Top 10 Best Selling Books of the 2000s
1. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
Love it or loathe it, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown had the world talking when it led the best sellers list.
The story of a supposed 'holy message' in the painting of The Last Supper, it was also a neat thriller with one of the 2000s best fiction characters, Robert Langdon.
Robert Langdon is a 'symbologist', a man able to decipher codes, numerical and alphabetical symbols to reveal underlying meaning.
The Da Vinci Code is often criticised for not being a 'well written' book but no one could criticise it as a riveting, page turning fiction novel which was successful because of its rather brave story about religious sects, Christianity and flagellation.
Dan Brown stirs in some Renaissance art, modern day fraud and murder - how could this book fail?
The book was a big word of mouth hit but received lots of publicity because of its subject matter but also because various authors claimed that Dan Brown had nicked their idea!
2. The Lost Symbol - Dan Brown
The Last Symbol was the third novel to feature Harvard symbolism expert, Robert Langdon and was mainly about Freemasonry; once again weaving symbolism, meaning and ancient beliefs with a modern theme.
It sold 1 million books on its first day of release - a much anticipated book!
The plot finds Langdon in Washington DC apparently at the request of one of his former students but he has been misled, instead finding himself dealing with a kidnapper who has already debilitated one man and threatens Langdon with further harm if he is unable to unock the symbolism on a masonic pyramid in the capitol.
It seems readers cannot get enough of Langdon but especially his ability to crack intricate codes, puzzles and symbols. Langdon also seems to be able to get himself out of many tight situations.
Dan Brown will probably never be revered as a wonderful writer but he should be much admired for his storytelling abilities.
3. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet In Heaven is as much a work of philosophy as it is a work of fiction.
Eddie, the main character saves the life of a child on a funfair ride but dies himself.
He awakens from the accident not realising that he has died and is introduced to the five people in his own life who had the most influence on him; including his late wife, Marguerite and his former Army captain.
In his conversations with each of the people in turn, it is made crystal clear that there is nothing random about life or about the people we meet - we all affect one another in different ways and some of the people we meet will make enormous differences to our lives - they might save our lives, we might have saved theirs, we may have really loved them or really disliked them but for whatever reason, they changed us.
The Five People We Meet In Heaven was a hugely popular book, staying on the New York Best Sellers List for 95 weeks.
4. Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
Dan Brown's third best seller on this list is the second of his Robert Langdon books.
The book was actually written before The Da Vinci Code but got more popular after The Da Vinci Code was a best seller.
It was, like The Da Vinci Code, also made into a blockbuster movie starring Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon.
Angels and Demons is mainly about the Illuminati, an ancient secret sect which has received a lot of publicity lately because of stars like Beyonce making the diamond sign with her hands at the Grammy Awards.
Dan Brown enjoys the melding of ancient and modern and the novel is another where his main protagonist is thrust into danger by his own intelligence. Code breaking, once again, lies at the heart of the story but is this time 'antimatter' is key to the plot so as well as it being set at the Vatican, Brown mixes religion and physics - faith versus scientific belief.
Sometimes, you need to read and re-read to get it to make sense but as always, you are rewarded with a real page turning thriller with a bit of code-cracking included!
5. The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini
The Kite Runner is, in many respects, a historical novel, covering the years when Afghanistan was invaded by the Russians all the way through its time under Taliban rule and later intervention by US forces.
However, at its heart is the story of two small boys Amir and Hassan, one from a wealthy family, the other the son of his father's servant.
The boys fly kites and are good at it; Amir flies the kites and Hassan finds the fallen kites after battle, returning victorious to Amir and their village to show their success.
In time, Amir is mocked by his peers for playing with Hassan and eventually betrays his friend; all the while feeling terrible about what he has done but unable to apologise. He has lied to his father about what has happened and cost Hassan's father his job and Hassan and his father have left the village.
After the Russian invasion Amir's father takes him to America where he becomes a successful novelist, always wondering though about his fried Hassan and what became of him.
The book will break your heart but also restore your faith in human nature as Amir returns to Afghanistan in search of his friend and his need for forgiveness.
6. The Secret Life of Bees - Sue Monk Kidd
The Secret Life of Bees is set in South Carolina in 1964 at the height of racial unrest in the year the Civil Rights Act was under scrutiny.
Lily, a white girl living with her abusive drunken father makes a break for freedom with black maid, Rosaleen who has acted as a sort of surrogate for Lily's missing mother, Deborah.
What follows is a story of self-discovery for Lily as she and Rosaleen are taken in by 3 African American sisters, the Boatwrights, making their own honey and also living a life of individual faith; a symbol of a black madonna adorns the jars of honey and in their world Lily begins to understand life on their terms against a backdrop of the American south at times of terrible social unrest.
She falls in love with a black boy but they cannot admit their feelings for fear of what might happen to him.
Lily's real purpose in the book is to find her mother who she believes has run away from her father.
Truths are revealed little by little as Lily discovers that her mother died long ago,trying to rescue Lily from her father. Her father decided the child is too young to understand and doesn't tell her.
The relationships with the Boatwrights has been filled with happiness and tragedy and Lily has learnt more under their roof than she ever did with her father.
The Secret Life of Bees is about Lily's lost relationship with her mother, of whom she has no memory and of how the Boatwrights could restore some of their own memories of her mother and help her to come to terms with her loss.
Sue Monk-Kidd is interested in feminist theology and this novel examines this subject very closely - the black madonna is a brave symbol on the jars of honey made by the Boatwrights; their own relationship with the Virgin Mary is understood through this symbol - a simply drawn picture of Jesus' mother as a negro - their honey is delicious because of their love of this madonna.
7. The Shack - William Paul Young
The Shack is about a man finding his faith again.
Not too much can be said about it here in case you decide to read it but the basis of the story is that one man, Mack Phillips gets to meet God!
The Shack is the worst place in his life - the place where all of his unhappiness is centered and a place he does not want to see again.
But fate intervenes and a letter left in his mailbox leads him back to the shack and back to that unhappiness and tragedy.
From start to finish you will live in Mack's life, you will live in his head and if you did not believe in God at the start of the book, you might at least reconsider by the end?
8. A Thousand Splendid Suns Khaled Hosseini
Another book about Afghanistan at the height of its political unrest, A Thousand Splendid Suns tells the story of women's lives at the time of the Taliban and of the tentative liberation when the Americans invade the country and the Taliban's rule is ended.
A Thousand Splendid Suns was Khaled Hosseini's follow up to The Kite Runner and whilst that novel placed male friendships under the microscope, A Thousand Splendid Suns is all about women's lives.
The story begins with the arranged marriage of Mariam to a much older man and her miserable existence in his home village.
A second story about Laila and her love for Tariq runs parallel to Mariam's and soon the two women meet when Mariam's husband, Rasheed, decided he wants a second wife; this one younger and more attractive than Mariam. He admired Laila from afar but does no more than that. Mariam has been unable to bear him a child, though has suffered several miscarriages.
Tariq and Laila have consummated their relationship but Tariq is forced to leave Kabul when the Taliban invade. Laila's parents are killed in an explosion and Laila agrees to marry Rasheed, knowing that she in pregnant with Tariq's child.
What follows is the blossoming friendship, against all the odds, of Laila and Mariam set against the backdrop of Taliban rule.
A slow burner which grips you just when you wonder when its going to get going - the novel will grip you until the end as you cheer on Mariam and Laila in their fight against the abusive Rasheed and later against the Taliban men in the village as they turn women into second class citizens and take their country into a terrifying conflict.
Keep your tissues handy! This book will bring tears to your eyes but is a wonderful read.
9. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Prior to writing The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold was more well known for her memoir of her experience of rape, Lucky.
Lucky was written in 1999, several years after Sebold had graduated from Syracuse University, having survived a terrible rape. She actually spotted her rapist in her senior year on a street near the University and bravely, went back to the police who captured him. He was tried and imprisoned for the maximum term.
Sebold has argued many times that acts of violence are 'everyday' events and people should not switch off from what is going on around them even if they themselves are not affected.
The Lovely Bones is also about an act of extreme violence - the rape, murder and dismembering of a child.
The child, having died, goes to heaven and the story is told from her viewpoint as she looks down on her family struggling to cope with her death and also on her murderer, still a free man.
The story concentrates not only on the police investigation into her death but also on the smaller relationships developing because she died.
As much a novel about mourning and learning to support one another after a loss as it is about the murder investigation, it mixes philosophy with crime but always tells the story from Susie's perspective as she watches from heaven.
An unusual, arguably unique look at the importance of love (and other people) in our lives; it sold millions of copies and remained on the New York Best Selling Books List for over a year.
Some have suggested it is a little too sugary in places - basically its telling people to love each other and that when life is short (like Susie's life), we need to appreciate it even more.
Heaven is presented by Alice Sebold as a place without any religious links, she doesn't discuss God, it is just a lovely place. Readers, regardless of their beliefs, are given a taste of Alice Sebold's vision of the afterlife; this can lead to criticism of the book but Sebold has always claimed that it is not a novel about religion and that she is happy for people to create their own meanings from its themes.
10. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Life of Pi won the Man Booker Prize, the UK's greatest literary prize in 2002. This must have been very satisfying for its Canadian author Yann Martell who had seen the book rejected by a number of top British publishers.
The Life of Pi is the story of a boy who survives a shipwreck, only to be trapped in a lifeboat with wild animals being taken over to Canada in a freighter by his father, a zookeeper.
At first Pi is trapped with a hyena, zebra and orangutan but naturally, the hyena eats the zebra and orangutan and Pi does all he can to not be eaten himself.
He then discovers the hyena has been killed by an unknown occupant of the lifeboat, a Bengal tiger called Richard Parker (strange but true!)
Thereafter follows the story of how Pi learns to share the lifeboat with a man eating tiger.
The story is split into three parts, one part of which is actually Pi being interviewed by Yann Martel so there are elements of fantasy and magic realism entwined in the unusual story of a shipwrecked tiger and a young Tamal boy.
Life of Pi is an unusual book and all the better for being very different - it was recently made into a successful movie.
The new millenium at first seemed to be a decade of reminiscence but thereafter seems to have been a decade of introspection and the non-fiction books certainly suggest that readers are looking inwards as well as outwards for the answer to some of life's biggest issues. Love and the environment seemed to trouble many readers in the 2000s as did the search for self-fulfilment, a nice mixed bag of literature - all best sellers!
The #1 book, though, is still a diet book! Some things never change.
- South Beach Diet Arthur Agatston
- The Purpose Driven Life Rick Warren
- The Last Lecture Randy Pausch
- The Secret Rhonda Byrne
- The Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell
- The Elements of Style William Strunk
- Rich Dad, Poor Dad Robert T Kiyosaki
- Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth Gilbert
- A Million Little Pieces James Frey
- A New Earth Eckhart Tolle