The Top Ten Most Brilliant Books of the Decade!

As we celebrate our 10th Anniversary this weekend, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to look back over this past decade and that books that have helped shape that time for us.  We wanted to include the titles our booksellers read and loved and couldn't wait to share, books whose authors we supported and celebrated, and books that helped redefine their genres or created something entirely new.  As you can imagine, as we thought back over the past ten years, that list got longer and longer!  Though it wasn't easy to narrow them down to just ten, we managed it in the end, creating a list that's a fitting tribute to our first ten years. 

Here they are, our Top Ten Most Brilliant Books of the Past Decade!

Summer People (Sheriff Ray Elkins Thriller #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780978573218
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Writers & Editors, LLC - May 9th, 2016

#10 Summer People is Aaron Stander’s debut novel of the best selling Sheriff Ray Elkins “Up North” mystery series.  Set in neighboring Leelanau County, where Brilliant Books was first established in Suttons Bay, Stander’s books have been on our annual bestseller lists for all ten years of our existence, and deserve a wider audience.

Stander embodies the quality of our local authors with a series of entertaining tales and evocative descriptions of our life in northwest Michigan, with characters based on real life members of this unique community.

The Fault in Our Stars Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525478812
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Dutton Books for Young Readers - January 10th, 2012

#9 The Fault in Our Stars, though it's wildly popular, didn't make our list on popularity alone.  It was a book that proved that Young Adult Literature doesn't need magic and monsters to interest young readers, and that readers of YA don't need to be young adults themselves to find their stories compelling.

The Night Circus Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307744432
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Anchor Books - July 3rd, 2012

#8 Erin Morgenstern's dreamy prose created a new niche for magical realism with the beautifully imagined Le Cirque des Rêves.  Not quite a romance, not quite historical fiction, and certainly not fantasy as Tolkien fans would recognize it, The Night Circus blends elements of all three into something that erases genre borders and lets imagination pour through.  It ushered in a new era of fantastical stories, especially for adult readers.

Last Night at the Lobster Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143114420
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Books - October 28th, 2008

#7 A book we frequently gift to visiting authors, Stewart O’Nan’s spare novella  tells the poignant story of a man navigating the last shift of a failing Red Lobster in the midst of a blizzard.  A paean to the working-class, O’Nan’s observations and empathy for his characters make this a warm slice of reality that will stay with you for a while. 

"A book that embodies what's best in us."  --Stephen King

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Book 1 of the Millennium Trilogy (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307454546
Availability: Available to ship immediately
Published: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard - June 23rd, 2009

#6 The book that introduced the world to the charismatic Lisbeth Salander and ushered in a renaissance of Scandinavian Noir.  Larsson, who did not live to see the incredible success of his creation, crafted a novel that succeeds on so many levels.  A page-turner with fascinating, rich, characters brought to life with graceful, understated writing.  This book, as well as its successors, dominated our (and everyone else’s) best seller lists from 2008 onwards. 

So successful was this series that insiders at publisher Random House referred to Lisbeth Salander as “The Girl Who Signs the Paychecks”

"So much more than a thriller, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a dazzling novel of big ideas. It tackles issues of power, corruption, justice, and innocence-all the while drawing you into the twists and turns of a frighteningly suspenseful mystery." -Harlan Coben

Braiding Sweetgrass Cover Image
ISBN: 9781571313560
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Milkweed Editions - September 1st, 2014

#5 According to publisher Milkweed, Brilliant Books apparently sold more copies of Braiding Sweetgrass than any other indie bookstore in America.  A memorable blend of Native American philosophy, botany, and poetic nature writing that both defines and highlights Brilliant Books commitment to the best in nature writing and indigenous teachings. 

Brilliant bookseller Jack Hannert’s Best Book of 2013.

Rules of Civility Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143121169
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Books - June 26th, 2012

#4 The wonderful Amor Towles visited our Traverse City store in August of 2012 for one of our finest events.  We held a dress-up party in of honor Towles' world of 1930’s Manhatten.

A book we have hand-sold ever since, Rules of Civility tells the story of the intelligent, irresistible, Katy Komfort as she makes her way from the secretarial pool to the heights of New York society.

"The novel we couldn't put the crisp, noirish prose of the era, Towles portrays complex relationships in a city that is at once melting pot and elitist enclave - and a thoroughly modern heroine who fearlessly claims her place in it." 


1Q84 (Vintage International) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307476463
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - January 22nd, 2013

#3 1Q84 is a tremendous feat of imagination from one of the worlds most revered contemporary writers.  Brilliant Books booksellers are all huge fans of Murakami and are proud to carry this work in all its appropriately quirky formats, as well as the rest of the Murakami canon.  Emblematic of our commitment to world literature, our only discussion was which Murakami would make this list.

"1Q84 is a tremendous accomplishment. It does every last blessed thing a masterpiece is supposed to--and a few things we never even knew to expect." --Andrew Ervin, The San Francisco Chronicle

The Name of the Wind: 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Kingkiller Chronicle #1) Cover Image
By Patrick Rothfuss, Dan Dos Santos (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780756413712
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Daw Books - October 3rd, 2017

Patrick Rothfuss, in The Name of the Wind, has challenged, and thus revolutionized, the way in which modern Fantasy fiction is written, making it accessible and exciting for any reader. By focusing on character development and giving the fantastical elements of the story more weight, he has created a tale of wonder and a sense of literary realism that resonates both with long-time Fantasy fans and newcomers to the genre. 

Staff Pick Logo
Station Eleven Cover Image
ISBN: 9780804172448
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - June 2nd, 2015

#1 Our book of the decade.  A dark, but glittering novel that every one of our booksellers loved.   Author Emily St. John Mandel visited our little store in Suttons Bay in 2009 with The Singers Gun, and our then new store in Traverse City in 2012 with The Lola Quartet.  When a bookstore recognizes the talent of an author, and that author then produces a work of such excellence as Station Eleven, we cannot help but feel proud.  It was apparently during these visits to northwest Michigan that the idea of setting her post-apocalyptic novel on the fresh water shores of Lake Michigan first came to Mandel.

This deep novel of transcends the dystopian to consider the shifting nature of relationships and the fluidity of memory.  A story of a travelling Shakespearean company in a world devoid of comforts we take for granted, consigned to live with the technology of Shakespeare and shifting elusive memories that lend a new reverence to the printed word.

This novel stays with you long after you’ve put it down.  Quotes resonate in your head in a way other books can only aspire to.

“Of all of them there at the bar that night, the bartender was the one who survived the longest. He died three weeks later on the road out of the city.”