Outstanding fiction, nonfiction and poetry titles named to 2011 Notable Books List for adult readers

SAN DIEGO—The Notable Books Council of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division of the American Library Association, has announced its selections for the 2011 Notable Books List.

Since 1944, the goal of the Notable Books Council has been to make available to the nation’s readers a list of about 25 very good, very readable, and at times very important fiction, nonfiction, and poetry books for the adult reader. A book may be selected for inclusion on the Notable Books List if it possesses exceptional literary merit; expands the horizons of human knowledge; makes a specialized body of knowledge accessible to the non-specialist; has the potential to contribute significantly to the solution of a contemporary problem; and/or presents a unique concept.

The winners were selected by the Notable Books Council, whose members include A. Issac Pulver, Saratoga Springs Public Library, chair; Terry Beck, Sno-Isle Libraries; Susie Brown, Shaker Heights Public Library; Julie Elliott, Indiana University South Bend; Bill Kelly, Cuyahoga County Public Library; Elizabeth Olesh, Nassau Library System; Jessica Pigza, New York Public Library; Nancy Pearl; Heather Robideaux, Fayetteville Public Library; Nonny Schlotzhauer, Penn State University; Andrea Slonosky and Valerie Morgan Taylor, Great Falls Library.

The 2011 winners are:


“Nashville Chrome” by Rick Bass. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 9780547317267.

This lovely and unsettling account of pop trio The Browns reels you in as though the concept of rags to riches were brand new.

“Room: A Novel” by Emma Donoghue. Little, Brown. 9780316098335.

Five-year-old Jack vividly narrates the story of his life confined in a room with his mother in this unsettling exploration of resilience and hope.

“A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan. Knopf. 9780307592835.

A‘70s punk band becomes the touchstone for a motley crew who spin their interconnected stories over time and distance.

“Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter” by Tom Franklin. William Morrow. 9780060594664.

Two men – one black, one white – must confront the secrets surrounding their childhood friendship following the disappearance of two girls in rural Mississippi.

“Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 9780374158460.

This incisive portrait of the fractured Berglund brood captures the zeitgeist of contemporary America.

“Next” by James Hynes. Reagan Arthur. 9780316051927.

Welcome to the worst day of Kevin Quinn’s life as he battles the anxieties of the modern world in steamy Austin, Texas.

“The Surrendered” by Chang Rae Lee. Riverhead. 9781594489761.

The complex entangled lives of three people forever scarred by the Korean War are sympathetically portrayed in gorgeous prose.

“Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War” by Karl Marlantes.  Atlantic Monthly Press. 9780802119285.

An ambitious and idealistic American Marine faces the horror, heroism, futility, and pragmatism of war in this visceral portrayal of life in-country.

“The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel” by David Mitchell. Random House. 9781400065455.

A young clerk attempts to establish himself in the artificial and intense world of Dejima, the Dutch trading colony in 1800s Japan.

“Skippy Dies” by Paul Murray. Faber and Faber. 9780865479432.

Filled warmth and humor, this coming-of-age novel set in a Dublin boys schools is a sprawling homage to adolescence, string theory, donuts, and unrequited love.

“The Lotus Eaters” by Tatjana Soli. St. Martin’s. 9780312611576.

The adrenaline high that danger offers infects photojournalist Helen Adams as she documents the war in Vietnam.

“The Lonely Polygamist: A Novel” by Brady Udall. W.W.Norton. 9780393062625.

In this big-hearted novel, Golden Richards and his clan navigate their chaotic lives as each clamors to be noticed.


“Washington: A Life” by Ron Chernow. Penguin. 9781594202667.

A landmark biography provides insights into the complexities of this founding father’s character, and brings him fully to life within the context of his times.

“The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family’s Century of Art and Loss” by Edmund de Waal. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 9780374105976.

Blending history, biography and art, this personal account elegantly traces the fate of a European Jewish family and their collection of 246 netsuke.

“Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea” by Barbara Demick. Spiegel & Grau. 9780385523905.

Chronicling the experiences of six people, this powerful account draws back the curtain on the brutality of life under a totalitarian regime.

“Travels in Siberia” by Ian Frazier. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 9780374278724.

Stricken by “Russia love,” a writer sets out to experience all things Siberian and takes us along for the rollicking journey.

“The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness” by Oren Harman. W.W. Norton. 9780393067781.

This moving work provides insight into the mind of a tormented genius attempting to understand an illusive aspect of human nature.

“Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition” by Daniel Okrent. Scribner. 9780743277020.

This intoxicating history of the 18th amendment reveals the surprising relationship between Prohibition and other social movements, and explores its lasting impact on American life.

“Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour” by Lynne Olson. Random House. 9781400067589.

In this compelling portrait three influential individuals persuade a reluctant President to come to the aid of a beleaguered nation in the early days of WWII.

“The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn” by Nathaniel Philbrick. Viking. 9780670021727.

An epic encounter between two iconic individuals is vividly portrayed in fluid, evocative, and decidedly objective prose.

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot. Crown. 9781400052172.

A science writer uncovers the fascinating story of an African-American woman’s cancer cells harvested for medical research, thereby raising important questions of bioethics.

“Just Kids” by Patti Smith. Ecco. 9780066211312.

The poet and musician’s endearing memoir about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe captures life and art in New York City during the 1960s and ‘70s.

“The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival” by John Vaillant. Knopf. 9780307268938.

Russia’s ecological and cultural history serves as the backdrop for this riveting adventure tale of man versus beast

“The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” by Isabel Wilkerson. Random House. 9780679444329.

The 20th century exodus of over 6 million Black Americans from the South is sensitively retold through the lives of three who left.


“Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty: Poems” by Tony Hoagland. Graywolf Press. 9781555975494.

These poems capture the absurdities and loneliness of American life using matter of fact language and humor.

“Wait: Poems” by C.K. Williams. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 9780374285913.

A lifetime of experience is distilled into a slim but significant volume of verse by this Pulitzer and National Book Award winning poet.


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