Best of 2006: Fiction

Gentlemen &  Players
Gentlemen & Players (Istockphoto)
Sunday, December 3, 2006

Here are excerpts from our most favorable reviews of the past year:

Absurdistan, by Gary Shteyngart (Random House). The 325-pound son of a wealthy Russian assassin longs to return to America, where he was educated, but to get a phony passport he must pass through Absurdistan. Rich satire. -- Josip Novakovich

The Accidental, by Ali Smith (Pantheon). When Amber, a blonde, brazen houseguest, strolls into the Smarts' home, she profoundly shakes up each family member before wearing out her welcome. --Jeff Turrentine

After: Poems, by Jane Hirshfield (HarperCollins). Open-hearted and marvelously conceived. -- Steven Ratiner

Against the Day, by Thomas Pynchon (Penguin). A sprawling story chiefly concerned with the adventures of three brothers from 1893 to the 1920s. -- Steven Moore

The Alchemist's Daughter, by Katharine McMahon (Crown). A beautifully crafted historical novel about the shift from the medievalism of alchemy to the deductive logic of the scientific method. -- Diana Gabaldon

Ancestor Stones, by Aminatta Forna (Atlantic Monthly). This miraculous novel about Sierra Leone gives a portrait of an indelibly resilient family. --Carolyn See

Arthur & George, by Julian Barnes (Knopf). Ostensibly an account of how the creator of Sherlock Holmes came to interest himself in a miscarriage of justice, this book is in fact more subtly playful than that. --Michael Dirda

Baby Brother's Blues, by Pearl Cleage (One World). Reads like an African American, Southern version of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City. An exciting, fast-moving thriller. --Thrity Umrigar

Behold the Many, by Lois-Ann Yamanaka (FSG). A dazzling display of language that reveals the author's roots as a poet. Her text sings with myriad cultural voices that have claimed their place in Hawaii's immigrant history. --Tan anarive Due

Black Swan Green, by David Mitchell (Random House). After the sprawling scope and pyrotechnic style of Cloud Atlas, Mitchell delivers a charming, quiet novel about a 13-year-old boy. -- Ron Charles

Brothers, by Da Chen (Shaye Areheart).


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