Best of Pages

updated 12/31/2001 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/31/2001 AT 01:00 AM EST

The Corrections
They're bizarre. They're terrifying. They're funny. They're family. This National Book Award winner is the year's most dazzlingly stylish novel. The author may have stumbled oafishly when he compared his planned visit to discuss the book on Oprah Winfrey's show to a "little coffee klatch" (see page 86), but on the page he is a prince. Franzen is as at ease satirizing miracle pills and financial frenzy as he is peering into the silent rage and tangled longings of deeply unhappy people posing as successful citizens. He is a rare and powerful novelist who sees into every corner of life in turn-of-the-century America.

Back When We Were Grownups
In another of Tyler's warm and big-hearted novels, a middle-aged woman whose four daughters are grown takes a breather to look back on her life and wonders how she became "this person who's not really me." Revisiting a relationship with a high school beau, she starts to take a few baby steps along the road not taken.

Seabiscuit: An American Legend
A knobby-kneed runt became one of the most celebrated athletes in the world, but it's the Runyonesque characters—the one-eyed jockey, the bike mechanic who turned 21 cents into a fortune—surrounding the famed 1930s horse who keep this story perfectly on track.

Close to Shore
In July of 1916, the Jersey Shore was the place to be. Newspapers reported on a scandalous new fad in bathing attire: Women had begun exposing their knees. Tourists came from all over. At least one even visited from as far as the Gulf Stream: a great white shark that proceeded to attack five people, killing four. Capuzzo's book is a portrait of an era as much as an exercise in terror.

Mystic River
Three teenage boys in a gritty Boston neighborhood in the 1970s endure a devastating event that will re-center all of their lives. Twenty-five years later, one of the friends is a detective, one is the father of a murder victim—and the third may be the murderer. Lehane's chilling, forceful style elevates a thriller into literature.

Empire Falls
Rusty old mill towns never sparkled so brightly. With a deadpan wit and an inexhaustible lode of delightfully off-kilter supporting characters, Russo guides us through the family trials of Miles Roby, a decent guy trying to run a diner in a hard-luck burg in working-class Maine. Moving back and forth in time, Russo shows us every emotional ingredient in the making of a family and a community.

The Last Time They Met
In the page-turner of the year, two former lovers bump into each other at a writers' conference. There is a deep sense of loss and pain. But why? As the story travels backward in time, the mood grows darker and the unease builds steadily to a pay-off as unforgettable as the one in The Sixth Sense.

Kissing in Manhattan
By turns winsome and wise, scary and sexy, this surreal collection of intertwined stories celebrates an assortment of unpredictable oddballs pursuing love and other mysteries that intersect in a single Upper West Side apartment building. The tales are as tantalizing as the city, and nearly as weird.

John Adams
Who would have guessed that John Adams would ever be more talked about than Michael Jackson? As he did in 1992 with his Pulitzer Prize-winning Truman, McCullough has single-handedly upgraded the perception of an American President previously overshadowed by his contemporaries. McCullough's Adams is both a revolutionary to rival Thomas Jefferson—the sometime friend who unseated him in the White House—and a family man. His tender letters to his wife, Abigail, from the Continental Congress tell the story of an enduring love affair.

The Dying Animal
A lecherous professor lures a beautiful young woman into his web of words, clinging angrily to her youth as he hits 70. He's a reptile, but Roth, amazingly, makes you feel what he feels. The final twist is both sad and a perfect comeuppance. Few novelists have been this good for this long.


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