The Book Review selects the best novels and nonfiction from the last year.
After so many years, and so many lists, you might think the task of choosing the 10 Best Books would get easier. If only. The sublime story collections alone created agonies of indecision. So did the superb literary biographies we read — and deeply admired. But in the end the decisions had to be made.
Not that drawing up the list — or rather, whittling it down — was a wholly painful exercise. One of the pleasures it afforded was the chance to resample the sometimes surprising chemistry of reviewers and authors, particularly when it came to fiction. Jonathan Lethem, whose “Chronic City” made our list, reviewed Lorrie Moore’s novel “A Gate at the Stairs,” which made it too, while Curtis Sittenfeld, whose novel “Prep” was one of the 10 Best in 2005, reviewed Maile Meloy’s story collection “Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It,” a winner this year. Any book review editor will attest that persuading fiction writers to assess other people’s fiction can be a struggle. These were heartening exceptions to the rule. May more novelists review for us in 2010!
This list will appear in print in the Dec. 13 Book Review. —The Editors