Book World's 10 Best Books of the Year

Sunday, December 13, 2009



AMERICAN RUST, by Philipp Meyer (Spiegel & Grau, $24.95). This powerful novel about two poor young men caught up in the murder of a homeless man scrapes beneath today's economic headlines to show us a community corroded by poverty and despair. -- Ron Charles

A GATE AT THE STAIRS, by Lorrie Moore (Knopf, $25.95). Profound reflections on marriage and parenthood, racism and terrorism, and especially the baffling, hilarious, brutal initiation to adult life. -- Ron Charles

THE MUSEUM OF INNOCENCE, by Orhan Pamuk, translated from the Turkish by Maureen Freely (Knopf, $28.95). Although it can be read as a simple romance, this is a richly complicated work. Masterfully translated, spellbindingly told, a resounding confirmation that Orhan Pamuk is one of the great novelists of his generation. -- Marie Arana

THE STALIN EPIGRAM, by Robert Littell (Simon & Schuster, $26). In what may be his finest novel, Littell dramatizes the horrific events that followed after the great Russian poet Osip Mandelstam wrote a 16-line epigram that attacked the all-powerful Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. -- Patrick Anderson

WOLF HALL, by Hilary Mantel (Henry Holt, $27). A brilliant portrait of a society in the throes of disorienting change, anchored by a penetrating character study of Henry VIII's formidable adviser Thomas Cromwell. -- Wendy Smith


FAMILY PROPERTIES: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America, by Beryl Satter (Metropolitan, $30). A penetrating examination of financial discrimination. The most important book yet written on the black freedom struggle in the urban North. -- David J. Garrow

HALF THE SKY: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (Knopf, $27.95). Opens our eyes to an enormous humanitarian issue and does so with exquisitely crafted prose and sensationally interesting material. This is one of the most important books I have ever reviewed. -- Carolyn See

POPS: A Life of Louis Armstrong, by Terry Teachout (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30). An exceptional biography of, in Teachout's lovely phrase, "a major-key artist." -- Louis Bayard

STITCHES: A Memoir, by David Small (Norton, $24.95). A shockingly candid illustrated memoir of one family's legacy of anger and repression and sadism. -- Michael Sims

A STRANGE EVENTFUL HISTORY: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving, and Their Remarkable Families, by Michael Holroyd (Farrar Straus Giroux, $40). A completely delicious and wickedly entertaining biography of Ellen Terry and Henry Irving, the queen and king of 19th-century English theater. -- Michael Dirda


Post a Comment

Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company