Despite the explosion of the blog, the Kindle and the imminent threat of death to all print media, the top graduates of the 21st century's first generation of books are not only thriving, instructing, titillating and entertaining, but also on the road to immortality, that heavenlike place where people continue to read.
Some titles this decade were so big they seemed more like movements than bound collections of paper. Although Harry and his friends were born in 1997, they've remained large and in charge throughout the new millennium. The emergence of Stephenie Meyer's “Twilight” series in 2005 and Dan Brown's “The Da Vinci Code” in 2006 have inspired all manner of movies, collectibles and controversies.
Some of the books of the past decade have made such an impact, even as toddlers, they already have the feel of the classic. While it's painful to recall that dark time in our nation's history before David Sedaris gave us his legendary “Me Talk Pretty One Day” (2002), other books too have that timeless quality that make them seem as if they've existed forever: Jeffrey Eugenides' “Middlesex” (2002), Khaled Hosseini's “The Kite Runner” (2001) and “A Thousand Splendid Suns” (2007), and Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants (2006), to name a few.
With the decade's explosion of the confessional blog and the memoir, the theory that everyone has a book in them has proven truer than ever. While certain so-called authors have dragged the memoir through the mud (ahem, James Frey, O.J. Simpson and Sarah Palin) others like Augusten Burroughs' “Running with Scissors” (2002), Jeannette Walls' “The Glass Castle” (2006) and Elizabeth Gilbert's “Eat, Pray, Love” (2007) have brought it redemption.
A handful of fiction-writing wonder boys have achieved critical mass in shaping the emergent writing of the new century. 2001 brought us en masse: Jonathan Franzen's “The Corrections,” Michael Chabon's “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” and Dave Eggers' “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.” Jonathan Safran Foer brought up the rear with the unforgettable “Everything is Illuminated” (2003).
Recent alterations to Richmond's own literary landscape have been no less profound. Chop Suey Books and the nonprofit James River Writers (of which this writer is a part) have brought readers and writers together in a whole new way since 2002. Books such as “Snake Hips: Belly Dancing and How I Found True Love” (2002) by Anne Thomas Soffee, “Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival” (2004) by Dean King and “It's Superman!”(2005) by Tom DeHaven have raised Richmond's 21st-century profile in high, literary style.