It was a year for memoirs—and some fine fiction
•A Widow's Walk
by Marian Fontana
A playwright, comedian, mother and gifted storyteller, Fontana wrote a poignant, beautifully observed memoir about her life after her husband, New York City firefighter Dave Fontana, died in the World Trade Center's South Tower on September 11, 2001.
•The Year of Magical Thinking
by Joan Didion
Her anguished chronicle of the months following her husband's death won a National Book Award—and is Broadway-bound.
•Beasts of No Nation
by Uzodinma Iweala
Straightforward storytelling underscores the drama of this dazzling first novel about a boy soldier in West Africa.
•The Glass Castle
by Jeannette Walls
Any memoir that starts with its author finding her homeless mom raiding a Dumpster gets our vote. Beautifully written, too.
by Zadie Smith
The author of White Teeth
delivers a smartly paced tale about race, star-crossed lovers and a family feud in academia.
•The Lincoln Lawyer
by Michael Connelly
Crave a sophisticated page-turner? Connelly has conjured up a true-to-life courthouse thriller with an intricately woven plot that will tempt you to pull an all-nighter.
•The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell
by John Crawford
A National Guardsman and college senior when he was sent to Iraq, Crawford offers a chilling view of the war that blasted his life apart.
by Ian McEwan
It lacks the breadth and brilliance of 2001's Atonement
—but that's quibbling. The story of a minor accident that nearly derails a complacent neurosurgeon's life, McEwan's ninth novel is a tour de force.
•The Myth of You and Me
by Leah Stewart
This second novel is the resonant story of a broken friendship. Interesting twists and fine writing.
•It's All Right Now
by Charles Chadwick
A remarkable first novel from a 72-year-old British civil servant, it's about a chatty anyman with a fascinating mundane life.