The Books That Defined My Decade

In my opinion, the end of 2019 is a special moment. Not only are we closing out a year and ushering in a new one, we’re straight-up closing out a decade. That is some significant shit. No matter how you feel about the past ten years, fact of the matter is, 10 years is a huge chunk of one’s lifetime. That’s not a small thing, and neither are the things that happened during this past decade that influenced who you are today.

In particular, for millennials like me, the 2010s were an era in and of itself. A lot of us did our growing up during this decade, transitioning from preteens to high school students to functioning adult members of society. The 2010s defined us. It was during these ten years that we learned what we liked and didn’t like, what we enjoyed, what we believed in, what we would fight for. It was these ten years that we sowed the seeds of the adults we are today. 

At the start of the decade, I was 16 years old. I had just started college, moved out of my mom’s house, and was on my own for the first time in my entire life. I barely knew what I was doing, let alone what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I majored in political science, joined a bunch of campus orgs that would look good on my resume, but otherwise mostly kept to myself in my dorm room with a massive pile of books.

Now, I’m 26. I’ve been out of college for longer than I’ve been in it. I’ve moved in with my boyfriend, and have a job that – while it periodically kicks my ass – I enjoy and am passionate about. I consider myself a fairly well-rounded and intelligent person, with varied interests and hobbies, a small group of close friends that I can rely on for anything, and the capacity to both comprehend my privilege and what I can do to level the playing field for others. I like to think the past decade turned me out pretty okay!

Consistently, big part of who I am throughout the decade came from the books I read. I credit being a wide and voracious reader with the personality and disposition that I have now, so I thought, what better way to celebrate the end of the 2010s than with a post dedicated to the books that defined my decade?

For each year from 2010 to 2019, I name the books published in that year that I most enjoyed and related to. Read on, and let me know if you enjoyed any of these books too!

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2010

  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – I remember reading the conclusion to this trilogy and being absolutely stunned at the ending. Even now, years later, its message of the senselessness and futility of war still resonates with me. Also, I really appreciated Katniss’s reasoning in choosing Peeta (as her exact opposite, he calms her down and provides her safety and peace rather than the constant anger and fire of Gale).
  • I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore – I remember loving this book back when I first read it, but today I couldn’t tell you why. I reread I Am Number Four some time ago and found it way too lengthy, and incredibly boring.
  • The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan – As one of those kids who was utterly obsessed with Ancient Egypt, I was so happy when Uncle Rick finally began this Percy Jackson-esque series based on Egyptian mythology. It was also one of the first internationally-published books I remember reading that featured explicitly biracial characters.
  • Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins – Another book I once loved that, unfortunately, did not stand the test of time. It was much too dramatic and nonsensical, but I do appreciate this book for helping me realized that I adored stories about witches!

2011

  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – Funnily enough, I read this book because my boyfriend liked it and gave me a copy! We started dating in September of 2011, and this was his Christmas gift to me.
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – I freaking loved this book so much! The Night Circus was the first book I read with really flowery, poetic, descriptive writing, and to this day I still think it’s one of the most vibrant books I’ve ever read. I recently reread it and found to my surprise that my love for it hasn’t changed a bit!
  • A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness – I got introduced to this book by a good friend, and found myself utterly enchanted by the combination of fantasy, magic, and academia. I know there’s a TV series out but I haven’t seen it yet. Is it any good?
  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller – Until I read this book, I had no idea how gay the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles actually was (that’s what happens when you take up The Illiad in a very conservative private school) and now I’ll never think of them any other way ever again.
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth – Ah, Divergent. I remember being so in love with this trilogy, but looking back I honestly don’t get it. Like, what was the point of dividing people into factions? Why did Tris have to die? And why in the name of all things holy did Kate Winslet and Daniel Dae Kim agree to star in the movie adaptation?

2012

  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – I remember reading this book over and over again over a period of three months. I highlighted and underlined the “cool girl” speech and I wrote it down on the front page of my planner for that year. I was obsessed with this book, y’all.
  • The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman – I remember how sad this book made me, and the movie starred Michael Fassbender, but other than that, I really can’t recall anything more about this book. I do know I loved it at the time though! Maybe I’m due for a reread.
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein – This book was easily my favorite of 2012! It was so moving, so emotional, and captured the horrors of war as seen by a young girl in a way that no writer has really been able to. I know I’m definitely gonna do a reread soon.
  • Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers – This book started my love affair with female assassins! Looking back on it now, I wish it had gone deeper into the political and court intrigue side of things, but it still was definitely a badass book.

2013

  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – In 2013, I was 19 years old and had just graduated from university. All the life I had ever lived had taken place behind the walls of school. But somehow, this book managed to make me feel melancholy and nostalgic for childhood days long gone. The sheer, utter power of Neil Gaiman’s storytelling.
  • The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch – I started reading Scott Lynch’s books when I was in high school, and eagerly devoured the third book when it was published. I also really enjoyed this book because it brought me back to when the Gentlemen Bastards were hale, whole, and complete.
  • And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini – This book had me sobbing. So many stories intertwined together, spanning entire decades and continents. The writing was almost stark in its simplicity, but that just emphasized the beauty of the plot.
  • I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai – Read this with my university book club. A compelling story of a young woman who survived the odds to become a champion for education.

2014

  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – This was the first book I read where I started collecting quotes. Set in World War II, about the lives of a blind daughter of a museum custodian and a young boy with a talent for engineering recruited by the Hitler Youth, this book’s vibrant and descriptive writing captured me as a reader.
  • To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han – One of the first contemporary YA books I’ve ever read that featured an Asian protagonist. I don’t much like this book anymore, but I’ll always appreciate Jenny Han for giving the world a character that Asians the world over could love and relate to.
  • The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey – My second foray into zombie fiction, and one I greatly enjoyed! The movie was good too.
  • The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton – I’d never read any historical novel set in Amsterdam before, so this was really intriguing. I bought this book on a whim at Changi Airport in Singapore and I’m really glad I did!

2015

  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – I bought this book just before my boyfriend and I went on a trip to Sagada, and I enjoyed reading this a lot. Unfortunately, this is another one of those books that my love for did not last. As I got older and read more diverse books, I realized that the POC representation in this book is pretty shallow and performative. I still do enjoy this duology, and I look forward to the Netflix series, but I would no longer call this one of my favourites.
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – I have the same thoughts and feelings on A Darker Shade of Magic that I do for Six of Crows.
  • The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco – This book has a special place in my heart because it was the first internationally-published book I’d ever read that was published by a Filipino who still lived in the Philippines. Not only is this super meaningful for me, the book is really good too! (Just don’t read it at night, especially not if you’re alone.)

2016

  • Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo – Since Six of Crows had ended on a cliffhanger, I eagerly looked forward to reading the sequel. I was upset that Matthias had died, but found it fitting that he was killed by someone who was once as young and bigoted as he was.
  • A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab – I actually liked the second book in this trilogy more than I did the first book. I found the concept of the Element Games interesting, and of course, Kell and Lila reuniting was fun to read. However, soon after I finished A Conjuring of Light, the last book in the series, V.E. Schwab pulled some rather questionable shit on Twitter, which served as a sad – but much-needed – reminder that V.E. Schwab might be a queer woman, but she’s still a white woman, and when she turns against a POC blogger, it can get real ugly, real fast.
  • The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin – This book was weird as hell. The characters were all spoiled and unlikable prisses and it made me hate the idea of New York City like nothing else, but I still found this book utterly fascinating. I can’t explain it, to be honest.
  • Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly – This book is a friendly reminder that American history is not as white as textbooks and movies would have you believe. Three Black women were absolutely essential to the American space race, and this book is their story. It’s filled with math and science jargon, so make sure you have Google on standby, but otherwise, I absolutely loved this book.

2017

  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – This was literally the first book I’d read where the main character explicitly identified herself as bisexual. I remember being so shocked at seeing that word in print, stark and unchangeable. That, combined with a compelling plot and excellent writing, made this book an instant favourite.
  • Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore – This is the first Anna-Marie McLemore book I read, and I remember just being so enchanted by the vibrant, descriptive writing. This was also yet another book I read where the characters are depicted as bisexual, which I appreciated so much.
  • The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco – Read my review here.
  • The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty – I first spotted this book on Fadwa’s blog and was intrigued (I followed Fadwa’s blog way back when, even when I wasn’t a book blogger myself yet!). I read it and fell in love with the rich, powerful images that the author wove. This novel is definitely on my list of “books that need to be turned into movies ASAP”!
  • Jade City by Fonda Lee – Recommended to me by Shealea, and I am ever so grateful to her for it. This ended up setting the bar for me in terms of adult fantasy, and I can’t wait for the third book in the series! (The second book can be found in this list under the year 2019!)

2018

  • Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan – Read my review here.
  • Everlasting Nora by Marie Cruz – Read my review here.
  • The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco – Read my review here.
  • The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang – Read my review here.
  • Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri – Read my review here.

2019

  • Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay – Read my review here.
  • Crier’s War by Nina Varela – Read my review here.
  • Jade War by Fonda Lee – Read my review here.
  • My Fate According to the Butterfly by Gail D. Villanueva – Read my review here.
  • The Never-Tilting World by Rin Chupeco – Read my review here.
  • Shadowglass by Rin Chupeco – Read my review here.
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What do you think?

☕  Have you read any of these books?
☕  What books defined your decade?
☕  Are you ready to enter the 2020s?

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17 thoughts on “The Books That Defined My Decade

  1. Pingback: Blog anniversary Q&A! | Your Tita Kate

  2. Pingback: Month in Review: January 2020 – thewasofshall

  3. I’ve only read two books from this list (TATBILB and Mockingjay), so clearly I have some work to do! 🤓
    I think the books that impacted me the most this decade were the Matched trilogy by Ally Condie, because they got me into reading in 2016, and thanks to them, I’ve grown a lot and become a reader! So I’m very grateful to them ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So many of these are just amazing books, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, All the Light We Cannot See, To All the Boys I’v Loved Before, The Light Between Oceans, and more. There a few on this list I have been eyeing for a while, The Song of Achilles, A Discovery of Witches, and I am Malala. This just makes me want to get to them even sooner. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It was so satisfying to see your list, Kate! Taking note to put some of those in my TBR list (my never-ending pile haha). Will definitely try extra harder to track what I have read. Your decade in books looks awesome and it was interesting to see you shift in terms of genres.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love the idea of tracking the past decade through books and thinking about what was happening in my life around the time that I read those books. Like you, this decade has been intense and involved a lot of tough growing up. I can’t believe all that has happened in the past 10 years and can’t even begin to imagine what the next 10 hold.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Avery! And thanks for sharing the post! I totally conked out after I scheduled it to go live and didn’t wake up until this morning lol.

      This decade WAS intense, wasn’t it? Hopefully the next ten years bring even more blessings to us both, friend.

      Manigong bagong taon!

      Liked by 1 person

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