Notable Books for Adults

Notable Books for Adults
About the Notable Books for Adults Since 1944, the goal of the Notable Books Council has been to make available to the nation’s readers a list of 25 very good, very readable, and at times very important fiction, nonfiction, and poetry books for the adult reader. Please visit for the most current lists and information.

The Notable Books List evolved from an activity sponsored by the Lending Round Table of the American Library Association (ALA) in 1944. Since then, the selection of a list of notable or outstanding books of the year has been carried out in a variety of ways, and under various auspices. For three years, the selection was known as Outstanding Books, and was prepared by the ALA Lending Section, with the assistance of membership votes. In 1947, the Division of Public Libraries assumed responsibility of producing the list, changing the name to Notable Books. In 1955, the Notable Books Committee was expanded to become a 12-member Council, and in 1958 was transferred to the Adult Services Division. In 1959, the RASD Board of Directors adopted a statement of purpose and a list of criteria for Notable Books. These documents codified the characteristic philosophy and methodology of Notable Books and remain guiding principles today. In 1966, the Council began a reconsideration of the purposes and procedures of the selection of the Notable Books, the first step being revision of the Manual. With the merger of RSD and ASD in 1972, the Notable Books Council became a committee of the Reference and Adult Services Division. (Condensed and updated from "The Notable Books Project, 1044-55; Summary by S. Janice Kee, prepared January 1956.")

The operations of the Council have undergone subtle changes during the 1990's. Meetings are now limited to regular ALA conference dates; the 12-member Council no longer relies upon participating libraries for input; a publicity subcommittee has been established in order to further recognition and use of the Notable Book designation; and, Literary Tastes: A Notable Books Breakfast has become an annual event at summer conference. The Council enjoys enthusiastic support of most major publishers in providing review copies of books for Council members and in providing expenses for authors invited to participate in the breakfasts.

In 1991 the Notable Books Council came under the aegis of Collection Development and Evaluation Section (CODES) following the restructuring of RASD (now RUSA). The Council reports to the Chair of CODES rather than directly to the Division President or RUSA Executive Director.

Administered by:

Reference and User Services Association logoCollection Development and Evaluation Section logo


2013 Selection(s)

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Author: Fountain, Ben. Publisher: Ecco.

Bravo Squad was caught live on camera in a firefight. Now temporarily stateside, they are being exploited in a hyped-up victory tour.


author: Ford, Richard. Publisher: Ecco.

The twin teenage children of once upstanding citizens who rob a bank are left to fend for themselves. The murders come later, in Saskatchewan.

The Dog Stars

Author: Heller, Peter. Publisher: Knopf.

A man, his dog, his airplane and a will to survive in post-apocalyptic Colorado.

Half-Blood Blues

Author: Edugyan, Esi. Publisher: Picador.

Two aging African-American musicians return to Berlin to find their friend, a jazz trumpeter arrested in Nazi-occupied France.

The Headmaster's Wager

Author: Lam, Vincent. Publisher: Hogarth.

What happens when you are blind to the realities of war? Percival, a Chinese expatriate in Vietnam, makes bad bets with tragic consequences.

A Hologram for the King

Author: Eggers, Dave. Publisher: McSweeney's.

In a nod to Godot, an American salesman is in Saudi Arabia to close a deal which may salvage his way of life.

The Orphan Master's Son

Author: Johnson, Adam. Publisher: Random House.

In a surreal sortie to a world of fabricated reality, Pak Jun Do is forced to become many people by the North Korean government.

The Round House

Author: Erdrich, Louise.Publisher: Harper.

On the Ojibwe reservation, Oop hunts for his mother's attacker and learns that law does not always provide justice.

This is How You Lose Her

Author: Díaz, Junot. Publisher: Riverhead.

Yunior, a smooth-talking Dominican, explores the complexity of love, fidelity and cultural identity in these inventive, uncompromising stories.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Author: Joyce, Rachel. Publisher: Random House.

Delivering a letter to a dying friend becomes a 500 mile journey of reflection and redemption.