And the winners are...
1. Bloodroot, by Amy Greene
This debut novel by Appalachian writer Amy Greene is an epic, incandescent, hard-hitting story that moved me more than any other book I read this year. The violence is shattering, as is the experience of reading the book, but alongside the harshness is beautiful writing and an unforgettable story.
2. Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie
Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun explodes off the page with the passion of its characters and the anguish of the Biafran War in Nigeria. Adichie excels at capturing the emotional landscape of the country as well as the nuances between the characters.
3. Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates
Please see my recent post. Bottom line - I couldn't put it down.
4. Invisible, by Paul Auster
Of the four Auster novels that I read this year, Invisible was my favorite. Some words that come to mind - disturbing, shocking, intriguing, and full of surprises. I read it in two sittings. Auster may be too, well, austere for some readers, but his lack of warmth is made up for the sheer pleasure of never knowing what path the story will take.
5. Strength in What Remains, by Tracy Kidder
I've been a long-time fan of Tracy Kidder. Strength in What Remains tells the true story of a young man named Deo from Burundi who flees the genocide in his country and lands in NYC with $200 in his pocket and little else. Through his determination and persistence, as well as the kindness of strangers, Deo gets a degree at Columbia University and goes on to medical school. Other great books by Kidder include Mountains Beyond Mountains (which tells the story of Paul Farmer) and Hometown (about Northampton, MA).