The Thrill Of It All

Our favorites in music, movies and books from the past 20 years—here they are, in no particular order.


  1. Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling

    The Harry Potter series created a sensation that kept readers clamoring for each new book—the subsequent editions becoming more sophisticated and deepening our connection to the characters.

  2. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown

    Although Angels & Demons was the first of Robert Langdon’s adrenaline-producing adventures, many readers were introduced to the series through The Da Vinci Code because of the release of the film.

  3. The Hunger Games series, Suzanne Collins

    In a future where the “haves” force the “have nots” to compete in a barbaric fight-to-the-death reality show, one young woman defies authority and destroys the system that victimized her.

  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, E.L. James

    James shocked the literary world with the success of her erotic fiction trilogy about a hunky millionaire with a fetish for BDSM and the young woman who would upend his life.

  5. A Walk to Remember, Nicholas Sparks

    Although Sparks is best known for The Notebook, the beloved storyteller has revealed that this tender love story about unlikely high school sweethearts was his favorite to write.

  6. Atonement, Ian McEwan

    It begins with a false accusation by a child that destroys multiple lives and provides an examination of guilt, redemption and forgiveness.

  7. The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger

    Told from the alternating perspectives of a pair of time-crossed lovers, Niffenegger presents an epic love affair that only time can tear asunder.

  8. The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins

    Helped and hurt by comparisons to Gone Girl, this mystery barrels ahead like a runaway train fueled by pain and uncertainty.

  9. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

    A deeply emotional Holocaust tale focused on an orphaned girl named Liesel who learns to read after stealing three books and how they heal her broken heart.

  10. Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn

    A journalist returns to her hometown in search of the story behind the brutal murders of several local teens, but her own demons put her in mortal danger.

  11. The Devil Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger

    Written by a former assistant to Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour, this dishy “fictionalized” story focuses on the ultimate “Boss from Hell.”

  12. We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver

    A mother struggles to understand what part (if any) she played in her son’s deadly rampage, resulting in the deaths of seven of his classmates.

  13. The Help, Kathryn Stockett

    This uplifting story examines the lives of a group of white women living in Mississippi during the early 1960s and the black maids who serve them. It tackles serious territory with humor and heart.

  14. The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas

    This warm-hearted and intelligent young adult novel examines a girl’s experiences with gun violence, race relations and police brutality.

  15. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls

    An emotionally charged memoir that charts the author’s troubled childhood at the hands of neglectful free-spirits too focused on their own vices to be entrusted with children.

  16. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion

    One of the most formidable non-fiction writers of her generation explores the blinding grief she experienced after the death of her husband, soon after their only daughter tragically fell into a coma.

  17. The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow

    Pausch’s “last lecture” to his students and colleagues became an internet sensation. The book, which fleshes out the lecture, has become an international bestseller.

  18. Marley and Me, John Grogan

    There have been many books about pets, but Grogan’s is unexpectedly hilarious and deeply affecting.

  19. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

    Set in suburbia, this twisty psychological thriller took the world by storm with its ingeniously wicked twists.

  20. Wild, Cheryl Strayed

    A visceral and moving account of Strayed’s decision to hike the perilous Pacific Crest Trail in an attempt to outpace her troubled past, following her mother’s death. Warmth and humor underscores the journey that ultimately healed her.


  1. American Beauty

    This suburban dramedy provided a dark, yet thrilling, peek behind the closed doors of modern America’s polite society.

  2. Erin Brockovich

    Julia Roberts scored a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of a working-class woman who was instrumental in building a case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company for the contamination of drinking water in Southern California.

  3. Pirates of the Caribbean films

    With just enough vintage swashbuckling and offbeat humor, these films delivered adventure, romance and fun.

  4. The Sixth Sense

    Before the days of “spoiler alerts,” this innovative thriller with a killer twist managed to thoroughly surprise audiences.

  5. Boys Don’t Cry

    Based on the real life and tragic murder of transgender man Brandon Teena, the film provides an unflinchingly brave look at the struggle to find love on the forbidden fringe of society.

  6. 12 Years a Slave

    The compelling true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York who was abducted and sold into slavery just a few years before the Civil War.

  7. The Notebook

    Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams breathe life into this sweeping love story, fraught with complications and setbacks, that builds into an enduring romance for the ages.

  8. Avatar

    Ten years after James Cameron’s shock-and-awe-style sci-fi 3D opus burst onto screens, it remains the highest grossing film of all time.

  9. Slumdog Millionaire

    This inventive tale of a young man from the mean streets of Mumbai, just one question away from winning 20 million rupees on India’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, is a fast-moving, life-affirming tale.

  10. Crazy Rich Asians

    This charming love story is the first major studio film with Asians in all of the leading roles since 1993’s The Joy Luck Club and shattered box office records to become the highest-grossing rom-com in a decade.

  11. The Harry Potter films

    After the books became a global sensation, these movies brought to life the world of Quidditch matches, flying cars and horcruxes.

  12. The Matrix trilogy

    These adrenaline-drenched movies kicked open the door for a new genre of action-based science fiction films with jaw-dropping visual effects and a dark exploration of artificial intelligence.

  13. The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film series

    Fans of the novels and anyone up for some good old-fashioned epic fantasy loved Peter Jackson’s star-studded masterpieces of modern cinema.

  14. The Da Vinci Code series

    Based on Dan Brown’s bestselling book series, The Da Vinci Code and two films to follow, offered up everyman Tom Hanks at the center of one epic mystery after another.

  15. La La Land

    Just when you thought that they don’t make ‘em like they used to, Hollywood offers up a simultaneously old-and-new-fashioned musical full of modern charm.

  16. Finding Nemo

    When a young clown fish is scooped up by an Australian dentist and relocated to an aquarium in his Sydney office, his fretful single father sets out to save him and picks up a blue tang named Dory, who suffers from short-term memory loss, along the way.

  17. Moulin Rouge

    Set against the backdrop of 19th century Paris and the famed Montmartre cabaret, this bawdy musical reignited the genre and exploded off the screen with thrilling intensity.

  18. Shrek

    A hilarious start to the adventures of a grumpy ogre, some classic fairy tale characters and a princess with a whopper of a secret.

  19. Up

    This wonderful animated feature will touch your heart and make your spirit soar. A grumpy 78-year-old balloon salesman sets off on a solo adventure of a lifetime—or so he thinks.

  20. Frozen

    When Disney decided to retool their formula and introduce the world to two equally empowered princesses, both good but struggling with circumstances beyond their control, they created an international phenomenon.

Musical Artists

  1. Beyoncé

  2. Adele

  3. Taylor Swift

  4. Ed Sheeran

  5. Green Day

  6. Red Hot Chili Peppers

  7. Rihanna

  8. Lady Gaga

  9. Justin Timberlake

  10. Katy Perry

  11. Christina Aguilera

  12. Adam Levine

  13. P!nk

  14. Pharrell

  15. Kelly Clarkson

  16. Alicia Keys

  17. John Legend

  18. Keith Urban

  19. Carrie Underwood

  20. Brad Paisley

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