100 noteworthy books
ARTS, CRITICISM AND LETTERS
Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape, edited by Barry Lopez. What's a "nubble"? The answer is here.
Selected Letters of Martha Gellhorn, edited by Caroline Moorehead. This American writer traveled and lived on her own terms.
Postcards From Ed, edited by David Peterson. The considerable wit and wisdom of Edward Abbey is on display in these letters.
Reading Like a Writer, by Francine Prose. Here is one author who knows the input side of the output equation.
The Shakespeare Wars, by Ron Rosenbaum. Thoroughly engaging examination of the zealous arguments the Bard still sets off.
Hunting Men: Reflections on a Life in American Poetry, by Dave Smith. The author makes a case for the value of verse.
At Canaan's Edge, by Taylor Branch. Final volume of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. is another triumph.
Augustus: The Life of Rome's First Emperor, by Anthony Everitt. Author combines a little theory and a lot of good writing.
The Fellowship: The Untold Story of Frank Lloyd Wright & the Taliesin Fellowship, by Roger Friedland and Harold Zellman. The great architect lorded over a psychosexual soap opera.
Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, by Neal Gabler. Incredibly authoritative, it also eschews psychobabble conclusions about the late entertainment icon.
Caesar, by Adrian Goldsworthy. As with Augustus, the ancients still have lessons for us.
A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan, by Michael Kazin. Worthy reassessment or revisionist stretch? Answer: Controversial but compelling.
Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero, by David Maraniss. Roberto deserves (and gets) the respect of a talented writer.
James Tiptree: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, by Julie Phillips. Very capable chronicle of a writer who transcended genre and gender.
Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, by Charles J. Shields. The subject is still living, but reclusive enough to make this biography inviting.
CRIME AND SUSPENSE
Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn. Creepy delights from the TV critic for Entertainment Weekly.
Dead Hour, by Denise Mina. A worthy sequel to The Field of Blood.
Dead Watch, by John Sandford. Politicians and dead bodies. Wow, a dream book.
The Messenger, by Daniel Silva. Gabriel Allon returns in this commendable entry, which climbed best-seller lists.
Minotaur, by Barbara Vine. Hey, this reminds us of Ruth Rendell! Whatever the name, the talent is evident.
The Zero, by Jess Walter. More nasty fun from the author of Citizen Vince.
Heat, by Bill Buford. A tasty look inside the kitchen of a formidable New York chef.
The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins. Persuasively argued book by biologist, but even skeptics have criticized its scornful tones.
Kingdom Coming, by Michelle Goldberg. Subtitle explains the book's focus: The Rise of Christian Nationalism.
Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country, by Steve Hendricks. Journalist doesn't feign objectivity as he delves into America and the American Indian Movement.
Oracle Bones, by Peter Hessler. Valuable, readable writings about modern China.
The Natural History of the Bible: An Environmental Exploration of the Hebrew Scriptures, by Daniel Hillel. Fascinating because of its fine prose, important because of its scope.
The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation, by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon. Looks like a comic book; reads like the nightmare the nation experienced.
Welcome to the Homeland, by Brian Mann. Maybe it takes a Midwesterner to understand Midwestern sociopolitical trends.
Cross-X, by Joe Miller. Kansas Citian tells the story of Central High School's debate squad.
Uncommon Carriers, by John McPhee. Author thumbs a narrative ride into American transit; well worth the trip.
Fiasco, by Thomas E. Ricks. Title telegraphs the author's view of the war in Iraq, but his analysis is commanding.
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, by Michael Pollan. Several panelists were hungry for this sometimes unsettling story of how food gets to our tables.
Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design, by Michael Shermer. Is skepticism the monkey on our human backs? Actually, author argues faith and science need not be in conflict.
New American Essays, edited by Robert Stewart and Conger Beasley Jr. A superbly cohesive anthology of nonfiction writing.
The Looming Tower, by Lawrence Wright. Outstanding chronicle of the roots of today's terrorism.
Blood Brothers, by Michael Weisskopf. A Time reporter's journey to Iraq costs him a hand but gains him insight.
FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION
Sebastian, by Anne Bishop. More dreams of dark and light from one of the genre's stars. But watch out for that incubus.
The Brief History of the Dead, by Kevin Brockmeier. The virus didn't reach the South Pole, but is that really a blessing for our heroine?
The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, by Gordon Dahlquist. If you like yours "epic," here's almost 800 pages worth.
Eifelheim, by Michael Flynn. Speculative fiction meets the morality tale.
Odyssey, by Jack McDevitt. In space, no one can hear you dream.
Farthing, by Jo Walton. This "alternate history" poses the question: What if Britain had made peace with Hitler?
Let Me Finish, by Roger Angell. Baseball writer steps out of the box to look back at life.
Notes for a Memoir, by Janet Jeppson Asimov. Ignore the self-deprecating title; there's depth here from the science fiction writer's widow.
The Afterlife, by Donald Antrim. Looking back into melancholy and alcoholism; Antrim also wrote The Verificationist.
Sweet and Low: A Family Story, by Richard Cohen. Tale of kin conflict is anything but saccharine.
Strange Piece of Paradise, by Terri Jentz. The author finds the courage to revisit a violent episode in her life.
The Lost, by Daniel Mendelsohn. A personal journey into the shadow of the Holocaust.
What I Know for Sure, by Tavis Smiley. He's certainly not shy, is he? But former BET and NPR star espouses some authentic values.
My Lives, an Autobiography, by Edmund White. A series of recollections by the author of A Boy's Own Story.
Strivers Row, by Kevin Baker. Historical novelist grapples with the life of Malcolm X.
Arthur & George, by Julian Barnes. Sherlock Holmes' creator and a true-crime case intersect in a richly textured read.
The Ghost at the Table, by Suzanne Berne. A chronicle of a family's dysfunction, which is brought to the fore during the holidays.
Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die! by Mark Binelli. Delightful reinvention of the life and times of comedy duo Laurel and Hardy.
Only Revolutions, by Mark Danielewski. The author's experimental tale of two boys creates a challenge for the eye and the mind.
The Stolen Child, by Keith Donohue. Reality is what you make (or don't make) of it.
In the Company of the Courtesan, by Sarah Dunant. Is there anything sexier than Renaissance Italy? Well, yes, but not on this list.
The Keep, by Jennifer Egan. There's more than one way to skin the gothic cat.
Leonardo's Swans, by Karen Essex. Lovers of historical fiction should not overlook it.
The Lay of the Land, by Richard Ford. Author can't get enough of his character Frank Bascombe. Nor can readers.
Smonk, by Tom Franklin. By turns amusing and disquieting, this violent Western Gothic presents an unlikeable but memorable character.
Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen. The circus comes to town, but it's not always pretty.
This Book Will Save Your Life, by A.M. Homes. Tale of post-9/11 angst in L.A. wraps a man's mid-life crisis in wit and self-discovery.
The Uses of Enchantment, by Heidi Julavits. Was young Mary Veal abducted or not? Memory may be persistent, but is it always reliable?
Forgetfulness, by Ward Just. "Forgetfulness is the old man's friend," according to this seasoned novelist.
A Disorder Peculiar to the Country, by Ken Kalfus. A delectable black comedy of 9/11.
Gate of the Sun, by Elias Khoury. Originally published eight years ago in Arabic, Khoury's novel finally makes it to the United States.
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. Welcome to the apocalypse, Cormac McCarthy-style. This is the way the world bends.
Lost and Found, by Carolyn Parkhurst. If only reality TV were really this remarkable.
The Echo Maker, by Richard Powers. Winner of the National Book Award, too.
Against the Day, by Thomas Pynchon. What's Pynchon up to here? He's playing with history again, in a thousand-plus-page package.
Rise and Shine, by Anna Quindlen. Fifth novel is a mouthy tale of two sisters.
Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living, by Carrie Tiffany. Debut novel from young Australian writer explores nature and "progress."
Apex Hides the Hurt, by Colson Whitehead. Orwell had his doublespeak; here a "nomenclature consultant" plies his trade in the world of consumer culture.
Two-Up, by Eric Miles Williamson. The author's labor background leads to this novel, with a collar that's deep, deep blue.
Winter's Bone, by Daniel Woodrell. Nobody does Ozarks noir like a man who knows the terrain.
The End of California, by Steve Yarbrough. The author returns to his usual territory - Loring, Miss., where things are always unsettled.
Father Silicon, by Joel Allegretti. Fine stuff, but be aware that this poet doesn't censor himself. Sample title: "Billy the Whore."
Pear Season and the Boy Who Ate Dandelions, by Bill Bauer. Poems are beautifully pensive.
Saving Daylight, by Jim Harrison. Always a marvelous fiction writer, Harrison has deepened as a poet, with age and loss leaving their marks.
Chromatic, by H.L. Hix. Author's latest earned him a National Book Award nomination.
A Season of Long Taters, by Wayne Lanter. Collection of baseball poems gets some wood on the ball.
Angle of Yaw, by Ben Lerner. Former Kansan garnered a National Book Award nomination.
Gravity's Dream, by Kate Light. Her third collection won the 2006 Donald Justice Poetry Award.
Potscrubber Lullabies, by Eric McHenry. He deftly balances the cerebral and the accessible.
Only the Senses Sleep, by Wayne Miller. Gorgeously confident book is proof again of the vitality of poetry in the small presses.
Ooga-Booga, by Frederick Seidel. Don't let the title fool you; this can be scathing stuff.
Gone Away, by Mervyn Taylor. Another impressive volume by the author of An Island of His Own.
The Door Into the Dream, by Jeanie Wilson and Thomas Zvi Wilson. A satisfying marriage of image and metaphor from husband-and-wife poets.
Moral Disorder, by Margaret Atwood. A book of related stories (which also could be read as a novel) by the Canadian master.
Gallatin Canyon, by Thomas McGuane. Not all the stories work, but some of the best of them reach for the Big Sky.
The View From Castle Rock, by Alice Munro. How much is autobiographical here? In the end it doesn't matter; it's the tale, not she who tells it.
Some Fun, by Antonya Nelson. One of the nation's gifted short-story writers offers another laudable collection, this one also featuring a novella.
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Vol. 1: The Pox Party, by M.T. Anderson. This Revolution-era novel won the National Book Award.
Crispin: At the End of the World, by Avi. Sequel to the Newbery-winning Crispin: The Cross of Lead.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo. Who knew a bunny could be so beguiling?
The End, by Lemony Snicket. The lucky 13th (and last) book in what has been a delightful series. Harry who?
The Rules of Survival, by Nancy Werlin. The author handles a heavy topic (child abuse) with a light but not slight touch.
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. This masterful 550-page yarn is for adults, too. Steal it from your teenager's room.