I recently discovered that the Bath Literature Festival has compiled a list of the best books of the last 20 years, as selected by a panel of experts. (See the article on the Waterstones blog here.)
The list is as follows:
1995 – Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres
1996 – Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
1997 – American Pastoral by Philip Roth
1998 – England, England by Julian Barnes
1999 – Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
2000 – White Teeth by Zadie Smith
2001 – Atonement by Ian McEwan
2002 – Any Human Heart by William Boyd
2003 – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon
2004 – Small Island by Andrea Levy
2005 – We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
2006 – The Road by Cormac McCarthy
2007 – Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
2008 – The Outcast by Sadie Jones
2009 – The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
2010 – Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
2011 – A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
2012 – State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
2013 – Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
2014 – The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The article points out the 3 obvious questions about such a list:
“How many of these have you read? Which ones do you vehemently disagree with? And what would you have in their place?”
I have to admit that I have only read 2 of the titles – “Atonement” and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time” – and I’m currently in the middle of reading a 3rd one, “The Goldfinch”.
I can’t really give a proper opinion on “The Goldfinch” until I finish it (I’ll add my opinion in a note at the bottom on this post when I’ve read it).
“Atonement” is a good novel, which I studied during A Level English and although I didn’t enjoy studying it that much, I later realised that it helped to have covered it in such detail so that I understood it much better. It grew on me and I decided I liked the book enough to keep and read it again later. I think it deserves to be there because it is such an interesting story with little twists in the way it is written, even if I still don’t like Briony that much! I agree with it being one of the best books of the last 20 years!
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time” was an intriguing book. It was quite different to anything I’ve read before and it showed me what life is like for someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. I found it difficult to get into at first but I soon came to realise just how great it is and I understand why it got so much praise. It deserves to be on the list!
I can’t really comment on the others as I haven’t read them (and I suspect I won’t read many of them), but I am surprised that there are no Harry Potter books in the list as I thought they might have crept in because they are brilliant! (Maybe it’s just adult books, but still…. loads of adults like Harry Potter too!)
What do you think? Have you read any of the list? What’s missing?