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BEST OF 2010
AMERICAN SUBVERSIVE. By David Goodwillie. (Scribner, $25.) A bombing unites a blogger and a beautiful eco-terrorist in this literary thriller, an exploration of what motivates radicalism in an age of disillusion.
ANGELOLOGY. By Danielle Trussoni. (Viking, $27.95.) With a smitten art historian at her side, the young nun at the center of this rousing first novel is drawn into an ancient struggle against the Nephilim, hybrid offspring of humans and heavenly beings.
THE ASK. By Sam Lipsyte. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25.) A deeply cynical academic fund-raiser fighting for his job is the protagonist of this darkly humorous satire, a witty paean to white-collar loserdom.
BOUND. By Antonya Nelson. (Bloomsbury, $25.) For Nelson’s complacent heroine, the death of an estranged friend elicits memories of their reckless youth.
COMEDY IN A MINOR KEY. By Hans Keilson. Translated by Damion Searls. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $22.) Set in Nazi-occupied Europe, this novel, appearing only now in English, is a mid-century masterpiece by the centenarian Keilson, who served in the Dutch resistance.
DOUBLE HAPPINESS: Stories. By Mary-Beth Hughes. (Black Cat/Grove/Atlantic, paper, $14.) Hughes likes to juxtapose her characters’ relative passivity with the knife edge of evil within or, more often, outside them.
FOREIGN BODIES. By Cynthia Ozick. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26.) This nimble, entertaining homage to Henry James’s late work “The Ambassadors,” in which an American heads to Paris to retrieve a wayward son, brilliantly upends the theme, meaning and stylistic manner of its revered precursor.
FREEDOM. By Jonathan Franzen. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28.) Like Franzen’s previous novel, “The Corrections,” this is a masterly portrait of a nuclear family in turmoil, with an intricately ordered narrative and a majestic sweep that seems to gather up every fresh datum of our shared millennial life.
FUN WITH PROBLEMS: Stories. By Robert Stone. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24.) Our enduring central struggle — the battle between the head and the heart — is enacted again and again in Stone’s collection.
GIRL BY THE ROAD AT NIGHT: A Novel of Vietnam. By David Rabe. (Simon & Schuster, $23.) In this tale of war and eros, two young people from opposite ends of the earth are caught up in events far beyond their control.
THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST. By Stieg Larsson. (Knopf, $27.95.) In the third installment of the pulse-racing trilogy featuring Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, the pair are threatened by an adversary from deep within the very government that should be protecting them.
GREAT HOUSE. By Nicole Krauss. (Norton, $24.95.) In this tragic vision of a novel, Nadia, a writer in New York, faces a wrenching parting when a girl shows up to claim an enormous desk that has been in her safekeeping for decades.
HOW TO LIVE SAFELY IN A SCIENCE FICTIONAL UNIVERSE. By Charles Yu. (Pantheon, $24.) Yu wraps his lonely story of a time machine repairman in layers of gorgeous meta-science-fiction.
HOW TO READ THE AIR. By Dinaw Mengestu. (Riverhead, $25.95.) Mengestu’s own origins inform this tale of an Ethiopian-American tracing the uncertain road once taken by his parents.
I CURSE THE RIVER OF TIME. By Per Petterson. Translated by Charlotte Barslund with Per Petterson. (Graywolf, $23.) This novel’s lonely Scandinavian protagonist grapples with divorce, death and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
ILUSTRADO. By Miguel Syjuco. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26.) A murder mystery punctuated with serious philosophical musings, this novel traces 150 years of Filipino history, posing questions about identity and art, exile and duty.
THE IMPERFECTIONISTS. By Tom Rachman. (Dial, $25.) This intricate novel is built around the personal stories of staff members at an improbable English-language newspaper in Rome, and of the family who founded it in the 1950s.
THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE. By Julie Orringer. (Knopf, $26.95.) Orringer’s protagonist is a Jewish architecture student in late-1930s Paris forced to return home to Hungary ahead of the Nazi invasion there.
LISA ROBERTSON’S MAGENTA SOUL WHIP. By Lisa Robertson. (Coach House, paper, $14.95.) In these intellectual poems, the experimental curtains suddenly part to reveal clear, durable truth.
THE LIVING FIRE: New and Selected Poems, 1975-2010. By Edward Hirsch. (Knopf, $27.) Hirsch’s “living fire” is an irrational counterforce with which he balances his dignified quotidian.
THE LONG SONG. By Andrea Levy. (Frances Coady/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26.) Levy’s high-spirited, ambitious heroine works on a plantation in the final days of slavery in Jamaica.
THE LOST BOOKS OF THE ODYSSEY. By Zachary Mason. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $24.) The conceit behind the multiple Odysseuses here (comic, dead, doubled, amnesiac) is that this is a translation of an ancient papyrus, a collection of variations on the myth.
THE LOTUS EATERS. By Tatjana Soli. (St. Martin’s, $24.99.) The photojournalist heroine of Soli’s Vietnam War novel ponders whether those who represent war merely replicate its violence.
MATTERHORN: A Novel of the Vietnam War. By Karl Marlantes. (El León Literary Arts/Atlantic Monthly, $24.95.) In this tale, 30 years in the creation, bloody folly envelops a Marine company’s construction, abandonment and retaking of a remote hilltop outpost.
MEMORY WALL: Stories. By Anthony Doerr. (Scribner, $24.) These strange, beautiful stories all ask: What, if anything, will be spared time’s depredations?
MR. PEANUT. By Adam Ross. (Knopf, $25.95.) In this daring first novel, a computer game designer suspected of murdering his obese wife is investigated by two marriage-savvy detectives, one of whom is Dr. Sam Sheppard.
THE NEAREST EXIT. By Olen Steinhauer. (Minotaur, $25.99.) The C.I.A. spy in this thriller is sick of his trade’s duplicity, amorality and rootlessness.
THE NEW YORKER STORIES. By Ann Beattie. (Scribner, $30.) This collection of tales dating back to 1974 lets readers imagine their way into a New Yorker fiction editor’s moment of discovery.
ONE DAY. By David Nicholls. (Vintage, paper, $14.95.) Nicholls’s nostalgic novel checks in year by year on the halting romance of two children of the ’80s, she an outspoken lefty, he an apolitical toff.
THE PRIVILEGES. By Jonathan Dee. (Random House, $25.) In this contemporary morality tale, a family stumbles along, rich and dysfunctional, without ethical or moral responsibility. Read the rest of this entry »