List for 1997


Nonfiction   |    Poetry

The Notable Books Council of the ALA Reference and User Services Association has compiled this list for the general reader. These titles have been selected for their significant contribution to the expansion of knowledge and for the pleasure they can provide to adult readers. This list is also available with other reading lists from ALA in ALA's Guide to Best Reading, 1997. This booklet contains camera-ready brochures and bookmarks with annotations for each title. Call ALA Order Fulfillment, 800-545-2433, press 7 to order. $40, ISBN: 0-8389-7882-7.


Atkinson, Kate. Behind the Scenes at the Museum. St. Martin's Press, (0-312-13928-4)Ruby Lennox's childhood trauma and the tragedies of her family's past are told with a deceptively simple voice, filled with wit and humor.

Barrett, Andrea. Ship Fever: Stories. W.W. Norton, (0-393-13853-x) With the delicacy of a botanist's sketch, Barrett deftly blends history and passion into these eight tales of scientific inquiry.

Diaz, Junot. Drown. Riverhead Books, (1-57322-041-8) Elegant and explosive stories from a fresh and authentic perspective vividly portray the Dominican community from Santo Domingo to Nueva York.

Doyle, Roddy. The Woman Who Walked into Doors . Riverhead Books (0-670-86775-6) Abuse, alcoholism, and the transformative power of love are expressed in this novel that perfectly captures the Irish cadence.

Iida, Deborah. Middle Son. Algonquin (1-56512-119-8) The observant and finely crafted novel draws readers into the world of the Fuji family and the Japanese-American experience in Hawaii from the 1940's to the present.

Mistry, Rohinton. A Fine Balance. Knopf (0-679-44608-7) Mistry masterfully examines social corruption in India during the 1970's through the experiences of four characters whose lives intermingle in spite of caste differences.

Robinson, Roxana. Asking for Love and Other Stories. Random House (0-679-43902-1) Connectedness, vulnerability, and responsibility punctuate these stories about the fluidity of contemporary relationships.

Selvadurai, Shyam. Funny Boy. William Morrow (0-688-14595-7) In this gracefully written first novel, Selvadurai tells the gripping coming-of-age story of a gay youth in ethnically-torn Sri Lanka.

Swift, Graham. Last Orders. Knopf (0679-41224-7) Four working class men travel to the seaside to fulfill their friend Jack's dying wish, revealing their interwoven lives, regrets, and fears.

Tevor, William. After Rain. Viking (0-670-87007-2) Irish author William Trevor probes the mysteries of love and despair in twelve haunting stories of betrayal and unraveled secrets.

Wolff, Tobias. The Night in Questions . Knopf (0-679-40218-7) In his first collection in a decade, Wolff vividly portrays entire worlds in these tightly constructed short stories by a master craftsman.


Heaney, Seamus. The Spirit Level. Farrar Straus Gioux (0-374-26779-0) Common objects and everyday events are imbued with magic by Heaney in these luminous poems.

Hicok, Bob. The Legend of Light. University of Wisconsin Press (0-299-14910-2) Hicok's perceptive, occasionally offbeat poetry captures afresh the absurdities and profound contradictions of daily life.

Kenyon, Jane. Otherwise . Graywolf Press (1-55597-240-3) Kenyon's narrative poems of New Hampshire life are somber yet infused with a radiant spirit a collection as moving as it is rewarding.


Ambrose, Stephen. Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West . Simon and Schuster (0-684-81107-3) Ambrose recreates the travails of Jefferson's personal secretary who blazed a trail to the Pacific with the Corps of Discovery and returned a hero and a failure.

Denby, David. Great Books: My Adventure with Homer, Rousseau, Woolf, and other Indestructible Writers of the Western World. Simon and Schuster (0-684-80975-3) Journalist Denby attends two courses at Columbia University to re-visit the great classics of the past and in the process explores the idea of a "canon" today.

D'Orso, Michael. Like Judgement Day: The Ruin and Redemption of a Town Called Rosewood . Putnam (0-399-14147-2) D'Orso compellingly describes the 1923 destruction of the black town of Rosewood, Florida, and the events that finally let to official reparation for its victims.

Luker, Kristin. Dubious Conceptions . Harvard University Press. The challenges unwed teen-aged mothers present to society are examined with clarity, intelligence, and compassion in this well-researched book. The author reaches unexpected conclusions.

Manguel, Alberto. A History of Reading . Viking (0-670-84302-4) Manguel celebrates the varied experience of reading in an inventive and informative presentation.

McBride, James. The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother. Riverhead Books (1-57322-022-1) The absorbing, often hilarious dual memoir upends conventional notions of racial identity as McBride retraces his white Jewish mother's odyssey toward marriage and unwavering allegiance to the black community.

McCourt, Frank. Angela's Ashes. Scribner (0-684-87435-0) A harrowing tale of childhood survival in the slums of Limerick is graced by forgiveness, filed with humor, and expressed with tremendous lyricism.

Miller, Judith. God Has Ninety-Nine Names: Reporting From a Militant Middle East . Simon and Schuster (0-684-80973-7) Drawing on her experience as a veteran of New York Times foreign correspondent, Miller offers a personal overview of Islamic fundamentalism and its different hues.

Page, Clarence. Showing My Color: Impolite Essays on Race and Identity. HarperCollins(0-06-017256-8) Journalist Page reveals the unavoidable racial subtext in contemporary U.S. society in candid and intelligent essays.

Painter, Nell Irvin. Sojourner Truth: A Life, a Symbol. W.W. Norton (0-393-02739-2) Painter transcends myth in presenting Truth's eclectic life as a slave, abolitionist, feminist, and suffragist.

Quammen, David. The Song of the Dodo . Scribner (0-684-80083-7) Scientific reporting and travel writing are combined in this investigation of how man affects the survival of all species by carving up the biosphere.

Sobol, Dava. Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time. Walker (0-8027-1312-2) This story of adventure and exploration, competition, and sabotage provides a scintillating account of how the problem of navigation was solved by a simple clock maker.