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Find more The Reading List
Established in 2007 by the CODES section of RUSA, the Reading List Council, consisting of librarians who are experts in readers’ advisory and collection development, selects an annual list of outstanding genre fiction. This list is made up of one title in eight different categories: Adrenaline (encompassing thrillers, suspense, and action/adventure); Fantasy; Historical Fiction; Horror; Mystery; Romance; Science Fiction; and Women’s Fiction. All titles were published in 2009.
Gone Tomorrow. By Lee Child. Delacorte, $27 (9780385340571).
Lone-wolf Jack Reacher takes on terrorism and Homeland Security as he stumbles onto the tail end of an al-Qaeda sting. Crossing politics, police departments, and an alphabet soup of federal agencies, Reacher cleans house. The nonstop tension, menacing atmosphere, and Reacher’s matter-of-fact narration create an immediate and believable thriller. Read-alikes: Barry Eisler’s John Rain series, Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity, and C. J. Box’s Below Zero.
Shortlist: Beat the Reaper, by Josh Bazell (Little, Brown); The Neighbor, by Lisa Gardner (Bantam); Shatter, by Michael Robotham (Doubleday); The Tourist, by Olen Steinhauer (Minotaur).
Lamentation. By Ken Scholes. Tor, $25.95 (9780765321275).
When the city of Windwir is destroyed by an ancient weapon, tribes of the Named Lands flock to the desolated remains to battle an unknown foe. Elegiac in tone, this compelling high-fantasy introduces readers to a complex new world. Read-alikes: George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s First Rule, and David Anthony Durham’s Acacia, Book One: The War with the Mein.
Shortlist: Red Wolf Conspiracy, by Robert V. S. Redick (Del Rey); Turn Coat, by Jim Butcher (Roc); Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson (Tor); The Warded Man, by Peter V. Brett (Del Rey).
Agincourt. By Bernard Cornwell. Harper, $27.95 (9780061578915).
Vividly re-creating the pageantry and violence of the 1400s, Cornwell takes readers into the heart of the soldiering class in this intimate retelling of the Battle of Agincourt. With a brisk pace and a brilliant evocation of everyday life, he details the brutality of war and the lives of the men who fought. Read-alikes: Jack Whyte’s Templar Trilogy, Tim Willock’s The Religion, and Stephen Pressfield’s Gates of Fire.
Shortlist: Cleopatra’s Daughter, by Michelle Moran (Crown); Etta, by Gerald Kolpan (Ballantine); Grace Hammer, by Sara Stockbridge (Norton); The Owl Killers, by Karen Maitland (Delacorte).
Last Days. By Brian Evenson. Underland, $12.95 (9780980226003).
In this deeply disturbing novel, the Brotherhood of Mutilation, a cult that gains wisdom through amputation, kidnaps a maimed detective and forces him to investigate the murder of a cult leader. With spare language, a noir sensibility, and macabre humor, Evenson crafts a compulsively readable nightmare that asks, How do you know the moment when you cease to be human? Read-alikes: Will Elliott’s Pilo Family Circus, Stephen King’s Misery, and J. G. Ballard’s Crash.
Shortlist: The House of Lost Souls, by F. G. Cottam (St. Martin’s); The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters (Riverhead); The Séance, by John Harwood (Houghton); The Unseen, by Alexandra Sokoloff (St. Martin’s).
A Beautiful Place to Die. By Malla Nunn. Atria, $25 (9781416586203).
During the early years of apartheid, Detective Emmanuel Cooper straddles the racial divide while investigating the murder of a small-town police captain. Set against the cinematic backdrop of the harsh South African landscape, Cooper’s inquiries uncover a web of secrets and lies. The spare prose and the intricate plot belie the novel’s emotional impact. Read-alikes: Michael Stanley’s A Carrion Death, James McClure’s Salamander Cotton, and Heat of the Sun, a Mystery! miniseries distributed by PBS.
Shortlist: The Brutal Telling, by Louise Penny (St. Martin’s); The Dark Horse, by Craig Johnson (Viking); Dog On It, by Spencer Quinn (Atria); Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley (Delacorte).
What Happens in London. By Julia Quinn. Avon, $7.99 (9780061491887).
Lady Olivia Bevelstoke and Sir Harry Valentine’s unconventional courtship begins when she is caught spying on him. Endearingly quirky characters, a windowsill romance, and laugh-out-loud scenes make this witty and charming story the perfect Regency romp. Read-alikes: Tessa Dare’s Goddess of the Hunt, Nora Roberts’ The Winning Hand, and Elizabeth Boyle’s Love Letters from a Duke.
Shortlist: Chemistry for Beginners, by Anthony Strong (Simon & Schuster); Goddess of the Hunt, by Tessa Dare (Ballantine); The Temptation of the Night Jasmine, by Lauren Willig (Dutton); Vision in White, by Nora Roberts (Berkley).
The Windup Girl. By Paolo Bacigalupi. Night Shade, $24.95 (9781597801577).
Bacigalupi constructs a sobering and nuanced vision of a future Bangkok teetering on the edge of disaster. In this inhospitable environment, a disparate group of characters calculates how to survive. The novel’s gritty tone, provocative story line, and sympathetic characters evoke a world that is frighteningly real. Read-alikes: Bruce Sterling’s Distraction, Ian McDonald’s Brasyl, and Charles Stross’ Accelerando.
Shortlist: The Empress of Mars, by Kage Baker (Tor); Flood, by Stephen Baxter (Penguin); The Quiet War, by Paul J. McAuley (Pyr); Steal across the Skies, by Nancy Kress (Tor).
Very Valentine. By Adriana Trigiani. Harper, $25.95 (9780061257056).
Thirtysomething Valentine Roncalli seeks her future in her family’s exclusive handcrafted wedding shoe company while juggling work and romance. Trigiani vividly captures both New York and Italy and infuses this novel with humor, warmth, and hope. Read-alikes: Jennifer Weiner’s Good in Bed, Judith Ryan Hendricks’ Bread Alone, and Monica McInerney’s Greetings from Somewhere Else.
Shortlist: After You, by Julie Buxbaum (Dial); The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club, by Gil McNeil (Hyperion); Prayers for Sale, by Sandra Dallas (St. Martin’s); Shelter Me, by Juliet Fay (Avon).
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