Boston Public Library: Top Fiction and Non-Fiction Books of the 2010s

This is one of the 268 lists we use to generate our main The Greatest Books list.

  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

    The book revolves around the Richardson family and the mysterious mother-daughter duo who move into their rental home in Shaker Heights, Ohio. The lives of the seemingly perfect suburban Richardson family become intertwined with the lives of Mia Warren, an enigmatic artist, and her daughter Pearl. As the children of both families form relationships, secrets are uncovered, leading to a dramatic climax. The novel explores themes of motherhood, identity, and the moral complexities of following rules versus following one's instincts.

  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

    This novel follows the journey of Cora, a young slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia, who escapes and embarks on a journey towards freedom via the Underground Railroad. The book presents a literal version of the historical Underground Railroad, portraying it as a physical network of tunnels and tracks beneath the Southern soil. As Cora travels from state to state, she encounters different worlds and harsh realities, each one illuminating the various forms of oppression Black people faced in America. The narrative is a brutal exploration of America's history of slavery and racism, and a testament to the unyielding spirit of those who fought against it.

  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

    The book is a profound exploration of love, loyalty, and justice, centered on a young African American couple whose lives are shattered when the husband is wrongfully convicted of a crime he didn't commit. The narrative delves into the emotional turmoil that ensues, as the wife struggles with her obligations to her husband and her own desires for happiness. Through a series of letters exchanged between the couple during the husband's incarceration, and the perspectives of those entangled in their plight, the story examines the complexities of marriage, the impact of racial injustice on personal relationships, and the resilience required to overcome profound adversity.

  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

    The novel follows the life of Count Alexander Rostov, an aristocrat who is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin, by a Bolshevik tribunal during the early years of Soviet Russia. Despite the vast historical changes occurring outside the hotel's walls, the Count lives a life of intellectual exploration, emotional discovery, and surprising personal growth within the confines of the luxurious establishment. Over the decades, his reduced circumstances provide a lens through which to observe the tumultuous events of mid-20th century Russia, as he befriends staff and guests, raises a spirited young girl who comes into his care, and adapts to his new reality with grace and wit.

  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    The novel follows a young Nigerian woman who emigrates to the United States for a university education. While there, she experiences racism and begins blogging about her experiences as an African woman in America. Meanwhile, her high school sweetheart faces his own struggles in England and Nigeria. The story is a powerful exploration of race, immigration, and the complex nature of identity, love, and belonging.

  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

    The novel is a deeply moving portrayal of four friends in New York City, spanning over several decades. It primarily focuses on Jude, a man with a mysterious and traumatic past, who struggles with physical disability and emotional trauma. The story explores themes of friendship, love, trauma, suffering, and the human will to endure in spite of life's hardships. It is an epic tale of heartbreak and despair but also of resilience and enduring love.

  • My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

    This novel tells the story of two friends, Elena and Lila, growing up in a poor neighborhood in Naples, Italy in the 1950s. Their intense, complicated friendship is marked by competition, mutual respect, and deep affection. As they navigate the challenges of adolescence, including family drama, academic struggles, and romantic entanglements, their bond is tested and transformed. The narrative explores themes of female friendship, social class, education, and the struggle for personal autonomy in a patriarchal society.

  • Normal People by Sally Rooney

    "Normal People" is a novel that explores the complex relationship between two high school students from different social classes in a small town in Ireland. Despite their contrasting backgrounds, they form a strong bond that continues into their university years at Trinity College. The narrative follows their journey, filled with misunderstandings, miscommunications, and emotional intimacy, as they navigate their way through love, friendship, mental health issues, and the struggles of growing up.

  • Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

    The novel explores the journey of a 13-year-old boy, his drug-addicted mother, and his baby sister as they travel through Mississippi to pick up their white father from the state penitentiary. The story is steeped in the harsh realities of poverty, racism, and struggle, and is further complicated by the presence of a ghost from the family's past. It's a haunting tale about the legacy of trauma and the power of family ties.

  • Tenth of December by George Saunders

    "Tenth of December" is a collection of short stories that explore themes of class, love, loss, and the struggle of human existence in contemporary America. The stories range from a young boy's confrontation with a pedophile, to a middle-class woman's encounter with a drug-addicted veteran, to a futuristic tale about neuropharmacology. The collection is known for its dark humor, social criticism, and exploration of the human condition.

  • Dark Money: The Hidden History Of The Billionaires Behind The Rise Of The Radical Righ by Jane Mayer

    "Dark Money" by Jane Mayer is an investigative book that delves into the secretive world of political funding by wealthy individuals and corporations. Mayer exposes the hidden history of the billionaires behind the rise of the radical right, including the Koch brothers and their network of donors. She reveals how these donors have used their enormous wealth to shape American politics and policy, pushing their own interests and agendas while undermining democracy. Mayer's book is a sobering reminder of the dangers of unchecked political influence by the ultra-wealthy.

  • The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

    The book explores the concept of the sixth extinction, suggesting that we are currently in the midst of it due to human activity. By examining previous mass extinctions and the current rapid loss of species, the author argues that humans are causing a mass extinction event through climate change, habitat destruction, and spreading of non-native species. The book offers a sobering look at the impact of human behavior on the natural world, emphasizing the urgency of addressing these environmental issues.

  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

    This book provides a comprehensive exploration of the history of the human species, tracing back from the earliest forms of Homo Sapiens to the modern day. It delves into evolutionary biology, the development of cultures and societies, and the rise of major ideologies and technologies. The book also discusses the future of the species, posing thought-provoking questions about our roles and responsibilities in a rapidly changing world.

  • Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich

    "Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets" is a compilation of personal narratives from individuals who lived through the transformation of the Soviet Union to modern Russia. The book provides a vivid and emotional portrayal of the experiences of ordinary people during this period of significant societal and political change. The author uses these narratives to explore themes such as the impact of political ideology on individual lives, the nature of memory and history, and the enduring effects of trauma and loss.

  • Strangers In Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild

    "Strangers In Their Own Land" is a captivating exploration of the political divide in America, focusing on the state of Louisiana. The author, through her immersive research and interviews with residents, delves into the lives of conservative individuals who feel marginalized and overlooked by the liberal elite. Hochschild uncovers the deep-rooted emotions and beliefs that shape their perspectives, shedding light on the complex factors that have contributed to the rise of right-wing politics in the country.

  • The Warmth Of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

    "The Warmth of Other Suns" is a powerful and deeply moving narrative that chronicles the Great Migration, a significant event in American history that saw millions of African Americans leave the South in search of better opportunities and freedom from racial oppression. Through the compelling stories of three individuals, the book explores the challenges, triumphs, and sacrifices made by these courageous migrants as they embarked on a journey to find a new life in the North and West, ultimately reshaping the social and cultural landscape of America.

  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

    The book tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, a poor African American tobacco farmer whose cells, taken without her knowledge in 1951, became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta's cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can't afford health insurance. The book explores the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew.

  • Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones

    This book provides an in-depth exploration of the opioid crisis in America, tracing its origins and examining its devastating impact. It delves into the lives of addicts, doctors, drug traffickers, and families affected by the epidemic, providing a comprehensive look at the complex factors that contributed to the crisis. The narrative also discusses the role of pharmaceutical companies and uncovers how the aggressive marketing of painkillers led to widespread addiction. Additionally, it sheds light on the black tar heroin trade, revealing how it has infiltrated small towns and suburban communities.

  • Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

    This book is a gripping exploration of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, focusing on the disappearance of Jean McConville, a mother of ten who was abducted by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1972. The narrative weaves together the stories of several key figures in the IRA, including Dolours Price, an IRA member who became disillusioned with the organization, and Brendan Hughes, a former IRA commander. The book delves deep into the political and personal complexities of the conflict, revealing the long-lasting trauma and moral ambiguities that continue to haunt those involved.

  • What The Eyes Don't See by Mona Hanna-Attisha

    "What The Eyes Don't See" is a gripping memoir that recounts the true story of a courageous pediatrician who unraveled the devastating water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Faced with skepticism and resistance from powerful institutions, she relentlessly pursued justice for the community, ultimately exposing the government's negligence and the toxic lead contamination that had been poisoning the city's residents for years. This powerful narrative sheds light on the importance of activism, resilience, and the fight for truth in the face of adversity.

About this list

Boston Public Library, 20 Books

The top 10 books of the 2010s from the Reader Services Department at the Boston Public Library. Please note that this list only includes the fiction and non-fiction books. The genres are aggregated in a different list.

Added 7 months ago.

How Good is this List?

This list has a weight of 36%. To learn more about what this means please visit the Rankings page.

Here is a list of what is decreasing the importance of this list:

  • List: only covers 10 years
  • Voters: specific voter details are lacking
  • Voters: are mostly from a single country/location

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