For immediate release | January 27, 2013

RUSA’s 2013 Notable Books List announced; outstanding fiction, nonfiction and poetry for adult readers

SEATTLE —The expert readers advisory and collection development librarians of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division of the American Library Association, have selected the winning titles for the 2013 Notable Books List — an annual literary award that identifies outstanding and noteworthy fiction, nonfiction and poetry for adult readers.

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. This year's list was was selected by the Notable Books Council, whose members include Elizabeth Olesh, Chairperson, Nassau (N.Y.) Library System; William Kelly, Vice Chairperson, Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Public Library; Terry Beck, Sno-Isle (Wash.) Library System; Sharon Castleberry, DeSoto (Texas) Public Library; Kayne Ferrier; Robin Kinder, George Washington University; Liz Kirchhoff, Barrington (Ill.) Public Library; Katharine Phenix, Anythink Libraries; Camina Raphael, Westbury (N.Y.) Public Library; Andrea Slonosky; Sara Taffae; Mary Callaghan "Cal" Zunt, Cleveland Public Library.

The 2013 winners are:


  • Díaz, Junot. “This is How You Lose Her.” Riverhead. Yunior, a smooth-talking Dominican, explores the complexity of love, fidelity and cultural identity in these inventive, uncompromising stories.
  • Edugyan, Esi. “Half-Blood Blues.” Picador. Two aging African-American musicians return to Berlin to find their friend, a jazz trumpeter arrested in Nazi-occupied France.
  • Eggers, Dave. “A Hologram for the King.” McSweeney's. In a nod to Godot, an American salesman is in Saudi Arabia to close a deal which may salvage his way of life.
  • Erdrich, Louise. “The Round House.” Harper. On the Ojibwe reservation, Oop hunts for his mother's attacker and learns that law does not always provide justice.
  • Ford, Richard. “Canada.” Ecco. The twin teenage children of once upstanding citizens who rob a bank are left to fend for themselves. The murders come later, in Saskatchewan.
  • Fountain, Ben. “Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk.” Ecco. Bravo Squad was caught live on camera in a firefight. Now temporarily stateside, they are being exploited in a hyped-up victory tour.
  • Heller, Peter. “The Dog Stars.” Knopf. A man, his dog, his airplane and a will to survive in post-apocalyptic Colorado.
  • Johnson, Adam. “The Orphan Master's Son.” Random House. In a surreal sortie to a world of fabricated reality, Pak Jun Do is forced to become many people by the North Korean government.
  • Joyce, Rachel. “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.” Random House. Delivering a letter to a dying friend becomes a 500 mile journey of reflection and redemption.
  • Lam, Vincent. “The Headmaster's Wager.” Hogarth. What happens when you are blind to the realities of war? Percival, a Chinese expatriate in Vietnam, makes bad bets with tragic consequences.
  • Tropper, Jonathan. “One Last Thing Before I Go.” Dutton. No one can understand how Silver has made such a mess of his life. Can he fix it before the clock runs out?
  • Watkins, Claire Vaye. “Battleborn.” Riverhead. The aching beauty of Nevada from the mid-1800s to the present is depicted in these nuanced and elegant stories.


  • Boo, Katherine. “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity.” Random House. Documents the lives of the slum dwellers of Annawadi, whose work as garbage pickers barely keeps them alive.
  • Cain, Susan. “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.” Crown. Compelling arguments for why we should turn down the volume.
  • Colby, Tanner. “Some of My Best Friends are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America.” Viking. Answering a simple question uncovers the surprisingly complex roots of contemporary segregation.
  • Dyson, George. “Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe.” Knopf. The story of the eccentric personalities whose work in Los Alamos and Princeton initiated the modern era.
  • Egan, Timothy. “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis.” Houghton Mifflin. Illuminates one man's quest to document and preserve the culture of indigenous American tribes.
  • Holt, Jim. “Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story.” W.W. Norton. Why something instead of nothing?
  • Ingrassia, Paul. “Engines of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars.” Simon & Schuster. From the Model T to the Prius, we are what we drive.
  • Iverson, Kristen. “Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats.” Crown. The personal story and public politics of life beside plutonium triggers.
  • King, Ross. “Leonardo and the Last Supper.” Walker. Think you know everything about da Vinci and his masterpiece? An enlightening and entertaining treatment of an iconic subject.
  • Murphy, Paul Thomas. “Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem, and the Rebirth of the British Monarchy.” Pegasus. Queen - 8, assassins - 0.
  • Roberts, Callum. “The Ocean of Life: The Fate of Man and the Sea.” Viking. Sail and swim through our threatened waters towards ideas for creating a sustainable future.
  • Winterson, Jeanette. “Why Be Happy When You Could be Normal?” Grove. Religion, sex, class, libraries, politics, madness, art--the memoir of a young woman discovering the sanctuary of literature.


  • Alighieri, Dante. Trans. Mary Jo Bang. Illus. Henrik Drescher. “Inferno.” Graywolf. A rollicking, contemporary trip through the Underworld.
  • Olds, Sharon. “Stag's Leap.” Knopf. An arc of verses which touch the raw nerve of betrayal, lost love, forgiveness, healing and finding peace.

The Reference and User Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, represents librarians and library staff in the fields of reference, specialized reference, collection development, readers’ advisory and resource sharing. RUSA is the foremost organization of reference and information professionals who make the connections between people and the information sources, services, and collection materials they need. Not a member, but interested in being part of a member community and enjoying discounted registration rates on conference, preconferences and other events? Join, renew or add RUSA to your ALA membership at Learn more about the association at


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