapocalyptic father-son odyssey managed to be both harrowing and heartbreaking.