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Original Essays | September 18, 2014

Lin Enger: IMG Knowing vs. Knowing



On a hot July evening years ago, my Toyota Tercel overheated on a flat stretch of highway north of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. A steam geyser shot up from... Continue »

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The 2002 Golden Galoshes

 

A while back, we invited you to tell us the best book you read in the first year of the new millennium. We were thrilled with the response. Literally thousands of you cast your vote for the 2002 Puddly Awards. So who did you choose to wear this year's Golden Galoshes? Actually, you chose over a thousand different titles. We consolidated this list down to the fifty titles that received the most votes.

    this way to last year's puddly winners

Just to mix things up, while we were asking you to cast your Puddly votes, we also asked our fellow employees to name the best book they read last year. Their subsequent list of fifty favorites is provided here as a complement to the regular Puddly Awards.




Fast Food Nation
Fast Food Nation

by Eric Schlosser




The Amazine Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Amazing Adventures
of Kavalier and Clay

  by Michael Chabon


 

1 Fast Food Nation
  by Eric Schlosser
2 The Amazing Adventures
of Kavalier and Clay

  by Michael Chabon
3 His Dark Materials trilogy
  by Philip Pullman
4 Jimmy Corrigan
  by Chris Ware
5 In the City of Shy Hunters
  by Tom Spanbauer
6 Disgrace
  by J. M. Coetzee
7 Austerlitz
  by W. G. Sebald
8 The Lord of the Rings
  by J. R. R. Tolkien
9 Cruddy
  by Lynda Barry
10 The Corrections
  by Jonathan Franzen
11 Me Talk Pretty One Day
  by David Sedaris
12 The Botany of Desire
  by Michael Pollan
13 Observatory Mansions
  by Edward Carey
14 Declare
  by Tim Powers
15 Jihad vs. McWorld
  by Benjamin R. Barber
16 Norwegian Wood
  by Haruki Murakami
17 The Tin Drum
  by Gunter Grass
18 The Red Tent
  by Anita Diamant
19 Doomsday Book
  by Connie Willis
20 Kitchen Confidential
  by Anthony Bourdain
21 Bel Canto
  by Ann Patchett
22 Seabiscuit
  by Laura Hillenbrand
23 Shopgirl
  by Steve Martin
24 Empire Falls
  by Richard Russo
25 Artemis Fowl
  by Eoin Colfer
26 Lying Awake
  by Mark Salzman
27 About the Author
  by John Colapinto
28 Case of Dr. Sachs
  by Martin Winckler
29 About a Boy
  by Nick Hornby
30 Nickel and Dimed
  by Barbara Ehrenreich
31 An Invisible Sign of My Own
  by Aimee Bender
32 A Girl Named Zippy
  by Haven Kimmel
33 Plainsong
  by Kent Haruf
34 Mason & Dixon
  by Thomas Pynchon
35 Pale Fire
  by Vladimir Nabokov
36 Geek Love
  by Katherine Dunn
37 Tess of the D'Urbervilles
  by Thomas Hardy
38 Hateship, Friendship,
Courtship, Loveship, Marriage

  by Alice Munro
39 Letters to Wendy's
  by Joe Wenderoth
40 The Harry Potter Series
  by J. K. Rowling
41 Newjack
  by Ted Conover
42 Peace Like a River
  by Leif Enger
43 Choke
  by Chuck Palahniuk
44 John Adams
  by David McCullough
45 Gob's Grief
  by Chris Adrian
 46 Word Freak
  by Stefan Fatsis
47 Passage
  by Connie Willis
48 The Shipping News
  by Annie Proulx
 49 Ghost Soldiers
  by Hampton Sides
50 True History of the Kelly Gang
  by Peter Carey

The Harry Potter Series

The Harry Potter Series
by J. K. Rowling


John Adams
John Adams
by David McCullough

#1
The Harry Potter Series
by J. K. Rowling


The Harry Potter SeriesWhat is there to say about the phenomenal Harry Potter series? J. K. Rowling's ongoing fantasy series about a mischievous boy making his adventurous way through Hogwarts School for Witchcraft has done for the world of books what John, Paul, George, and Ringo did four decades ago for pop music. Pottermania is this generation's British invasion — without the moppy hair.
   harry potter boxed set
   harry potter No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4
   visit our harry potter page
#2
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
by Michael Chabon


The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay"I'm not sure what the exact definition of a 'great American novel' is, but I'm pretty sure that Michael Chabon's sprawling, idiosyncratic, and wrenching new book is one." Daniel Mendelsohn, New York Magazine
   read more about this title
  
read the powells.com interview
  winner of the 2001 pulitzer prize for fiction


#3
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
by J. R. R. Tolkien


The Lord of the Rings"No imaginary world has been projected which is at once so multifarious and so true....Here are beauties which pierce like swords and burn like cold iron." C. S. Lewis
   visit our lord of the rings page
#4
The Corrections
by Jonathan Franzen


The Corrections"Yes, there are a million novels on just this theme, but none move so perfectly between black comedy and tragic pathos; none are written with such swooping lyric intensity; none make so overt the link between the kitsch — the junk food — of Middle American dreaming (turkey in the oven, the kids all home playing touch football) and the unhappy realities it tries to stave off and cannot. What this man writes is true, and what is true indicts us." Sven Birkerts, Esquire
   read more about this title
  read the powells.com interview
  read the entire esquire review


#5
Prodigal Summer
by Barbara Kingsolver


Prodigal Summer"A complex web of human and natural struggle and interdependency is analyzed with an invigorating mixture of intelligence and warmth....Kingsolver doesn't hesitate to lecture us, but her lessons are couched in a context of felt life so thick with recognition and implication that we willingly absorb them. This deservedly popular writer takes risks that most of her contemporaries wouldn't touch with the proverbial ten-foot pole. Prodigal Summer is another triumphant vindication of her very distinctive art. " Kirkus Reviews
   read more about this title
  read an excerpt #6
The Poisonwood Bible
by Barbara Kingsolver


The Poisonwood Bible"With the publication of The Poisonwood Bible, this easy, humorous, competent, syrupy writer has been elevated to the ranks of the greatest political novelists of our time. She is something new: a political novelist who is careful not to step on anyone's toes. Barbara Kingsolver does not finally give a hoot about Africa." Lee Siegel, The New Republic
   read more about this title

#7
The Red Tent
by Anita Diamant


The Red Tent"Diamant vividly conjures up the ancient world of caravans, farmers, midwives, slaves, and artisans...her Dinah is a compelling narrator that has timeless resonance." Merle Rubin, The Christian Science Monitor
   read more about this title
  read an excerpt #8
The Blind Assassin
by Margaret Atwood


The Blind Assassin"[An] absorbing new novel, of all the author's books to date, The Blind Assassin is most purely a work of entertainment — an expertly rendered Daphne du Maurieresque tale that showcases Ms. Atwood's narrative powers and her ardent love of the Gothic." Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
   read more about this title
  winner of the 2000 booker prize

   read an excerpt
#9
John Adams
by David McCullough


John Adams"Given that your average American learned much of his country's history at that show at Disney World with the scary automatons in goofy Amadeus-era tights, it's no small feat that this narrative succeeds so marvelously well at rendering all these players of early American history human....Here is a book that's so good it'll make you shiver." Adrienne Miller, Esquire
   read more about this title
  read the entire esquire review

   read an excerpt #10
American Gods
by Neil Gaiman


American Gods"...American Gods is a crackerjack suspense yarn with an ending that both surprises and makes perfect sense, as well as many passages of heady, imagistic writing." Laura Miller, Salon.com
   read more about this title
  read the entire salon review

   read a letter from Neil Gaiman to powells.com

#11
A Painted House

by John Grisham

A Painted House"John Grisham's A Painted House is the best kind of book. By the time you turn the last page, you're so involved with the characters, you want to know what happens to them afterward." The Denver Post
   read more about this title

#12
His Dark Materials Trilogy

by Philip Pullman


His Dark Materials Trilogy"Philip Pullman is a writer I very much admire. I think he can write most adult authors off the page....I think he's amazing." J. K. Rowling
   read more about these titles
   read the powells.com interivew
#13
White Teeth

by Zadie Smith


White Teeth"Clearly, Smith does not lack for powers of invention. The problem is that there is too much of it....At her best, she approaches her characters and makes them human; she is much more interested in this, and more naturally gifted at it, than is Rushdie. For a start, her minor Dickensian caricatures and grotesques, the petty filaments of this book, often glow....[H]er book lacks moral seriousness. But her details are often instantly convincing, both funny and moving. They justify themselves." James Woods, The New Republic
   read more about this title
  read the entire new republic review

#14
Fast Food Nation

by Eric Schlosser


Fast Food Nation"Forget the urban legends about rats in chicken buckets and bodily fluids in the deep-fryer. Eric Schlosser's new Extra Value Meal of a tome is Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential with twice the heart and one-tenth the budget. Incomprehensibly svelte (from the neck up, anyway, in his jacket photo), Schlosser ate 'an enormous amount of fast food' during the two fry-soaked years he spent researching Fast Food Nation, and fortunately for us, he lived to tell the tale." Rebecca Schuman, Esquire
   read more about this title
  read the entire esquire review
  read an excerpt
#15
A Fine Balance

by Rohinton Mistry


A Fine Balance"Those who continue to harp on the inevitable decline of the novel ought to hold off for a while. The unique task of the genre, after all, is truthfulness to human experience in all its variety, and thanks to the great migrations of population in our time, human variety is to be found in replenished abundance all around us....Consider Rohinton Mistry....Rhoninton Mistry needs no infusions of magical realism to vivify the real. The real world, through his eyes, is quite magical enough." A. G. Mojtabai, New York Times Book Review
   read more about this title

#16
Empire Falls

by Richard Russo


"Richard Russo first made his reputation with a series of blue-collar novels that suggested a more antic and expansive Raymond Carver. But by the time he published Straight Man, in 1997, Russo was clearly interested in breaking new ground, and that foray into academic farce showed off his comic timing and sneaky construction to superb effect. Now comes Empire Falls, the author's most ambitious work to date." James Marcus, Atlantic Online
   read more about this title
   read the powells.com interview
   read the entire atlantic online review here

#17
Me Talk Pretty One Day

by David Sedaris


"The joy of each piece is in the reading itself….Each essay is a delight, and explores the different worlds of family, city, and foreign countries in a consistent voice and rhythm....Some, in fact, are among the best things Sedaris has written." The Boston Book Review
   read more about this title
   read an excerpt
#18
Peace Like a River

by Leif Enger


"I'm urging this book on you because it is written in prose tart and crisp as a Minnesota Autumn. Peace Like a River is seductive and chatty and deliciously American and there are passages so wondrous and wise you'll want to claw yourself with pleasure." Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes and 'Tis
   read more about this title
   read an excerpt
#19
The Fiery Cross

by Diana Gabaldon


Diana Gabaldon mesmerized readers with her award-winning Outlander novels, four dazzling New York Times bestsellers featuring 18th-century Scotsman James Fraser and his 20th-century time-traveling wife, Claire Randall. Now, in this eagerly awaited fifth volume, Diana Gabaldon continues their extraordinary saga....
   read more about this title

#20
Bel Canto

by Ann Patchett


"This is a story of passionate, doomed love; of the glory of art; of the triumph of our shared humanity over the forces that divide us, and a couple of other unbearably cheesy themes, and yet Patchett makes it work, completely." Laura Miller, Salon.com
   read more about this title
  read the entire salon review
  read the powells.com interview

#21
Girl With a Pearl Earring

by Tracy Chevalier


"Tracy Chevalier has so vividly imagined the life of the painter and his subject that you say to yourself: This is the way it must have been." The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
  read more about this title
  read an excerpt

#22
Seabiscuit: An American Legend

by Laura Hillenbrand


"Seabiscuit was a great horse, perhaps the best ever, running in one of the worst decades ever, the Great Depression, bringing excitement and pleasure to millions of Americans when they needed those emotions desperately. This is more than a fine piece of writing about the sport of racing; it is also about our history. I wish all sportswriters could write like this." Stephen Ambrose, author of Undaunted Courage
   read more about this title

#23
Black House

by Stephen King & Peter Straub


"Like much of King and Straub's previous work, this novel contains innocent, sorrowing children, adults in search of redemption, and a cast of sharply drawn townspeople. The measured pace of the prose and the authors' careful descriptions of the characters' interior lives make this as much a novel about the fragility of happiness and normality in middle-class communities as a novel about monsters, alternate worlds, and madmen." Book Magazine
   read more about this title
  read an excerpt

#24
The Bible


The bestselling book in all of history.
   visit out bible section

#25
Children of God

by Mary Doria Russell


"...a tragic, haunting parable about moral justice that miraculously avoids all of the usual clichés and even subverts some of them. Here, for a change, is a sequel that counts." Tom De Haven, Entertainment Weekly
   read more about this title

#26
Ahab's Wife: The Star-Gazer

by Sena Jeter Naslund


"Ahab's Wife is an epic tour de force, and deserves its rightful place next to Melville's classic. Ambitious, powerful, heartbreaking, and transcendent at once, Una Spenser's tale of a life fully lived gives us what we crave: a compelling story beautifully told. This is a great American novel." Brett Lott
   read more about this title
  read an excerpt

#27
Bridget Jones's Diary

by Helen Fielding


"Newspaper columnist Fielding's first effort, a bestseller in Britain, lives up to the hype. This year in the life of a single woman is closely observed and laugh-out-loud funny....Fielding's diarist raises prickly insecurities to an art form, turns bad men into good anecdotes, and shows that it is possible to have both a keen eye for irony and a generous heart." Kirkus Reviews
   read more about this title
  read the powells.com interview

#28
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

by Dave Eggers


"It's James Joyce, back from the dead!....And he's got some Proust in him, the little 29-year-old-jerk, he's got the trammeling thoroughness of Proust's observation, his honest observations of artifice. The book is fine and different for earnest reasons, too....How generous of him to write this for us, to reveal all this so fearlessly, like Joyce, like Proust." Susan Salter Reynolds, The Los Angeles Times Book Review
   read more about this title
  read an excerpt

#29
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America

by Barbara Ehrenreich


"We have Barbara Ehrenreich to thank for bringing us the news of America's working poor so clearly and directly, and conveying with it a deep moral outrage and a finely textured sense of lives as lived. As Michael Harrington was, she is now our premier reporter of the underside of capitalism." Dorothy Gallagher, New York Times Book Review
   read more about this title

#30
Cryptonomicon

by Neal Stephenson


"[T]he temptation to transcribe long passages is strong, so strong. Cryptonomicon is compulsively readable (with the Read This Part Out Loud alarm sounding every few pages), very smart, very funny, and just as often very grim." Russell Letson, Locus
  read more about this title
  read an excerpt

#31
The Hobbit

by J. R. R. Tolkien


"Seventeen years ago there appeared, without any fanfare, a book called The Hobbit which in my opinion, is one of the best children's stories of this century." W. H. Auden, The New York Times Book Review, 1954
   read more about this title
  visit our j. r. r. tolkien page

#32
Motherless Brooklyn

by Jonathan Lethem


"The best novel of the year....Utterly original and deeply moving." Esquire
  read more about this title
  winner of the 1999 national book critics circle award
   read an excerpt
#33
House of Sand and Fog

by Andre Dubus III

"Elegant and powerful...an unusual and volatile...literary thriller." The Washington Post Book World
   read more about this title
  read an excerpt


#34
Dreamcatcher

by Stephen King

"King supplies enough spooky effects and space aliens to meet his usual quota of weird frissons... But beneath all that, there is also a new urgency....It makes for great midnight reading." Janet Maslin, New York Times
   read more about this title

#35
A Confederacy of Dunces

by John Kennedy Toole

"What a delight, what a roaring, rollicking, footstomping wonder this book is! I laughed until my sides ached, and then I laughed on....[Ignatious J. Reilly is] huge, obese, fractious, fastidious, a latter-day Gargantua, a Don Quixote of the French Quarter. His story bursts with wholly original characters denizens of New Orleans' lower depths, incredibly true-to-life dialogue, and the zaniest series of high and low comic adventures." Henry Kisor, The Chicago Sun-Times
   read more about this title

#36
Bee Season
by Myla Goldberg

"There is such joy and pain thrumming inside Myla Goldberg's spelling bees! She delicately captures one family's spinning out by concentrating equally on the beauty and the despair. Bee Season is a heartbreaking first novel." Aimee Bender, author of The Girl in the Flammable Skirt
   read more about this title
  read an excerpt
#37
Memoirs of a Geisha

by Arthur Golden

"A scholar of Japanese art and history, Golden is intimate with his material, and it shows in his reconstruction of Gion in the 1930s and '40s....Sayuri's voice never falters — it is, to the end, utterly consistent. Memoirs of a Geisha is a breathtaking performance twice over, once by its bewitching central figure, and once by the masterful puppeteer who has given her life." Janice Nimura, The Washington Post Book World
   read more about this title
#38
The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World

by Michael Pollan

"A lovely book that succeeds in attaining that most elusive of states: grace." Adrienne Miller, Esquire
   read more about this title
  read the entire esquire review
  read an excerpt
#39
The Bonesetter's Daughter

by Amy Tan

"Amy Tan [has] done it again....The Bonesetter’s Daughter tells a compelling tale of family relationships; it layers and stirs themes of secrets, ambiguous meanings, cultural complexity and self-identity; and it resonates with metaphor and symbol." The Denver Post
   read more about this title
  read an excerpt
#40
Cold Mountain

by Charles Frazier

"This novel is magnificent — in every conceivable aspect....Cold Mountain is one of the great accomplishments in American literature." Rick Bass
   read more about this title
  winner of the national book award for fiction
#41
The Shipping News

by Annie Proulx

"The Shipping News is alive in every sense of the word...Proulx has George Eliot's gift of loving observation — her vision is wise and generous." The Boston Globe
   read more about this title

#42
The Onion Girl

by Charles de Lint

"To read de Lint is to fall under the spell of a master storyteller, to be reminded of the greatness of life, of the beauty and majesty lurking in shadows and empty doorways." Quill and Quire
   read more about this title

#43
Shopgirl

by Steve Martin

"Readers should be grateful to have such an elegant and insightful guide to the human heart. That it is wrapped in such a tender and enchanting story makes it all the more valuable." Georgie Lewis, Powells.com
  read more about this title
  read the entire powells.com review

#44
Carter Beats the Devil

by Glen David Gold

"...Gold's material is utterly irresistible — flappers, bootleggers, Secret Service goons, beautiful magician's assistants, icky mobsters — and it's impossible not to be engrossed." Adrienne Miller, Esquire
   read more about this title
  read the entire esquire review

#45
The Left Behind series

by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

"Though full of diatribes and unflattering portrayals of women, liberals, Jews, Californians and the media, Left Behind is suspenseful and surprisingly well written." John D. Spalding, The Christian Century
   read more about this title

#46
Choke
by Chuck Palahniuk

"Those perverse truths and urges you prefer to forget, [Palahniuk] jots down on cocktail napkins – and turns them into fictions that are as darkly comic and starkly terrifying as your high school yearbook photo." GQ
   read more about this title
  read the powells.com interview

#47
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

by Anthony Bourdain

"The guy is hysterical…in a style partaking of Hunter S. Thompson, Iggy Pop and a little Jonathan Swift, Bourdain gleefully rips through the scenery to reveal private backstage horrors." The New York Times Book Review
   read more about this title
  read the powells.com interview

#48
Interpreter of Maladies: Stories

by Jhumpa Lahiri

"In these stories she exercises fine judgment in cutting out each precise narrative shape; but her hand is hidden in her sleeve, so that her narratives, like Alice Munro's, seem to have found their natural, sinuous, organic form."
Hilary Mantel, New York Review of Books
   read more about this title
   winner of the 2000 pulitzer prize for fiction
   read an excerpt
#49
Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen

"A little aloof, a little inscrutable and mysterious, she will always remain, but serene and beautiful also because of her greatness as an artist." Virginia Woolf, Times Literary Supplement, 1913
   read more about this title

#50
'Tis

by Frank McCourt

"McCourt's prose is still distinguished by his perfect pitch. His dialogue is second to none, precise, evocative....Powerful and haunting, this second book will cement his reputation as an accomplished and important writer." Caitlin Flanagan, San Francisco Chronicle
  read more about this title
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