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Find more Notable Books
This list has been compiled for use by the general reader and by librarians who work with adults. The Notable Books Council, ALA Reference and User Services Association, has selected the titles for their significant contributions to the expansion of knowledge or for the pleasure they can provide to adult readers. Titles were selected from books published from November 2007 through November 2008.
American Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA: When FDR Put the Nation to Work. By Nick Taylor. Bantam, $27 (9780553802351).
A monumental appraisal of the Works Progress Administration recounts how the program permanently changed U.S. social policies and its physical and cultural landscape.
The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century. By Steve Coll. Penguin, $35(9781594201646).
An intimate look at this large, influential Saudi family of which Osama is but one member reveals the complexity of the modern Arab world.
The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals. By Jane Mayer. Doubleday, $27.50 (9780385526395).
This harrowing account of post-9/11 counterterrorism is an indictment of the Bush administration’s endorsement of torture as a legitimate interrogation tool.
Defying Dixie: The Radical Roots of Civil Rights, 1919–1950. By Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore. Norton, $39.95 (9780393062441).
This groundbreaking history follows an early-twentieth-century movement for social justice in the South that evolved into the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
The Forever War. By Dexter Filkins. Knopf, $25 (9780307266392).
Eyewitness reporting of military engagements and civilian life in war-torn Afghanistan and Iraq is visceral yet measured, avoiding simplistic conclusions.
The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family. By Annette Gordon-Reed. Norton, $35 (9780393064773).
A comprehensive history of a family and their owners, including Thomas Jefferson, reveals the complex nature of slave relations in America.
In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. By Michael Pollan. Penguin, $21.95 (9781594201455).
This extended essay considers generations of human experience and research to explicate a simple mantra: eat food, not too much, mostly plants.
Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood. By Mark Harris. Penguin, $27.95 (9781594201523).
The 1967 best-picture nominees provide a framework for examining pivotal changes in the film industry reflecting radical shifts in American society.
The Suicide Index: Putting My Father’s Death in Order. By Joan Wickersham. Houghton, $25 (9780151014903).
Brave and unflinching in its honesty, this memoir examines the effects of suicide on those left behind.
This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War. By Drew Gilpin Faust. Knopf, $27.95 (9780375404047).
A unique explication from many perspectives illuminates the profound social and political consequences of the unprecedented number of soldiers who died during the American Civil War.
Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says about Us). By Tom Vanderbilt. Knopf, $24.95. (9780307264787).
Balancing meticulous research with an approachable style, this captivating and enlightening read lends new insight into a nearly universal activity.
A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World. By Tony Horwitz. Holt, $27.50 (9780805076035).
What starts as a fact-finding travelogue transforms into a diverting romp through the history and mythology surrounding the early explorers of the Americas.
Atmospheric Disturbances. By Rivka Galchen. Farrar, $24 (9780374200114).
Love and meteorology converge as Dr. Leo Lieberstein searches for his wife, unaccountably replaced by a simulacrum, or so he believes.
City of Thieves. By David Benioff. Viking, $24.95 (9780670018703).
In this darkly comedic novel, set during the siege of Leningrad, two young prisoners are sent on an absurd errand by a Russian colonel.
Dangerous Laughter: Thirteen Stories. By Stephen Millhauser. Knopf, $24 (9780307267566).
These inventive and fantastic stories range in subject from counting fir-tree needles to teenage laughter parties to building a tower to heaven.
The Ginseng Hunter. By Jeff Talarigo. Doubleday/Nan A. Talese, $21.95 (9780385517393).
Refugees fleeing political oppression and famine disrupt a Chinese man’s solitude in this spare, tender portrait of life on the North Korean border.
The Hakawati. By Rabin Alameddine. Knopf, $25.95 (9780307266798).
Interweaving memory and fable, this dazzling epic tale of a modern Lebanese family’s vigil for a dying patriarch unveils the magical power of storytelling.
Olive Kitteridge. By Elizabeth Strout. Random, $25 (9781400062089).
Interlinked stories of life in a small coastal town focus on retired schoolteacher Olive Kittteridge’s difficult nature, ultimately revealing her humanity despite her imperfections.
Peace. By Richard Bausch. Knopf, $19.95 (9780307268334).
This taut, stark novel in which three GIs confront the moral dilemmas of combat renders a powerful meditation on the themes of trust, war, and redemption.
The Plague of Doves. By Louise Erdrich. HarperCollins, $25.95 (9780060515126).
Ojibwe and white characters narrate a tense, complex story of murder, love, and shared history in a dying North Dakota town.
Resistance. By Owen Sheers. Doubleday/Nan A. Talese, $39 (9780385522106).
In this haunting, alternative history, after the men disappear from a remote Welsh village, the women variously respond to invading German soldiers.
Unaccustomed Earth. By Jhumpa Lahiri. Knopf, $25. (9780307265739).
These luminous stories give the reader a glimpse of the lives, loves, and malaise of Bengali Americans.
The Wasted Vigil. By Aslam Nadeem. Knopf, $25 (9780307268426).
This haunting, poetic novel weaves a paradoxically beautiful tale of love, loss, hope, and despair in Afghanistan.
The Ghost Soldiers. By James Tate. Ecco, $22 (9780061436949).
The varied narrators in these 100 poems relate tales of, among others, alien kidnappers, navels, and houseflies, all delightfully off-kilter and frequently chuckleworthy.
Special Orders. By Edward Hirch. Knopf, $25 (9780307266811).
An unflinchingly honest and unsentimental examination of a man’s lifetime of disappointment strikes an unexpectedly hopeful note in this slim volume of finely wrought poems.
Notable Books, 2009, committee members: Patricia L. Gregory, chair, Saint Louis University (MO); Alicia Ahlvers, Kansas City Public Library (MO); Sandra Ballasch, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City; Susie Brown, Shaker Heights Public Library (OH); Malynda Dalton, Texas A&M International University (Laredo); Julie Elliott, Indiana University-South Bend; Nancy Pearl, Seattle, WA; A. Issac Pulver, Saratoga Springs Public Library (NY); Nonny Schlotzhauer, Pennsylvania State University, University Park; Andrea Slonosky, Long Island University-Brooklyn (NY); Lise Snyder, UCLA College Library, Los Angeles (CA); Valerie Morgan Taylor, Lewisville Community Library, Richburg (SC); and Booklist consultant Brad Hooper.
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