Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Love That Were Written Over Ten Years Ago

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Previous Top Ten Tuesday Topics

This week’s topic focuses on books written more than ten years ago… which is tricky: most of the books I love were written over ten years ago: a couple of my all time favourites are Medea and The Bacchae by Euripides, first performed in 405 BCE, two thousand five hundred years ago! And there are fantastic stories from those Greek myths that inspired the dramas we know. How could I not include Shakespeare in such a list, or Chaucer, or those fantastic Gothic edifices of Frankenstein and Dracula and Carmilla?

So, how to narrow the focus?

As my blog is in its tenth year, having been born in 2013 and this TTT theme is focusing on that ten year period, lets look at my thoughts on books written in that year! Sort of as a celebration of the blog’s anniversary (its decadiversay?) alongside the theme – and I appreciate that mathematically we may well be on the wrong side of the ten year mark on some of these!

Where was I ten years ago? Still at the same job in the same department at the same school as I currently am – man, that sounds depressing – and in charge of the reading club. What has changed in those ten years? We were then trying for a baby and now that baby is a nine-year old wonderful daughter; we have moved house twice since then; and I like to think that the blog has matured…

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman

Goodreads Rank: #4 in 2013

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

This was a fantastic and very Gaiman-esque novel which has perhaps fallen between the lines of a Young Adult, New Adult, Adult readership which is a shame because it is wonderful and beautiful, haunting and horrific. Gaiman playing with witches and the other, with an invasive worm of otherness. Lettie was a wonderful character!

The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith

Goodreads Rank: #6 in 2013

After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

Yes, I knew that Galbraith was J. K. Rowling but, forgive me, I was curious… and discovered a tense and well plotted but poorly written series. And my recollection, even nearly a decade before the TERF allegations, that the portrayal of a homosexual man was stereotypical, problematic and bluntly both offensive and unconvincing, as issue she has maintained throughout the series. Disappointing.

Inferno, Dan Brown

Goodreads Rank: #8 in 2013

Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon awakens in an Italian hospital, disoriented and with no recollection of the past thirty-six hours, including the origin of the macabre object hidden in his belongings. With a relentless female assassin trailing them through Florence, he and his resourceful doctor, Sienna Brooks, are forced to flee. Embarking on a harrowing journey, they must unravel a series of codes, which are the work of a brilliant scientist whose obsession with the end of the world is matched only by his passion for one of the most influential masterpieces ever written, Dante Alighieri’s The Inferno.

Dan Brown had become a bit of a guilty pleasure after The Da Vinci Code broke into public consciousness… but this fourth installment felt oh so tired and predictable. Poor Robert Langdon. He seemed not to have learned anything from his previous outings having been betrayed by every friendly avuncular figure…

The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion

Goodreads Rank: #10 in 2013

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

This book was, perhaps, the first that led me to accept that romance was a genre I could enjoy. Without reading this, would I have read T. J. Klune, or Casey McQuiston? This novel had the additional draw of Don Tillman, a neurodivergent character who was warm and engaging.

Life After Life, Kate Atkinson

Goodreads Rank: #22 in 2013

On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war.

Does Ursula’s apparently infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its inevitable destiny? And if she can – will she?

This was such a glorious book: I loved Ursula Todd; I loved her childhood, her family; I loved the conceit that every time she dies she is reborn time-and-time again and how she slowly learns from previous incarnations. This book opened my eyes to Kate Atkinson and, in the last ten years, I think I have read all of her back catalogue and she is one of my favourite authors of all time!

Steelheart, Brandon Sanderson

Goodreads Rank: #39 in 2013

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his will.

Nobody fights the Epics…nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

The Reckoners series gives to Young Adult readers Brandon Sanderson’s characteristic formula: vivid characters, great world building – and an evil Superman! It was simply a great, fun series.

The Golem and the Jinni, Helene Wecker

Goodreads Rank: #43 in 2013

hava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic, created to be the wife of a man who dies at sea on the voyage from Poland. Chava is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.

Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert, trapped in an old copper flask, and released in New York City, though still not entirely free.

Ahmad and Chava become unlikely friends and soul mates with a mystical connection.

This was an amazing evocation of both turn of the century immigrant New York and figures from Jewish and Middle Eastern mythologies. From memory, the beautiful characterisation and setting gave way (a little disappointingly) to a touch of a thriller towards the end of the novel. But nothing that dented my enthusiasm for the sequel, The Hidden Palace, published last year which I have still to read.

A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki

Goodreads Rank: #45 in 2013

In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying, but before she ends it all, Nao plans to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in a ways she can scarcely imagine.

Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future. 

I found this novel beautiful and haunting, and a wonderful introduction to the themes that run through Ozeki’s The Book of Form and Emptiness which won the Women’s Prize this year – Zen, books, authors and the relationship between readers and writers.

I am Pilgrim, Terry Hayes

Goodreads Rank: #50 in 2013

A breakneck race against time…and an implacable enemy. An anonymous young woman murdered in a run-down hotel, all identifying characteristics dissolved by acid. A father publicly beheaded in the blistering heat of a Saudi Arabian public square. A notorious Syrian biotech expert found eyeless in a Damascus junkyard. Smoldering human remains on a remote mountainside in Afghanistan. A flawless plot to commit an appalling crime against humanity. One path links them all, and only one man can make the journey. Pilgrim.

Whilst I remember enjoying this book immensely, it was the plot and pace that thrust me through it: the characters and language and ideas did not take hold of my imagination. It was enjoyable in the same way that Mission Impossible or Olympus has Fallen are enjoyable, great, fun thrillers.

The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton

Goodreads Rank: #55 in 2013

It is 1866, and young Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On the stormy night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men who have met in secret to discuss a series of unexplained events: A wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely ornate as the night sky. Richly evoking a mid-nineteenth-century world of shipping, banking, and gold rush boom and bust, The Luminaries is a brilliantly constructed, fiendishly clever ghost story and a gripping page-turner.

A novel which I fear I only understood half of, The Luminaries was steeped in esoterica and astrology and symbols that I didn’t grasp. Fortunately, it was also peopled by fascinating and well rounded characters and a fantastic setting, crafted with gorgeous prose that played with various genres. On the strength of this novel, I did read her debut The Rehearsal which was astounding!

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler

Goodreads Rank: #60 in 2013

Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, Lowell, Rosemary and her unusual sister Fern. Rosemary begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. “Until Fern’s expulsion…,” Rosemary says, “she was my twin, my funhouse mirror, my whirlwind other half and I loved her.” As a child, Rosemary never stopped talking. Then, something happened, and Rosemary wrapped herself in silence.

In We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler weaves her most accomplished work to date—a tale of loving but fallible people whose well-intentioned actions lead to heartbreaking consequences.

This novel was very accessibly written for a Booker Prize book – and Fowler’s current novel Booth is on this year’s Booker Longlist too – and I did find the twist about the revelation of who (or what) Rosemary’s sister was to be a little obvious and overly deliberate. It was, however, an interesting and thoughtful novel that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The Humans, Matt Haig

Goodreads Rank: #71 in 2013

When an extraterrestrial visitor arrives on Earth, his first impressions of the human species are less than positive.

He is disgusted by the way humans look, what they eat, and the wars they witness on the news, and is totally baffled by concepts such as love and family. But as time goes on, he starts to realize there may be more to this weird species than he has been led to believe. He drinks wine, reads Emily Dickinson, listens to Talking Heads, and begins to bond with the family he lives with, in disguise. In picking up the pieces of the professor’s shattered personal life, the narrator sees hope and redemption in the humans’ imperfections.

I remember enjoying this one a lot – enough to pick up The Midnight Library which I enjoyed less – although it was a little obvious a trope: pretend to be human in order to infiltrate their society, but be won over by out broken, dysfunctional, absurd nature. It felt rather Doctor-Who-ish, which is not a bad thing at all.

More Than This, Patrick Ness

Goodreads Rank: #75 in 2013

A boy drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments. He dies. Then he wakes, naked and bruised and thirsty, but alive. How can this be? And what is this strange deserted place?

As he struggles to understand what is happening, the boy dares to hope. Might this not be the end? Might there be more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife?

Patrick Ness had already become an automatic-buy-author by this point in my blogging, reading career! More Than This incorporates and plays with a number of familiar sci-fi tropes from unrelenting killer cyborgs to The Matrix like artificial reality pods… but it does it so very well. Perhaps not as well as some other Ness books, but that is a high bar he had set himself!

So, there we have it: my thoughts on the books released ten years ago (rather approximately ten years or so, ish… maybe more like nine). It was, in retrospect, a rather good year for books! Do I agree with the Goodreads order? No, not at all. If I were to order them, it might look like this

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments about these, or your own reading from ten years ago!

Upcoming Top Ten Tuesday Themes

August 23: Completed Series I Wish Had More Books
August 30: School Freebie (In honor of school starting up soon, come up with a topic that somehow ties to school/education. The book could be set at school/college, characters could be teachers, books with school supplies on the cover, nonfiction titles, books that taught you something or how to do something, your favorite required reading in school, books you think should be required reading, your favorite banned books, etc.)
September 6: Books I Loved So Much I Had to Get a Copy for My Personal Library (Maybe you received an ARC or borrowed from a friend/the library and loved it so much you wanted your own! Or maybe you read it in one format and wanted another format, like you read it in ebook and wanted a physical copy to display on your shelves or you read it the paperback and would love to re-read it on audio. Change this TTT title to fit your post best!) (Submitted by Alecia @ The Staircase Reader)
September 13: Books with Geographical Terms in the Title (for example: mountain, island, latitude/longitude, ash, bay, beach, border, canyon, cape, city, cliff, coast, country, desert, epicenter, hamlet, highway, jungle, ocean, park, sea, shore, tide, valley, etc. For a great list, click here!) (Submitted by Lisa of Hopewell)
September 20: Books On My Fall 2022 To-Read List
September 27: Typographic Book Covers (Book covers with a design that is all or mostly all words. You can also choose to do books with nice typography if that’s easier!) (Submitted by Mareli @ Elza Reads)

23 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Love That Were Written Over Ten Years Ago”

  1. You’ve got a lot of my favorites on this list! I loved Completely Beside Ourselves, The Golem and the Jinni, Tale for the Time Being, the Rosie Project and the Ocean at the End of the Lane. I really liked Cuckoo’s Calling but I got tired of the series after a few books.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A lot can happen in ten years! And there’s nothing wrong with consistency/stability in life. Excitement is overrated in my opinion. LOL.

    THE ROSIE PROJECT is a great pick. I read that book in public a lot while my daughter was in dance class and it made me LOL for real a number of times. Weirdly, I haven’t read the sequel yet…

    Happy TTT (on a Wednesday)!


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good idea to do a “best of” for each year. Makes the choice much easier.
    That Kate Atkinson is one of the rare DNF’s for me – I’ve loved everything else she’s written.
    A Tale for the Time Being is superb. Not sure about her latest one yet…


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