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 Winner(s)

Some of My Best Friends are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America.

2013 Selection(s)

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
Author: Boo, Katherine. Publisher: Random House.

Documents the lives of the slum dwellers of Annawadi, whose work as garbage pickers barely keeps them alive.

Engines of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars
Author: Ingrassia, Paul. Publisher: Simon & Schuster.

From the Model T to the Prius, we are what we drive.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
Author: Cain, Susan. Published by: Crown

Compelling arguments for why we should turn down the volume.

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis.
Author: Egan, Timothy. Publisher: Houghton Mifflin.

Illuminates one man's quest to document and preserve the culture of indigenous American tribes.

Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe
Author: Dyson, George. Publisher: Knopf.

The story of the eccentric personalities whose work in Los Alamos and Princeton initiated the modern era.

Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story
Author: Holt, Jim. Publisher: W.W. Norton

Why something instead of nothing?


2013 Selection(s)


written by Claire Vaye Watkins, published by Riverhead

The aching beauty of Nevada from the mid-1800s to the present is depicted in these nuanced and elegant stories.

One Last Thing Before I Go

Author: Tropper, Jonathan. Publisher: Dutton.

No one can understand how Silver has made such a mess of his life. Can he fix it before the clock runs out?

One Last Thing Before I Go

written by Jonathan Tropper, published by Dutton.

No one can understand how Silver has made such a mess of his life. Can he fix it before the clock runs out?