- In this re-rendering of the Watson trilogy, Matthiessen combines Killing Mister Watson, Lost Man's River, and Bone by Bone, re-writing substantial parts of each, to create a seamless story that mirrors the history of the south from the Civil War to World War II. Based on an actual pioneer of southwest Florida, Edgar J. Watson, Matthiessen creates a fictive context for the coming of age of the state of Florida and the dying of the south's old order through the life story of Mr. Watson who became a law unto himself in the sparsely populated Thousand Islands area of south Florida's Gulf coast. It's a bracing and tone-perfect account of life in pre-civil rights America.
- Packer's first novel was a surprise best seller in 2002. It relates the story of Carrie Bell, who flees her ex-fiance, Mike, and her native Wisconsin after Mike suffers a broken neck in a freak accident - the dive. But Carrie is tortured by self-doubts and pressure from her family back home as she struggles to make a life in New York with the mysterious Kilroy. Closely observed, beautifully written, and deeply affecting, Packer's book is not so much like reading a story as it is like living vicariously another's life.
- Occasionally a novel speaks to fundamental issues that transcend insight and enjoyment. This is one. Neither Sci-Fi nor fantasy, Carroll's story tears the fabric of reality and goes to one's unexpressible fear and longing to address primal concerns, not unlike the effect fairy tales have on children. Yet he does it in a world where the natural laws apply. Death is a character here and becomes frighteningly real, but, miraculously, we're offered a way to triumph over him, if only for a time. And the way is as simple as child's play... literally.
- Appropriating the sweeping example of Moby Dick (the opening line is, Call me Smitty), Roth has produced one of the funniest books ever by an American novelist. It's certainly the funniest book about baseball ever written. Throwing in every literary reference he can find, Roth tells the sad, if hilarious, fate of the Port Rupert (NJ) Mundays, in the final season of the now forgotten Patriot League. The unscrupulous brothers who own the team sell the Munday's home ball park to the Army as an embarkation point for departing troops in WWII, so the Mundays must play their entire final season on the road. With the war on, most of the quality players are away fighting the war, so the Munday's have to resort to the oddest assortment of 'players' imaginable. Laugh out loud funny from start to finish.
- Delillo's masterpiece and a history of the United States in the last half of the 20th century. From the famous 1951 'Shot Heard Round the World' -- Bobby Thompson's home run that gave the NY Giants the pennant over the Brooklyn Dodgers, the same day the Soviet's tested an atomic bomb -- through the Cold War, featuring the high and low points of cultural history, Delillo captures the spirit of America with his trademark crystalline prose. Including some personages as J. Edgar Hoover, Frank Sinatra, Mick Jagger, and Jackie Gleason.
- An allegory of apartheid South Africa by arguably the greatest living writer working in English. Coetzee, winner of the 2003 Nobel prize for literature, creates great emotional tension with disarmingly simple language and clear imagery in works of novella length. This is a story of an elderly magistrate in a remote part of the empire whose life is turned upside down by an administrator from the capital come to question two 'barbarian' suspects. The magistrate finds himself siding with the native population which sets himself up for trouble with his empire's administrators. This is a work that will stay with you long after you finish the story. This book was chosen by Penguin for their 'Great Books of the 20th Century' series.
- Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2002, this is a beautifully written, multi-generational saga of Callie Stephanides, born intersexed, who is raised as a girl until she realizes that she is actually a boy. What follows is his/her evolution into Cal, a man who, at 40, narratives the story in retrospect. But the hermaphrodite aspect is only the core around which a witty, warm, and totally engaging story is wound, encompassing colorful ancestors who came from Asia Minor at the end of Ottoman rule to Detroit during the Great Depression and following Cal to the uproarious 1960s. One of those books you slow down toward the end so as not to finish too soon, as the characters have become a part of your life and you want to hang onto them.
- Queen Elizabeth's visit to the Bookmobile at Buckingham Palace leads to her becoming a voracious reader. The impact on her life and reign make a thought provoking short novel a worthy read.