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Original Essays | July 22, 2014

Nick Harkaway: IMG The Florist-Assassins



The three men lit up in my mind's eye, with footnotes. They were converging on me — and on the object I was carrying — in a way that had... Continue »
  1. $18.87 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

    Tigerman

    Nick Harkaway 9780385352413

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The 2006 Golden Galoshes We asked you to tell us the best book you read in 2005 and you complied in spades! Thanks to all of you who voted, and congratulations to this year's winners of the Golden Galoshes: The Kite Runner (Fiction) and The Year of Magical Thinking (Nonfiction).

If, however, we were to present an Author of the Year Award, the honor would surely go to Neil Gaiman, whose Anansi Boys placed second in Fiction, and whose novels American Gods and Good Omens also made the top fifty. The only other authors to appear more than once on the list are Terry Pratchett (for Thud! and Good Omens) and Gregory Maguire (for Wicked and Son of a Witch). (In addition, American Gods and Anansi Boys also made the employees' list.)

Congratulations to all our winners! And if there's a title on this list you haven't read, may we humbly suggest you get cracking. You're missing out on some great reading!




The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini

The Year of Magical Thinking
The Year of Magical Thinking
by Joan Didion

 

While we were asking you to cast your Puddly votes, we also asked our fellow Powell's employees to name the best book they read last year. As a bonus, our fifty favorites are listed here.

  1. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
  2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling
  3. America (the Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction by Jon Stewart
  4. A Feast for Crows: A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 4 by George R. R. Martin
  5. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  6. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  7. Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell
  8. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
  9. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  10. Collapse by Jared Diamond
  11. The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch
  12. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
  13. Gilead by Maryilynn Robinson
  14. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  15. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
  16. Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender
  17. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
  18. Home Land by Sam Lipsyte
  19. Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
  20. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
  21. The Complete Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
  22. The Silver Spoon by the Editors of Phaidon Press
  23. The Tender Bar by J. R. Moehringer
  24. Collected Poems by Jane Kenyon
  25. Looking for Jake by China Miéville
  26. Mao by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday
  27. Black Hole by Charles Burns
  28. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
  29. A Crack in the Edge of the World by Simon Winchester
  30. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
  31. The Hot Kid by Elmore Leonard
  32. The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman
  33. Decreation: Poetry, Essays, Opera by Anne Carson
  34. The Orientalist by Tom Reiss
  35. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
  36. On Beauty by Zadie Smith
  37. Finding George Orwell in Burma by Emma Larkin
  38. The Turning: New Stories by Tim Winton
  39. Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul by Tony Hendra
  40. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
  41. March by Geraldine Brooks
  42. Saturday by Ian McEwan
  43. The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea
  44. The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw
  45. The Gun and the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East by David Hirst
  46. Nice Big American Baby by Judy Budnitz
  47. Perilous Times by Geoffrey Stone
  48. Right Nation: Conservative Power in America by John Micklethwait
  49. Being Dead Is No Excuse by Gayden Metcalfe
  50. Seven Types of Ambiguity by Elliot Perlman

 1.

The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner"In The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini gives us a vivid and engaging story that reminds us how long his people have been struggling to triumph over the forces of violence — forces that continue to threaten them even today." New York Times


 2.

Anansi Boys
by Neil Gaiman

Anansi Boys"Gaiman is witty and engaging, but his power is more as a storyteller than as a stylist, and I think what his fans find so appealing about his stories is that they are comforting, no matter how scary, like a good bedtime tale." Minneapolis Star Tribune


 3.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"This installment...while still salted with patches of humor and romance, is the most harrowing yet....At the beginning of this book, all hands are pointing toward 'Mortal peril'....Undoubtedly, that is where they will continue pointing until the resolution of the final book in this remarkable series." San Jose Mercury News


 4.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell"For all of her flights of postmodernist fancy, for all her stories about 'black towers' and magical books and hidden bridges that connect England to Faerie, Clarke has delivered a book of universal truths and unexpectedly heartbreaking acuity." Dallas-Ft. Worth Star Telegram


 5.

Time Traveler's Wife
by Audrey Niffenegger

Time Traveler's Wife"[A] highly original first novel....[A] soaring love story illuminated by dozens of finely observed details and scenes....[L]eaves a reader with an impression of life's riches and strangeness rather than of easy thrills." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)


 6.

Shadow of the Wind
by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Shadow of the Wind"[A] compelling labyrinth of stories that gracefully unfolds in layers, as if the novel were a Russian nesting doll....But this is also a book about love's poetic power to heal the wounds of the past and offer second chances." Miami Herald


 7.

Kafka on the Shore
by Haruki Murakami

Kafka on the Shore"[W]hile anyone can tell a story that resembles a dream, it's the rare artist, like this one, who can make us feel that we are dreaming it ourselves." Laura Miller, New York Times Book Review


 8.

The Historian
by Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian"Kostova may have outdone Stoker or even, for that matter, Hollywood's numerous Dracula reincarnations with her chilling revelation of what motivates her blood-thirsty monster. Before the sun sets, grab this book and take a long and satisfying drink." USA Today


 9.

Gilead
by Marilynne Robinson

Gilead"[R]eligious, somewhat essayistic and fiercely calm....Gilead is a beautiful work — demanding, grave and lucid." James Wood, New York Times Book Review


 10.

The Year of Magical Thinking"[A]n utterly shattering book that gives the reader an indelible portrait of loss and grief and sorrow, all chronicled in minute detail with the author's unwavering, reportorial eye....[P]rovides a haunting portrait of a four-decade-long marriage, an extraordinarily close relationship between two writers." Michiko Kakutani, New York Times


 11.

The Da Vinci Code
by Dan Brown

"[A] dazzling performance...a delightful display of erudition....Brown delivers a crackling, intricate mystery, complete with breathtaking escapes and several stunning surprises. It's challenging, exciting, and a whole lot more." Jim Fusilli, Boston Globe


 12.

American Gods
by Neil Gaiman

"[A]mbitious, gloriously funny, and oddly heartwarming....A magical mystery tour through the mythologies of all cultures, a unique and moving love story — and another winner for the phenomenally gifted, consummately reader-friendly Gaiman." Kirkus Reviews


 13.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
by Jonathan Safran Foer

"[B]eautifully designed second from the gifted young author....[A] riveting narrative....[A] brilliant fiction works thrilling variations on, and consolations for, its plangent message: that 'in the end, everyone loses everyone.' Yes, but look what Foer has found." Kirkus Reviews


 14.

Cloud Atlas
by David Mitchell

"The various pieces of David Mitchell's mysterious puzzle combine to form a haunting image that stays with the reader long after the book has been closed." Washington Post


 15.

"One of the most compelling books of the year... Incredibly bold... Somehow accomplishes what three decades' worth of cheesy public service announcements and after-school specials have failed to do: depict hard-core drug addiction as the self-inflicted apocalypse that it is." New York Post


 16.

Saturday
by Ian McEwan

"Mr. McEwan has not only produced one of the most powerful pieces of post-9/11 fiction yet published, but also fulfilled that very primal mission of the novel: to show how we — a privileged few of us, anyway — live today." Michiko Kakutani, New York Times


 17.

Middlesex
by Jeffrey Eugenides

"Middlesex isn't just a respectable sophomore effort; it's a towering achievement, and it can now be stated unequivocally that Eugenides' initial triumph wasn't a one-off or a fluke. He has emerged as the great American writer that many of us suspected him of being." Jeff Turrentine, Los Angeles Times


 18.

Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro

"In this luminous offering, [Ishiguro] nimbly navigates the landscape of emotion — the inevitable link between present and past and the fine line between compassion and cruelty, pleasure and pain." Booklist


 19.

On Beauty
by Zadie Smith

"[A] boisterous, funny, poignant, and erudite novel that should firmly establish Smith as a literary force of nature." Booklist


 20.

"This original and affecting novel is a triumph of empathy; whether describing Christopher's favorite dream...or his vision of the universe collapsing in a thunder of stars, the author makes his hero's severely limited world a thrilling place to be." New Yorker


 21.

Freakonomics
by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

"It might appear presumptuous of Steven Levitt to see himself as an all-purpose intellectual detective, fit to take on whatever puzzle of human behavior grabs his fancy. But on the evidence of Freakonomics, the presumption is earned." Jim Holt, New York York Times


 22.

Case Histories
by Kate Atkinson

"[A] compelling narrative drive....Playful humor, an impressive technique, and an offbeat detective with a penchant for weeping are the most obvious pleasures of a page-turner that succeeds in being both brainy and thoroughly entertaining." Booklist (Starred Review)


 23.

The History of Love
by Nicole Krauss

"Even in moments of startling peculiarity, [Krauss] touches the most common elements of the heart....In the final pages, the fractured stories of The History of Love fall together like a desperate embrace." Washington Post


 24.

"An entertaining psychology book....Blink is not a glib handbook of how to think, or a guide of what to think. But it will make you think about how you think, when you think in a blink." Seattle Times

 25.

Life of Pi
by Yann Martel

"If Canadian writer Yann Martel were a preacher, he'd be charismatic, funny and convert all the non-believers. He baits his readers with serious themes and trawls them through a sea of questions and confusion, but he makes one laugh so much, and at times feel so awed and chilled, that even thrashing around in bewilderment or disagreement one can't help but be captured by his prose." The Nation


 26.

Thud!
by Terry Pratchett

"The asides and the general goofiness and the imagination run amok are the point, every time and this time, too....All in all the only thing to be said about a Discworld novel is: Read it. You'll like it." Washington Post


 27.

The Secret Life of Bees
by Sue Monk Kidd

"Sue Monk Kidd's eccentric, inventive, and ultimately forgiving novel is reminscent of the work of Reynolds Price in its ability to create a truly original Southern voice." Anita Shreve


 28.

The Tender Bar
by J. R. Moehringer

"Funny, honest, and insightful, The Tender Bar finds universal themes in an unusual upbringing and declares a real love of barroom life without romanticizing it too much." Booklist (Starred Review)


 29.

"Another successful exploration of American history....Larson skillfully balances the grisly details with the far-reaching implications of the World's Fair." USA Today


 30.

Broken for You
by Stephanie Kallos

"A seventy-six-year-old woman who's just learned that she has a brain tumor takes in a thirty-four-year-old woman who's just been dumped by her boyfriend. Can this be funny? Yes. Painfully funny, beautifully written, and completely original. I love this novel." Lolly Winston, author of Good Grief


 31.

Wicked
by Gregory Maguire

"Maguire has taken this figure of childhood fantasy and given her a sensual and powerful nature that will stir adult hearts with fear and longing all over again. It's a brilliant trick — and a remarkable treat." Times-Picayune


 32.

Team of Rivals
by Doris Kearns Goodwin

"In nearly 800 pages...Goodwin vividly evokes Lincoln's struggles to avoid war, his resolve to fight hard once war became inevitable, and his unflagging effort to hold fast the fragile union." St. Petersburg Times


 33.

The Highest Tide
by Jim Lynch

"Jim Lynch has written a breathtakingly beautiful first novel. At its core is a fabulous metaphor, rising from the ocean to wrap around his painful story with all the brilliance and mystery of life. That is a big statement. Lynch can carry its weight and then some." Martha McPhee, author of Gorgeous Lies


 34.

The Namesake
by Jhumpa Lahiri

"[Q]uietly dazzling....[A] wonderfully intimate and knowing family portrait...a debut novel that is as assured and eloquent as the work of a longtime master of the craft." Michiko Kakutani, New York Times


 35.

Assassination Vacation
by Sarah Vowell

"Vowell could make a trip to the DMV interesting....Part travelogue, part history text and part memoir, Assassination Vacation is more fun than it has any right to be — a bizarre road trip into some of the most searing moments of the nation's past with one of our most amusing storytellers at the wheel." Stephen Kiehl, Baltimore Sun


 36.

"In a world that celebrates live journalism, we are increasingly in need of big-picture authors like Jared Diamond....In his extraordinarily panoramic Collapse, he moves his wide lens to yet another telling phenomenon: failed nations, of both the distant and the recent past." Robert D. Kaplan, Washington Post


 37.

Eldest
by Christopher Paolini

"Once again, the expected fantasy elements are well in place, and the characters and their relationships continue to develop nicely. The ending promises an even more cataclysmic battle ahead." Booklist


 38.

The Glass Castle
by Jeannette Walls

"Jeannette Walls has carved a story with precision and grace out of one of the most chaotic, heartbreaking childhoods ever to be set down on the page. This deeply affecting memoir is a triumph in every possible way, and it does what all good books should: it affirms our faith in the human spirit." Dani Shapiro, author of Family History


 39.

Good Omens
by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

"What's so funny about Armageddon? More than you'd think...Good Omens has arrived just in time!" Detroit Free Press


 40.

The Plot against America
by Philip Roth

"[Philip is] the ideal narrator for this sinuous and brilliant book, with its extreme sweetness (new in Roth), its black pain, and its low, ceaseless cackle." New Yorker


 41.

Until I Find You
by John Irving

"With Jack Burns, Irving has created his most complex protagonist....And in the long, winding, complex and moody narrative that is Until I Find You, Irving has fashioned a real heart-stopper of a story — and one of his finest novels to date." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


 42.

"[A]s in Moore's other books, the jokes, ranging from the sublime to the sophisticated to the utterly sophomoric, make the book. What Lamb lacks in theological sophistication it more than compensates with mirth....simply impossible not to laugh." John Green, Booklist


 43.

Son of a Witch
by Gregory Maguire

"[A] tale that adroitly mixes drama, humor, and political satire into a well-knit examination of good and evil — and leaves several doors open for future journeys over the rainbow into this cleverly constructed dystopia." Library Journal


 44.

"Bryson...achieve[s] exactly what he'd set out to do, and, moreover, [he does] it in stylish, efficient, colloquial and stunningly accurate prose....[S]eems destined to become a modern classic of science writing." Ed Regis, New York Times


 45.

"To say that Truth and Beauty is a memoir about [a] friendship, while true, doesn't begin to do justice to the extraordinary bond the two writers shared or Patchett's refined reflection upon it." Sarah Gianelli, The Oregonian


 46.

The March
by E. L. Doctorow

"[N]ever before has [Doctorow] so fully occupied the past, or so gorgeously evoked its generation of the forces that seeded our times....Doctorow's masterpiece uncovers the roots of today's racial and political conundrums..." Booklist (Starred Review)


 47.

My Sister's Keeper
by Jodi Picoult

"Picoult's timely and compelling novel will appeal to anyone who has thought about the morality of medical decision making and any parent who must balance the needs of different children. Highly recommended." Library Journal


 48.

The Way the Crow Flies
by Ann-Marie MacDonald

"[P]erhaps MacDonald's most impressive accomplishment is her uncanny ability... to vividly re-create the wonder, humor, and fears of childhood." Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist


 49.

Small Island
by Andrea Levy

"Small Island is a great read, delivering the sort of pleasure which has been the stock-in-trade of a long line of English novelists. It's honest, skilful, thoughtful and important. This is Andrea Levy's big book." The Guardian


 50.

A Breath of Snow and Ashes
by Diana Gabaldon

"Triumphant....Her use of historical detail and truly adult love story confirm Gabaldon as a superior writer." Publishers Weekly


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