The Captains Top Books Of The 00s

Week three of my Friday 5 is short and simple:  My favorite books of the past decade.  This list was probably the easiest of all my decade lists to choose.  Of the past ten years I spent less than five of them reading for pleasure.  Sad but true.

While I was in college and grad school I made a rule for myself that I would not read for pleasure while I had other required reading for school.  It just seemed silly for me to be reading if it wasn’t for class.  And with both of my degrees focused on government, there was quite a bit of required reading.1 So much so that it took me a good year after each of my graduations to embrace reading as a form of leisure.  So I really only read from 2002-2004 and 2007-2009, with an odd Harry Potter book thrown in during the off years.

However, since I moved to Florida and back I’ve been reading like a fiend to make up for lost time.  My reading pace increased dramatically last year on the Metrolink, and I ended the decade at a respectable place.  Well, enough apologizing for my unliterary years; let’s get to the list!

Top 5 Books Of The Past Decade

1.  Sex Drugs and Coco Puffs

Way back in 2004 I was still unsure about recreational reading.  I had picked up a couple of books that I rather enjoyed and one that I loved, but I wasn’t quite sold on reading.  And then this little collection of essays passed to me by and I was hooked.  I was vaguely aware of Chuck Klosterman from his days at Spin Magazine, but I had no idea of what he was capable of creating.

It sounds cliché, but his writing sounded like the thoughts in my head.  Way back before blogs and online journals were common, I had never heard a voice from my generation seamlessly blending so many pop culture references into compelling narratives.  He reminded me that reading and writing could be and should be FUN.  Unfortunately, this realization came about a month before I started grad school and had to be put on the back burner for a couple of years.  After graduation, I reread this book hoping that it would jumpstart my love of the written word.  As you can see, mission accomplished.

2.  World War Z

The past decade saw lots of fantasy novels being published about wizards and vampires.  But for me it was the decade of the zombie, and this novel was the Twilight and Harry Potter of zombies novels.  There are just so many things to like about this book.  The use of an oral-history format was brilliant and enabled Max Brooks to globe-hop on a truly epic scale.  The lack of a main character really made his story seem authentic, or as authentic as possible for a novel about the zombie apocalypse.  The social and political commentary was subtle and dead-on accurate.  And more than anything else, it was such an exciting read; I plowed through this in three days and then reread it four months later!

3.  American Gods

The book that started it all.  I’ve been a super fan of Neil Gaiman since my teenage years.  I was infatuated with his Sandman comics from early in my teens, and I was hooked for life when I won a contest to have breakfast with him.2 This novel was released shortly after I graduated and it was the first book I read after college.  It instantly reminded me of why I spent so much of my high school years wrapped up in reading.  Neil has an amazing ability for creating contemporary mythology that is both believable and compelling.  He writes fairy tales that are enthralling for both grown-ups and kids.  He had several other great projects this past decade, but this was the one that stood out for me.  Reminding a burnt-out college graduate the reading is still cool is no small task, but he did it easily.

4.  Three Nights In August

This book came out in 2005, but I didn’t get a chance to read it until last fall.  As it turned out, waiting so long to read it made the experience more enjoyable.  Among other things, the 00s were a decade where I watched a ton of baseball games.  I’ve been a diehard Cardinals fan since about 2002.  As such, reading this all-access account of the 2003 baseball season that I followed so closely was a real treat.  And reading about this season six years later actually made it a nostalgic experience rather than a contemporary one.

In reality, 2003 was a frustrating season as a Cardinals fan.  But through the eyes of nostalgia I was able to appreciate it as enjoyable despite the outcome of the season.  Instead of thinking about the specific games mentioned I was able to recall how much fun I had watching them with friends.  And learning all the behind the scenes stuff that is highlighted in the book was exciting.  It helped me to better understand a game that I already knew well.  A great read for any fan of baseball, but a must read for Cardinals fans.

5.  The Road

This was the first selection in the book club I started with my wife back in 2007.  We were living in Tallahassee at the time and wanted to join a book club, but we didn’t know anyone so we started our own.  This seemed like the perfect choice since Megan tends to like selections on Oprah’s book list and I tend to like post-apocalypse fiction.  We had no idea what was in store.  We became so invested in Cormac McCarthy’s main characters that it actually started to affect our moods.  At certain points that winter we were both moping around the house because we were worried about the characters in the book.  The way McCarthy describes the life and death struggles of the man and his son trying to navigate their hostile world is so heart-wrenching that we couldn’t help but be wrapped up by it.  By the time we both finished we were exhausted; it took us about a year to pick our next selection.  We still haven’t seen the film adaptation yet, partially because we know that it’s bound to be inferior to the book.

Ciao,

The Captain

1.  Which is not to say that I didn’t read some good books as part of my education or that I haven’t read any books about government since graduation.  But even the best government books are no match for a great piece of fiction.

2.  This is still one of the coolest and yet most frustrating events of my entire life.  Having lunch with one of my literary idols was as cool as it sounds, but unfortunately for me the year was 1993.  I was a super awkward 14 year old fanboy at the time and I was so starstruck I only managed to say ONE sentence to him.  Now I would have about a million questions to ask him, but all I was able to ask at the time was “Are you really going to write a comic book about Alice Cooper?”  DAMMIT!

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