100 Notable Books of the Year
The Book Review has selected this list from books reviewed since the Holiday Books issue of Dec. 3, 2006.
Fiction & Poetry
THE ABSTINENCE TEACHER. By Tom Perrotta. (St. Martin’s, $24.95.) In this new novel by the author of “Little Children,” a sex-ed teacher faces off against a church bent on ridding her town of “moral decay.”
AFTER DARK. By Haruki Murakami. Translated by Jay Rubin. (Knopf, $22.95.) A tale of two sisters, one awake all night, one asleep for months.
THE BAD GIRL. By Mario Vargas Llosa. Translated by Edith Grossman. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25.) This suspenseful novel transforms “Madame Bovary” into a vibrant exploration of the urban mores of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.
BEARING THE BODY. By Ehud Havazelet. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $24.) In this daring first novel, a man travels to California after his brother is killed in what may have been a drug transaction.
THE BEAUTIFUL THINGS THAT HEAVEN BEARS. By Dinaw Mengestu. (Riverhead, $22.95.) A first novel about an Ethiopian exile in Washington, D.C., evokes loss, hope, memory and the solace of friendship.
BRIDGE OF SIGHS. By Richard Russo. (Knopf, $26.95.) In his first novel since “Empire Falls,” Russo writes of a small town in New York riven by class differences and racial hatred.
THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO. By Junot Díaz. (Riverhead, $24.95.) A nerdy Dominican-American yearns to write and fall in love.
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME. By André Aciman. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $23.) Aciman’s novel of love, desire, time and memory describes a passionate affair between two young men in Italy.
CHEATING AT CANASTA. By William Trevor. (Viking, $24.95.) Trevor’s dark, worldly short stories linger in the mind long after they’re finished.
THE COLLECTED POEMS, 1956-1998. By Zbigniew Herbert. Translated by Alissa Valles. (Ecco/HarperCollins, $34.95.) Herbert’s poetry echoes the quiet insubordination of his public life.
DANCING TO “ALMENDRA.” By Mayra Montero. Translated by Edith Grossman. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25.) Fact and fiction rub together in this rhythmic story of a reporter on the trail of the Mafia, set mainly in 1950s Cuba.
EXIT GHOST. By Philip Roth. (Houghton Mifflin, $26.) In his latest novel Roth brings back Nathan Zuckerman, a protagonist whom we have known since his potent youth and who now must face his inevitable decline.
FALLING MAN. By Don DeLillo. (Scribner, $26.) Through the story of a lawyer and his estranged wife, DeLillo resurrects the world as it was on 9/11, in all its mortal dread, high anxiety and mass confusion.
FELLOW TRAVELERS. By Thomas Mallon. (Pantheon, $25.) In Mallon’s seventh novel, a State Department official navigates the anti-gay purges of the McCarthy era.
A FREE LIFE. By Ha Jin. (Pantheon, $26.) The Chinese-born author spins a tale of bravery and nobility in an American system built on risk and mutual exploitation. (Review will be available Friday evening, Nov. 23.)
THE GATHERING. By Anne Enright. (Black Cat/Grove/Atlantic, paper, $14.) An Irishwoman searches for clues to what set her brother on the path to suicide.
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS. By J. K. Rowling. (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, $34.99.) Rowling ties up all the loose ends in this conclusion to her grand wizarding saga.
HOUSE LIGHTS. By Leah Hager Cohen. (Norton, $24.95.) The heroine of Cohen’s third novel abandons her tarnished parents for the seductions of her grand-mother’s life in theater.
HOUSE OF MEETINGS. By Martin Amis. (Knopf, $23.) A Russian World War II veteran posthumously acquaints his stepdaughter with his grim past of rape and violence.
IN THE COUNTRY OF MEN. By Hisham Matar. (Dial, $22.) The boy narrator of this novel, set in Libya in 1979, learns about the convoluted roots of betrayal in a totalitarian society.
THE INDIAN CLERK. By David Leavitt. (Bloomsbury, $24.95.) Leavitt explores the intricate relationship between the Cambridge mathematician G. H. Hardy and a poor, self-taught genius from Madras, stranded in England during World War I.
KNOTS. By Nuruddin Farah. (Riverhead, $25.95.) After 20 years, a Somali woman returns home to Mogadishu from Canada, intent on reclaiming a family house from a warlord.
LATER, AT THE BAR: A Novel in Stories. By Rebecca Barry. (Simon & Schuster, $22.) The small-town regulars at Lucy’s Tavern carry their loneliness in “rough and beautiful” ways.
LET THE NORTHERN LIGHTS ERASE YOUR NAME. By Vendela Veda. (Ecco/HarperCollins, $23.95.) A young woman searches for the truth about her parentage amid the snow and ice of Lapland in this bleakly comic yet sad tale of a child’s futile struggle to be loved.
LIKE YOU’D UNDERSTAND, ANYWAY: Stories. By Jim Shepard. (Knopf, $23.) Shepard’s surprising tales feature such diverse characters as a Parisian executioner, a woman in space and two Nazi scientists searching for the yeti.
MAN GONE DOWN. By Michael Thomas. (Black Cat/Grove/Atlantic, paper, $14.) This first novel explores the fragmented personal histories behind four desperate days in a black writer’s life.
MATRIMONY. By Joshua Henkin. (Pantheon, $23.95.) Henkin follows a couple from college to their mid-30s, through crises of love and mortality.
THE MAYTREES. By Annie Dillard. (HarperCollins, $24.95.) A married couple find their way back to each other under unusual circumstances.
THE MINISTRY OF SPECIAL CASES. By Nathan Englander. (Knopf, $25.) A Jewish family is caught up in Argentina’s “Dirty War.”
MOTHERS AND SONS: Stories. By Colm Toibin. (Scribner, $24.) In this collection by the author of “The Master,” families are not so much reassuring and warm as they are settings for secrets, suspicion and missed connections.
NEXT LIFE. By Rae Armantrout. (Wesleyan University, $22.95.) Poetry that conveys the invention, the wit and the force of mind that contests all assumptions.
ON CHESIL BEACH. By Ian McEwan. (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, $22.) Consisting largely of a single sex scene played out on a couple’s wedding night, this seeming novel of manners is as much a horror story as any McEwan has written.
OUT STEALING HORSES. By Per Petterson. Translated by Anne Born. (Graywolf Press, $22.) In this short yet spacious Norwegian novel, an Oslo professional hopes to cure his loneliness with a plunge into solitude.
THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST. By Mohsin Hamid. (Harcourt, $22.) Hamid’s chilling second novel is narrated by a Pakistani who tells his life story to an unnamed American after the attacks of 9/11.
REMAINDER. By Tom McCarthy. (Vintage, paper, $13.95.) In this debut, a Londoner emerges from a coma and seeks to reassure himself of the genuineness of his existence.
THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES. By Roberto Bolaño. Translated by Natasha Wimmer. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.) A craftily autobiographical novel about a band of literary guerrillas.
SELECTED POEMS. By Derek Walcott. Edited by Edward Baugh. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25.) The Nobel Prize winner Walcott, who was born on St. Lucia, is a long-serving poet of exile, caught between two races and two worlds.
THE SEPTEMBERS OF SHIRAZ. By Dalia Sofer. (Ecco/HarperCollins, $24.95.) In this powerful first novel, the father of a prosperous Jewish family in Tehran is arrested shortly after the Iranian revolution.
SHORTCOMINGS. By Adrian Tomine. (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95.) The Asian-American characters in this meticulously observed comic-book novella explicitly address the way in which they handle being in a minority.
SUNSTROKE: And Other Stories. By Tessa Hadley. (Picador, paper, $13.) These resonant tales encapsulate moments of hope and humiliation in a kind of shorthand of different lives lived.
THEN WE CAME TO THE END. By Joshua Ferris. (Little, Brown, $23.99.) Layoff notices fly in Ferris’s acidly funny first novel, set in a white-collar office in the wake of the dot-com debacle.
THROW LIKE A GIRL: Stories. By Jean Thompson. (Simon & Schuster, paper, $13.) The women here are smart and strong but drawn to losers.
TIME AND MATERIALS: Poems, 1997-2005. By Robert Hass. (Ecco/Harper-Collins, $22.95.) What Hass, a former poet laureate, has lost in Californian ease he has gained in stern self-restraint.
TREE OF SMOKE. By Denis Johnson. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.) The author of “Jesus’ Son” offers a soulful novel about the travails of a large cast of characters during the Vietnam War.
TWENTY GRAND: And Other Tales of Love and Money. By Rebecca Curtis. (Harper Perennial, paper, $13.95.) In this debut collection, a crisp, blunt tone propels stories both surreal and realistic.
VARIETIES OF DISTURBANCE: Stories. By Lydia Davis. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, paper, $13.) Dispensing with straight narrative, Davis microscopically examines language and thought.
THE VIEW FROM CASTLE ROCK: Stories. By Alice Munro. (Knopf, $25.95.) This collection offers unusually explicit reflections of Munro’s life.
WHAT IS THE WHAT. The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng: A Novel. By Dave Eggers. (McSweeney’s, $26.) The horrors, injustices and follies in this novel are based on the experiences of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan.
WINTERTON BLUE. By Trezza Azzopardi. (Grove, $24.) An unhappy young woman meets an even unhappier drifter.
THE YIDDISH POLICEMEN’S UNION. By Michael Chabon. (HarperCollins, $26.95.) Cops, thugs, schemers, rabbis, chess fanatics and obsessives of every stripe populate this screwball, hard-boiled murder mystery set in an imagined Jewish settlement in Alaska.
AGENT ZIGZAG: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal. By Ben Macintyre. (Harmony, $25.95.) The exploits of Eddie Chapman, a British criminal who became a double agent in World War II.
ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE: A Life. By Hugh Brogan. (Yale University, $35.) Brogan’s combative biography takes issue with Tocqueville’s misgivings about democracy.
ALICE: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, From White House Princess to Washington Power Broker. By Stacy A. Cordery. (Viking, $32.95.) A biography of Theodore Roosevelt’s shrewd, tart-tongued older daughter.
AMERICAN CREATION: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic. By Joseph J. Ellis. (Knopf, $26.95.) This history explores an underappreciated point: that this country was constructed to foster arguments, not to settle them.
THE ARGUMENT: Billionaires, Bloggers, and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics. By Matt Bai. (Penguin Press, $25.95.) An exhaustive account of the Democrats’ transformative efforts, by a political reporter for The New York Times Magazine.
ARSENALS OF FOLLY: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race. By Richard Rhodes. (Knopf, $28.95.) This artful history focuses on the events leading up to the pivotal 1986 Reykjavik summit meeting between Reagan and Gorbachev. (Review will be available Friday evening, Nov. 23.)
THE ART OF POLITICAL MURDER: Who Killed the Bishop? By Francisco Goldman. (Grove, $25.) The novelist returns to Guatemala, a major inspiration for his fiction, to try to solve the real-life killing of a Roman Catholic bishop.
BROTHER, I’M DYING. By Edwidge Danticat. (Knopf, $23.95.) Danticat’s cleareyed prose and unflinching adherence to the facts conceal an undercurrent of melancholy in this memoir of her Haitian family.
CIRCLING MY MOTHER. By Mary Gordon. (Pantheon, $24.) Gordon’s deeply personal memoir focuses on the engaged and lively Catholicism of her mother, a glamorous career woman who was also an alcoholic with a body afflicted by polio.
CLEOPATRA’S NOSE: 39 Varieties of Desire. By Judith Thurman. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.95.) These surgically analytic essays of cultural criticism showcase themes of loss, hunger and motherhood.
CULTURAL AMNESIA: Necessary Memories From History and the Arts. By Clive James. (Norton, $35.) Essays on 20th-century luminaries by one of Britain’s leading public intellectuals.
THE DAY OF BATTLE: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944. Volume Two of the Liberation Trilogy. By Rick Atkinson. (Holt, $35.) A celebration of the American experience in these campaigns.
THE DIANA CHRONICLES. By Tina Brown. (Doubleday, $27.50.) The former New Yorker editor details the sordid domestic drama that pitted the Princess of Wales against Britain’s royal family.
THE DISCOVERY OF FRANCE: A Historical Geography From the Revolution to the First World War. By Graham Robb. (Norton, $27.95.) Robb presents France as a group of diverse regions, each with its own long history, intricate belief systems and singular customs.
DOWN THE NILE: Alone in a Fisherman’s Skiff. By Rosemary Mahoney. (Little, Brown, $23.99.) Mahoney juxtaposes her solo rowing journey with encounters with the Egyptians she met.
DRIVEN OUT: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans. By Jean Pfaelzer. (Random House, $27.95.) How the Chinese were brutalized and demonized in the 19th-century American West – and how they fought back.
DUE CONSIDERATIONS: Essays and Criticism. By John Updike. (Knopf, $40.) Updike’s first nonfiction collection in eight years displays breathtaking scope as well as the author’s seeming inability to write badly.
EASTER EVERYWHERE: A Memoir. By Darcey Steinke. (Bloomsbury, $24.95.) A minister’s daughter confronts her own spiritual rootlessness.
EDITH WHARTON. By Hermione Lee. (Knopf, $35.) This meticulous biography shows Wharton’s significance as a designer, decorator, gardener and traveler, as well as a writer.
THE FATHER OF ALL THINGS: A Marine, His Son, and the Legacy of Vietnam. By Tom Bissell. (Pantheon, $25.) Bissell mixes rigorous narrative accounts of the war and emotionally powerful scenes of the distress it brought his own family.
THE FLORIST’S DAUGHTER. By Patricia Hampl. (Harcourt, $24.) In her fifth and most powerful memoir, Hampl looks hard at her relationship to her Midwestern roots as her mother lies dying in the hospital.
FORESKIN’S LAMENT: A Memoir. By Shalom Auslander. (Riverhead, $24.95.) With scathing humor and bitter irony, Auslander wrestles with his Jewish Orthodox roots.
GOMORRAH: A Personal Journey Into the Violent International Empire of Naples’ Organized Crime System. By Roberto Saviano. Translated by Virginia Jewiss. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25.) This powerful work of reportage started a national conversation in Italy when it was published there last year. (Review will be available Friday evening, Nov. 23.)
THE HOUSE THAT GEORGE BUILT: With a Little Help From Irving, Cole, and a Crew of About Fifty. By Wilfrid Sheed. (Random House, $29.95.) A rich homage to Gershwin, Berlin and other masters of the swinging jazz song.
HOW DOCTORS THINK. By Jerome Groopman. (Houghton Mifflin, $26.) Groopman takes a tough-minded look at the ways in which doctors and patients interact, and at the profound problems facing modern medicine.
HOW TO READ THE BIBLE: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now. By James L. Kugel. (Free Press, $35.) In this tour through the Jewish scriptures (i.e., the Old Testament, more or less), a former professor of Hebrew seeks to reclaim the Bible from the literalists and the skeptics.
HOW TO TALK ABOUT BOOKS YOU HAVEN’T READ. By Pierre Bayard.Translated by Jeffrey Mehlman. (Bloomsbury, $19.95.) A French literature professor wants to assuage our guilt over the ways we actually read and discuss books.
IMPERIAL LIFE IN THE EMERALD CITY: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone. By Rajiv Chandrasekaran. (Knopf, $25.95.) The author, a Washington Post journalist, catalogs the arrogance and ineptitude that marked America’s governance of Iraq.
THE INVISIBLE CURE: Africa, the West, and the Fight Against AIDS. By Helen Epstein. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26.) Rigorous reporting unearths new findings among the old issues.
LEGACY OF ASHES: The History of the CIA. By Tim Weiner. (Doubleday, $27.95.) A comprehensive chronicle of the American intelligence agency, from the days of the Iron Curtain to Iraq, by a reporter for The New York Times.
LENI: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl. By Steven Bach. (Knopf, $30.) How Hitler’s favorite director made “Triumph of the Will” and convinced posterity that she didn’t know what the Nazis were up to.
LEONARD WOOLF: A Biography. By Victoria Glendinning. (Free Press, $30.) Glendinning shows Virginia Woolf’s accomplished husband as passionate, reserved and, above all, stoical.
A LIFE OF PICASSO: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932. By John Richardson. (Knopf, $40.) The third, penultimate installment in Richardson’s biography spans a dauntingly complicated time in Picasso’s life and in European history.
LITTLE HEATHENS: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression. By Mildred Armstrong Kalish. (Bantam, $22.) Kalish’s soaring love for her childhood memories saturates this memoir, which coaxes the reader into joy, wonder and even envy.
LONG WAY GONE: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. By Ishmael Beah. (Sarah Crichton/-Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $22.) A former child warrior gives literary voice to the violence and killings he both witnessed and perpetrated during the Sierra Leone civil war.
THE NINE: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court. By Jeffrey Toobin. (Doubleday, $27.95.) An erudite outsider’s account of the cloistered court’s inner workings.
THE ORDEAL OF ELIZABETH MARSH: A Woman in World History. By Linda Colley. (Pantheon, $27.50.) Colley tracks the “compulsively itinerant” Marsh across the 18th century and several continents.
PORTRAIT OF A PRIESTESS: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece. By Joan Breton Connelly. (Princeton University, $39.50.) A scholar finds that religion meant power for Greek women.
RALPH ELLISON: A Biography. By Arnold Rampersad. (Knopf, $35.) Ellison was seemingly cursed by his failure to follow up “Invisible Man.”
THE REST IS NOISE: Listening to the Twentieth Century. By Alex Ross. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30.) In his own feat of orchestration, The New Yorker’s music critic presents a history of the last century as refracted through its classical music.
SCHULZ AND PEANUTS: A Biography. By David Michaelis. (Harper/ Harper-Collins, $34.95.) Actual “Peanuts” cartoons movingly illustrate this portrait of the strip’s creator, presented here as a profoundly lonely and unhappy man.
SERVICE INCLUDED: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter. By Phoebe Damrosch. (Morrow, $24.95.) A memoir about waiting tables at the acclaimed Manhattan restaurant Per Se.
SOLDIER’S HEART: Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point. By Elizabeth D. Samet. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $23.) A civilian teacher at the Military Academy offers a significant perspective on a crucial social and political force: honor.
STANLEY: The Impossible Life of Africa’s Greatest Explorer. By Tim Jeal. (Yale University, $38.) Of the many biographies of Henry Morton Stanley, Jeal’s, which profits from his access to an immense new trove of material, is the most complete and readable.
THE STILLBORN GOD: Religion, Politics, and the Modern West. By Mark Lilla. (Knopf, $26.) With nuance and complexity, Lilla examines how we managed to separate, in a fashion, church and state.
THOMAS HARDY. By Claire Tomalin. (Penguin Press, $35.) Tomalin presents Hardy as a fascinating case study in mid-Victorian literary sociology.
TOO CLOSE TO THE SUN: The Audacious Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton. By Sara Wheeler. (Random House, $27.95.) The story of the man immortalized in “Out of Africa.”
TWO LIVES: Gertrude and Alice. By Janet Malcolm. (Yale University, $25.) Sharp criticism meets playful, absorbing biography in this study of Stein and Toklas.
THE WHISPERERS: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia. By Orlando Figes. (Metropolitan, $35.) An extraordinary look at the gulag’s impact on desperate individuals and families struggling to survive. (Review will be available Friday evening, Nov. 23.)
THE YEARS OF EXTERMINATION: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945. By Saul Friedländer. (HarperCollins, $39.95.) Individual testimony and broader events are skillfully interwoven.
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