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The Best in Books

Recent Releases and Older Finds

Before you go to the bookstore or the library, check out what our critics have deemed to be the best books they have read this year. You'll find both recent releases and older finds ranging from short stories, novels, fiction, non-fiction and art. With these selections, the first part of 2006 will sure to be occupied!

Lisa Ryers

1. Exposure: The Iconic Photographs by Mary Ellen Mark (2005)
You can flip to any page in this book and get captivated: the homeless in Ireland, the former Lone Ranger, twins at the annual convention in Twinsburg, Ohio. They all resonate.

2. Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler (1940)
This book may be overlooked by those who only want to read the Chandler titles that Humphrey Bogart made vivid. That's too bad. This is a great book that makes you yearn for the dine and dice emporiums of old.

3. Blink by Malcom Gladwell (2005)
I hate to be one of those people who recommends a book most people find at the airport but this one is chock full of anecdotes that support the theory we all want to believe -- that our instincts are right.

4. The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt (2005)
The author trades his famous Charleston, S.C. locale for Venice, Italy. He has a private audience with real Italian people, not the ones who tell you that you are beautiful just so you'll buy another gelato from them.

5. Local: Polaroid Boyfriend by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly (2005)
My old boss told me graphic novels count as novels. Serials keep you happy. Minneapolis shines here.

Tanya Khiatani

1. Early Bird by Rodney Rothman (2005)
This book is hilarious, but at the same time forces readers to contemplate the transient nature of life and retirement.

2. Paradise by A.L. Kennedy (2005)
Eloquently written, this novel explores the low point of both alcoholism and attachment.

3. The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank by David Plotz (2005)
The factual account of a peculiar invention -- one that spawned the existence of a couple hundred genius babies

4. Last Night by James Salter (2005)
A collection of short stories as savory as a box of fine chocolates. They might not all suit your taste, but some will blow you away, and others you can share with friends.

5. The Time of the Uprooted by Elie Wiesel (2005)
A great one to start the New Year, this novel forces readers to contemplate the issues of sacrifice and selflessness.

Kit Stolz

1. Brokeback Mountain, short story by Annie Proulx; screenplay by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana (l998)
McMurtry, as gifted a writer as can be found in this country, calls the Proulx short story on which the movie is based the finest material he ever adapted for the screen. It can be found in a superb story collection he edited called "Still Wild" (from 2000). Writing beyond genre.

2. Collapse by Jared Diamond (2005)
Some societies facing environmental change adapt and survive. Some societies collapse. Here's the full story. P.S. We're not doing that well.

3. Saturday by Ian McEwan (2005)
A Woolf-ean day in the life of London, taking us the full gamut, from anti-war demonstrations to Alzheimer's. In its quiet desperation, a book as compelling as life itself.

4. Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee (1998)
The end of romanticism leads – possibly -- to a new kind of compassion. Of all novels written in English in the last ten years, this is the one least likely to be forgotten. It is the turning point in the Nobel Prize-winner's career.

5. The Republican War on Science by Chris Mooney (2005)
A young reporter calls the unholy Republican alliance of corporate profiteers and right-wing fundamentalists to account for their abuse of science and scientists. Some critics have questioned Mooney's argument, but no one has questioned his facts. A crucial book for the 21st century.