20 Schott’s Original Miscellany
by Ben Schott
Bloomsbury, 2002 £10.99
This compendium of useless and amusing information had its origins in the Weekend section of the Telegraph.
by Orhan Pamuk, tr by Maureen Freely
Faber & Faber, 2004 £8.99
A political exile returns to Turkey and finds a country wasting away.
18 The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini
Bloomsbury, 2004 £7.99
Clunky writing but a poignant tale, this timely novel about an Afghan boy became a bestseller.
17 Madoff: the Man Who Stole $65 billion
by Erin Arvedlund
Penguin, 2009 £9.99
A gripping investigation into the fraudster by the whistle-blower who had been ignored.
16 The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
by Alexander McCall Smith
Abacus, 1998 £7.99
If you could condense charm into a paperback, this is what would result. Mma Precious Ramotswe appeared in 1998 but dominated the 2000s.
15 Samuel Pepys
by Claire Tomalin
Viking, 2002 £10.99
Magisterial biography of everyone’s favourite maid-tupping Restoration diarist.
14 Boyhood (1997), Youth (2002), Summertime (2009)
by JM Coetzee
Harvill Secker £7.99 each
A beautifully written trilogy of fictionalised memoirs that challenged genre conventions.
13 9/11 Commission Report
WW Norton, 2004 £6.99
Praised for its literary qualities as well as its findings.
12 Jade: My Autobiography
by Jade Goody
HarperCollins, 2006 £7.99
We hated her, then we loved her. The first of many memoirs from the world’s first non-celebrity celebrity.
11 The Tipping Point
by Malcolm Gladwell
Abacus, 2000 £7.99
A rip-roaring account of how cultural events happen. The title entered the language.
10 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
by Stieg Larsson, tr by Reg Keeland
Maclehose Press, 2008 £6.99
A journalist hooks up with a girl punk to form detective fiction’s unlikeliest pair, wading through the murky depths of Swedish society.
by Ian McEwan
Jonathan Cape, 2001 £7.99
Briony Tallis tells a lie and regrets it for the rest of her life. Metafictional country house war novel that became a literary bestseller.
8 White Teeth
by Zadie Smith
Hamish Hamilton, 2000 £7.99
Smith was feted for her incisive, funny account of two friends whose lives intertwine in London. The dilemmas of immigration are confronted with satire and sympathy.
7 The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño
tr by Natasha Wimmer
Picador, 2007 £8.99
This mesmerising novel features a quest for the founder of the “visceral realists”, and showcases the magical quality of Bolaño’s writing. He called it “a love letter to my generation”.
6 Being Jordan
by Katie Price
John Blake, 2004 £7.99
Katie Price now heads a publishing industry, producing children’s books, novels and four volumes of memoir, of which this was the first – and the most revealing.
5 The God Delusion
by Richard Dawkins
Bantam, 2006 £8.99
Belief in God is not only totally irrational, but actively harmful to society, says Richard Dawkins. Whether you agree with him or not, his book was a popular demolition job of the world’s great faiths.
4 A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
by Dave Eggers
Picador, 2000 £7.99
One of the first of the “creative” memoirs, this chronicled Eggers’s life with his younger siblings after the death of their parents from cancer. Bold, dazzling and fantastical, it launched a new style of writing.
3 The Da Vinci Code
by Dan Brown
Corgi, 2003 £7.99
Dan Brown may not be able to write, but he sure can pull in the punters. A mad mishmash of conspiracy theories about Jesus built around the most basic elements of a thriller, this has sold almost as many copies as the Bible and has made the world’s pulse beat faster.
2 Dreams from My Father
by Barack Obama
Canongate, 2007 £8.99
Originally published in 1995 in the US, this was launched in Britain to enormous acclaim before the first black president took to the world stage. Candid and sensitively written, the memoir is a search for his father (who left when Obama was two) and his racial identity. A touchstone for future politicians.
1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
by JK Rowling
Bloomsbury, 2007 £8.99
If you don’t know what a Muggle is by now, you’re either Rip van Winkle or enormously stubborn. This is the seventh and final instalment in Rowling’s record-breaking series about Harry Potter, the world’s most famous lightning-scarred boy wizard and his tribulations with Lord Voldemort. We’ve seen Harry grow from a spindly, messy-haired 11-year-old into a heroic young adult. Children have grown up with him, finding in his battles metaphors for their own. This volume alone sold 15 million copies in the first 24 hours after it was published. Whether wickedly skewering suburbia, or bringing Harry, Ron and Hermione into mortal danger, Rowling is never less than absorbing. Some may sneer at her books, but they are triumphant sagas about the defeat of evil that tap into our basic hunger for stories. Most importantly, she makes reading a 700-page book seem easy. This one even has a quotation from Aeschylus as its epigraph. It stands as a cornerstone of the decade, a melding of high and low culture that appeals to all ages and nations.