List for 2003
The Notable Books Council of the Reference and User Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, selected these titles for their significant contribution to the expansion of knowledge or for the pleasure they can provide to adult readers.
F I C T I O NAuster, Paul. The Book of Illusions. 2002. Holt, $25 (0-8050-5408-1).
This many-layered, mesmerizing novel is a meditation on loss, art, and how chance affects us all.
Caramelo. 2002. Knopf, $24 (0-679-43554-9).
In this vibrant Mexican American saga, intergenerational family secrets and hopes are revealed through the eyes of adolescent Lala.
The Shell Collector. 2002. Scribner, $23 (0-7432-1274-6).
This debut short story collection stunningly explores the mysterious connections between the natural world and the human heart.
Miniatures. 2002. Coffee House, $23 (1-56689-136-1).
The narrator engages the reader in an intelligent and fiercely funny novel that explores literary and cultural experiences.
Lovely Green Eyes. 2002. Arcade, $24.95 (1-55970-629-5).
In this stark story, a 15-year-old Jewish girl serves as a Nazi army prostitute but survives in body and spirit.
Atonement. 2002. Doubleday/Nan A. Talese, $26 (0-385-50395-4).
This masterful metafictional novel deftly explores a lifelong act of contrition by one Briony Tallis, whose rash behavior as a child irreparably harms three individuals.
By the Lake. 2002. Knopf, $24 (0-679-41914-4).
Simple and eloquent storytelling evokes and celebrates the timelessness of rural Ireland.
In Revere, in Those Days. 2002. Crown/Shaye Areheart, $22 (0-609-61032-5).
Anthony's 1960s adolescence is shaped by his loving Italian family and his blue-collar hometown in this luminous coming-of-age story.
Family Matters. 2002. Knopf, $26 (0-375-40373-6).
A fraying contemporary Bombay is the setting in which the members of an extended Parsi family overcome their individual regrets amid spiritual ambiguity and achieve quiet resolution.
Rouse Up, O Young Men of the New Age! 2002. Grove, $24 (0-8021-1710-4).
In a heartfelt, intelligent novel, a father contemplates--through the filter of William Blake's poetry--his increasingly complicated relationship with his mentally disabled son, Eeyore.
The Russian Debutante's Handbook. 2002. Riverhead, $24.95 (1-57322-213-5).
This wildly satirical romp follows Vladimir Girshkin, a 25-year-old Russian American, and his misadventures in New York City and Eastern Europe.
God's Fool. 2002. Knopf, $24 (0-375-40216-0).
Based on the lives of Siamese twins Chang and Eng Bunker, this poignant first novel presents wistful reflections on loyalty, liberation, and love.
N O N F I C T I O NBabel, Isaac. The Complete Works of Isaac Babel. 2001. Norton, $45 (0-393-048462-2).
A newly translated, retrospective collection by a Russian Jewish dissident who casts a contemporaneous critical eye on pre-World War II Russia.
Selected Essays. 2001. Pantheon, $35 (0-375-42156-4); Vintage, paper, $18 (0-375-71318-2).
Berger's insightful observations stimulate readers to see art and life anew.
Blood Diamonds. 2002. Westview, $26 (0-8133-3939-1).
A riveting story reveals the cost of diamonds--not in dollars, but in terms of torture, blood, and death in Sierra Leone.
Master of the Senate. 2002. Knopf, $35 (0-394-52836-0).
In orchestrating the passage through the Senate of the first civil rights legislation in 82 years, Lyndon Johnson demonstrated his mastery of persuasion and his obsessive pursuit of power.
Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science. 2002. Holt/Metropolitan, $24 (0-8050-6319-6).
In clear and compelling prose, a surgical resident who is also a science writer explores the uncertainties of medical science and humanizes its practitioners.
Can't Be Satisfied. 2002. Little, Brown, $25.95 (0-316-32849-9).
Mournful vocals and the crunch of guitar strings reverberate through the pages of this lively and well-researched examination of blues musician Muddy Waters.
Theodore Rex. 2001. Random, $35 (0-394-55509-0); Modern Library, paper, $16.95 (0-8129-6600-7).
The abundant energy, charm, accomplishments, and foibles of America's youngest president are chronicled in this engrossing account of Theodore Roosevelt's White House years.
Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy. 2002. Walker, $28 (0-8027-1375-0).
Preston's gripping, thoroughly researched re-creation of the 1915 torpedoing of the Lusitania provides new insight into this world-shattering historical event.
Stiles, T. J.
Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War. 2002. Knopf, $27.50 (0-375-40583-6).
The legendary outlaw and Civil War bushwacker is demythologized in this rich combination of social history and biography.
The Future of the Past. 2002. Farrar, $25 (0-374-15977-7).
This fascinating collection of essays illuminates worldwide efforts to preserve our past by saving monuments and ways of life threatened by modern society.
Wilson, Edward O.
The Future of Life. 2002. Knopf, $22 (0-679-45078-5).
This meditation on biodiversity passionately details species loss caused by the ravages of human activity and offers hope for preserving the richness of life on earth.
P O E T R YDugan, Alan. Poems Seven: New and Complete Poetry. 2001. Seven Stories, $35 (1-58322-265-0); paper, $18.95 (1-58322-512-9).
Dugan's collection brings together five decades worth of simple, honest, and irascible poems on a wide range of intimate topics.
The Painted Bed. 2002. Houghton, $23 (0-618-18789-8).
Hall writes beautifully of his wife's death and his acceptance of a life without her, finding breathtaking and highly personal images to express his love, sorrow, and renewed ardor.
Bellocq's Ophelia. 2002. Graywolf, paper, $14 (1-55597-359-0).
Inspired by E. J. Bellocq's candid photographs of prostitutes in New Orleans, these compassionate poems are lyrical musings on African American women's lives, desires, and dreams.
Notable Books, 2003, committee members: Wayne Roylance, chair, Brooklyn (NY) Public Library; Andrea Copeland, Hunter College Library (NY); Iva Freeman, Kendall College Library (IL); David Hellman, J. Paul Leonard Library, San Francisco State University (CA); Linda Holtslander, Loudoun County (VA) Public Library; Helene Lafrance, Santa Clara (CA) University; Chapple Langemack, King County (WA) Library System; Kathleen de la Pena McCook, University of South Florida; Laurie Sundborg, Tulsa (OK) City-County Library; Miriam Tuliao, New York Public Library; Patrick Wall, University City (MO) Public Library; Sarah Barbara Watstein, James Branch Cabell Library, VCU Libraries (VA); Brad Hooper, consultant, Booklist.