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10x10: The Best Books of the Decade

Best Poetry and Romance

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • December 27, 2019

As we count down to 2020, we present the fifth (and final!) installment of our 10 x 10 series—the ten great books from the past ten years in ten different categories. Each week for the past five weeks, we've published lists for two genres together. Last week's selections were Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Thriller/Mystery. This week, it's Poetry Collections and Romance. As always, there were beaucoup excellent choices and some great titles fell by the wayside, so please let us know about your favorites in the comments below!

Poetry Collections 10 x 10

A good book of poetry is something to be treasured. We earmark our favorite pages and read them again and again, memorizing their beautiful cadence. These are some from the last ten years that have stayed with us.

  • NoxAnne Carson has created something truly original with this elegiac, book-length poem about the loss of her brother. It has been described as many things: an artist's book, a collage, and a meditation on grief. IMHO, it is quite simply, a gorgeous work of art.
  • Life On Mars—This Pulitzer Prize-winning collection by Tracy K. Smith transcends earthly boundaries and weaves together themes of science, futurism, and popular culture, evoking an ethereal portrait of the universe.
  • When My Brother Was an Aztec—In her debut collection, Natalie Diaz, who is a registered member of the Gila Indian Tribe, reflects with visceral imagery and sensuous language on family, childhood, and her Native American experience.
  • Citizen: An American Lyric—This National Book Award-winner from Claudia Rankine is another hybrid, part poetry, part critical essay. With pinpoint precision, it provides a complex assessment of racism in contemporary America.
  • Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude—An award-winning collection from Ross Gay offers a sustained meditation on all that is transitory and seeks solace in the places where loss can become something that sustains us.
  • Felicity—From the beloved Mary Oliver, who passed away this past January, comes a collection about love. In these poems, she brings her joyful perspective to the strangeness and wonder of human connection.
  • Night Sky With Exit Wounds—In language both beautiful and brutal, Ocean Vuong explores deeply personal themes such as poverty, depression, sexuality, abuse, and the violence his family experienced during the Vietnam War.
  • Olio—Another Pulitzer-winner, this collection from Tyehimba Jess weaves sonnet, song, and narrative to examine the lives of African American performers directly before and after the Civil War up to World War I.
  • Don't Call Us Dead—New Yorker Award-winner Danez Smith draws from disparate traditions to create something entirely new in this astonishing, propulsive collection, one that confronts, praises, and rebukes America.
  • Soft ScienceFranny Choi explores queer, Asian American femininity, posing questions not just of identity, but of consciousness—how to be tender and vulnerable and still survive a violent, automated world.

Romance 10 x 10

Falling in love is the best! But for most of us, this is not something that happens every day. So we turn to the next best thing: books about love. Here are ten steamy romantic novels we fell for during the past decade.

  • Discovery of Witches—Drawing comparisons to Anne Rice and Diana Gabaldon, Deborah Harkness brewed up a masterful blend of romance and sorcery in her sparkling debut, the first in a trilogy.
  • Me Before You—Adapted into a 2016 film, this charming, unlikely love story from Jojo Moyes knocked us right off our feet. Louisa Clark's life was exceedingly ordinary until she took a badly needed job working for wheelchair-bound Will Traynor.
  • The Rosie Project—From Graeme Simsion comes a hilarious, feel-good novel about an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.
  • Archer's Voice—An emotional story from Mia Sheridan about two tortured souls who find their chance at an unexpected happiness when they meet. Brie and Archer aren't looking for love, but it finds them just the same.
  • To All The Boys I've Loved Before—A lovely, lighthearted YA romance by Jenny Han about a teenage girl who has a box of secret letters she's written to her former crushes. Until one day, they get sent.
  • It Ends With Us—A beautifully written, captivating tale of love that comes at the ultimate price. Colleen Hoover presents a juicy character-driven novel packed with wit, intelligence, and emotion.
  • Just Juliet—A coming-of-age and coming out story in one. This sweet YA novel by Charlotte Reagan tells the story of Lena, a high schooler whose seemingly ideal life is complicated when she falls for Juliet.
  • The Hating Game—The hilarious and sexy debut from Sally Thorne explores the, sometimes, fine line between hate and love. The antipathy between coworkers Lucy and Josh is intense, all-consuming, and maybe even passionate.
  • Love and Other Words—After a decade apart, childhood sweethearts meet by chance in New York City. Christina Lauren's touching novel asks the question: How many words will it take for them to figure out what went wrong?
  • Red, White, and Royal Blue—What happens when America's first son falls for the Prince of Wales? This debut from Casey McQuiston tells the delightful, heartfelt story of two young men forging an unlikely connection from opposite sides of the pond.

And That's It!

We've come to the end! Our top ten books in ten different categories for the past ten years. It's been a lot of fun to think back on all the books we've loved this decade. And as always, we missed some great ones for sure! Let us know if you have any favorites that got left out! And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for daily book suggestions, book news, and more.

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BestOfTheDecade | Poetry | Romance
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