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Book World's 10 Best of the Year

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Sunday, December 3, 2006

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FICTION

After This, by Alice McDermott (Farrar Straus Giroux). There are no excesses, no look-at-me pyrotechnics in this story of a family over several decades in the middle of the 20th century. With the mastery of a fine poet, McDermott distills each life to its essence.

All Aunt Hagar's Children, by Edward P. Jones (Amistad). With this collection of 14 short stories about African Americans in Washington, D.C., Jones has established himself as one of the most important writers of the present day.

The Dream Life of Sukhanov, by Olga Grushin (Putnam). A sophisticated, ironic and witty story about the midlife crisis of a Soviet art critic on the eve of glasnost.

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy (Knopf). An unnamed man and his young son -- two of the last survivors on Earth -- walk through an incinerated wasteland foraging for food and hiding from gangs of cannibals. A frightening, profound tale.

Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings, by Abolqasem Ferdowsi (Viking). A new translation, by Dick Davis, of the great epic of ancient Persia, opening with the creation of the universe and closing with the Arab Muslim conquest. A violent and beautiful work.

NONFICTION

The Classical World: An Epic History from Homer to Hadrian, by Robin Lane Fox (Basic). With erudition, drive and wit, an Oxford scholar triumphantly brings the Greeks' and Romans' civilizations to life.

Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, by Thomas E. Ricks (Penguin Press). A reporter's bristling, unflinching account shows that the war soured because of blunders made by a thousand fathers.

The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, by Lawrence Wright (Knopf). A chilling, beautifully written exploration of the rise of Osama bin Laden, his fanatical deputies and their murderous milieu.

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, by Michael Pollan (Penguin Press). This enthralling explanation of the sources of our diet persuades us that we are what we eat.

Stravinsky: The Second Exile -- France and America, 1934-1971, by Stephen Walsh (Knopf). The masterful, elegant conclusion to an epic biography of one of the 20th century's most influential composers.

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