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FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2007

Fiction & Poetry

December 09, 2007

Away

By Amy Bloom

Random House

A refugee from the Russian pogroms crosses North America in the 1920s in search of her lost daughter in a novel that combines an immigrant's tale with the road novel, the love story and the ghost story, rich in "finely wrought prose, vivid characters, delectable details."

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Bridge of Sighs

By Richard Russo

Alfred A. Knopf

In this "tapestry of a novel," an aging painter, kidnapped and stashed in a trunk as a child, grapples with "a cosmography of good and evil" in an upstate New York town, where a bridge spans a river that runs red with toxic chemicals from a local tannery.

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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

By Junot Diaz

Riverhead

A "panoramic . . . aching personal tale" of a nerdy sci-fi writer whose fantasies about attracting girls give way to the tale of his mother's rape -- and lots more -- in the Dominican Republic, her flight to Paterson, N.J., and her children's struggle to understand the nature of love.

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Cheating at Canasta: Stories

By William Trevor

Viking

This collection captures in telling detail "how serious, noble, painful and happy" human life is. In Trevor's stories, the "feelings of children matter, the regrets of husbands, the loneliness of women. Every story has its victim, but the crime is forgotten somewhere along the line because, well, we are only human."

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The Book of Psalms

Translated by Robert Alter

W.W. Norton

A fresh look at this foundational text of Western culture reveals the Psalms as poems "made by human hands and breath." Alter's translation offers "a sense of an abrupt, muscular intensity; he restores to the Psalms a kind of strangeness that emanates from an encounter with a culture we recognize yet is distinctly alien to us, far removed in time and frame of mind."

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Collected Stories

By Leonard Michaels

Farrar, Straus & Giroux

The late author's collected short fiction is "hypnotizing" in the "thrumming violence that occupies a space so close to love." These stories, including some never previously published, are "the written equivalent of an after-image: what comes back, what haunts, how close to the truth you can get, no matter how ugly . . . those cadences that continue to sound within you."

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The Empress of Weehawken

By Irene Dische

Farrar, Straus & Giroux

A "rollicking tour" of the inner and outer lives of a Christian refugee from Hitler's Germany who brings her "high-toned . . . ideals and snobbery" to the "less civilized" New Jersey suburbs, where "every moment is filled with conflict between her expectations and reality." In a voice that is "pure as a bell," the author shows "how character is inherited yet subtly altered over the generations."

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Falling Man

By Don DeLillo

Scribner

Don DeLillo is "our great barometer, fascinated, from his earliest novels on, by the ominous present impinging on the future, by conspiracy, by collective angst." This "gripping, haunting ensemble piece" looks at the consequences for a New York City family of the destruction of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. Exploring the question of how we live now, the novel is "full of the sensation of terrifying forces thrust inward and capped."

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Fieldwork

By Mischa Berlinski

Farrar, Straus & Giroux

In Berlinski's affecting and atmospheric first novel, a young journalist traveling in Thailand, obsessed with the story of a murder committed by a gifted anthropologist, plunges into the world of missionaries and tribesmen and encounters a tragic misunderstanding.

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Five Skies

By Ron Carlson

Viking

This novel -- Carlson's first in 30 years -- revolves around three damaged souls (an aging rancher, a guilt-ridden engineer and a runaway teenager) who come together one summer to build a stunt motorcycle ramp in a gorge in southern Idaho. A stirring exploration of the way men relate (or don't) to one another, set against the stark and unforgiving landscape of the rural West.

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The Gathering

By Anne Enright

Black Cat/Grove Press

A young Irishwoman copes with the suicide of her alcoholic older brother and its effects on her family, in Enright's fourth novel, winner of this year's Man Booker Prize.

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Jamestown

By Matthew Sharpe

Soft Skull Press

In this "violent, mordantly hilarious" post-apocalyptic novel, refugees from a ruined Manhattan venture down I-95 to the 400-year-old site of the first permanent English settlement in the New World.

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The Kitchen Sink: New and Selected Poems 1972-2007

By Albert Goldbarth

Graywolf Press

Goldbarth is one of our most ambitious and remarkable poets, and this generous collection gathers more than 125 of his pieces, ranging from the mythic to the autobiographical, to get at the struggles and small satisfactions of contemporary life.

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Like You'd Understand, Anyway: Stories

By Jim Shepard

Alfred A. Knopf

These stories, set in such diverse places as 1980s Chernobyl, the 19th century Australian outback and Earth orbit, are "an eclectic overview of human experience . . . on both epic and intimate scales." The wildly inventive Shepard blurs the line between literature and pop culture.

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