1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
By Stieg Larsson
Weeks on list: 33 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first book in a trilogy of thrillers by Swedish writer Stieg Larsson. It is a mystery that peeks into the darker elements of contemporary society. Part corporate corruption tale, legal thriller and dysfunctional-family psychological suspense story, it is witty, at times violent, and unflinching in its feminist social commentary.
Paperback, 608pp, $14.95, Vintage, Pub Date: Jun. 23, 2009
2. Olive Kitteridge
By Elizabeth Strout
Weeks on list: 42 A Elizabeth Strout's short stories are connected in that they all take place in the small Maine town -- and they all include local schoolteacher Olive Kitteridge. In some stories, Olive is the central figure; in others she is merely peripheral. But regardless of her involvement, her big, sometimes unpleasantly overbearing personality touches all of the town's inhabitants and draws them closer to one another.
Paperback, 304pp, $14.00, Random House Trade Paperbacks, Pub Date: Sep. 30, 2008
3. Let the Great World Spin
By Colum Mccann
Weeks on list: 10 On a gray morning in August 1974, Philippe Petit stepped off the edge of the yet-to-be completed World Trade Center and into history. He crossed a wire stretched between the towers eight times. He performed for the crowd that had gathered more than 100 stories below his feet, before dismounting into the custody of New York police officers. The tight-rope walk is the event around which the novel revolves. Let the Great World Spin won the National Book Award for fiction in November 2009.
Paperback, 400pp, $15.00, Random House Trade Paperbacks, Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2009
4. Cutting for Stone
By Abraham Verghese
Weeks on list: 2 Cutting For Stone is at once a family saga that crosses continents and cultures and a love story with tragic consequences. As the novel begins, an Indian nun gives birth to conjoined twins in a small mission hospital in Adis Ababa, Ethiopia. She dies in childbirth, and the father, a brilliant surgeon, disappears almost as soon as they are born. The boys are physically separated shortly after birth, but remain unusually close throughout their childhood. Raised by a childless couple who also practice medicine at the hospital, the twins grow up to be doctors as well. Abraham Verghese, a practicing physician, spares no details in revealing the inner workings of the world of medicine. He offers fascinating descriptions of complex and harrowing medical procedures.
Paperback, 688pp, $15.95, Vintage, Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2010
5. The Elegance of the Hedgehog
By Muriel Barbery; Alison Anderson
Weeks on list: 2 Muriel Barbery's wry and erudite novel won the 2007 French Booksellers Prize and was translated into English and published in paperback. This tale of a middle-aged French concierge named Renee, who hides her hard-won self-education in the humanities from her building's wealthy tenants, astutely comments on class, presumption and power.
Paperback, 325pp, $15.00, Europa Editions, Pub Date: Sep. 1, 2008
6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
By Annie Barrows; Mary Ann Shaffer
Weeks on list: 40 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is set after World War II and follows a London writer who becomes enthralled with the stories of Nazi occupation of the island of Guernsey, off the British coast. The book was written by Mary Ann Shaffer, who died before she could complete it. After Shaffer died, her niece, Annie Barrows, helped finish the novel.
Paperback, 304pp, $14.00, Dial Press Trade Paperback, Pub Date: May. 5, 2009
7. A Reliable Wife
By Robert Goolrick
Weeks on list: 5 In rural Wisconsin in 1909, Ralph Truitt stands alone on a train platform waiting for the woman who answered his newspaper advertisement for "a reliable wife." But when Catherine Land steps off the train from Chicago, she's not the "simple, honest woman" that Ralph is expecting.
Paperback, 305pp, $14.95, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2010
8. The Art of Racing in the Rain
By Garth Stein
Weeks on list: 35 The Art of Racing in the Rain is a collection of insights and observations on the life of a family as told from the dog's perspective. Enzo, a lab terrier mix with an old soul, tells the story of his master, Denny, a race car driver; his wife, Eve; and daughter, Zoe.
Paperback, 336pp, $14.99, Harper Paperbacks, Pub Date: May. 15, 2009
9. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
By Jamie Ford
Weeks on list: 18 Jamie Ford tells the story of Japanese internment in Seattle during World War II, through the eyes of a Chinese-American boy, Henry Lee. Lee's parents send him a mostly-white private school, in the hopes of making him "more American." There he meets a classmate named Keiko, whose Japanese parents have sent her for the same reasons. Ford's story volleys between their childhood friendship in the 1940s, when hostility toward Japanese Americans is rampant in the country and in Lee's family, and the 1980s, when he is a grown man reflecting on his first love.
Paperback, 320pp, $15.00, Ballantine Books, Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2009
10. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
A Flavia de Luce Mystery
By Alan Bradley
Weeks on list: 3 Early one summer morning in 1950, 11-year-old Flavia de Luce discovers a man dying among the cucumbers in the garden of her family's estate in the British countryside. When her reclusive father is arrested for the man's murder, she takes it upon herself to discover the real perpetrator of the crime.
Paperback, 416pp, $15.00, Bantam, Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2010
11. Sarah's Key
By Tatiana de Rosnay
Weeks on list: 3 In Sarah's Key Tatiana de Rosnay hones in on the 1942 Vel' d'Hiv roundup, in which thousands of Jewish families in Paris were detained at the Velodrome d'Hiver dome outside the city and later transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. The story is told through the eyes of Sarah, who was 10 years old when she was arrested with her family. In 2002, she is contacted by journalist Julia Jarmond, who is reporting on the 60th anniversary of the roundup. As she relives Sarah's trials, Jarmond begins to more critically examine her own modern-day life in France.
Paperback, 320pp, $13.95, St. Martin's Griffin, Pub Date: Sep. 30, 2008
12. The Piano Teacher
By Janice Y. K. Lee
Weeks on list: 12 The first novel by former Elle editor Janice Y. K. Lee, The Piano Teacher is the story of a high-level English official living in British-controlled Hong Kong in the years leading up to and following the invasion by the Japanese in 1941.
Paperback, 352pp, $15.00, Penguin (Non-Classics), Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2009
13. Shanghai Girls
By Lisa See
Weeks on list: 1 In 1937, Shanghai is the Paris of Asia, a city of great wealth and glamour. Thanks to the financial security and material comforts provided by their father's prosperous rickshaw business, 21-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are having the time of their lives. Their carefree youth stops short the day their father tells them he has gambled away their wealth. In order to repay his debts, he sells the girls to men who have traveled from California to find Chinese brides. When Japanese forces attack the city, the girls flee with their new husbands and journey to America. Once in Los Angeles, they attempt to embrace American life, even as they face discrimination, endure Communist witch hunts and find themselves hemmed in by Chinatown's old ways and rules.
Paperback, 336pp, $15.00, Random House Trade Paperbacks, Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2010
14. The Lovely Bones
By Alice Sebold
Weeks on list: 7 The Lovely Bones centers on the story of Susie Salmon, a 14-year-old girl looking down from heaven after her own rape and murder. Sebold is not an author to shy away from tough topics. One of the first lines of the novel would qualify, in most stories, as a spoiler: "I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973." Susie clings to her earthly life while trying to accept her death, and she narrates her story from beyond the grave, watching her family struggle with grief as her murderer evades detection.
Paperback, 368pp, $14.99, Back Bay Books, Pub Date: Sep. 1, 2009
15. When Will There Be Good News?
By Kate Atkinson
Weeks on list: 4 When Will There Be Good News is Kate Atkinson's third novel in her mystery series featuring cop-turned-private investigator Jackson Brodie. Multiple story lines intersect in this story hinging on domestic brutality.
Paperback, 416pp, $13.99, Back Bay Books, Pub Date: Dec. 22, 2009