Notable Books for Adults List, 2011
Nashville Chrome by Rick Bass. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 9780547317267.
This lovely and unsettling account of pop trio The Browns reels you in as though the concept of rags to riches were brand new.
Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue. Little, Brown. 9780316098335.
Five-year-old Jack vividly narrates the story of his life confined in a room with his mother in this unsettling exploration of resilience and hope.
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. Knopf. 9780307592835.
A‘70s punk band becomes the touchstone for a motley crew who spin their interconnected stories over time and distance.
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin. William Morrow. 9780060594664.
Two men – one black, one white – must confront the secrets surrounding their childhood friendship following the disappearance of two girls in rural Mississippi.
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 9780374158460.
This incisive portrait of the fractured Berglund brood captures the zeitgeist of contemporary America.
Next by James Hynes. Reagan Arthur. 9780316051927.
Welcome to the worst day of Kevin Quinn’s life as he battles the anxieties of the modern world in steamy Austin, Texas.
The Surrendered by Chang Rae Lee. Riverhead. 9781594489761.
The complex entangled lives of three people forever scarred by the Korean War are sympathetically portrayed in gorgeous prose.
Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes. Atlantic Monthly Press. 9780802119285.
An ambitious and idealistic American Marine faces the horror, heroism, futility, and pragmatism of war in this visceral portrayal of life in-country.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel by David Mitchell. Random House. 9781400065455.
A young clerk attempts to establish himself in the artificial and intense world of Dejima, the Dutch trading colony in 1800s Japan.
Skippy Dies by Paul Murray. Faber and Faber. 9780865479432.
Filled warmth and humor, this coming-of-age novel set in a Dublin boys schools is a sprawling homage to adolescence, string theory, donuts, and unrequited love.
The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli. St. Martin’s. 9780312611576.
The adrenaline high that danger offers infects photojournalist Helen Adams as she documents the war in Vietnam.
The Lonely Polygamist: A Novel by Brady Udall. W.W.Norton. 9780393062625.
In this big-hearted novel, Golden Richards and his clan navigate their chaotic lives as each clamors to be noticed.
Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow. Penguin. 9781594202667.
A landmark biography provides insights into the complexities of this founding father’s character, and brings him fully to life within the context of his times.
The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family’s Century of Art and Loss by Edmund de Waal. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 9780374105976.
Blending history, biography and art, this personal account elegantly traces the fate of a European Jewish family and their collection of 246 netsuke.
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick. Spiegel & Grau. 9780385523905.
Chronicling the experiences of six people, this powerful account draws back the curtain on the brutality of life under a totalitarian regime.
Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 9780374278724.
Stricken by Russia love, a writer sets out to experience all things Siberian and takes us along for the rollicking journey.
The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness by Oren Harman. W.W. Norton. 9780393067781.
This moving work provides insight into the mind of a tormented genius attempting to understand an illusive aspect of human nature.
Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent. Scribner. 9780743277020.
This intoxicating history of the 18th amendment reveals the surprising relationship between Prohibition and other social movements, and explores its lasting impact on American life.
Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour by Lynne Olson. Random House. 9781400067589.
In this compelling portrait three influential individuals persuade a reluctant President to come to the aid of a beleaguered nation in the early days of WWII.
The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn by Nathaniel Philbrick. Viking. 9780670021727.
An epic encounter between two iconic individuals is vividly portrayed in fluid, evocative, and decidedly objective prose.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Crown. 9781400052172.
A science writer uncovers the fascinating story of an African-American woman’s cancer cells harvested for medical research, thereby raising important questions of bioethics.
Just Kids by Patti Smith. Ecco. 9780066211312.
The poet and musician’s endearing memoir about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe captures life and art in New York City during the 1960s and ‘70s.
The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant. Knopf. 9780307268938.
Russia’s ecological and cultural history serves as the backdrop for this riveting adventure tale of man versus beast.
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson. Random House. 9780679444329.
The 20th century exodus of over 6 million Black Americans from the South is sensitively retold through the lives of three who left.
Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty: Poems by Tony Hoagland. Graywolf Press. 9781555975494.
These poems capture the absurdities and loneliness of American life using matter of fact language and humor.
Wait: Poems by C.K. Williams. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 9780374285913.
A lifetime of experience is distilled into a slim but significant volume of verse by this Pulitzer and National Book Award winning poet.