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. View/print Adobe® Acrobat® version of list.
|Barnes, Julian. The Lemon Table. Knopf, $22.95 (1-4000-4214-3).
Eleven witty and dazzling stories share the common theme of aging but diverge in time, place, mood, and social milieu.
|Christensen, Lars Saabye. The Half Brother. Arcade, $27 (1-55970-715-1).
In this epic Norwegian novel, commencing in World War II Oslo, an accomplished storyteller traces the lives of a matriarchal family over 50 years.
|De Bernières, Louis. Birds without Wings. Knopf, $25.95 (1-4000-4341-7). The harmony of life in an Anatolian village, with its quirky mix of Greek, Turkish, and Armenian ethnicities, is shattered by the nationalist politics of the early 1900s.|
|Dybek, Stuart. I Sailed with Magellan. Farrar, $24 (0-374-17407-5).
Dybek connects gently ironic stories of growing up and getting out in Polish American Chicago in the 1960s and 1970s.
|Khadra, Yasmina. The Swallows of Kabul. Doubleday/Nan A. Talese, $18.95 (0-385-51001-2).
Kabul under the Taliban provides the backdrop for this riveting, intimate novel of human frailty and societal degeneracy.
|Mda, Zakes. The Madonna of Excelsior. Farrar, $23 (0-374-20008-4).
A family at the center of an apartheid-era sex scandal confronts racial and social issues as South Africa moves from oppression to freedom.
|Mitchell, David. Cloud Atlas. Random, $14.95 (0-375-50725-6).
This tour de force of literary inventiveness weaves six tales written in six completely different styles into one richly resonant whole.
|Munro, Alice. Runaway. Knopf, $25 (1-4000-4281-X).
Flawless prose and peerless insight into human nature are Munro's gifts to the reader in eight short stories.
|Niemi, Mikael. Popular Music from Vittula. Seven Stories, $21.95 (1-58322-523-4).
The narrator's transition to adulthood on the Swedish-Finnish border in the 1960s juxtaposes magical and mundane experiences in a world long gone.
|Roth, Philip. The Plot against America. Houghton, $26 (0-618-50928-3).
In a chilling alternate history set in 1940s America, hero and anti-Semite Charles Lindbergh wins the presidency over FDR, and a Jewish family endures life in a new society.
|Wolff, Tobias. Old School. Knopf, $22 (0-375-40146-6).
A scholarship student with literary ambitions and a shameful secret experiences an unforgettable year when his prep school is visited by Robert Frost and Ayn Rand.
|Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton. Penguin, $35 (1-59420-009-2).
This monumental biography presents a modern perspective on the Founding Father most responsible for the current state of American industry, economy, and government.
|Ehrlich, Paul R. and Ehrlich, Anne E. One with Nineveh: Politics, Consumption, and the Human Future. Island, $27 (1-55963-879-6).
Relayed in a clarion voice, this powerful argument for saving the environment from disaster links social and economic policies with the empirical evidence of overpopulation and materialistic consumption.
|Fischer, David Hackett. Washington's Crossing. Oxford, $30 (0-19-517034-2).
The full story of George Washington's crossing of the Delaware is brought vividly to life in this revisionist retelling of an iconic event in American history.
|Henig, Robin Marantz. Pandora's Baby: How the First Test Tube Babies Sparked the Reproductive Revolution. Houghton, $25 (0-618-22415-7).
A journalist engagingly presents the history of in vitro fertilization and the moral, ethical, and political controversies of reproductive technologies.
|Hersh, Seymour M. Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib. HarperCollins, $25.95 (0-06-019591-6).
Hersh exposes the military abuse in Abu Ghraib prison and the events leading up to it in this groundbreaking report.
|Hughes, Robert. Goya. Knopf, $40 (0-394-58028-1).
With thoughtfulness and wit, Hughes refracts the art and life of Goya through the culture and history of Spain.
|Kurlansky, Mark. 1968: The Year That Rocked the World. Ballantine, $26.95 (0-345-45581-9).
This engrossing account tells the complete story of the global, social, and political upheaval, warfare, and assassinations that define one year in a tumultuous decade.
|Lansky, Aaron. Outwitting History: How One Man Rescued a Million Books and Saved a Civilization. Algonquin, $24.95 (1-56512-429-4).
A 23-year-old student of Yiddish embarks on a crusade to save books in that language and succeeds in preserving the stories and culture of a vanishing world.
|Moats, David. Civil Wars: A Battle for Gay Marriage. Harcourt, $25 (0-15-101017-X).
Moats offers an insightful account of the fierce battle that led to the legalization of civil unions in Vermont in 2001.
|National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorists Attacks upon the United States. Authorized ed. Norton, $10 (0-393-32671-3).
This report, written with measure and depth, achieves a distinctly unified voice to explicate the traumas of 9/11 and the events leading up to it.
|Philbrick, Nathaniel. Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery: The U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842. Viking, $27.95 (0-670-03231-X).
This dramatic account chronicles the little-known story of a six-vessel, 346-man U.S. exploring expedition that took four years, covered more than 84,000 miles, and expanded the role of science in the U.S.
|Sokolove, Michael. The Ticket Out: Darryl Strawberry and the Boys of Crenshaw. Simon & Schuster, $24.95 (0-7432-2673-9).
The individual stories of a vastly talented 1979 L.A. high-school baseball team come to life in this heartbreaking account of the players' last season and the difficulties they faced in the years that followed.
|Vine, Phyllis. One Man's Castle: Clarence Darrow in Defense of the American Dream. HarperCollins/Amistad, $24.95 (0-06-621415-7).
Dr. Ossian Sweet, an African American physician, was defended by Clarence Darrow in a murder trial that is recounted as a stark reminder of U.S. racial hatred in the 1920s.
|Giovanni, Nikki. The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni, 1968-1998. HarperCollins, $24.95 (0-06-054133-4).
African American activist Giovanni observes and embraces the world like few other poets; seize on these poems spanning three decades, and listen to her sing.
|Kooser, Ted. Delights and Shadows. Copper Canyon, $15 (1-55659-201-9).
These carefully crafted poems reflect a joy for life through powerful human images and intimate observations of everyday things.
Notable Books, 2005, committee members: Andrea C. Japzon (chair), NASA Goddard Space Flight Center; Mary Hegle Drewes, University of North Dakota Chester Fritz Library; Iva M. Freeman, Kendall College; Gloria Gehrman, Eugene Public Library; Steven Jablonski, Skokie Public Library; Helene Lafrance, Santa Clara University Orradre Library; Kathleen De La Pena McCook, University of South Florida; Charlene R. Rue, Brooklyn Public Library; Scott H. Silverman, Bryn Mawr College; Sara Maxine Taffae, State Library of Louisiana; Miriam Tuliao, Long Beach Public Library; and Sarah Barbara Watstein, Virginia Commonwealth University; with Brad Hooper ( Booklist).