FICTION & POETRY

All Aunt Hagar's Children

Stories

Edward P. Jones

Amistad/HarperCollins

A National Book Award winner for his novel "The Known World," Jones continues his examination of race and identity in this short fiction collection, which takes place in Washington, D.C. Although the stories here address the sweep of African-American history -- evoking both the distant past and the uncomfortable present -- Jones never loses sight of his characters' humanity.

*

Averno

Poems

Louise Gluck

Farrar, Straus & Giroux

A linked series of aching, elegiac poems drawing on the Greek myth of Persephone for their lyric intensity. "For Gluck," our reviewer wrote, "this myth is a cautionary tale about human attachment, showing us that there is no safety anywhere."

*

Birds in Fall

Brad Kessler

Scribner

Kessler's novel begins with a plane crash in the North Atlantic, but it quickly becomes more than just a book about grief and loss. Rather, this is an examination of all sorts of migrations and a "luminous tribute to Kessler's abiding and respectful faith in the power of storytelling: There's bold engagement here with the most contemporary fears and the most eternal preoccupations (fate, loss, mourning, healing)."

*

Brookland

Emily Barton

Farrar, Straus & Giroux

In this deft and assured second novel, three sisters operate a family gin distillery in the 18th century in what is now the borough of Brooklyn. The key to the novel is its sense of detail, its unerring recognition of the culture and conditions of its time. "Make no mistake," our reviewer noted, "this is not a book about history but a novel set in the past. The distinction is critical to its success, which is considerable."

*

The Children's Hospital

Chris Adrian

McSweeney's

A contemporary flood of biblical proportions covers the earth in water seven miles deep, with a children's hospital as a latter-day ark. In this disquietingly allegorical novel, the flood becomes "a metaphor for an America weirdly isolated from the rest of humanity and too preoccupied with curing its various ailments to spare a glance at the rising tide."

*

The Echo Maker

Richard Powers

Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Powers' ninth novel is a story of "a mind reassembling itself." A coma patient awakens and is diagnosed with Capgras syndrome, a rare neurological condition whose sufferers believe "their loved ones have been swapped with lifelike robots, doubles or aliens." Beautiful and exquisitely rendered, this is a profound meditation on the question of identity -- and the nature of reality itself.

*

The Emperor's Children

Claire Messud

Alfred A. Knopf

Did Sept. 11 change everything? Yes and no, suggests Messud in this comedy of manners, set in Manhattan during the months leading up to the attack on the World Trade Center, which skewers the follies and aspirations of New York's privileged and wannabes.

*

An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter

Cesar Aira

New Directions

A parable, only 80 pages long, on the art of representing the world, this novel of ideas -- reminiscent in some ways of the work of Jorge Luis Borges and W.G. Sebald -- is based on the Latin American travels of German landscape artist Johann Moritz Rugendas in the mid-19th century. Aira is well-known in his native Argentina, but this is the first of his books to be published in the United States.

*

Everyman

Philip Roth

Houghton Mifflin

In his 27th novel, Roth turns to mortality, delivering a full-on and unflinching portrait of a 71-year-old retired commercial artist at the end of his life. (His funeral is the opening scene.) Heartfelt, understated, and deeply luminous, this is a nearly perfect miniature, an explication of the fate that awaits us all.

*

Forgetfulness

Ward Just

Houghton Mifflin

The protagonist of Just's 15th novel is an American expatriate portrait painter and sometime spy whose wife is murdered by Islamic terrorists. Our reviewer wrote that it is "the first notable work by a major American writer to engage the moral and emotional complexities of the post-9/11 world."

*

Fun Home

A Family Tragicomic

Alison Bechdel

In this graphic novel, Bechdel re-creates her difficult childhood, using her relationship with her father -- a closeted English teacher and funeral director who committed suicide after she came out to him -- as a lens through which to explore her own sexuality and identity. Densely drawn and subtly written, this is an example of graphic storytelling at its most profound.

*

Gallatin Canyon

Stories

Thomas McGuane

Alfred A. Knopf

McGuane's 14th book features stories set in the American West that are narrowly focused but universal in their implications. For the characters here, the challenge is to find a way to persevere in the face of life's sublime indifference, to accept that things can change in an instant and that we are all at the mercy of larger forces that we can't control.

*

Hollywood Station

Joseph Wambaugh

Little, Brown

In his first LAPD novel since 1983, the veteran police officer and crime writer proves he hasn't lost his gift. This kaleidoscopic tale -- which deals with the dark side of Tinseltown -- pulls off the rare feat of being new and familiar at the same time. Wambaugh takes on an urban setting that has changed enormously since he last considered it, while managing to cover it with the authority of a pro.

*

Horse Latitudes

Poems

Paul Muldoon

Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Muldoon is a poet's poet, a master technician whose latest volume demonstrates his ease with sonnets, sestinas and satire. Drawing equally on both popular and classical culture for inspiration, the work in this collection reaffirms his range and brilliance, while making a forceful argument for poetry's continued urgency and relevance.

*

The Light of Evening

Edna O'Brien

Houghton Mifflin

The 20th book from the celebrated Irish novelist centers on an elderly woman lying in a Dublin hospital bed who recalls her stormy life as she awaits a visit from her estranged daughter. Combining elements of the epistolary novel, stream of consciousness, historical fiction and the cinematic, this is a lyrical and lacerating piece of work.

*

Man and Camel

Poems

Mark Strand

Alfred A. Knopf

Strand is an American master, and this, his first book in six years, is a collection of moments, of things known and not known. Spare and haunting, the poems here are by turns surreal, riveting and unexpected, including two works composed to accompany string quartets.

*

The Nimrod Flipout

Stories

Etgar Keret

Farrar, Straus & Giroux

The first collection of this Israeli writer's fiction to be published in the U.S. The stories demonstrate what our reviewer described as "a touch of the supernatural and more than a touch of the wry and sententious Jewish folk tale. Call it magical shtickism."

*

The Night Gardener

George Pelecanos

Little, Brown

Spanning 20 years, Pelecanos' latest book dissects a series of unsolved homicides in Washington, D.C. What's remarkable is his ability to evoke the police officers here as real people, with complicated and difficult lives of their own. More a novel about crime than a crime novel, this is a book about consequence, about the things we can live with and those that won't leave us alone.

*

Paint It Black

Janet Fitch

Little, Brown

The author of the bestselling "White Oleander" has written a dark and atmospheric novel concerning the relationship between an aspiring artist and his mother, "part love story, part competition, part haunting, part possession [and] the stuff of psychologists' fantasies." Especially compelling is its portrayal of L.A. at the dawn of the '80s, a city of desperate beauty and equally desperate dreams.

*

The Road

Cormac McCarthy

Alfred A. Knopf

The apocalypse has happened, and a father and son make a desperate trek through ravaged landscapes in this exploration of the meaning of love, survival and faith in human goodness. Bleak and unsentimental yet somehow hopeful, the novel highlights many of McCarthy's signature concerns while giving them new weight.

*

Special Topics in Calamity Physics

Marisha Pessl

Viking

A first novel narrated by "an overeducated 16-year-old virgin" in which brilliant, eccentric high school students are drawn into the investigation of a favorite teacher's murder. Full of references to both high and pop culture (including some to works that the author has made up), this antic thriller can seem a bit clever in places, but its explosive exuberance pays off in the end.

*

The Stories of Mary Gordon

Mary Gordon

Pantheon

Forty-one masterful short stories -- 22 of them new and 19 from previous collections -- by the prolific novelist and memoirist. Here, Gordon offers a complicated vision of fiction, in which stories offer not so much lessons as slices of unfinished business, and writing becomes a way to expiate our sins.

*

Talk Talk

T. C. Boyle

Viking

The "verbal fireworks and observational wizardry" that characterize Boyle's novels are on display in this tale of a victim of identity theft and her search for the perpetrator. Blending elements of the thriller with a literary sensibility, this book represents new direction for its author, a propulsive change of pace.

*

Thirteen Moons

Charles Frazier

Alfred A. Knopf

In this much anticipated follow-up to "Cold Mountain," Frazier tells the story of Will Cooper, a 19th century orphan and trading post agent who witnesses the tragedies faced by the Cherokee as well as political and technological changes affecting America. The result, our reviewer noted, "is a spiritual work, and the elements that make it such are precisely fitted cornerstones of real literature -- no gimmicks or formulas are invoked."

*

Twilight of the Superheroes

Stories

Deborah Eisenberg

Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Urbane tales, skillfully crafted, look at America in the aftermath of Sept. 11, when even the most recognizable situations have been imbued with something dangerous and new. Eisenberg's rather ordinary protagonists are "fascinating for the simple reason that they are recognizably, credibly human -- at once like everyone else and utterly unique."

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