We are nearing the end of the Decades Reading Challenge and we’ve worked our way up to the 2010s.
You can read all about the challenge, download your free printable reading tracker, and find book lists for other decades here.
As always, we welcome you to choose any book you like that is set in the decade, but to help you get started, we’ve compiled a great list of books set in the 2010s. Our fiction recommendations include works of drama, romance, comedy, and young adult literature that provide insights into the culture and social issues of the decade. Several memoirs and non-fiction books also closely examine life in the second decade of the new millennium.
The 2020s has already been such a news-filled decade that it’s almost hard to remember the events dominating the twenty-tens. There was a rising focus on new and lingering inequalities both in America and around the world that led to both strife and progress. Mass shootings and natural disasters permeated throughout the decade and American politics became increasingly divisive.
In the 2010s, social media use evolved from a simple way to stay connected with friends into an easy way to influence strangers. Sometimes it’s good, like our ability to share favorite books with you right now and the money raised for ALS research during the Ice Bucket Challenge. However, the full negative ramifications of social media are also still being learned, from increased teen suicide to misinformation spreading like wildfire during elections.
Along the way, there were fundamental changes in how we travel and vacation through the creation of the sharing economy and companies like Uber and AirBNB. Alternative energies became more advanced and many companies became more aware of their environmental impacts. We learned more about the harm of things like single-use plastics. We have a ways to go, but we’re doing a better job protecting the earth in 2019 than we were when the decade started.
MAJOR EVENTS OF 2010 TO 2019
Before recommending books from each decade, we like to provide historical context with an overview of the major events of the time, but if you’d prefer, feel free to scroll straight to our book list.
A January 2010 earthquake near Haiti’s capital, followed by more than 50 aftershocks, caused catastrophic damage to the island nation.
In April 2010, Apple launched the first generation iPad. While the iPad was not the very first tablet PC, it’s immediate popularity gave rise to numerous competitors.
The 2010 underground explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia killed 29 miners.
The Tea Party movement, representing conservative populist social and political views, first began in 2009 but gained significant support and popularity during the 2010 mid-term elections.
An underwater 9.0 magnitude earthquake of the coast of Japan in March 2011 caused a tsunami with waves over 130 feet high. Damage from the earthquake and tsunami triggered a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.
England’s Prince William married Catherine Middleton in April of 2011. The royal wedding was seen by an estimated 22.8 million television viewers around the world. Seven years later, in May of 2018, William’s younger brother, Prince Harry, married American Meghan Markle before a television audience of more than 29 million.
In September of 2011, Occupy Wall Street began as a march through the streets of the Financial District of NYC and turned into a months-long sit-in at a park near the New York Stock Exchange. This protest movement, centered around issues of social and economic inequality, greed, and corruption, gained attention on social media and gave rise to other Occupy movements in the US and around the world.
England’s Queen Elizabeth celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, marking 60 years since her 1952 ascension to the throne.
In July of 2012, “Gangnam Style” – the music video for the song by South Korean musician, Psy, became the first YouTube video to ever reach one billion views, and launched a worldwide dance craze.
On December 14, 2012, a 20-year old man entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and killed 26 people, including 20 kids between the ages of six and seven. This was just one of many horrific episodes of gun violence that marred the decade. Others included the 2012 movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado that killed 12 and injured more than 70 others; the 2015 shooting of nine parishioners during a church prayer group in Charleston, South Carolina by a young white-supremisist; the 2017 murder of 58 people attending a music festical in Las Vegas at the hands of a gunman in a 32nd-floor hotel room window who also injured hundreds of others. and 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which the teen gunman killed 17 and injured 17 others.
During the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon, two brothers detonated bombs that killed three and injured 264. A massive manhunt for the suspects of the Boston Marathon bombing ensued over the following four days.
A devastating EF-5 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma in May of 2013 ravaged the town and destroyed the elementary school. It was the deadliest tornado in the US since the 2011 Joplin, Missouri tornado that killed 158 people.
In 2013, several activists started using the social media hashtag #BlackLivesMatter following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of teen Trayvon Martin. The hashtag became a national movement that gained additional traction during the protests that followed the 2014 deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City, who were both killed during encounters with the police.
Throughout the 2010s, social media became a popular way to raise money for charities. In the summer of 2014, the viral Ice Bucket Challenge raised over $115 million for ALS research, and those funds aided in the discovery of a new ALS gene.
Following the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, same-sex marriage became legal in all fifty states in June of 2015.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady, became the first female presidential nominee of a major political party. She ran against businessman Donald Trump who ultimately won the 2016 Presidential Election with a large electoral college victory despite losing the popular vote by 2.8 million voters.
In 2016, Britons voted to withdraw the United Kingdom from the European Union in what came to be known as Brexit. The deadline to approve a withdrawal plan was extended several times, and Parliamnet’s opposition to the proposed deal led to the resignation of Prime Minister Theresa May in 2019.
In January of 2017, on the first Day of Donald Trump’s presidency, more than 5 millions people protested in support of gender equality and civil rights. The Women’s March – which was actually more the 600 marches across the world – was the largest single-day demonstration in US history.
For the first time since 1918, a total solar eclipse was visible across the entire United States in August of 2017.
In the fall of 2017, the US territory of Puerto Rico was hit by two hurricanes in a matter of weeks. Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria both pummelled the island, devastating the island’s infrastructure and resulting in the deaths of more than 4,600 people.
The #MeToo hashtag went viral on social media beginning in October of 2017, following sexual abuse allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. The hashtag turned into a feminist movement and became a rallying cry for millions of women who shared their own stories and experiences with sexual harrasment and sexual abuse.
Following a whistleblower complaint about a phone call between US President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the US House of Representatives approved Articles of Impeachment against President Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Following a trial in the senate, the President was acquitted in a vote that fell largely on party lines.
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by Beth O'Leary Setting: London, 2019 First published 2019
While roommates aren't a concept unique to the 2010s, this decade was the rise of the sharing economy from ride-sharing to desk-sharing in coworking spots. The Flatshare takes this prevalence into a British apartment.
When night-shift worker Leon needs some extra cash to help a family member, he decides to get a roommate. The problem is that he has a one-bedroom flat, with one bed. So he places an ad for someone to sleep in his bed while he's at work. They'll never be home at the same time, but it's still a crazy plan. But it's just the affordable solution that Sophie needs after a break-up.
The Flatshare will make you laugh out loud as Leon and Sophie exchange notes and learn to co-habitat on opposite schedules. Under the humor, there are also some more serious storylines encompassing other topics equally relevant to the last decade.
by Gail Honeyman Setting: Scotland, mid 2010s First published 2017
Eleanor Oliphant was one of our favorite quirky characters of the last decade. She struggles with social interactions and thinks things are fine in her loner lifestyle. A chance encounter opens her eyes to the possibility of life being more than fine and better with friends instead of relying on frozen pizza and vodka.
While we still have a ways to go, an expanded understanding of the importance of mental health and a movement to de-stigmatize mental health care was a positive shift of the 2010s. Seeing Eleanor's struggles and progression is in line with this overall shift in perception.
The Book Girls Say... Eleanor is quirky and endearing despite her lack of social skills. We both enjoyed this one!
by R. J. Palacio Setting: Manhattan, 2012 First published 2012
Technically, Wonder is aimed for kids in 3rd-7th grade, but this story grabbed the hearts of all ages and became a #1 bestseller across ages in the early 2000s.
10-year-old Auggie has a facial deformity that previously prevented him from attending a traditional school. In his own words "I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse. " Wonder begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.
The Book Girls Say... In a year when the world could use more kindness, reading this book that inspired the Choose Kind movement would be a great choice!
by Helen Thorpe Setting: Denver, Colorado 2015-2016 First Published 2018
The Newcomers follows the lives of twenty-two immigrant teenagers throughout the course of the 2015-2016 school year as they land at South High School in Denver, Colorado. Ranging in age from fourteen to nineteen, most of these students came directly from refugee camps in countries plagued by war, famine, or drought.
The books follows the student's English language education with their dedicated and creative teacher Mr. Williams. As they get a grasp of the languages, their individual histories unfold and add faces, names, and stories to those seeking asylum.
By Blake Crouch Setting: NYC 2019 + jumps back to various years First published 2019
If you're a Sci-Fi fan in general or loved the Wayward Pines series, this pick is for you!
Recursion intersects themes of time, identity, and memory into one complex thriller. When people begin having memories of experiences that never happened, detectives race for an answer before the growing chaos is uncontrollable.
By Chanel Cleeton Setting: 1958, Havana; 2017, Miami First published 2018
Growing up, Marisol heard romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother, Elisa. The story alternates perspectives between Elisa - a nineteen-year-old in 1958 Havana, the daughter of a sugar baron and a member of Cuba's high society. Her family's position largely shields her from the growing political unrest, at least until she embarks on a forbidden affair - and Marisol in 2017, arriving in Havana for the first time to fulfill her grandmother's dying wish of having her ashes spread in her birth country.
Marisol tries to reconcile the contrast of Cuba's timeless beauty with its political climate, all while uncovering the story of her grandmother's past.
by Maria Semple Setting: Seattle & Antarctica, early 2010s First published 2012
If you're drawn to eccentric characters, you might love Bernadette. She's a renowned architect in hiding, who doesn't fit in with her husband's fancy tech career or with the other moms at her daughter's school. In fact, she barely leaves the house, relying on a virtual assistant in India for all her family's needs. This becomes a real problem when her daughter's stellar report card earns her a family trip to Antarctica.
When Bernadette disappears before the trip, her daughter Bee is determined to track her down.
The Book Girls Say...Maria Semple managed to create an enjoyable novel that's both witty and emotional. In addition to the main story, it's a good look at someone refusing to fit into the stereotypical 2010's mom mold expected at her child's private school.
by Katherine Center Setting: Austin & Boston, 2017 First published 2018
Throughout the decade's challenge, we've seen the role and treatment of women continually evolve. Things You Save in a Fire confronts some of the biases that have remained into the 2010s.
Cassie Hanwell is a firefighter in Austin and great at her job. When her mother asks her to move to Boston despite their strained relationship, Cassie's experience at the new fire house couldn't be more different. With a lack of funding, poor facilities, and an old-school hazing culture, the firehouse is not happy to have a woman join their crew.
The Book Girls Say...Katherine Center became one of our new favorite authors over the past two years and Things You Save in a Fire is one of her best!
by Melissa Fleming Setting: Syria, 2011 First published 2017
A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea is a non-fiction book that reads like page-turning fiction. The Syrian refugee crisis flooded the news, with many countries overwhelmed trying to process the vast numbers of asylum seekers fleeing their war-torn homes.
This book tells the well-rounded story of one girl, Doaa, starting with her life in Syria before the war and following her journey of strength, courage, and sorrow. Each page is compelling as you get an inside look at a 19 year old refugee who first fought to stay in Syria and then fought for her life and the lives of other children during a harrowing 4 days at sea.
The Book Girls Say...This is one of Melissa's favorite books of all time. It intersects a dramatic page-turning story with rare insight into everything a refugee endures before landing in another country to ask for asylum. If you loved Adunni in The Girl with the Louding Voice, I think you'll also fall in love with Doaa.
by Fredrick Backman Setting: Small Swedish forest town, 2017 First published 2017
In the tiny community of Beartown, life revolves around hockey. It provides entertainment and the hope for a better future. It's a story about hockey and small-town life, but also so much more. When a shocking event occurs, the town quickly takes sides. Who will stand up for the truth, and who will put hockey above humanity? The themes are definitely relevant to the decade.
The Book Girls Say...Fredrick Backman has gift with words and melodic phrasing, along with a phenomenal insight into the motivations of people. He writes characters that are so well-rounded, you don't agree with their decisions, but you understand what they were thinking. We both gave this one all the stars!
by Jodi Picoult Setting: Connecticut, 2017 First published 2018
Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse with twenty years of experience. After being reassigned away from a patient, she learns that the parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey the orders of her superiors based on the parent's mandate or does she intervene?
by Kate Styman-London Setting: California, 2019 First published 2020
Bea is a plus-sized fashion blogger tired of watching casts full of size 0 models. After a drunken post about the un-realness of the reality dating show Main Squeeze, she gets a shocking call asking HER to be the next star of the show.
Can she trust the male contestants with her heart or is it safer to remember she's on the show largely for her career?
The Book Girls Say... We both loved this one and enjoyed that the story varies between the actual narrative/ standard book format and snippets of podcast dialog, emails, etc ABOUT the show as fans watched. All the aspects came together and serve as a great way to help your brain fully engage in the story. The storyline blending reality TV, blogging, and the push to stop judging based on traditional standards of beauty is a great representation of the 2010s!
by Laurie Gelman Setting: Kansas City, KS First published 2016
Class Mom is much lighter than anything else on the list, but an amusing take on life as a mom of elementary kids in the 2010s.
If you've ever done a little eye-rolling when dealing with other parents at your child's school, this is the book for you. Former rockstar groupie Jen is bamboozled into being the class mom for her daughter's kindergarten class. Her emails recruiting other parent volunteers are full of the things you wish you could say, but hopefully wouldn't.
The Book Girls Say...It's a fun, irreverent book that will make you laugh out loud as long as you don't take it too seriously. If you're not a fan of snark or sarcasm, skip it. It's total satire and not a serious novel, but sometimes, that's just what we need!
by Kimberly McCreight Setting: Brooklyn, NY, early 2010s First published 2013
Kate is in the middle of an important meeting when she gets the frustrating call that her daughter has been caught cheating at her exclusive school.
When she arrives to pick Amelia up, the school is surrounded by emergency vehicles and Kate learns that her daughter jumped to her death. At least that what she believes until an anonymous text tells her that Amelia didn't jump.
This suspense/mystery is a great insight into the increasing role of social media during the 2010s and the damage that comes along with it.
by Kevin Kwan Setting: Singapore, 2012 First published 2013
Rachel is a New Yorker who agrees to spend the summer in Singapore, her boyfriend Nick's home country. He just failed to mention one important aspect of his life while they have been dating. He is considered Singapore's most eligible bachelor and his family is crazy-rich.
The family is essentially royalty and the younger generations are expected to fall in line with the older generations' wishes for their life (and spouse) choices.
Crazy Rich Asians is the first book in a trilogy, and you can pick up the box set here. All three books are excellent and an entertaining look at the lifestyle of the 1% in the 2010s.
The Book Girls Say...We both laughed through this series and even loved the movie. It's a great pick if you want something funny, just be ready to pay attention because there are a lot of characters! Reading the trilogy back to back is a great choice so you don't have to relearn all the relationships.
by Jojo Moyes Setting: England, 2011 First published 2012
If you need a good cry, grab Me Before You. It's both heartbreaking and romantic. You'll slowly come to love Lou and Will and their story.
Will is a successful and adventurous world-traveler until he's in a tragic accident. Louisa has barely left her small village. When she gets talked into a job taking care of him, she looks beyond his gruffness and hopes he will see that he can still enjoy life.
This book has a theme of assisted-suicide, which increased in frequency for terminally ill patients throughout the last decade. There are two additional books in the series, After You and Still Me.
The Book Girls Say...Despite the heavy emotions that come with Me Before You, we both rated in 5 stars.
by J. Ryan Stradal Setting: Minnesota First published 2016
The rise of a foodie culture was one of our favorite developments of the last decade. The story follows Eva on her journey to becoming an iconic chef. It starts with her birth and being raised by a father determined to pass on his love of food.
Each chapter is the story of a different dish and different character, all weaving into a bittersweet story of Eva's life.
by Chanel Miller Setting: US, 2015-2016 First published 2019
Chanel Miller first took the world by storm in 2016 as Emily Doe after her victim impact statement in a sexual assault hearing against Brock Turner went viral. Her memoir goes into more depth about her life before, during, and after that night. She's vulnerable and brave, sharing her struggles each step of the way. While the large Me Too Movement started in 2017 with Harvey Weinstein, Chanel Miller's bravery and beautiful writing in 2016 was a precursor and opened millions of eyes to the second assault women face in the courts and in public perception.
The Book Girls Say...Melissa read this one recently and was blown away by the brilliant writing. It's not just an account of a terrible event, it's a masterpiece of language and emotion.
by Nick Hornby Setting: London, 2016 First published 2020
This romantic comedy embraces several themes of 2016, from Brexit to racism and ageism. Divorced, 41-year-old Lucy isn't looking to make her life more complicated, but that's just what happens when she meets Joseph at one of his many jobs. He's a different class, culture, and generation, but should these differences stop them from pursuing love?
by Julie Clark Setting: United States, 2019 First published 2020
If you're looking for something in the mystery/suspense genre, The Last Flight is a great option. It will keep you guessing as two women swap lives at the airport to escape their own difficult circumstances. You'll get a look at two different lifestyles, including a politician's wife whose husband is Kennedy-esque in public but not the same at home.
When the plane carrying one of the women crashes, the other thinks she is home-free. Everyone thinks she died on the plane. But can you ever fully escape your past?
The Book Girls Say...Melissa read this one quickly, eager to see how the pieces would come together in the end. It didn't disappoint!
by Jane L. Rosen Setting: NYC Suburb, 2019 First published 2020
Eliza is a suburban wife secreting struggling with a new, intense fear of leaving her house. She forces herself to go to the store in preparation for a visit from her college-age children. While she is there, she hears younger moms talking about a new local online forum for women. Eliza has run a similar group for years, but these strangers are calling her group boring.
In a moment of desperation and weakness, Eliza starts a rumor on her board to liven it up, and the rumor reaches further than she expected. It's a great look at the repercussions of fake information, along with some additional 2010s themes.
The Book Girls Say...This book is a great mix of comedy and drama about a group of neighbors overcoming their individual problems when they’re willing to share them and lean on other women.
by Cristina Henriquez Setting: Delaware, early 2010s First published 2015
After suffering a head injury in her home country of Mexico, Maribel's family must move to Delaware for her to attend a special school and give her the best chance of recovery. Within their new apartment building, the neighbors are from other Central & South American countries, creating a bond as they try to adapt to their new home.
It's a great look at the challenges of the immigrant experience, the lengths parents will go to for their child, and an unlikely love story between Maribel and one of the boys from the apartment complex.
The Book Girls Say...Melissa read this one back in 2015 and rated it 5 stars. Some reviewers don't love that the coming-of-age story writing skewed a bit more toward YA versus literary fiction, but Melissa didn't mind.
by Tommy Orange Setting: Oakland, California late 2010s First published 2019
Toward the end of the 2010s, there was a growing mainstream awareness of the struggles of American Indians. There There tells the stories of twelve native characters all traveling to the same Oakland Powwow.
The stories weave together into a comprehensive look at the challenges facing urban Native Americans today. There There won the PEN/Hemingway Award in 2019 and was largely praised as one of the best books of the year for its unforgettable and poignant storytelling.
I recently finished "The Last Flight" and would recommend it if you like lots of twists and turns ! Thanks for all the great recommendations, as usual, Gals !!! (PS. ALL 3 of the the "Crazy Rich Asians" books are great!! Better than the movie, always !!)