Book World Raves

"The Choosing of the Jewels," one of the many tapestries shown in "Luxury Arts of the Renaissance," by Marina Belozerskaya (J. Paul Getty Museum, $100) (Muse Du Moyen Age (Cluny), Paris)
Sunday, December 4, 2005

Here are excerpts from the most favorable reviews of the past year. Our critic Jonathan Yardley's selections can be found in his column across the way. Elizabeth Ward's choices for best children's books are on page 12.


Anansi Boys , by Neil Gaiman (Morrow). A tall tale to end all tall tales, inspired by the trickiest of all trickster gods, Anansi the Spider, whose origins lie in Ghana. Delightful, funny and affecting. --Elizabeth Hand

The Angel of Forgetfulness , by Steve Stern (Viking). A clutch of narratives that are fugal variations on the same story. Stern's impressive novel hovers, effortlessly and perfectly balanced, between laughter and tears, earth and heaven. --Michael Dirda

Borges and the Eternal Orangutans , by Luis Fernando Verissimo (New Directions). A loving homage to its eponymous detective and a serious meditation on the truths that Borges himself lived to reveal, intuit and invent. --Melvin Jules Bukiet

Canaan's Tongue , by John Wray (Knopf). Wray's disturbing novel about slave runners can trace its inspiration to America's fascination with hypnotic personalities who pursue their dreams by manipulating others' fantasies. --Ron Charles

Cape Perdido , by Marcia Muller (Mysterious). Muller shows with every chapter her control over the suspense form.

--Paula L. Woods

Citizen Vince , by Jess Walter (Regan). The year is 1980, and Vince Camden has been given a chance at reinvention courtesy of a witness-protection program. An affecting testament to American faith in the common man, as well as to the resilient possibilities of the crime novel. --Maureen Corrigan

Collected Stories , by Carol Shields (Fourth Estate). Shields performed the miraculous trick of writing fiction from within the elusive open spaces of her harried and overflowing domestic world. A magisterial compilation. --Laura Ciolkowski

Cotton , by Christopher Wilson (Harcourt). As he cuts through the 1960s and '70s, the hero's identity undergoes dramatic changes: from man to woman, from heterosexual to homosexual and from white back to the black of his maternal ancestors. A complete original. --Jeff Turrentine

The Days of Awe , by Hugh Nissenson (Sourcebooks). If you believe the best novels should be transformative, should rip the dusty curtains from our everyday vision; if you don't mind being terrorized by a narrative, then you'll be looking at a different world when you finish these pages.

-- Carolyn See

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