Esquire‘s editors chose The Sympathizer as one of their most influential books of the decade.
To choose the ten best books of the decade is, of course, an impossible task. (That’s why we here at Esquire refused to complete the assignment as directed and chose eleven.)
But in all seriousness: how to winnow thousands of worthy books down to the select few that shone the brightest? As we navigated the selection process, we spoke at length about the benchmarks we felt these books should meet. They should, of course, sing on a stylistic level, with finely crafted prose and imaginative structure. They should move us, carry emotional heft, shake us to our cores. They should not just challenge the limits of what literature can do and be, but challenge received wisdom about the world we live in–push us toward some greater understanding of the shared human experience. They should change us and change the world simultaneously, leaving room in their wake for like-minded writers to carry on the good work.
What emerged from our conversations were eleven extraordinary books that roared off the page, that moved us deeply, that nudged the world in a new and better direction. They span a broad array of settings, taking place everywhere from midcentury Naples to supernatural limbo. They range from genre-bending novels to deeply reported works of nonfiction. They’ve produced powerful change, from blowing open the exclusionary landscape of American fiction to forcing multi-billion dollar industries to reckon with their sins. Frankly, we can’t imagine the past decade without these books. Read on for our list of the books that changed everything these past ten years.
10. The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
In a time when the country is re-examining what it means to be American, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Sympathizer eloquently explores the duality of the immigrant experience. Its insight extends all the way to how the Western world (mis)represents other cultures in popular culture, making for a darkly hilarious, deeply moving espionage thriller.
Read about the other picks at Esquire.