Contemporary Fiction | Notable Fiction and Poetry of 2006

Notable Books of the Year: Fiction and Poetry, 2006

The New York Times Book Review

December 3, 2006

Links to the full book reviews are available on the New York Times Book Review web site. Free registration is required for first-time ulsers.

Aboulela, Leila. The Translator. Edinburgh: Polygon, 1999.
Regenstein Bookstacks
PR6051.B68T73 1999
A Muslim widow's love for an agnostic Scottish Islamic scholar allows her to nourish a hope for happiness.

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. Half of a Yellow Sun. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.
Regenstein Bookstacks
PR9387.9.A34354H35 2006
A novel about sisters caught in the horrors of the Biafran War.

Ali, Monica. Alentejo Blue. New York: Scribner, 2006.
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PR6101.L45A44 2006
Ali's second novel revolves around the inhabitants of a southern Portuguese village.

Atkinson, Kate. One Good Turn. New York: Little, Brown, 2006.
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PR6051.T56O54 2006
An Edinburgh road-rage incident sets off a string of murders in this deft thriller.

Barnes, Julian. Arthur and George. London: Jonathan Cape, 2005.
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A metaphysical mystery starring Arthur (Conan Doyle), spiritual detective.

Barton, Emily. Brookland. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006.
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PS3552.A7685B76 2006
A tale of 18th-century sisters, one with a dream to bridge the East River.

Bolaqo, Roberto. Last Evenings on Earth, translated by Chris Andrews. New York: New Directions Books, 2006.
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PQ8098.12.O38A2 2006
The Pinochet years haunt these stories by a Chilean writer who died in 2003.

D'Ambrosio, Charles. The Dead Fish Museum. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.
Regenstein Bookstacks
PS3554.A469D43 2006
Stories of understated realism centered on the charged relations between fathers and sons, drifters or workers.

Danielewski, Mark Z. Only Revolutions. New York: Pantheon Books, 2006.
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PS3554.A5596O55 2006
A structurally experimental road-trip novel with a road like a Mvbius strip.

Desai, Kiran. The Inheritance of Loss. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006.
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PS3554.E82I54 2006
The poised story, set in northern India, of disparate characters united by the toxic legacy of colonialism.

Egan, Jennifer. The Keep. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.
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PS3555.G292K44 2006
Old grievances drive the plot of this novel, set in a castle and a prison. Egan deftly weaves threads of sordid realism and John Fowles-like magic.

Eisenberg, Deborah. Twilight of the Superheroes. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006.
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PS3555.I793T87 2006
A contemporary master of the short story leavens familial angst with mordant humor in her fifth collection in 20 years.

Ford, Richard. The Lay of the Land. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.
Harper Library
Regenstein Bookstacks
PS3556.O713L39 2006
Frank Bascombe, the mundane hero of Ford's earlier novels "The Sportswriter" and "Independence Day," finds himself afflicted with intimations of mortality.

Freudenberger, Nell. The Dissident. New York: Ecco, c2006.
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PS3606.R479D57 2006
A Chinese artist is a guest of a dysfunctional Beverly Hills family in this debut novel of global misunderstanding.

Fugard, Lisa. Skinner's Drift. London: Viking, 2005.
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PR9349.4.F84S55 2005x
A white farm family is the foreground of this novel; behind it, the sins of South Africa.

Gardam, Jane. Old Filth. London: Chatto & Windus, 2004.
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PR6057.A623O43 2004
The fictional tale of a Raj orphan whose acronymic nickname (from "Failed in London, Try Hong Kong") tells only part of the story.

Gilmore, Jennifer. Golden Country. New York: Scribner, 2006.
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PS3607.I4525G55 2006
In this debut novel, two Jewish families seek material success and social acceptance across the decades of the 20th century.

Ginsberg, Allen. Collected Poems, 1947-1997. New York: HarperCollins, 2006.
Regenstein Stacks
PS3513.I74 2006
A hefty, brilliant volume that shows Ginsberg (1926-97) to be not only a legendary protest writer but also a lyric poet preoccupied with passion, place and fate.

Gl|ck, Louise. Averno. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006.
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PS3557.L8A96 2006
Poems inspired by the underworld of myth confront our most intractable fears.

Goodman, Allegra. Intuition: A Novel. New York: Dial Press, 2006.
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PS3557.O5829I58 2006
A cancer researcher's dubious finding sets off a tidal wave that carries many people away.

Gordon, Mary. The Stories of Mary Gordon. New York: Pantheon Books, 2006.
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PS3557.O669A6 2006
Motifs from Gordon's life, particularly the pain of childhood grief, resurface throughout this collection

Grushin, Olga. The Dream Life of Sukhanov. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2005.
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PS3607.R85D74 2005
A Soviet artist sacrifices his talent for the party in this first novel.

Hempel, Amy. The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel. New York: Scribner, 2006.
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PS3558.E47916A6 2006
The themes of Hempel's unsettling and blackly funny vignettes - mortality, desire and fear of human connection - are threaded with only the slenderest hopes of redemption.

Houellebecq, Michael. The Possibility of an Island, translated by Gavin Bowd. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005.
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PQ2668.O77P6713 2005
In this new novel from the French author, a radical libertine becomes the progenitor of a line of clones.

Jones, Edward P. All Aunt Hagar's Children. New York: Amistad, 2006.
Harper Library
Regenstein Bookstacks
PS3560.O4813A77 2006
Several characters from Jones's first story collection return in this one, set mostly in Washington, D.C.

Julavits, Heidi. The Uses of Enchantment. New York: Doubleday, 2006.
Regenstein Stacks
PS3560.U522U84 2006
A teenage girl is either a victim or a false accuser in this dark-humored novel of psychoanalysis and prep school angst.

Khoury, Elias. Gate of the Sun, translated by Humphrey Davies. Brooklyn, NY: Archipelago Books ; St. Paul, MN : Distributed by Consortium Book Sales and Distribution, c2005.
Regenstein Bookstacks
PJ7842.H823B3313 2005
A rich novel of the Arab experience, full of pain but tempered by hope.

King, Stephen. Lisey's Story. New York: Scribner, 2006.
Harper Library
PS3561.I483L57 2006
In this haunting love story, the widow of a celebrated writer takes up arms against a murderous stalker in this world and a blood-hungry beast in the world beyond.

Kinnell, Galway. Strong is Your Hold. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.
On order
Kinnell's first collection of new poems in more than a decade revisits themes of marriage, friendship and death, with long, loose lines reminiscent of Whitman.

Long, David. The Inhabited World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.
Regenstein Bookstacks
PS3562.O4924I54 2006
This novel's hero, a ghost, looks back ruefully on his suicide and longs to help a woman survive her own despair.

McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.
Harper Library
Regenstein, Bookstacks PS3563.C337R63 2006
A man and his son travel across a post-apocalyptic landscape in this terrifying parable.

McDermott, Alice. After This. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006.
Harper Library
Regenstein Bookstacks
PS3563.C355A68 2006
In her effectively elliptical novel, McDermott continues to scrutinize the lives of Irish Catholics on Long Island.

McGuane, Thomas. Gallatin Canyon: Stories. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.
Harper Library
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PS3563.A3114G35 2006
McGuane's portraits of American manhood have the capacity to astonish.

Messud, Claire. The Emperor's Children. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.
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PS3563.E8134E47 2006
The shocks of 9/11 disrupt the privileged lives of a group of young urban media types in this nimble, satirically chiding novel.

Mitchell, David. Black Swan Green: A Novel. New York: Random House, 2006.
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PR6063.I785B58 2006
The magic of being a 13-year-old boy and exploring the world intersects, eventually, with the trials of real life.

Nimirovsky, Irhne. Suite Frangaise, translated by Sandra Smith. New York: Alfred A. Knopf; 2006.
D'Angelo Law Bookstacks
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PQ2627.E4S8513 2006
Before dying at Auschwitz in 1942, Nimirovsky wrote these two exquisitely shaped novellas about France in defeat. But the manuscripts came to light only in the late '90s.

Oates, Joyce Carol. High Lonesome: New & Selected Stories, 1966-2006. New York: Ecco, c2006.
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PS3565.A8 H54 2006
A coherent overview of Oates's work, mixing classic with new stories.

Pessl, Marisha. Special Topics in Calamity Physics. New York: Viking, 2006.
Regenstein Bookstacks
PS3616.E825S67 2006
A motherless waif whose life has been shaped by road trips with her father joins a circle of students around a charismatic teacher with a tragic secret.

Powers, Richard. The Echo Maker. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006.
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PS3566.O92E27 2006
This novel's heroine tries to help her brother after a mysterious truck crash leaves him with a rare form of amnesia.

Pynchon, Thomas. Against the Day. New York: Penguin Books, 2006.
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PS3566.Y55A73 2006
In Pynchon's globe-trotting tale, set (mostly) on the eve of World War I, anarchic Americans collide with quasi-psychic European hedonists and a crew of boyish balloonists, anticipating the shocks to come.

Reed, Ishmael. New and Collected Poems, 1964-2006. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2006.
Regenstein Bookstacks
PS3568.E365N49 2006
Poetry of politics and diversity, suffused with humor.

Roth, Philip. Everyman. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.
Harper Library
Regenstein Bookstacks
PS3568.O855E94 2006
A nameless protagonist grapples with aging, physical decline and impending death in this slender, elegant novel.

Shteyngart. Gary. Absurdistan. New York: Random House, 2006.
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PS3619.H79A63 2006
A young American-educated Russian with an ill-gotten fortune waits to return to the United States in this darkly comic novel.

Spiotta, Dana. Eat the Document. New York: Scribner, 2006.
Harper Library
Regenstein Bookstacks
PS3619.P566E18 2006
After years underground, '70s radicals who are haunted by the past and insecure in the present reunite and face their crime's consequences.

Tyler, Anne. Digging to America. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006
Harper Library
Regenstein Bookstacks
PS3570.Y45D47 2006
In Tyler's new novel, two families - one recently arrived Iranian-American, the other all-American - begin an unlikely friendship after both adopt Korean babies.

Updike, John. Terrorist. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.
Harper Library
Regenstein Bookstacks
PS3571.P4T44 2006
Updike's latest novel knits together preoccupations that have been with him for some 50 years - sex, death, religion - as an American high school boy, half-Irish, half-Egyptian, is intoxicated by Islamic radicalism.

Uzodinma, Iweala. Beasts of No Nation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005.
Harper Library
Regenstein Bookstacks
PS3609.W43B43 2005
A first novel set in an unidentified West African land; its hero finds himself corrupted by contagious violence.

Ward Just, Ward. Forgetfulness. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006.
Harper Library
Regenstein Bookstacks
PS3560.U75F67 2006
In this novel, one of Just's best, a small-time American spy uneasily revisits his earlier life after his French wife is murdered.

Whitehead, Colson. Apex Hides the Hurt. New York: Doubleday, 2006.
Regenstein Bookstacks
PS3573.H4768A85 2006
In this parablelike novel, a commercial "nomenclature consultant" is hired to name a Midwestern town, and his task turns into an exploration of the corruption of language.

Yehoshua, A.B. A Woman in Jerusalem: A Passion in Three Parts, translated by Hillel Halkin. London: Peter Halban, 2006
Regenstein Bookstacks
PJ5054.Y42 S4913 2006
This novel's hero journeys to return a woman's body to her family in a remote former Soviet Republic.