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Best Books of 2001 (Amazon Editors' Picks)

1.Peace Like a River
Leif Enger

To the list of great American child narrators that includes Huck Finn and Scout Finch, let us now add Reuben "Rube" Land, the asthmatic 11-year-old boy at the center of Leif Enger's remarkable first novel, Peace Like a River. Rube recalls the events of his childhood, in small-town Minnesota circa 1962, in a voice that perfectly captures the poetic, verbal stoicism of the northern Great Plains.... read more
2.The Corrections: A Novel (Paperback)
Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen's exhilarating novel The Corrections tells a spellbinding story with sexy comic brio, and evokes a quirky family akin to Anne Tyler's, only bitter. Franzen's great at describing Christmas homecomings gone awry, cruise-ship follies, self-deluded academics, breast-obsessed screenwriters, stodgy old farts and edgy Tribeca bohemians equally at sea in their lives, and the mad, bad, dangerous worlds of the Internet boom and the fissioning post-Soviet East. ... read more
3.Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (Paperback)
Barbara Ehrenreich

Essayist and cultural critic Barbara Ehrenreich has always specialized in turning received wisdom on its head with intelligence, clarity, and verve. With some 12 million women being pushed into the labor market by welfare reform, she decided to do some good old-fashioned journalism and find out just how they were going to survive on the wages of the unskilled--at $6 to $7 an hour, only half of what is considered a living wage ... read more
4.Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission (Paperback)
Hampton Sides

[Sides] liberates his story from documentary and turns it into epic. . . . More than any monument, Ghost Soldiers is the memorial both prisoners and liberators deserve... read more
5.The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World (Paperback)
Michael Pollan

Working in his garden one day, Michael Pollan hit pay dirt in the form of an idea: do plants, he wondered, use humans as much as we use them? While the question is not entirely original, the way Pollan examines this complex coevolution by looking at the natural world from the perspective of plants is unique... read more
6.Seabiscuit: An American Legend (Paperback)
Laura Hillenbrand

He didn't look like much. With his smallish stature, knobby knees, and slightly crooked forelegs, he looked more like a cow pony than a thoroughbred. But looks aren't everything; his quality, an admirer once wrote, "was mostly in his heart." Laura Hillenbrand tells the story of the horse who became a cultural icon in Seabiscuit: An American Legend... read more
7.John Adams (Paperback)
David McCullough

Left to his own devices, John Adams might have lived out his days as a Massachusetts country lawyer, devoted to his family and friends. As it was, events swiftly overtook him, and Adams--who, David McCullough writes, was "not a man of the world" and not fond of politics--came to greatness as the second president of the United States, and one of the most distinguished of a generation of revolutionary leaders... read more
8.Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood (Paperback)
Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks's luminous memoir charts the growth of a mind. Born in 1933 into a family of formidably intelligent London Jews, he discovered the wonders of the physical sciences early from his parents and their flock of brilliant siblings, most notably "Uncle Tungsten" (real name, Dave), who "manufactured lightbulbs with filaments of fine tungsten wire." ... read more
9.Bel Canto (P.S.) (Paperback)
Ann Patchett

In an unnamed South American country, a world-renowned soprano sings at a birthday party in honor of a visiting Japanese industrial titan. His hosts hope that Mr. Hosokawa can be persuaded to build a factory in their Third World backwater. Alas, in the opening sequence, just as the accompanist kisses the soprano, a ragtag band of 18 terrorists enters the vice-presidential mansion through the air conditioning ducts... read more
10.Hostage: A Novel (Mass Market Paperback)
Robert Crais

Robert Crais is the real thing: a writer who keeps topping himself. Last year, after eight popular books featuring private eye Elvis Cole (including L.A. Requiem and Voodoo River), he produced Demolition Angel, his first standalone suspense novel. Its complex, multidimensional hero was a damaged cop haunted by her past failures... read more
11.Perdido Street Station (Paperback)
China Mieville

When Mae West said, "Too much of a good thing can be wonderful," she could have been talking about China Mieville's Perdido Street Station. The novel's publication met with a burst of extravagant praise from Big Name Authors and was almost instantly a multiaward finalist... read more
12.The Land
Mildred D. Taylor

The Land is Mildred D. Taylor's wonderful prequel to her Newbery Medal winner, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. In the stories Taylor has to tell, life is not fair, hard work doesn't always pay off, and the good guy doesn't always win.... read more
13.Soul Survivor: How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church (Paperback)
Philip Yancey

Like many Christians, Philip Yancey has often felt kicked around, abused, and damaged by the institutional church. And like many Christians, he has found solace in reading about and getting to know some extraordinary individual believers. He profiles 13 of those believers in Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church... read more
14.An Intimate Look at the Night Sky (Paperback)
Chet Raymo

What kind of intimacy can one have with a universe of 100 billion galaxies, each galaxy containing one trillion stars...?" asks astronomer and Boston Globe science columnist Raymo (365 Starry Nights, etc.). He offers two answers... read more
15.Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table
Ruth Reichl

Ruth Reichl's first book, the autobiographical Tender at the Bone, disarmed readers with its droll candor. The former restaurant critic of The New York Times and editor in chief of Gourmet magazine told great stories about growing up and loving food. Comfort Me with Apples begins where the first book ended... read more
16.The Sword Maiden (Mass Market Paperback)
Susan King

Blacksmith Lachlann MacKerron has loved beautiful and wise Eva MacArthur, daughter of the clan chieftain, since they were children. What he doesn't know is that she loves him, too. Believing that a future for them is impossible, Lachlann leaves Scotland to fight with Joan of Arc in France. When he returns--bitter, disillusioned, scarred, and doubting his ability to craft the miraculous swords he once created... read more
17.I, the Divine
Rabih Alameddine

Talk about writer's block; Sarah Nour El-Din never manages to get past the first chapter of the memoir she aspires to pen. Alameddine's innovative novel collects several dozen of (fictional) Sarah's aborted attempts, a structural gimmick that works to create a revealing composite of a character who can't seem to finish her own story... read more
18.Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife (Paperback)
David Burnie

Over 2,000 species, from the tiny spider mite to the massive blue whale, are profiled in DK's astonishingly wonderful Animal, produced in cooperation with the Smithsonian Institution and more than 70 expert zoologists... read more
19.Empire Falls (Paperback)
Richard Russo

Like most of Richard Russo's earlier novels, Empire Falls is a tale of blue-collar life, which itself increasingly resembles a kind of high-wire act performed without the benefit of any middle-class safety nets. This time, though, the author has widened his scope, producing a comic and compelling ensemble piece... read more
20.Fast Food Nation (Paperback)
Eric Schlosser

On any given day, one out of four Americans opts for a quick and cheap meal at a fast-food restaurant, without giving either its speed or its thriftiness a second thought. Fast food is so ubiquitous that it now seems as American, and harmless, as apple pie. But the industry's drive for consolidation, homogenization, and speed has radically transformed America's diet, landscape, economy, and workforce, often in insidiously destructive ways... read more
21.The Invention of Clouds: How an Amateur Meteorologist Forged the Language of the Skies
Richard Hamblyn

British science writer Richard Hamblyn skillfully blends biography with scientific and cultural history to capture for modern readers the remarkable achievement of Luke Howard (1772-1864), the quiet Quaker whose classification of cloud types we still employ today... read more
22.Troy (Paperback)
Adele Geras

Homer's mighty epic poem, The Iliad, is the earliest written literature of Western civilization. Adele Geras, best known for her trilogy based on Sleeping Beauty, takes on the seemingly impertinent task of retelling the siege of Troy as a young adult novel, but manages to carry it off without trivializing the original... read more
Connie Willis

Most of us would rather not spend a lot of time contemplating death, but the characters in Connie Willis's novel Passage make a living at it. Joanna Lander is a medical researcher specializing in Near Death Experiences (NDEs) and how the brain constructs them. Her partner in this endeavor is Richard Wright, a single-minded scientist who induces NDEs in healthy people by injecting a compound that tricks the brain into thinking it's dying... read more
24.Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw
Mark Bowden

Readers of Black Hawk Down know Mark Bowden can tell an exciting story about as well as any writer at work today. Killing Pablo is further proof. It describes the rise and fall of Pablo Escobar, a notorious Colombian drug lord who became one of the narcotic trade's first billionaires... read more
25.Last Breath: Cautionary Tales from the Limits of Human Endurance
Peter Stark

Prepare to have some of your greatest fears laid bare in this collection of riveting, and often terrifying, "cautionary tales from the limits of human endurance." Based on interviews with accident survivors and the medical specialists who treat them, veteran outdoor writer Peter Stark offers mostly fictitious accounts (there is one based on a true historical incident) of people caught in life-threatening situations ... read more

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