1. The Help
By Kathryn Stockett
Weeks on list: 52 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 Girl Who Played with Fire
By Stieg Larsson
Weeks on list: 28 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
3. The Lacuna
By Barbara Kingsolver
Weeks on list: 14 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
4. Half Broke Horses
A True-Life Novel
By Jeannette Walls
Weeks on list: 18 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
5. Shadow Tag
By Louise Erdrich
Weeks on list: 1 Louise Erdrich's bleak novel centers on a Minneapolis family on the verge of implosion in 2007. Irene, the family matriarch, is struggling to free herself from a suffocating marriage to Gil. A marital dance of death ensues, and she torments her husband with a cruel diary written with the knowledge that he will read it. Erdrich alternates points of view between the doomed couple and Irene's decoy and genuine diaries.
Hardcover, 272pp, $25.99, Harper, Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2010
6. The Swan Thieves
By Elizabeth Kostova
Weeks on list: 4 The Swan Thieves moves backward and forward in time, telling the story of a disturbed artist named Robert Oliver through the eyes of his psychiatrist. Author Elizabeth Kostova weaves this story together with the 19th-century tale of the woman Oliver is obsessed with.
Hardcover, 576pp, $26.99, Little, Brown and Company, Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2010
7. Noah's Compass
By Anne Tyler
Weeks on list: 5 At 61 years old, the protagonist of Noah's Compass has lost his teaching job and is downsizing to a small, prefab apartment on the outskirts of Baltimore, when an act of violence changes his life.
Hardcover, 288pp, $25.95, Knopf, Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2010
8. Wolf Hall
By Hilary Mantel
Weeks on list: 17 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
9. Worst Case
By James Patterson; Michael Ledwidge
Weeks on list: 1 The son of one of New York's wealthiest families is snatched off the street and held hostage. His parents can't save him, because the kidnapper isn't demanding money. Instead, he quizzes his prisoner on the price others pay for his life of luxury. Wrong answers in this exam are fatal.
Hardcover, 368pp, $27.99, Little, Brown and Company, Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2010
10. Secrets of Eden
By Chris Bohjalian
Weeks on list: 1 The day after being baptized at a Vermont Baptist church, a husband and wife are found dead in an apparent murder-suicide. The story, as it unfolds from there, is told by the church's reverend, the deputy state attorney, an author who befriends the reverend and the couple's orphaned daughter.
Hardcover, 384pp, $25.00, Shaye Areheart Books, Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2010
11. The Lost Symbol
By Dan Brown
Weeks on list: 21 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
12. Point Omega
By Don DeLillo
Weeks on list: 1 A gray-haired, ponytailed university intellectual attempts to recover from his participation in the buildup to the Iraq war by retreating to the Arizona desert. His solitude is interrupted by a filmmaker hoping to make a documentary about the run-up to the invasion (in the manner of the Errol Morris film The Fog of War with Vietnam-era defense secretary Robert McNamara).
Hardcover, 128pp, $24.00, Scribner, Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2010
13. The First Rule
By Robert Crais
Weeks on list: 4 The organized criminal gangs of the former Soviet Union are bound by the thieves' code. The first rule is: A thief must forsake his mother, father, brothers and sisters. He must have no family but the mafia. Breaking this rule is punishable by death. The First Rule is the crime thriller that unfolds when that central tenet is broken.
Hardcover, 320pp, $26.95, Putnam Adult, Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2010
14. Remarkable Creatures
By Tracy Chevalier
Weeks on list: 5 Remarkable Creatures, by Tracy Chevalier, focuses on the life and work of 19th-century fossil hunter Mary Anning, and how her discoveries helped change scientific understanding of the world.
Hardcover, 320pp, $26.95, Dutton Adult, Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2010
15. The Last Song
By Nicholas Sparks
Weeks on list: 11 This new love story by the author of The Notebook centers on 17-year-old Veronica Miller, who spends the summer with her father in a quiet beach town. There she finds her first love and reconnects with her father, closing a distance that had grown between them.
Hardcover, 400pp, $24.99, Grand Central Publishing, Pub Date: Sep. 8, 2009