List for 2001

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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.


Nonfiction   |    Poetry

blind assassin book cover Atwood, Margaret, The Blind Assassin, Doubleday/Nan A. Talese, $26.00 (ISBN: 0-8021-1658-2). Atwood expertly interweaves a science-fiction novella with incidents from octogenarian Iris Chase Griffen’s past and present.

don't tell anyone book cover Busch, Frederick, Don't Tell Anyone, Norton, $25.00 (ISBN: 0-3930-4973-6). This exemplary collection of sixteen stories and one novella––exploring loss, love, and loneliness in American family life––confirms Busch’s reputation as one of America’s finest storytellers.

amazing adventures book cover Chabon, Michael, Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Random, $26.95 (ISBN: 0-6794-5004-1). American idealism and the power of the imagination are exuberantly evoked in this epic novel of larger-than-life comic-book superheroes and their creators.

disgrace book cover Coetzee, J. M., Disgrace, Viking, $23.95 (ISBN: 0-1402-90640-9). This spare and disturbing novel about Professor David Lurie’s out-of-control life is set against the stark realities of contemporary South Africa.

being dead book cover Crace, Jim, Being Dead, Farrar Straus and Giroux, $26.96 (ISBN: 0-3741-1013-1). The story of Celice and Joseph’s love is revealed in flashbacks as they lay dead on a seaside dune.

last samurai book cover DeWitt, Helen, Last Samurai, Hyperion, $24.95 (ISBN: 0-7868-6668-3). Child prodigy Ludo searches for his father, guided by the lessons he’s learned from his obsessive viewing of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.

delinquent virgin book cover Kalpakian, Laura, Delinquent Virgin, Graywolf, paper, $14.00, (ISBN: 1-55597-295-0). Rich with eccentric characters, imaginative settings, and a gentle humor, Kalpakian’s stories present a warmhearted view of the human condition.

truth and bright water book cover King, Thomas, Truth and Bright Water, Atlantic Monthly, $24.00 (ISBN: 0-87113-818-2). This tragicomic coming-of-age tale portrays rural Native American life and the sometimes-treacherous borders between generations, races, classes, and nations.

english passengers book cover Kneale, Matthew, English Passengers, Doubleday/Nan A. Talese, $25.00, (ISBN: 0-385-49743-1). Multiple voices narrate a hilarious and heartbreaking tale of the collision of British eccentrics, inept Manx smugglers, and Aborigines in nineteenth-century Tasmania.

living to tell book cover Nelson, Antonya, Living to Tell, Scribner, $24.00 (ISBN: 0-684-83933-4). In a graceful novel of manners, the three adult Mabie children return to their parents’ Wichita home to heal an assortment of heartaches.

anil's ghost book cover Ondaatje, Michael, Anil's Ghost, Knopf $25.00 (ISBN: 0-375-41053-8). With the Sri Lanka civil war as a backdrop, forensic anthropologist Anil Tissera finds herself drawn into a political and personal maelstrom as past and present collide.

scar vegas book cover Paine, Tom, Scar Vegas, Harcourt Brace $22.00 (ISBN: 0-15-1004889-7). Paine’s first story collection presents a trip through the modern world, populated by Haitian refugees, Seattle anarchists, and a cross-dressing marine general.

white teeth book cover Smith, Zadie, White Teeth, Random $24.95 (ISBN: 0-375-50185-1). This exhilarating debut novel tracks three families negotiating the complex terrain of England’s postcolonial, multicultural society.

quick and the dead book cover Williams, Joy, The Quick and the Dead, Knopf $25.00 (ISBN: 0-679-44646-X). This black comedy of contemporary American life reveals a world in which the difference between being alive and being dead is just a matter of semantics.


from dawn to decadence book cover Barzun, Jacques, From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present, HarperCollins, $36.00 (ISBN: 0-06-017586-9). In clean, bright, and provocative language, a cultural critic and historian discusses trends in art, literature, music, and history over the past five centuries.

heartbreaking work book cover Eggers, Dave, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Simon & Schuster $23.00 (ISBN: 0-684-86347-2). Beneath the ironic language and edgy tone of Eggers’ account of raising his brother after his parents’ deaths is a genuine story of family love.

barrow's boys book cover Fleming, Fergus, Barrow's Boys, Atlantic Monthly, $26.00 (ISBN: 0-87113-804-2). Fleming chronicles the harrowing adventures of nineteenth-century British explorers dispatched by Admiralty officer John Barrow to map uncharted corners of the globe.

collaborator book cover Kaplan, Alice Yaeger, Collaborator: The Trial and Execution of Robert Brasillach, University of Chicago, $20.00 (ISBN: 0-226-42414-6). Kaplan grippingly reconstructs a controversial post–World War II trial that sent a prominent French writer to a traitor’s death.

genome book cover Ridley, Matt, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, HarperCollins, $26.00 (ISBN: 0-06-019497-9). With clear explanations of complex biological processes, this is a fascinating tour of the molecular basis of human life and the power of genetic disposition.

persian mirrors book cover Sciolino, Elaine, Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran, Free Press $26.00 (ISBN: 0-684-86290-5). A New York Times journalist offers a balanced and compassionate picture of the private and public lives of Iranian men and women since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

bruce chatwin book cover Shakespeare, Nicholas, Bruce Chatwin, Doubleday/Nan A. Talese, $35.00 (ISBN: 0-385-49829-2). This richly detailed, comprehensive biography of the enigmatic novelist and travel writer vividly portrays his expansive and complex world.

in siberia book cover Thubron, Colin, In Siberia, HarperCollins $26.00 (ISBN: 0-06-019543-6). Thubron journeys across a vast region rich with history and culture, in search of its heart and soul.



beowulf book cover Heaney, Seamus, Beowulf: A New Translation, Farrar, $25.00 (ISBN: 0-374-11119-7). Heany brilliantly re-creates this Anglo-Saxon epic with stirring dialogue, action, and descriptions.

poems of stanley kunitz book cover Kunitz, Stanley, Collected Poems of Stanley Kunitz, Norton, $27.95 (ISBN: 0-393-05030-0). The current poet laureate’s joyous verse spans the twentieth century.

learning human book cover Murray, Les, Learning Human: Selected Poems, Farrar, $27.00 (ISBN: 0-374-26073-7). Rich, lyrical lines illustrate the nature, people, and history of Australia in a generous sampling of Murray’s complex and earthy poems.