Why am I sitting here on Earth preparing a list of my favorite novels since the year 2000? Blame it on Venus.
Last month, I wrote a HuffPost piece listing my top time-travel books. Many commenters recommended other novels in that genre to read, and I decided to first try one of the more recent ones: 2008's The Forgery of Venus. It was very good (thanks for the suggestion, "c-tom"!).
Anyway, that got me thinking about my favorite novels of ANY GENRE in this millennium -- assuming the millennium started in 2000 rather than the perhaps technically correct 2001. So I compiled a list of 15 titles.
These aren't necessarily the best novels of the past 11 years, because there are acclaimed books I've yet to read by the likes of Junot Diaz, Jeffrey Eugenides, Jonathan Franzen, Ian McEwan, Marilynne Robinson, etc. My list includes my favorites of the books I DID read. If you're a fan of novels you feel are more deserving of top-15 status, please mention them in the comments section sometime before the next millennium starts in 3000 or 3001.
15. The Forgery of Venus by Michael Gruber. A modern-day painter seemingly goes back in time to inhabit the body of master artist Diego Velazquez. The plot gets rather convoluted during the last third of the novel, but overall the book is a smart and fascinating read.
14. No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy. An intense, violent look at some players in a brutal drug war, including chilling villain Anton Chigurh. Made into a multi-Oscar-winning movie.
13. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. "Snowman," living in a bleak future world, spends much of his time thinking about his past life and what caused the near-total obliteration of humankind.
12. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. A haunting story about a murdered girl (who's still alive in a way), her grief-stricken family, and the search for the murderer.
11. From a Buick 8 by Stephen King. This horror story about a supernatural car is low-key by King standards, but packs a spooky and melancholy wallop amid lots of warmth and humanity.
10. The Road by Cormac McCarthy. This novel -- though not quite as good as the author's Blood Meridian and All the Pretty Horses of previous decades -- is a powerful, affecting story of a man and his son trying to survive after the apocalypse.
9. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Perhaps 100 pages longer than it needs to be, but thought-provoking and very moving. Plus there are several mentions of punk-rock bands such as the late, great Clash!
8. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. After her stunning debut short-story collection Interpreter of Maladies, Lahiri showed she could also pull off an excellent novel. It's about a Bengali immigrant couple and their Americanized son with an unusual name.
7. Life of Pi by Yann Martel. A boy and a tiger (not Calvin and Hobbes!) share a harrowing and amazing ride on a lost boat.
6. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. A intricate, beautifully written tale of a part-American/part-Mexican man slammed by the McCarthy era after working for Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Leon Trotsky.
5. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon. Two cartoonists find success and frustration in a book that's about much more than cartooning.
4. Ellington Boulevard by Adam Langer. A quirky, sad, funny, delightful book about a man, a dog, and several other characters. It's mostly set in New York City, and has plenty of things to say about wealth, gentrification, relations between the races, etc.
3. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. Several seemingly separate stories come together magnificently.
2. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. A book about two sisters that juggles the present, the past, and a novel within a novel -- and is always a page-turner despite the deliberately fractured storytelling.
1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling. This tops my list partly because it completes that wonderful seven-book series about the wizard world. The final installment is exciting, heartbreaking, and just plain fabulous. Rowling shows that something wildly popular can also be VERY high quality.