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Staff Top 5s of 2003
Gerry

#1 Set This House in Order
by Matt Ruff

Set This House in Order
"In looking back on the books of 2003, Set This House in Order stands head and shoulders above every other novel I read. Matt Ruff, in this audaciously concocted story, imbibes his characters with a high degree of dignity and his readers with a high degree of respect. I'm anxiously waiting to see what he comes up with next." Gerry, Powells.com (read more)

#2 It's a Man's World: Men's Adventure Magazines, the Postwar Pulps by Adam Parfrey
#3 Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre
#4 Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon by Chuck Palahniuk
#5 Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
Michal

#1 Mountains Beyond Mountains
by Tracy Kidder

Mountains Beyond Mountains
"Beautifully told, and entirely inspiring, Mountains Beyond Mountains is an exceptional look at the heroic life of Dr. Paul Farmer. Providing health care for hundreds of thousands in a remote, impoverished region of Haiti, Farmer's incomparable dedication brings change not only to the lives he touches directly, but to the efficacy of health care around the globe. Tracy Kidder compellingly proves that one person can make a difference, in this case in Herculean ways. Why read about a pioneering doctor out to change the world? It will change your outlook on humanity and move you to evaluate your place within it." Michal, Powells.com (read more)

#2 Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
#3 The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
#4 Dry: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs
#5 Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self by Claire Tomalin
Beth

#1 The Devil in the White City
by Erik Larson

The Devil in the White City
"I was mesmerized by this book. It was a deliciously creepy read, made more creepy for being true. Several times in the course of reading it, I had to keep reminding myself that the events really happened." Beth, Powells.com (read more)

#2 Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
#3 Wigfield: The Can-Do Town That Just May Not by Amy Sedaris, Stephen Colbert, and Paul Dinello
#4 To the Nines by Janet Evanovich
#5 Saul and Patsy by Charles Baxter
Joe

#1 The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2003
by Dave Eggers and Zadie Smith

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2003
"A motley collection of fiction, nonfiction and humor from famous and not-so-famous authors. What's so cool about this collection is the diversity of publications from which the pieces were selected: establishment (Time, Esquire, The New Yorker); established (McSweeney's, Tin House, Zoetrope); and you-just-wait (Pindeldyboz, Little Engines, Shout). Forward by Dave Eggers and intro by Zadie Smith." Joe, Powells.com (read more)

#2 Get Your War On by David Rees and Colson Whitehead
#3 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
#4 You Shall Know Our Velocity! by Dave Eggers
#5 Jarhead by Anthony Swofford
Robin

#1 Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: A Classic Collectible Pop-Up
by Lewis Carroll and Robert Sabuda

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: A Classic Collectible Pop-Up
"Robert Sabuda's most recent popup book is as spectacular as his last one (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: A Commemorative Pop-Up) — a feat I didn't think possible. His three-dimensional version of Alice is so magical that it induces a sense of wonder that's rarely experienced outside of childhood, when everything is fresh and new. What a treasure! I await new Sabuda creations with the anticipation normally reserved for Philip Pullman or Lemony Snicket creations." Robin, Powells.com (read more)

#2 The Dogs of Riga: A Kurt Wallander Mystery by Henning Mankell
#3 The Clearing by Tim Gautreaux
#4 Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded August 27, 1883 by Simon Winchester
#5 The New Great American Writers Cookbook by Dean Faulkner Wells

more picks from Robin
Kathi

#1 Any Human Heart
by William Boyd

Any Human Heart
"Boyd has created, using fictional diary entries, a magnificent portrait of a man whose life touches on many of the high and low points of 20th-century history. Real historical figures are deftly woven into a narrative so real it's hard to believe that the diarist, Logan Montstuart, isn't the writer. As you follow along on his life journey, the humor, folly, adventure and pathos will make you sad when this 'life' must come to an end." Kathi, Powells.com (read more)

#2 The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
#3 Train by Pete Dexter
#4 White Road: A Charlie Parker Thriller by John Connolly
#5 Inside America's Test Kitchen by the Editors Of Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Mike H.

#1 Blankets
by Craig Thompson

Blankets
"A graphic novel that is a novel. Brave and heartfelt, well-written, beautifully drawn. If this one doesn't win an Eisner Award, there's no justice." Mike H., Powells.com (read more)

#2 The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
#3 Six Easy Pieces: Easy Rawlins Stories by Walter Mosley
#4 J. Michael Straczynski's Midnight Nation by J. Michael Straczynski
#5 Naked Happy Girls by Andrew Einhorn

more picks from Mike
Jill

#1 Elizabeth Costello
by J. M. Coetzee

Elizabeth Costello
"J. M. Coetzee combines translucent, gorgeous prose with some of the bleakest — and most necessary — content being written today. Elizabeth Costello is one of the many pinnacles of an illustrious career; like his other works, it provokes complex questions without providing easy answers. A ruthless and thorough examination of morality, writing, and the role of each in the other, Elizabeth Costello raises the bar for novels to come." Jill, Powells.com (read more)

#2 The Fortress of Solitude
by Jonathan Lethem
#3 The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done by Sandra Newman
#4 My Life as a Fake by Peter Carey
#5 Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

more picks from Jill
Georgie

#1 Any Human Heart by William Boyd

Any Human Heart
"Last year's reading included many books by authors that were remarkable in terms of craft and technique (Peter Carey), originality and heart (Mark Haddon and Matt Ruff) or sparkling intellect (Clive James). However, William Boyd's Any Human Heart had all of the above qualities and more. Though the format is unassuming, the beguiling and witty voice of narrator Logan Mountstuart creates a tender, rich, and compelling portrait of a fascinating life lived fully." Georgie, Powells.com (read more)

#2 Set This House in Order by Matt Ruff
#3 My Life as a Fake by Peter Carey
#4 As of This Writing: The Essential Essays by Clive James
#5 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

more picks from Georgie
Dave

#1 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

My Life as a Fake
"It's not just the hook, though the hook is peculiar and oddly affecting. 'When I was writing,'the author allows, 'I really thought to myself, Who on Earth is going to want to read about a fifteen-year-old kid with a disability living in Swindon with his father? And I thought, I better make the plot good.' The hook — the plot — is significantly better than good, but it's the irresistible voice of Mark Haddon's fifteen-year-old narrator that elevates this literary debut to fantastic heights." Dave, Powells.com (read more)

#2 The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
#3 How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer
#4 Yoga for People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do It by Geoff Dyer
#5 Jarhead by Anthony Swofford

more picks from Dave


It's no surprise that at Powells.com we read a lot of books. How, then, to narrow down our favorites published in the year 2003 to a mere five each? It was a challenge to say the least, but a challenge that brought to mind fond memories of crisp hardcovers opening to fresh words and ideas, and Georgie telling Farley he was wrong — so wrong — and punching him in the nose.

Mike P.

#1 Hope Dies Last: Keeping Faith in Difficult Times
by Studs Terkel

Hope Dies Last
"One of this country's finest journalistic rabble-rousers has a new volume of oral history, around the theme of activism. A typical Chicago-centric cross-section is represented: secular and religious, young and old, spanning the ideological spectrum. It makes for particularly relevant reading given ongoing workers' struggles in this day and age." Mike P., Powells.com (read more)

#2 Wild Bill: The Legend and Life of William O. Douglas by Bruce Allen Murphy
#3 Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
#4 Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s by Gerald Nachman
#5 The People as Enemy: The Leaders' Hidden Agenda in World War II by Shan Sa
Mary Jo

#1 Oryx and Crake
by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake
"The genre of doom-laden futuristic fiction has its share of classics — such as H.G. Wells's The Time Machine, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, and George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four — and these works are now joined by Margaret Atwood's splendid novel." Richard A. Posner, The New Republic (read more)

#2 Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
#3 The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones
#4 Set This House in Order by Matt Ruff
#5 Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
Megan

#1 Under the Banner of Heaven
by Jon Krakauer

Under the Banner of Heaven
"Under the Banner of Heaven is not a typical Krakauer book that takes you on an adventure into the wilderness. Instead, it delves into a world that is misunderstood by most of America, the world of Mormonism and Fundamental Mormonism. Krakauer's journey into Mormon Fundamentalism could be about any Fundamentalist belief, religious or non-religious, and focuses on how these beliefs are formed and how they affect a whole society. Faith and belief are core human characteristics that many people may take for granted, but Krakauer analyses the multifaceted aspects of these human traits." Megan, Powells.com (read more)

#2 Eragon: Inheritance, Book I by Christopher Paolini
#3 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
#4 The Complete Far Side: 1980-1994 by Gary Larson
#5 Reefer Madness by Eric Schlosser
Adrienne

#1 The Seduction of Silence
by Bem Le Hunte

The Seduction of Silence
"The Seduction of Silence is a work of persuasive imagination...scope, power and narrative charm...ample and fascinating." Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler's List (read more)

#2 A Girl Could Stand Up by Leslie Marshall
#3 Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre
#4 Chronicle of a Blood Merchant by Yu Hua
#5 The Girl Who Played Go by Shan Sa
John B.

#1 Diary
by Chuck Palahniuk

Diary
"A page-turner that reads like a good mystery, Diary is a study in art, history, community, family and the betrayal of all of the above as seen through the eyes of Portland's own Chuck Palahniuk. Also, check out his book about Portland, Fugitives and Refugees, A Walk in Portland, Oregon, which is a fascinating history of Portland posing as an alternative sightseeing guide." John B., Powells.com (read more)

#2 Who Needs Donuts? by Mark Alan Stamaty
#3 Los Alamos by William Eggleston
#4 Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo
#5 Cindy Sherman: The Complete Untitled Film Stills by Cindy Sherman
Carla

#1 Eragon: Inheritance, Book I
by Christopher Paolini

Eragon: Inheritance, Book I
"This first novel is dynamite; it makes a great read for the young adult in you. This is a classic 'sword and sorcery novel' with a boy, a dragon, and a sword. Paolini's book is a little reminiscent of other books you may have read, but his own voice comes through. And I believe his voice will only get clearer as the trilogy progresses." Carla, Powells.com (read more)

#2 Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
#3 Second Glance by Jodi Picoult
#4 Trickster's Choice by Tamora Pierce
#5 Blessed Are the Cheesemakers by Sara Kate Lynch
Amy

#1 Bent Ply by Dung Ngo and Eric Pfeiffer

Bent Ply
"If the thought of bent plywood furniture reminds you of what it is like to be in love, you may very well fall for Ngo's and Pfieffer's Bent Ply. Split into two sections, the first a history (starting in Egypt, working its way up to Eames), the second, an annotated journal of how-to (from forest to showroom) are bound by an actual plywood cover. A very lovely book." Amy, Powells.com (read more)

#2 Pixel World by Frances Lam
#3 American Pitbull by Marc Joseph
#4 Meet Mr. Product: The Art of the Advertising Character by Warren Dotz
#5 The Most Special Day of My Life by Rob Clayton

more picks from Amy
Ann

#1 Hunger
by Elise Blackwell

Hunger
"[A] story wrought with sensuous detail....This diminutive volume holds a spare 133 pages and measures a mere four-and-a-half by seven inches. But, what it lacks in size it makes up for in elegant, beautifully descriptive prose." Ann, Powells.com (read more)

#2 Elizabeth Costello
by J. M. Coetzee
#3 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
#4 Cindy Sherman: The Complete Untitled Film Stills by Cindy Sherman
#5 Into the Silent Land: Travels in Neuropsychology by Paul Broks
Farley

#1 My Life as a Fake by Peter Carey

My Life as a Fake
"[T]he real pleasures of this novel have less to do with Carey's playful excesses of plot than they do with the impish intelligence that shines forth from his language. To be sure, My Life as a Fake explores serious issues: the strange relationship between creator and creation, the thin line between love and hate, the corrosive effects of greed, etc. But what will remain in the memories of readers is the simple pleasure of Carey's wonderful sentences." Farley, Powells.com (read more)

#2 Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
#3 Train by Pete Dexter
#4 The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
#5 American Woman by Susan Choi

more picks from Farley
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