1. The Help
By Kathryn Stockett
Weeks on list: 47 Told from three different points of view, The Help takes place in Jackson, Miss., in the early 1960s, when the Deep South was beginning its immersion into the civil rights movement. Kathryn Stockett captures both black and white voices, and all three main characters -- renegade debutante Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, and housekeepers Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson -- are complex, admirable women.
Hardcover, 464pp, $24.95, Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2009
2. The Lacuna
By Barbara Kingsolver
Weeks on list: 9 The Lacuna, mixes fiction and history to tell the story of Harrison Shepherd. Born of a Mexican mother and American father, Shepherd spends his life straddling the two cultures. After chance meetings with artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, he gets a job working for them and lives in their colorful and dramatic household. There, he gets to know Leon Trotsky, then exiled in Mexico. Shepherd's friendships with these larger-than-life characters set him on his own course toward a confrontation with history.
Hardcover, 528pp, $26.99, Harper, Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2009
3. The Girl Who Played with Fire
By Stieg Larsson
Weeks on list: 23 Swedish genre writer Stieg Larsson continues the Stockholm Crime trilogy that began with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with The Girl Who Played with Fire. The story centers on punky, young Lisbeth Salander, a bit Asperger-like in demeanor but a brilliant researcher who teams up with an investigative journalist to solve mysteries and multiple murders. One of the novel's great mysteries is Salander's own past, which comes back in murderous ways to haunt her in this new volume.
Hardcover, 512pp, $25.95, Knopf, Pub Date: Jul. 28, 2009
4. The Lost Symbol
By Dan Brown
Weeks on list: 16 Set in Washington, D.C., and focused on Freemasonry, Dan Brown's new novel continues the tale of Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, the same character featured in his previous bestselling novels The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons.
Hardcover, 528pp, $29.95, Doubleday, Pub Date: Sep. 15, 2009
5. Half Broke Horses
A True-Life Novel
By Jeannette Walls
Weeks on list: 13 Jeannette Walls' novel is based on her no-nonsense grandmother, who, by age 6, was helping her father break horses. At 15, she left home to teach in a frontier town -- riding 500 miles on her pony, alone, to get to her job. She learned to drive a car and fly a plane, and, with her husband, ran a vast ranch in Arizona. She raised two children, one of whom is Jeannette's mother, Rosemary Smith Walls, who was portrayed in another Walls novel, The Glass Castle.
Hardcover, 288pp, $26.00, Scribner, Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2009
6. Wolf Hall
By Hilary Mantel
Weeks on list: 12 Wolf Hall tells the story of the reign of England's King Henry VIII and the subsequent ushering in of the Reformation -- all through the eyes Thomas Cromwell, the king's adviser for almost a decade.
Hardcover, 560pp, $27.00, Henry Holt and Co., Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2009
7. Too Much Happiness
By Alice Munro
Weeks on list: 7 This collection of short stories is filled with smart, self-contained characters, mostly women, who seem in control of their lives. Yet under the surface there is something dark, even perverse, that takes the reader by surprise and makes these seemingly simple lives so much more complex than they first appear.
Hardcover, 320pp, $25.95, Knopf, Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2009
8. U is for Undertow
By Sue Grafton
Weeks on list: 5 This is the latest in Sue Grafton's series of mystery novels following Kinsey Millhone, a female private investigator in California. Grafton began her series in 1983 with A is for Alibi and has continued up through the alphabet, with B is for Burglar, C is for Corpse and so on. Twenty-six years later, she is up to U is for Undertow, nearing the conclusion of the series.
Hardcover, 416pp, $27.95, Putnam Adult, Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2009
9. Pirate Latitudes
By Michael Crichton
Weeks on list: 6 After Michael Crichton's death in 2008, the manuscript for Pirate Latitudes was discovered among his files -- apparently his last completed book. It reaches all the way back to the Caribbean in 1665, where the daring Capt. Charles Hunter assembles a band of compatriots to commandeer a Spanish ship packed with gold.
Hardcover, 320pp, $27.99, Harper, Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2009
10. Last Night in Twisted River
By John Irving
Weeks on list: 10 In 1954, in the cookhouse of a logging and sawmill settlement in northern New Hampshire, an accident occurs when an anxious 12-year-old boy mistakes the local constable's girlfriend for a bear. Both the boy and his father become fugitives, forced to flee to Boston, to southern Vermont, then on to Toronto -- pursued by the implacable constable. Their lone protector is a fiercely libertarian logger, once a river driver, who befriends them.
Hardcover, 576pp, $28.00, Random House, Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2009
11. A Gate at the Stairs
By Lorrie Moore
Weeks on list: 12 Lorrie Moore uses the convention of an adult narrator looking back on her younger self. Tassie Keltjin is a 20-year-old college student in the Midwest. Untethered from her childhood on the family farm, she is eager to be seduced by ideas -- and people.
Hardcover, 336pp, $25.95, Knopf, Pub Date: Sep. 1, 2009
12. Ford County
By John Grisham
Weeks on list: 9 In his first collection of short stories, John Grisham takes us back to Ford County, Mississippi, the setting of his first novel, A Time to Kill. Some of the stories are funny, others touching, some heart-breaking. All relate to territory Grisham knows well, the American South.
Hardcover, 320pp, $24.00, Doubleday, Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2009
13. I, Alex Cross
By James Patterson
Weeks on list: 7 Detective Alex Cross is pulled out of a family celebration and given the news that a relative has been found brutally murdered. Cross vows to hunt down the killer, which leads him to a place where every fantasy is possible, if you have the credentials to get in. He soon faces down very important, very protected, very dangerous people in levels of society where only one thing is certain -- they will do anything to keep their secrets safe.
Hardcover, 400pp, $27.99, Little, Brown and Company, Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2009
14. The Year of the Flood
By Margaret Atwood
Weeks on list: 6 In The Year of the Flood Margaret Atwood creates a dystopia where the balance between the human and natural worlds has gone awry. A natural disaster nearly obliterates human life, and chaos ensues for the few who remain.
Hardcover, 448pp, $26.95, Nan A. Talese, Pub Date: Sep. 22, 2009
15. Her Fearful Symmetry
By Audrey Niffenegger
Weeks on list: 8 Her Fearful Symmetry is the story of 22-year-old American twins who inherit a London flat from an aunt they never knew. There are two conditions on their inheritance: that they live in the apartment for a year before they sell it, and that they do not allow their parents to enter it. With little interest in college or finding jobs, they take up the challenge.
Hardcover, 416pp, $26.99, Scribner, Pub Date: Sep. 29, 2009