This is the debut of PW's "The Year in Books," an annual review examining noteworthy trends in books and publishing. This approach includes highlighting titles that we discern to be of exceptional quality and also citing books that are important for other reasons--because they have spearheaded a wave of similar books, encapsulated a notable point of view, stood apart from the pack or just sent buyers rushing to the checkout counters. We've also included titles that, despite their potential, failed to take off for various reasons. We hope that highlighting them here might give them a second chance.The entries for each genre have been compiled by one or more Forecast editors (and associates) and reflect those editors' particular sensibilities. Each section begins with a general discussion and ends with a list; in most cases the list not only designates books of highest quality but also showcases titles that the editor(s) wish to bring special attention to. The contributors are: Fiction: Jeff Zaleski and Natasha Wimmer; Mystery, Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror: Peter Cannon; Mass Market: Brianna Yamashita; Comix: Calvin Reid and Lynn Andriani; E-books: Jeff Zaleski; Nonfiction: Sarah Gold, Mark Rotella, Lynn Andriani, Michael Scharf; Lifestyle: Mark Rotella; Poetry: Michael Scharf; Religion: Jana Reiss.


Familiarity hasn't bred contempt in fiction, at least not among book buyers. Nothing marked the fiction landscape of 2001 more than the multiple bestselling offerings by a handful of well-known writers. James Patterson published three novels this year (all with Little, Brown) and so demonstrated his breadth if not his depth: Violets Are Blue, an Alex Cross mystery; 1st to Die, a thriller featuring several female crime fighters; and Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas, a women's weepie. Stephen King let loose with two novels, Dreamcatcher (Scribner) and Black House (Random), the latter written in collaboration with Peter Straub. John Grisham also gave us two, neither a legal thriller: the coming-of-age drama A Painted House and the Christmas satire Skipping Christmas (both Doubleday). So did Mary Higgins Clark (On the Street Where You Live, co-authored with her daughter, Carol Higgins Clark; Deck the Halls; both Simon & Schuster). Nora Roberts published two hardcover fictions with Putnam, The Villa and Midnight Bayou, and Danielle Steel presented three via Dell (The Kiss, Leap of Faith and Lone Eagle). Three superb novels came from Robert B. Parker by way of Putnam, including a western, Gunman's Rhapsody, and Ed McBain published two to remember, one a collaboration with his alter ego, Evan Hunter (Candyland), the other an 87th Precinct novel, Money, Money, Money.

"Literary" writers mostly settled for one book each, but that didn't mean their aims were modest. Perhaps nothing defined ambition like Jonathan Franzen's breakthrough novel, The Corrections ( Farrar, Straus & Giroux), which got nearly as much press for the author's big mouth as for his big talent. A trio of smaller books (in the literal sense--only one topped 200 pages) by Don DeLillo (The Body Artist; Scribner), Philip Roth (The Dying Animal; Houghton Mifflin) and Salman Rushdie (Fury; Random) sparked sometimes acrimonious critical debate. Major prizes lifted V.S. Naipaul (Half a Life; Knopf) and Peter Carey (True History of the Kelly Gang; Knopf) above the fray. First-time novelists Trezza Azzopardi (The Hiding Place; Atlantic), Manil Suri (The Death of Vishnu; Norton) and Brady Udall (The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint; Norton) were widely acclaimed, but this was really a year for old-timers, including, in the U.S., Richard Russo (Empire Falls; Knopf), Louise Erdrich (The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse; HarperCollins) and Anne Tyler (Back When We Were Grownups; Knopf) and, from abroad, Mario Vargas Llosa (The Feast of the Goat; Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Orhan Pamuk (My Name Is Red; Knopf) and W.G. Sebald (Austerlitz; Random). Short story collections were particularly strong in 2001, with outstanding offerings from Saul Bellow (Collected Stories; Viking), Alice Munro (Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage; Knopf), Lydia Davis (Samuel Johnson Is Indignant; McSweeney's), Ann Beattie (Perfect Recall; Scribner), Dan Chaon (Among the Missing; Ballantine) and newcomer Don Lee (Yellow; Norton).

For all that, the year 2001 in fiction may end up being remembered as a year of scandal. At least three fiction titles made headlines: Alice Randall's The Wind Done Gone (Houghton Mifflin), for accusations of copyright infringement; Fay Weldon's The Bulgari Connection (Atlantic Monthly), for bringing product placement to fiction; and, of course, Franzen's ubiquitous Corrections.

The Hiding PlaceTrezza Azzopardi (Atlantic Monthly)
An astonishingly assured first novel by a Welsh woman of Maltese ancestry about the rough life of a Maltese immigrant family in Cardiff.

Coldheart CanyonClive Barker (HarperCollins)
The controversial adult fantasist delivers a scathing indictment of Hollywood, depicted here as a hunting ground for hungry ghosts--both living and dead.

Perfect RecallAnn Beattie (Scribner)
In 11 deft, pitch-perfect stories, Beattie plunges straight into the living rooms and backyards of America, getting to the evasive, impatient heart of 21st-century living.

Collected StoriesSaul Bellow (Viking)
Selected by Bellow himself, this impressive compilation of dramatic and psychologically astute tales enhances the author's reputation as one of our greatest living writers.

In Sunlight, in a Beautiful CountryKathleen Cambor (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
A haunting novel, deep and passionate, about the Johnstown flood of 1889, in which some 2,000 people died.

True History of the Kelly GangPeter Carey (Knopf)
Every Australian grows up hearing the legend of outlaw Ned Kelly, whose exploits are memorialized in this Booker Prize-winning novel.

Among the MissingDan Chaon (Ballantine)
Singularly dedicated to an examination of all the profundity and strangeness of the quotidian, Chaon's 12 stories are unsettling, moving, even beautiful.

EdinburghAlexander Chee (Welcome Rain)
A Korean-American boy tries to deal with the legacy of abuse in this stunning debut by a gifted, poetic writer who takes big risks.

Sharpe's TrafalgarBernard Cornwell (HarperCollins)
The reigning master of historical military fiction takes on the epic naval battle off Spain's Cape Trafalgar in 1805. This is Cornwell's 17th entry in his Napoleonic War series, and the best of the lot.

Samuel Johnson Is IndignantLydia Davis (McSweeney's)
Here's a gem of a short story collection that warrants more attention (and higher sales) than it's been getting; the 56 stories showcase the wordplay and distillation of meaning that are Davis's stylistic hallmarks.

The Blue NowhereJeffery Deaver (Simon & Schuster)
The author of the Lincoln Rhyme crime series weighs in with a knockout stand-alone thriller about a homicidal hacker and the genius hacker who tracks him down.

SlammerkinEmma Donoghue (Harcourt)
Donoghue takes scraps of the intriguing true story of Mary Saunders, a servant girl who murdered her mistress in 1763, and fashions from them an intelligent and mesmerizing work. This book is a good example of the trend toward the historical grotesque--novels that wallow in the nasty details of life long ago.

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No HorseLouise Erdrich (HarperCollins)
Another superb offering from Erdrich, lyrical and richly metaphoric, as she returns to the North Dakota world of the Ojibwe.

The Master ExecutionerLoren D. Estleman (Forge)
A wonderful storyteller who generally doesn't get the serious critical attention he deserves because he writes in genre, Estleman delivers an unforgettable western shrouded in tragedy and death.

The CorrectionsThe CorrectionsJonathan Franzen (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
A grand and epic family satire, equal parts fury and humor, that would have been the most talked-about "literary" novel of the year even if Oprah hadn't noticed it.

Kingdom of ShadowsAlan Furst (Random)
This is an elegant and morally profound spy thriller set in Paris on the eve of WWII by a writer who has been compared, justifiably, to Graham Greene.

The Glass PalaceAmitav Ghosh (Random)
Running from 1885 to the present and set in Asia, here's an epic, lyrical, multigenerational novel that readers can get lost in.

Carter Beats the DevilGlen David Gold (Hyperion)
Set in San Francisco during the heyday of such legendary illusionists as Harry Houdini, this is a thoroughly entertaining debut by an amateur magician with an M.F.A. in creative writing.

Paradise ParkAllegra Goodman (Dial)
Quiet and deep, expertly crafted and saturated with insight, Goodman's novel concerns a woman's tragicomic search for spiritual meaning.

A Painted HouseA Painted HouseJohn Grisham (Doubleday)
There's not a lawyer in sight, but Grisham hooks all the same with this nostalgic and suspenseful slice of life carved from the rural South in the 1950s.

Edge of DangerJack Higgins (Putnam)
British agent Sean Dillon, formerly of the IRA, returns for another top-flight adventure from one of the most reliable storytellers in the business.

How to Be GoodNick Hornby (Riverhead)
A giddily hilarious novel about the unexpected effects of trying to do good; Hornby expands his range here by presenting a winsome female protagonist.

Clerical ErrorsAlan Isler (Scribner)
Isler mixes the Jewish comic tradition and the high church comedy of Waugh and Murdoch for this scathing yet touching farewell to faith, hope and charity in the 20th century. While it tanked at the cash register, the book deserves better.

DreamcatcherBlack HouseStephen King and Peter Straub (Random)
DreamcatcherStephen King (Scribner)
The first is a moving sequel to the 1980s bestseller The Talisman, with characters to die for; the second is a grand horror scenario about an alien invasion in backwoods Maine. When will King get the National Book Award nomination he deserves?

Gabriel's GiftHanif Kureishi (Scribner)
This appealing, deceptively breezy coming-of-age story recalls Kureishi's screenplays (My Beautiful Laundrette; Sammy and Rosie Get Laid) in its tender evocation of London-area grunge.

The Constant GardenerJohn le Carré (Scribner)
Le Carré still has what it takes: an artful, disturbing novel about deceit and betrayal in the political and financial arenas.

YellowDon Lee (Norton)
From the editor of the literary journal Ploughshares comes a sterling debut collection of stories dealing with Asian-American themes.

Mystic RiverDennis Lehane (Morrow)
Lehane delivers a stand-alone crime thriller placed in Irish Boston that sets the standard for contemporary noir.

The Heart Is Deceitful Above All ThingsJ.T. LeRoy (Bloomsbury)
Though only 21, LeRoy writes with extraordinary maturity about harsh life in Appalachia; these 10 stories will wring your soul and win your heart.

Eva Moves the FurnitureMargot Livesey (Holt)
A literally haunting coming-of-age drama set in early 20th-century Scotland that probes the bonds between mother and daughter with exquisite sensitivity.

The Feast of the GoatMario Vargas Llosa, trans. by Edith Grossman (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
This powerful drama from the Peruvian novelist offers a trenchant look at political evil, embodied in the figure of Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo.

This Is Not a NovelDavid Markson (Counterpoint)
Lacking plot or characters, this darkly humorous assemblage resembles a commonplace book, with entries noting odd facts, quotes and ideas. It's not a novel, but it is a masterwork, albeit in a dying genre.

CandylandEvan Hunter & Ed McBain (Simon & Schuster)
A crime thriller in which Hunter collaborates with himself to tell a gripping tale of sexual addiction, crime and punishment.

Niagara Falls All Over AgainElizabeth McCracken (Dell)
In vigorous prose, this eventful, heartwarming narrative tells the story of a pair of vaudeville comedians in a mordantly humorous voice.

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, MarriageAlice Munro (Knopf)
Munro has few peers in her understanding of the bargains women make with life and the measureless price they pay, as she demonstrates in this superb assembly of nine stories.

FalstaffRobert Nye (Arcade)
First published in England in 1976, this unabashedly bawdy and raunchy winner of the Hawthornden Prize and Guardian Fiction Prize is a takeoff on such classic literary erotica as Fielding's Tom Jones and Cleland's Fanny Hill. It has virtually disappeared since its publication in October and is worthy of more attention.

My Name Is RedOrhan Pamuk, trans. by Erdag M. Göknar (Knopf)
Meshing the tropes of the tavern storyteller with the recent fashion for historical mysteries, Pamuk's latest, set in 16th-century Istanbul, is an accessible, charming and intellectually satisfying work of art.

Gunman's RhapsodyRobert B. Parker (Putnam)
The creator of the Spenser novels takes on the western with this psychologically penetrating tale of Wyatt Earp.

It's a Thin LineKimberla Lawson Roby (Kensington/Dafina)
It's not that this family drama from the number one bestselling Blackboard writer is so great. But as much or more than any novel of the year, it represents a significant trend: the development of niche lines devoted to particular ethnic groups.

Empire FallsRichard Russo (Knopf)
In his biggest, boldest novel yet, Russo subjects a full cross-section of a crumbling Maine mill town to piercing, compassionate scrutiny.

AusterlitzW.G. Sebald, trans. by Anthea Bell (Random)
A great and tragic novel, tracing, through the life of an architectural historian, the devastating course of European history in the mid-20th century.

The Last Time They MetAnita Shreve (Little, Brown)
Shreve demonstrates new subtleties of prose and approach as, proceeding in reverse chronological order, she recounts the obsessive love between two poets who connect only three times in 35 years.

Death of VishnuManil Suri (Norton)
An irresistible blend of realism, mysticism and religious metaphor, a fabulous parable of the universal conditions of human life set in a small Bombay apartment building.

Our Lady of the CircusDavid Toscana (St. Martin's)
From a Mexican novelist, the story of a circus troupe in Mexico that colonizes an abandoned town; astringent and remorseless, this is a cunning social satire.

The Miracle Life of Edgar MintBrady Udall (Norton)
This powerful first novel by short story writer Udall (Letting Loose the Hounds) is constructed around grotesque, blackly humorous set pieces involving a narrator who's half-Apache, half-white.

ArgallWilliam T. Vollmann (Viking)
Vollmann's impressive third entry in a seven-volume series of novels about the settling of North America takes on the founding of Jamestown and the relationship between Captain John Smith and Pocahontas.

The Bulgari ConnectionFay Weldon (Atlantic Monthly)
Weldon's newest is a stylish tale of romance in London, but what makes it particularly notable is that the novel was commissioned by Bulgari, whose jewelry plays a prominent role in the tale. Such product placement is a norm in movies; whether it will take hold in fiction remains to be seen. Is that a Coke in Alex Cross's hand?


In mystery, women authors (and their series female sleuths) ruled the bestseller lists this year, notably such homegrown American stars as Sue Grafton (P Is for Peril; Putnam), Janet Evanovich (Seven Up; St. Martin's), Nevada Barr (Blood Lure; Putnam), Patricia Cornwell (Isleof Dogs; Putnam) and Sara Paretsky (Total Recall; Delacorte).

In the historical category, the big book was Elizabeth Peters's 13th installment in her saga of Amelia Peabody and her eccentric family, Lord of the Silent (Morrow).

Taking the prize for outstanding historical debut was Charles O'Brien's masterly tale set in pre-Revolutionary France, Mute Witness (Poisoned Pen).

Cozies continued to flourish, with Lilian Jackson Braun's The Cat Who Smelled a Rat (Putnam) and Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown's Claws and Effects heading the list of feline favorites. In the food department, Diana Mott Davidson racked up another winner with Sticks and Scones.

Not to be forgotten, male authors and their traditional tough-guy heroes were out in force this year. Standouts included Donald Westlake's first Dortmunder novel in five years, Bad News, plus, as Richard Stark, Firebreak: A Parker Novel, both from Mysterious; Walter Mosley's Fearless Jones (Little, Brown), also long awaited; one of James Crumley's finest efforts, The Final Country (Mysterious); and Joe Gores's Cons, Scams & Grifts: A DKA File Novel (Mysterious).

British police procedurals appeared as regularly and reliably as the bobby on the beat. Scottish author Ian Rankin's latest Inspector Rebus mystery, The Falls (St. Martin's Minotaur), showed the master of tartan noir in top form.

Among outstanding American regionals were Archer Mayer's novel of intrigue centered on a Vermont ski resort, Tucker Peak, and Maron's look into the world of North Carolina potters, Uncommon Clay (both Mysterious).

As always, some quality mysteries got lost amid the hundreds of genre titles vying for attention in the marketplace. Below is a selective (and highly opinionated) list of six "midlist" books deemed worthy by PW reviewers:

The Wooden Leg of Inspector AndersMarshall Browne (St. Martin's Minotaur/ Dunne)
Winner of Australia's Ned Kelly Award for best crime novel in 1999, this strong debut charts the semiretired Rome policeman Inspector Anders in his fight for justice in an unnamed southern Italian city.

Clouds Without RainClouds Without RainP.L. Gaus (Ohio Univ. Press)
Gaus's third Ohio Amish mystery, compact and taut, represents a strong comeback after a middling second novel.

Six-Pound WalleyeElizabeth Gunn (Walker)
Gunn's fourth Jake Hines mystery is an intelligent and insightful police procedural set in Rutherford, Minn.: "There's humor and humanity here, but nothing cute or cozy."

The Great GameMichael Kurland (St. Martin's Minotaur)
Though Professor Moriarty takes top billing, this complex and rewarding novel stands as the year's finest Sherlock Holmes spinoff: "Uncommon are the pleasures such writing affords."

Samurai BoogiePeter Tasker (Orion; Trafalgar, dist.).
A British import set in urban 1990s Japan, this detective novel falls firmly into the American hard-boiled tradition.

Strawman's HammockDarryl Wimberley (St. Martin's Minotaur/Dunne)
Fine prose and suspense that builds on narrative interest, not violent incident, distinguishes Wimberley's third outing to feature African-American policeman Barrett Raines.

Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror

In the year of the long-awaited screen release of the first installment of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, high fantasy reigned supreme, including Anne McCaffrey's first Pern novel in three years, The Skies of Pern (Del Rey); Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's second volume of their Sovereign Stone trilogy, Guardians of the Lost (Eos); Terry Brooks's The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara: Antrax (Del Rey), the second in a series; and R.A. Salvatore's Sea of Swords (Wizards of the Coast), part of the Paths of Darkness series.

While rare as Earth-like planets in other solar systems, a number of literary SF novels came out in 2001, among them Ken MacLeod's Cosmonaut Keep (Tor), Maureen F. McHugh's Nekropolis (Eos), Iain M. Banks's Look to Windward (Pocket), Robert Charles Wilson's The Chronoliths (Tor) and Peter Watts's Maelstrom (Tor). At age 70, Ursula Le Guin was still going strong, with two major books, Tales from Earthsea and The Other Wind, a novel in her Earthsea series (both Harcourt).

Two related subgenres continued in popularity, alternative history and military SF. Harry Turtledove produced three novels (Through the Darkness, etc.) in his various alternative world-war series, in addition to editing a couple of military SF anthologies.

Historical fantasy also saw many new titles, including a posthumous novel inspired by Norse sagas, Mother of Kings (Tor), by Poul Anderson, who died in July.

Ray Bradbury, the grand old man of fantasy, produced no less than three books this year: a volume of poems and essays, A Chapbook for Burnt-Out Priests, Rabbis, and Ministers (Cemetery Dance); his saga of the Elliot family, From the Dust Returned (Morrow); and a reissue of his first (1947) story collection, Dark Carnival (Gauntlet), in a deluxe special edition.

In horror, Anne Rice continued her Vampire Chronicles with Blood and Gold (Knopf), featuring the world-weary vampire Marius, while Rice's sister, Alice Borchardt, came up with the first in a new Arthurian saga, The Dragon Queen: The Tales of Guinevere (Del Rey).

Small presses--Cemetery Dance, Subterranean, Golden Gryphon, DarkTales, Stealth and others--continued to publish the bulk of horror fiction, by writers like Paul di Filippo, Kelly Link, David B. Silva, Caitlín Kiernan, Lewis Shiner, Robert Weinberg, John Shirley, Ray Garton and Dennis Etchison. In one of the most important developments in horror in years, Leisure launched a new hardcover horror line, starting with Douglas Clegg's The Infinite.

KushielKushiel's DartJacqueline Carey (Tor)
A brilliant and daring debut, set in a skewed Renaissance world, this novel introduces a particularly strong and memorable female lead character.

Sir Apropos of NothingPeter David (Pocket)
Not just comic, this is a satiric fantasy, featuring an antihero for the 21st century.

The Living Blood, Tananarive Due (Pocket)
A stunning example of a sequel that improves on the original, My Soul to Keep (1997), Due's latest fuses a variety of genre themes with serious concerns about the African-American experience and parent-child relationships.

The Last Hot TimeJohn M. Ford (Tor)
Ford's first excursion into enigmatic, offbeat speculative fiction in seven years ought to win him another World Fantasy Award.

Impact Parameter and Other Quantum RealitiesGeoffrey A. Landis (Golden Gryphon)
In his first short story collection, Landis gives "hard" science fiction a heart.

Mass Market

Although historical romances such as Victoria Alexander's The Marriage Lesson (Avon) and Susan Wiggs's Halfway to Heaven (Mira) saw strong sales this year, paranormal romances and romantic comedies à la Bridget Jones dominated the mass market arena. Most notable among these subgenres were Nora Roberts's Dance Upon the Air (Jove), Millie Criswell's The Trouble with Mary (Ivy) Kasey Michaels's Love to Love You Baby (Zebra) and Susan Anderson's All Shook Up (Avon). Meanwhile, romantic suspense novels suffered a decline, but exceptional authors like Suzanne Brockmann (Over the Edge; Ivy), Heather Graham (Night of the Blackbird; Mira) and Olga Bicos (Heat of the Moment; Zebra) kept the category kicking.

This year, few mass market sci-fi or fantasy titles rose to prominence, but mysteries--particularly cozies like Selma Eichler's Murder Can Upset Your Mother (Signet) and Deborah Morgan's Death Is a Cabaret (Berkley)--were in fine form. Likewise, thrillers were a solid bet even as they shifted from the courthouse to the police precinct. Two of the genre's finest examples came from Michael Prescott (Last Breath; Signet) and Maggie Shayne (The Gingerbread Man; Jove).

For every well-known mass market author who made the leap to hardcover, a new talent rose to take her place: Jane Graves wowed readers with her wacky debut, I Got You Babe (Ivy); Kevin O'Brien's Hollywood-based thriller, The Next to Die (from Pinnacle), hit hot-button issues like gay rights and gun control; and Dorothea Benton Frank's Southern saga (Plantation; Jove) transported readers back in time.

Of all the mass market titles published this year, the following books, by some of the most overlooked and promising authors on the scene, merit the highest praise:

Educating CarolinePatricia Cabot (Pocket)
Combining romance and mystery without melodrama or fuss, this Victorian-era romance is fresh, funny and sensual. Cabot is better known for The Princess Diaries, penned as Meg Cabot, but she writes with poetry and beauty, creating characters and love scenes that readers will swoon over.

The Third VictimLisa Gardner (Bantam)
A small town is rocked when a child kills two classmates and a teacher in this provocative thriller. Although this is only Gardner's third novel, she deftly probes the psychology of school shootings while developing a cast of colorful characters.

True ConfessionsTrue ConfessionsRachel Gibson (Avon)
Sweet, sexy and wildly funny, this rollicking romance pairs a small-town sheriff and an L.A. tabloid reporter with riotous results. Gibson is relatively new to the romance genre, but her storytelling prowess has improved by leaps and bounds with every book.

The AssociationBentley Little (Signet)
Laced with sex, violence and Big Brother rhetoric, this haunting tale transforms a relatively innocuous group--a homeowners' association--into a tyrannical form of government.

Kiss of the HighlanderKaren Marie Moning (Dell)
Packed with elements that romance readers adore--a handsome Highland laird, a spunky modern lass, druid magic and healthy doses of humor, suspense and passion--this is paranormal romance at its finest.

Firefly BeachLuanne Rice (Bantam)
Rice excels at evoking the contradictory emotions that both bind and divide families, and she brings her signature sensitivity to this tale of a family struggling to heal old wounds. With its crisp New England ambience and delicate prose, this is a lovely celebration of sisterhood, summer and survival.


In 2001, comix--fiction or nonfiction book-length comics--continued their incremental growth as a category in the general trade book industry. Trade book publishers are beginning to see comix as the manifestation of a newly emerging literary sensibility, appealing to a young, loyal, highly educated and affluent market. Pantheon continued to publish selected artists (such as Chris Ware, Ben Katchor and Daniel Clowes) with success, while Norton is distributing for Fantagraphics Books. Ever more comics publishers are reporting that trade paper and hardcover publishing is becoming a bigger share of their business--and not a minute too soon. Most comics publishers, alarmed at the decline in the numbers of comics specialty shops, see the general book trade as the future of comics publishing.

Box Office PoisonAlex Robinson (Top Shelf)
An ebullient, character-driven graphic novel preoccupied with the nature of people and their relationships over time, this manages to be both funny and emotionally honest. As in Michael Chabon's Kavalier & Clay, the beginnings of the comics industry in the 1930s serves as a platform for a fictional portrait of life in New York City.

Heavy LiquidHeavy LiquidPaul Pope (DC/Vertigo)
Set in the year 2075, this graphic novel is an urban love story and a futuristic international crime thriller based in New York and Paris.

Berlin: City of Stones, Book OneJason Lutes (Drawn & Quarterly)
This first volume of a planned trilogy follows a fascinating cross-section of Berliners during Germany's volatile Weimar Republic with the city itself--its architecture, cabarets, parlors, plazas and alleyways--the true main character of this evocative work.


As the year ends, the most notable trend in politics and world affairs titles is the run on books about Islam, the Middle East and terrorism. Peter Bergen's Holy War, Inc. (Free Press) was rushed to press, while Ahmed Rashid's Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia (Yale) and several books by religion scholar Karen Armstrong are enjoying either continued or renewed attention.

Prior to September 11, the controversial presidential election of 2000 was the hot topic, producing two bestsellers, Alan Dershowitz's Supreme Injustice (Oxford) and Vincent Bugliosi's The Betrayal of America (Thunder's Mouth/Nation). Several recent titles in this category, however, including Jeffrey Toobin's Too Close to Call (Random), may not get the attention they would otherwise deserve, as readers turn to books that help them make sense of recent events.

General Wesley Clark's musings in Waging Modern War (Public Affairs) could not have anticipated the current state of affairs, but his emphasis on human rights and increased mobile forces demands careful consideration. And while support for the current campaign against terrorism remains high, Gerald Nicosia's sprawling Home to War (Crown), a history of the Vietnam Veterans movement, reminds readers of the terrible aftermath of a brutal and unpopular war--conflicts that also play into Bill Ayer's Weatherman memoir, Fugitive Days (Beacon).

This was a tough year for books about business, which was caught between continuing consolidation and dot-com crashes. There were no dazzlers beyond the usual celebrity bios; G.E.'s Jack Welch (Jack: Straight from the Gut; Warner) and Intel's Andrew Grove (Swimming Across: A Memoir; Warner) each penned one.

In biography, notable entries included two superb presidential lives, John Adams by David McCullough (Simon & Schuster) and Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris (Random). And in literary biography, Savage Beauty, Nancy Milford's life of Edna St. Vincent Millay (Random), gripped the public's imagination.

Outstanding books on marriage and motherhood capped the women's memoir list this year, along with stirring but traditional chronicles of women's lives. Some quirkier memoirs emerged, too, among them Lily Burana's first-rate Strip City (Talk Miramax). And in the burgeoning multicultural studies category, writers produced a slew of exceptional works. Particularly relevant to African-Americans were Diane McWhorter's Carry Me Home (Simon & Schuster) and Linda Williams's Playing the Race Card (Princeton Univ.). Linda Hogan's Woman Who Watches Over the World (Norton) spoke to the Native American experience, while Emily Prager's Wuhu Diary (Random) explored Chinese and American--and Chinese-American--identity.

In the social sciences, Scribner published a distinguished work on depression (Andrew Solomon's The Noonday Demon) and Washington Square Press offered a literary consideration of insomnia (Bill Hayes's Sleep Demons: An Insomniac's Memoir). A number of books on civil liberties came out, including a particularly important work on child psychology and censorship from Hill & Wang, Not in Front of the Children by Marjorie Heins. And while most readers of the natural sciences are probably boning up on microscopic terrors, the historic sequencing of the human genome spawned a number of good books for generalists, including New York Times editor Nicolas Wade's Life Script (Simon & Schuster).

Those looking for solace--or escape--in art found it in a number of terrific current catalogues, including Thomas Eakins (Yale), Van Gogh and Gauguin (Thames & Hudson) and Milton Avery (Abrams), and in the New York photologue Cityscapes (Columbia), while music aficionados read histories of American music, from American Roots Music (Abrams), edited by Robert Santelli, and Richard Crawford's America's Musical Life (Norton) to bios and debates on hip-hop.

In sports, the shelves were packed with Yankees-themed books, including Steve Finaru's Duke of Havana (Villard), Neil J. Sullivan's Diamond in the Bronx (Oxford) and Roger Angell's chronicle of former Yankee David Cone, A Pitcher's Story (Warner). The most notable sports title, though, had nothing to do with the Bronx Bombers: Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit (Random) celebrated horseracing and celebrity stallions.

Travelers wanting to break away from the European continent were guided to the Middle East and Asia. Those who would prefer to stay at home and read about adventure saw little new in a field of sea- and mountain-climbing stories that followed the well-trod paths carved out by Krakauer and Junger.

Limbo: A MemoirA. Manette Ansay (Morrow)
Ansay (whose novel Vinegar Hill made Oprah's Book Club) discusses how she overcame a physical disability in an authentic, moving and gorgeously written account.

American ChicaMarie Arana (Dial)
Daughter of an American mother and a Peruvian father, Arana grew up between their two countries. In this outstanding memoir, she expertly tells how she learned to balance both cultures.

Ice Time: A Tale of Fathers, Sons, and Hometown HeroesJay Atkinson (Crown)
Quite possibly the best book on hockey since Ken Dryden's The Game, this beautifully told memoir of coaching high school hockey fell below the radar of most critics and sports fans.

Double FoldNicholson Baker (Random)
A passionate critique of how, according to the controversial author, libraries are betraying their primary function of preserving the past.

The Lost Children of Wilder: The Epic Struggle to Change Foster CareNina Bernstein (Pantheon)
New York Times reporter Bernstein's work investigates a 1973 legal case filed by an ACLU attorney against the New York State foster care system, exposing institutionalized child abuse.

Ava's ManRick Bragg (Knopf)
A gem of Southern Americana, this is a vibrant portrait of Bragg's grandfather, a poor man who lived a richly dramatic life.

Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Tell About Life in the Segregated SouthEdited by William H. Chafe, Raymond Gavins, Robert Korstad and the staff of the Behind the Veil Project (New Press)
This landmark book and CD compilation of firsthand accounts of the Jim Crow era draws on 1,200 interviews with African-Americans.

I Knew a Woman: The Experience of the Female BodyCortney Davis (Random)
This wonderfully written, deeply personal look at women's lives and bodies is from a nurse practitioner in a women's health clinic.

Holler if You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac ShakurMichael Eric Dyson (Basic)
One of the most thoughtful explorations ever into hip-hop music, this narrative looks through the prism of a departed icon.

An Unexpected Light: Travels in AfghanistanJason Elliot (Picador USA)
By the recipient of England's Thomas Cook award for travel writing, this went virtually unnoticed in the U.S.--until September 11.

Books Business: Publishing: Past, Present and FutureJason Epstein (Norton)
Fascinating reminiscences of a distinguished life in the book industry and an incisive look at the role of new technologies in the book business.

How Milton WorksStanley Fish (Harvard)
Fish reminds us he's a world-class Miltonist, brilliantly distilling a distinct vision of the great poet's thought for another generation of readers.

How I Came into My Inheritance: And Other True StoriesDorothy Gallagher (Random)
Although Gallagher's autobiography seems targeted toward Jewish and New York audiences, its respectful handling of family history, coupled with its wit and charm, help it cross into mainstream readership.

Bing Crosby: A Pocket Full of Dreams, the Early Years, 1903—1940Gary Giddins (Little, Brown)
In this terrific bio, Giddins follows the rise of the country's first miked crooner.

OtisOtis: Giving Rise to the Modern CityJason Goodwin (Ivan R. Dee)
The skyscraper would not be possible without the company Elisha Otis founded in the 1850s, chronicled here with insight and style by a New York Times journalist.

My Wars Are Laid Away in Books: The Life of Emily DickinsonAlfred Habegger (Random)
A particularly nuanced and perceptive look at the poet and her work.

Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña and Richard FariñaDavid Hajdu (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
In the year of Bob Dylan's 60th birthday, this stood out among the tributes, an excellent treatment of the folk bard but and his place, time and fellow musicians.

River Town: Two Years on the YangtzePeter Hessler (HarperCollins)
This is one of the rare times a book about a Peace Corps mission works--and reads--beautifully.

Seabiscuit: An American LegendLaura Hillenbrand (Random)
Proving wrong the publishing adage that books on horse racing don't sell, Hillenbrand's account of the most celebrated horse of the 1930s and '40s broke through the gates and set the pace for several other thoroughbred titles this year.

Harlemworld: Doing Race and Class in Contemporary Black AmericaJohn L. Jackson (Univ. of Chicago)
Expertly weaving theory with analysis, Jackson discovers that identities built around race and class in the quintessentially black American neighborhood are far less monolithic than even Harlem residents believe.

The New Bill James Historical Baseball AbstractBill James (Free Press)
Typically opinionated, wise and controversial, this is an updated edition of the 1985 classic commentary on the history of baseball and its players by the premier statistician of the game.

Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and SoftwareSteven Johnson (Scribner)
Founder and editor of the recently Webzine Feed, Johnson predicted massive Web-based changes in human communication in Interface Culture (1997), and here brilliantly shows what the Web has in common with ant colonies, cities and brains.

A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, IndianaHaven Kimmel (Doubleday)
Kimmel's story charms and surprises, and its impeccable humor sets it apart.

Dinner at the New Gene Café: How Genetic Engineering Is Changing What We Eat, How We Live, and the Global Politics of FoodBill Lambrecht (St. Martin's)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
reporter Lambrecht carefully and evenhandedly tracks the quiet introduction of genetically engineered food and products into American life.

The Cat from Hue: A Vietnam War StoryJohn Laurence (Public Affairs)
A spellbinding memoir covering Laurence's stint as a CBS reporter in Vietnam, from which he produced the award-winning documentary The World of Charlie Company .

Edith and Woodrow: The Wilson White HousePhyllis Lee Levin (Scribner)
An impeccably researched account of how the First Lady took over the White House after her husband's stroke.

The Tiananmen PapersCompiled by Zhang Liang, edited by Andrew J. Nathan and Perry Link (Public Affairs)
Making headlines when it was published, this is an eye-opening look into the Chinese leadership's deliberations during the Tiananmen protests and massacre.

Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant TrailRuben Martínez (Holt)
An extraordinarily sympathetic, closely reported account of how ordinary migrants go through the treacherous U.S.-Mexico crossing and live under laws set up to discourage their presence here.

Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama--The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights RevolutionDiane McWhorter (Simon & Schuster)
McWhorter, the child of an elite white Birmingham family, unmasks the racism of prominent members of the city's privileged. Fresh detail, exhaustive research and gripping narrative distinguish this from many other books on the subject.

The Metaphysical ClubThe Metaphysical ClubLouis Menand (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
An elegant and wide-ranging look at the originators of pragmatism, the philosophy that launched the American Century.

Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret WarJudith Miller et al. (Simon & Schuster)
This title, along with Jonathan Tucker's Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Small Pox and Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-1782, touches on perhaps the public's greatest present fears.

UndergroundHaruki Murakami (Vintage)
Belatedly relevant to U.S. readers, here's a moving study of survivors of a terrorist gas attack in Tokyo's subway.

Loving PicassoFernande Oliver (Abrams)
The racy, dead-on diaries and memoirs of Picasso's early mistress, lushly illustrated and nicely complemented by Picasso Erotique (Prestel), the catalogue to a recent, revolutionary Picasso exhibition.

Poetry SpeaksEdited by Elise Paschen and Rebekah Presson Mosby (Sourcebooks)
A terrific combination of prose (essays by today's leading poets) and audio (hallowed poets from Tennyson on reading selections from their work), this book has the potential to draw more readers to poetry than any collection in years.

Wuhu Diary: On Taking My Adopted Daughter Back to Her Hometown in ChinaEmily Prager (Random)
This riveting memoir is as memorable for Prager's bravery in facing the emotional risks of mothering an adopted Chinese daughter as it is for its rare view of daily life in modern China.

Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early AmericaDaniel Richter (Harvard)
American Colonies
Alan Taylor (Viking)
Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic
Joanne B. Freeman (Yale)
Three unusual studies that take an original look at American history of the colonial and postcolonial era.

A Primate's MemoirRobert M. Sapolsky (Scribner)
Irreverently funny, Sapolsky tells the absorbing tale of communicating with baboons in Kenya.

Fast Food NationEric Schlosser (Houghton Mifflin)
Schlosser's shocking account of the fast-food industry was a surprise bestseller.

The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & BehaviorEdited by David Allen Sibley, Chris Elphick, John B. Dunning Jr.; illus. by David Allen Sibley (Knopf)
This beautifully illustrated companion to last year's The Sibley Guide to Birds directs bird-watchers deeper into the field.

GrantJean Edward Smith (Simon & Schuster)
The author of George Bush's War integrates Ulysses S. Grant's career and achievements in what is by far the best comprehensive biography to date of the enigmatic man.

The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of DepressionAndrew Solomon (Scribner)
Solomon's work examines depression and its treatments in a cross-cultural context, making this a smart, enlightening view of both the medical and imaginative worlds of depression.

In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the USSIndianapolisand the Extraordinary Story of Its SurvivorsDoug Stanton (Holt)
Complementing Dan Kurzman's Fatal Voyage and Peter Maas's reissue of Abandon Ship! by Richard Newcomb, Stanton's excellent narrative illuminates the story surrounding the ill-fated WWII cruiser.

Leonardo's Incessant Last SupperLeo Steinberg (Zone Books)
Steinberg offers fresh insights on every page, from the work's formal techniques to its psychological effects, beautifully illustrated and explained.

Venice: Lion City: The Religion of EmpireGary Wills (Simon & Schuster)
An ambitious attempt to explain the zeitgeist of the island fiefdom and its religion, politics and art were transformed by the city's extraordinary self-fashioning.

Comic Book Nation: Transforming American CultureBradford W. Wright (Johns Hopkins)
Wright's entertaining survey of comics goes beyond art to look at shifting cultural attitudes toward popular culture, children, violence, patriotism and America itself.


Despite the near ubiquity of volumes celebrating Italian cuisine, the market continued to surge with new cookbooks exploring specific regions of the boot. Fred Plotkin rediscovered the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region (La Terra Fortunata; Broadway), but Sicilian food pushed its way to the fore with such titles as Sicilian Home Cooking by Wanda and Giovanna Tornabene (Knopf). Home cooks looking for comfort found many books on baking desserts to choose from--and here again, with an abundance of sweets, the Sicilians were in the lead. On another ethnic front, cooks were bringing Japanese dishes to the table.

The trend in parenting titles signifies parents' renewed interest in teaching moral values to their children--as well as teaching children how to take no for an answer. Books on how to deal with a cancer diagnosis, both physically and emotionally, dominated the health field again, as they have done in recent years.

Lidia's Italian-American KitchenLidia Matticchio Bastianich (Knopf)
The quality of books associated with TV programs has risen, exemplified by Bastianich's presentation of Italian-inspired American cooking.

Building Moral Intelligence: The Seven Essential Virtues That Teach Kids to Do the Right ThingMichele Borba (Jossey-Bass)
Borba optimistically instructs parents how to fortify their children against the onslaught of negative cultural influences.

Yes, Your Teen Is Crazy: Loving Your Kid Without Losing Your MindMichael J. Bradley (Harbor Press)
With humorous anecdotes, Bradley comforts troubled parents as their children become teens.

In the Sweet Kitchen: The Definitive Guide to the Baker's PantryRegan Daley (Artisan)
After first taking Canada by storm, Daley's IACP Cookbook of the Year offers American cooks bold innovations.

One Potato Two Potato: 300 Recipes from Simple to ElegantRoy Finamore with Molly Stevens (Houghton Mifflin)
Finamore and Stevens offer this encyclopedic tribute to the most humble--and comforting--of vegetables.

Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy TavernClaudia Fleming with Melissa Clark (Random)
Gramercy Tavern's pastry chef recomposes her challenging yet whimsical recipes for the home cook.

Sweet Sicily: The Story of an Island and Her PastriesVictoria Granof (HarperCollins)
Granof features Sicilian desserts within the context of the island's culture and history.

Healthy Women Healthy Lives: A Guide to Preventing Disease from the Landmark Nurses' Health StudyEdited by Susan E. Hankinson, Graham A. Colditz, JoAnn E. Manson and Frank Speizer (Simon & Schuster)
With the results of a 25-year study from Harvard Medical School, the editors present this comprehensive guide to women's health.

The Glorious Foods of GreeceThe Glorious Foods of Greece: Traditional Recipes from the Islands, Cities, and VillagesDiane Kochilas (Morrow)
Greek-American Kochilas includes everything in this exploration of Greek culinaria.

Nobu: The CookbookNobuyuki Matsuhisa, trans. by Laura Holland (Kodansha)
Matsuhisa's collection of South American—inspired Japanese recipes stands out among restaurant cookbooks.

Living Well with Cancer: A Nurse Tells You Everything You Need to Know About Managing the Side Effects of Your TreatmentKaten Moore and Libby Schmais (Putnam)
This empowering volume is a basic reference for almost any cancer patient or caregiver.


This was a rich year for poetry, to which the country has begun to turn as it comes to grips with the altered zeitgeist.

New translations and editions of work by the late Paul Celan, Eugenio Montale and (further back) Horace were matched by important translations of poets Tomaz Salamun (Twisted Spoon), Mahmoud Darwish (Syracuse) and Christophe Tarkos (Roof). A collection of David Bromwich's elegant review-essays and of James Fenton's Oxonian lectures furthered inquiry into tradition and the individual talent.

Meanwhile, Anne Carson's The Beauty of the Husband and the ever famous Seamus Heaney's Electric Light turned on readers old and new. Kevin Young's ambitious To Repel Ghosts, riffing on Jean-Michel Basquiat's life and work, should continue to generate attention, despite the demise of its publisher, Zoland Books. Strong work appeared from Elizabeth Alexander, Bruce Andrews, Wanda Coleman, Cornelius Eady, Forrest Gander, Alice Fulton, Michael Gizzi, John Godfrey, W.S. Di Piero, Adrienne Rich, Charles Simic and Keith Waldrop. There were terrific debuts by Taylor Brady, Robert Fitterman, Judith Goldman, Camille Guthrie and Noelle Kocot.

Rooms Are Never FinishedRooms Are Never FinishedAgha Shahid Ali (Norton)
Ali's third book continues his laments for and meditations on his homeland of Kashmir, occasioned this time by his mother's death and his subsequent journey back with her body. Grief, religion and politics intermingle as they do in real life, but here put through the tight, historically charged ghazal form.

A Border ComedyLyn Hejinian (Granary)
Pleasure, boundary, barbarian, comedy--Hejinian's latest and possibly best book shows us a contemplative path to firmer lexical ground, brilliantly mixing daily reflection with modes of theory, drama, epic and fable. Yet Hejinian never diminishes the real dangers of actual crossings, and argues forcefully that our mental borders are directly analogous to the physical.

Atet A.D.Nathaniel Mackey (City Lights)
Mackey is an extraordinarily accomplished maverick poet, editor and critic, and this third installment in the escapades of his Mystic Horn Society--a fictional jazz ensemble that microcosmically concentrates the ins-and-outs of verbal, spiritual, and musical relationships--has all the charged verve of Henry James encountering Charlie Parker's Ko-Ko and perfectly transcribing every note and nuance.

New and Collected PoemsCzeslaw Milosz (Ecco)
This has been a good year for valedictory volumes for working poets (Yusef Komunyakaa, Ann Lauterbach, Paul Muldoon, Rae Armantrout, Gerard Malanga, Paul Vangelisti) and late ones (Merrill, Cavafy, Empson), but this monumental edition of the Polish-American poet's work, suffused with the 20th century's darkest hours, speaks directly to the unfolding of the 21st.

DisobedienceAlice Notley (Penguin)
Notley has been a poet's poet since the late '60s and began to reach a wider audience with 1998's Mysteries of Small Houses. This book should be the clincher: a world-breakingly disobedient self trying to make sense of global systems beyond our reach, but not our thought.


The religion book success of 2001 was Bruce Wilkinson's The Prayer of Jabez (Multnomah), which had a stunning 11 million copies in print as PW went to press. Wilkinson pulled a one-two punch this year, when The Secrets of the Vine (also Multnomah, and a much better book) often trailed Jabez in the number two spot on both Christian and secular bestseller lists.

But "the Bible's little big man" is not the only story on the scene. Religion publishing as a whole expanded and continued to prove its mettle this year, with a record number of titles overall. More than 1,900 religion and spirituality titles were received for review by PW this year (not including fiction), an increase of 17% over 2000.

The year saw a number of top-flight religion books, the most enduring classic-in-embryo being Diana Eck's A New Religious America (Harper San Francisco), which heralded America's increasingly diverse religious landscape. It was a year when serious religion books could find their way onto bestseller lists: although entertaining and brief, Karen Armstrong's Buddha (Viking) was a scholarly investigation of the Axial Age, and Bruce Feiler's Walking the Bible (Morrow) chewed on some substantive issues of history, geography and faith. Then again, a perusal of this year's religion bestseller lists also reveals a distinct consumer preference for books that were short, shorter and shortest. It hasn't been unusual for fully half of the bestsellers on PW's list to be short cloth titles in a gifty format.

The one real disappointment in this year's religion offerings has been a dearth of strong fiction. After several years of improvement in the quality of inspirational fiction, this year saw no absolute standouts and only a few memorable titles. The most noticeable, though not notable, religious fiction title was the ninth volume in Tim F. Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins's Left Behind series, Desecration (Tyndale).

BuddhaKaren Armstrong (Viking)
Lacking details for a conventional biography, Armstrong turns this to her advantage, opting to enhance Gotama's story with the broad canvas of his time and culture, making him accessibly human.

In a World of Gods and Goddesses: The Mystic Art of Indra SharmaJames C. Bae (Mandala)
This lavishly illustrated book celebrates the sacred art of Indra Sharma (1923-present), using Sharma's most famous depictions of Hindu gods and goddesses as windows into the divine.

Excavating JesusExcavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the TextsJohn Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed (Harper San Francisco)
Crossan and Reed's book provides a fascinating, beautifully illustrated and elegantly written account of the life and times of Jesus, providing readers with one of the richest glimpses into Jesus and his world now available.

American Exorcism: Expelling Demons in the Land of PlentyMichael W. Cuneo (Doubleday)
Lucidly written and riveting as any horror novel, Cuneo's excursion into the darker paths of American faith offers a deeply disturbing, ironic vision of the unintended consequences of popular culture for the modern religious imagination.

Fresh Power: Experiencing the Vast Resources of the Spirit of GodJim Cymbala with Dean Merrill (Zondervan)
The edgiest, most cutting book of the "Fresh" series, with Cymbala's passionate voice urging Christians to abandon their comfort zones in favor of the unpredictable leadings of the Spirit.

A New Religious America: How a "Christian Country" Has Become the World's Most Religiously Diverse NationDiana L. Eck (Harper San Francisco)
Eck delivers a stunning tour de force that may forever change the way Americans claim to be "one nation, under God." This is not just a book; it is a celebration.

Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of MosesBruce Feiler (Morrow)
Feiler offers himself as a pilgrim, walking through biblical lands and interviewing individuals from many religious traditions and walks of life. Readers who find Westerners' encounters with the Holy Land enchanting will cherish this book.

Scrolls of TestimonyAbba Kovner, trans. by Eddie Levenston (Jewish Publication Society)
Kovner gives a barely fictionalized account of the interconnected lives of dozens of Diaspora Jews in Europe between the early 1930s and late 1940s. Poems, quotations and commentaries surround the central text, as do such annotations in the Talmud.

The Mystery of Children: What Our Kids Teach Us About Childlike FaithMike Mason (WaterBrook)
This is not a book about how to parent; it is a book about how the experience of being a parent can bring a person closer to understanding the grace of God. Mason's writing can be truly revelatory.

Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of DisbeliefHuston Smith (Harper San Francisco)
In this challenging but accessible book, Smith proclaims religion's relevance. He spends the book's second half elucidating and affirming metaphysical worldviews and imagining ways for science and religion to partner more equitably.

The Shaping of a Life: A Spiritual LandscapePhyllis Tickle (Doubleday)
Tickle, a marvelous writer, offers an enthralling spiritual memoir of her early life in Tennessee, recording academic and religious awakenings and her evolving understanding of prayer.

Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the ChurchPhilip Yancey (Doubleday)
In some ways, this is Yancey's darkest work, chronicling his lover's quarrel with the institutional church. In other ways, this book is one of his most hopeful, for in it he charts a spiritual path through all of the muck made by organized religion.

The Best Spiritual Writing 2001Edited by Philip Zaleski (Harper San Francisco)
Zaleski once again skillfully skims the cream of last year's published spiritual prose and poetry. Although not every faith tradition is represented, Zaleski is to be lauded for the diversity of his choices, which this year include works with Christian, Jewish, Native American and Buddhist themes.

Click here to see the 2001 Best Children's Books list.