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The 10 Best Books Through Time
Each fall, the editors of the Times Book Review select the best fiction and nonfiction titles of the year. Our editors read, nominate, discuss, and debate the merits of each year’s books, working together to land upon our list. The practice of editors sharing their picks of the year dates nearly back to the beginning of the Book Review in October 1896. But over the years, that list has taken many different names and forms. Now, we call this list the “Ten Best Books” and have done so since 2004. We hope you’ll enjoy, and perhaps find inspiration in, the Best Books of years past.
THE CANDY HOUSE By Jennifer Egan . CHECKOUT 19 By Claire-Louise Bennett . DEMON COPPERHEAD By Barbara Kingsolver . THE FURROWS By Namwali Serpell . TRUST By Hernan Diaz .
AN IMMENSE WORLD By Ed Yong . STAY TRUE By Hua Hsu . STRANGERS TO OURSELVES By Rachel Aviv . UNDER THE SKIN By Linda Villarosa . WE DON’T KNOW OURSELVES By Fintan O’Toole .
HOW BEAUTIFUL WE WERE By Imbolo Mbue. INTIMACIES By Katie Kitamura. THE LOVE SONGS OF W.E.B. DUBOIS By Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT THIS By Patricia Lockwood. WHEN WE CEASE TO UNDERSTAND THE WORLD By Benjamín Labatut. Translated by Adrian Nathan West.
THE COPENHAGEN TRILOGY: Childhood; Youth; Dependency By Tove Ditlevsen. Translated by Tiina Nunnally and Michael Favala Goldman. HOW THE WORD IS PASSED: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America By Clint Smith . INVISIBLE CHILD: Poverty, Survival and Hope in an American City By Andrea Elliott . ON JUNETEENTH By Annette Gordon-Reed. RED COMET: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath By Heather Clark.
A CHILDREN’S BIBLE By Lydia Millet. DEACON KING KONG By James McBride. HAMNET By Maggie O’Farrell. HOMELAND ELEGIES By Ayad Akhtar. THE VANISHING HALF By Brit Bennett.
HIDDEN VALLEY ROAD By Robert Kolker. A PROMISED LAND By Barack Obama. SHAKESPEARE IN A DIVIDED AMERICA By James Shapiro. UNCANNY VALLEY By Rachel Anna Wiener. WAR By Margaret MacMillan
DISAPPEARING EARTH By Julia Phillips. THE TOPEKA SCHOOL By Ben Lerner. EXHALATION By Ted Chiang. LOST CHILDREN ARCHIVE By Valeria Luiselli. NIGHT BOAT TO TANGIER By Kevin Barry.
SAY NOTHING By Patrick Radden Keefe. THE CLUB By Leo Damrosch. THE YELLOW HOUSE By Sarah M. Broom. NO VISIBLE BRUISES By Rachel Louise Snyder. MIDNIGHT IN CHERNOBYL By Adam Higginbotham.
ASYMMETRY By Lisa Halliday. THE GREAT BELIEVERS By Rebecca Makkai. THE PERFECT NANNY By Leila Slimani. Translated by Sam Taylor. THERE THERE By Tommy Orange. WASHINGTON BLACK By Esi Edugyan.
AMERICAN PRISON: A Reporter's Undercover Journey Into the Business of Punishment By Shane Bauer. EDUCATED: A Memoir By Tara Westover. FREDERICK DOUGLASS: Prophet of Freedom By David W. Blight. HOW TO CHANGE YOUR MIND: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence By Michael Pollan . SMALL FRY: A Memoir By Lisa Brennan-Jobs.
AUTUMN By Ali Smith. EXIT WEST By Mohsin Hamid. PACHINKO By Min Jin Lee. THE POWER By Naomi Alderman. SING, UNBURIED, SING By Jesmyn Ward.
THE EVOLUTION OF BEAUTY: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World — and Us By Richard O. Prum. GRANT By Ron Chernow. LOCKING UP OUR OWN: Crime and Punishment in Black America By James Forman Jr. PRAIRIE FIRES: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder By Caroline Fraser. PRIESTDADDY By Patricia Lockwood.
THE ASSOCIATION OF SMALL BOMBS By Karan Mahajan. THE NORTH WATER By Ian McGuire. THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD By Colson Whitehead. THE VEGETARIAN By Han Kang. Translated by Deborah Smith. WAR AND TURPENTINE By Stefan Hertmans. Translated by David McKay.
AT THE EXISTENTIALIST CAFÉ: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails By Sarah Bakewell. DARK MONEY: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Righ t By Jane Mayer. EVICTED: Poverty and Profit in the American City By Matthew Desmond. IN THE DARKROOM By Susan Faludi. THE RETURN: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between By Hisham Matar.
THE DOOR By Magda Szabo. Translated by Len Rix. A MANUAL FOR CLEANING WOMEN: Selected Stories By Lucia Berlin. Edited by Stephen Emerson. OUTLINE By Rachel Cusk. THE SELLOUT By Paul Beatty. T HE STORY OF THE LOST CHILD: Book 4, The Neapolitan Novels: “Maturity, Old Age ” By Elena Ferrante. Translated by Ann Goldstein.
BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME By Ta-Nehisi Coates. EMPIRE OF COTTON: A Global History By Sven Beckert . H IS FOR HAWK By Helen Macdonald. THE INVENTION OF NATURE: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World By Andrea Wulf. ONE OF US: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway By Asne Seierstad. Translated by Sarah Death.
ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE By Anthony Doerr. DEPT. OF SPECULATION By Jenny Offill. EUPHORIA By Lily King. FAMILY LIFE By Akhil Sharma. REDEPLOYMENT By Phil Klay.
CAN’T WE TALK ABOUT SOMETHING MORE PLEASANT? By Roz Chast. ON IMMUNITY: An Inoculation By Eula Biss. PENELOPE FITZGERALD: A Life By Hermione Lee. THE SIXTH EXTINCTION: An Unnatural History By Elizabeth Kolbert. THIRTEEN DAYS IN SEPTEMBER: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David By Lawrence Wright.
AMERICANAH By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. THE FLAMETHROWERS By Rachel Kushner. THE GOLDFINCH By Donna Tartt. LIFE AFTER LIFE By Kate Atkinson. TENTH OF DECEMBER: Stories By George Saunders.
AFTER THE MUSIC STOPPED: The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead By Alan S. Blinder. DAYS OF FIRE: Bush and Cheney in the White House By Peter Baker. FIVE DAYS AT MEMORIAL: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital By Sheri Fink. THE SLEEPWALKERS: How Europe Went to War in 1914 By Christopher Clark. WAVE By Sonali Deraniyagala.
BRING UP THE BODIES By Hilary Mantel. BUILDING STORIES By Chris Ware. A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING By Dave Eggers. NW By Zadie Smith. THE YELLOW BIRDS By Kevin Powers.
BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity By Katherine Boo. FAR FROM THE TREE: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity By Andrew Solomon. THE PASSAGE OF POWER: The Years of Lyndon Johnson By Robert A. Caro. THE PATRIARCH: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy By David Nasaw. WHY DOES THE WORLD EXIST? An Existential Detective Story By Jim Holt.
THE ART OF FIELDING By Chad Harbach . 11/22/63 By Stephen King . SWAMPLANDIA! By Karen Russell . TEN THOUSAND SAINTS By Eleanor Henderson. THE TIGER’S WIFE By Téa Obreht.
ARGUABLY: Essays By Christopher Hitchens . THE BOY IN THE MOON: A Father’s Journey to Understand His Extraordinary Son By Ian Brown . MALCOLM X: A Life of Reinvention By Manning Marable . THINKING, FAST AND SLOW By Daniel Kahneman. A WORLD ON FIRE:Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War By Amanda Foreman.
FREEDOM By Jonathan Franzen. THE NEW YORKER STORIES By Ann Beattie. ROOM By Emma Donoghue. SELECTED STORIES By William Trevor. A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD By Jennifer Egan.
APOLLO’S ANGELS: A History of Ballet By Jennifer Homans. CLEOPATRA: A Life By Stacy Schiff. THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES: A Biography of Cancer By Siddhartha Mukherjee. FINISHING THE HAT: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) With Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes By Stephen Sondheim. THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration By Isabel Wilkerson.
BOTH WAYS IS THE ONLY WAY I WANT IT By Maile Meloy. CHRONIC CITY By Jonathan Lethem. A GATE AT THE STAIRS By Lorrie Moore. HALF BROKE HORSES: A True-Life Novel By Jeannette Walls. A SHORT HISTORY OF WOMEN By Kate Walbert.
THE AGE OF WONDER: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science By Richard Holmes. THE GOOD SOLDIERS By David Finkel. LIT: A Memoir By Mary Karr. LORDS OF FINANCE: The Bankers Who Broke the World By Liaquat Ahamed . RAYMOND CARVER: A Writer’s Life By Carol Sklenicka
DANGEROUS LAUGHTER: Thirteen Stories By Steven Millhauser . A MERCY By Toni Morrison . NETHERLAND By Joseph O’Neill. 2666 By Roberto Bolaño. Translated by Natasha Wimmer. UNACCUSTOMED EARTH By Jhumpa Lahiri.
THE DARK SIDE: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals By Jane Mayer. THE FOREVER WAR By Dexter Filkins. NOTHING TO BE FRIGHTENED OF By Julian Barnes. THIS REPUBLIC OF SUFFERING:Death and the American Civil War By Drew Gilpin Faust. THE WORLD IS WHAT IT IS: The Authorized Biography of V. S. Naipaul By Patrick French.
MAN GONE DOWN By Michael Thomas. OUT STEALING HORSES By Per Petterson. Translated by Anne Born. THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES By Roberto Bolaño. Translated by Natasha Wimmer. THEN WE CAME TO THE END By Joshua Ferris. TREE OF SMOKE By Denis Johnson.
IMPERIAL LIFE IN THE EMERALD CITY: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone. By Rajiv Chandrasekaran . LITTLE HEATHENS: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression. By Mildred Armstrong Kalish . THE NINE: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court. By Jeffrey Toobin . THE ORDEAL OF ELIZABETH MARSH: A Woman in World History. By Linda Colley. THE REST IS NOISE: Listening to the Twentieth Century By Alex Ross.
ABSURDISTAN By Gary Shteyngart. THE COLLECTED STORIES OF AMY HEMPEL . THE EMPEROR’S CHILDREN By Claire Messud. THE LAY OF THE LAND By Richard Ford. SPECIAL TOPICS IN CALAMITY PHYSICS By Marisha Pessl.
FALLING THROUGH THE EARTH: A Memoir By Danielle Trussoni. THE LOOMING TOWER: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 By Lawrence Wright. MAYFLOWER: A Story of Courage, Community, and War By Nathaniel Philbrick. THE OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA: A Natural History of Four Meals By Michael Pollan. THE PLACES IN BETWEEN By Rory Stewart.
KAFKA ON THE SHORE By Haruki Murakami. ON BEAUTY By Zadie Smith. PREP By Curtis Sittenfeld. SATURDAY By Ian McEwan. VERONICA By Mary Gaitskill.
THE ASSASSINS’ GATE: America in Iraq By George Packer. DE KOONING:An American Master By Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan. THE LOST PAINTING By Jonathan Harr. POSTWAR: A History of Europe Since 1945 By Tony Judt. THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING By Joan Didion.
GILEAD By Marilynne Robinson. THE MASTER By Colm Toibin. THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA By Philip Roth. RUNAWAY By Alice Munro. SNOW By Orhan Pamuk. WAR TRASH By Ha Jin.
ALEXANDER HAMILTON By Ron Chernow. CHRONICLES: Volume One By Bob Dylan. WASHINGTON’S CROSSING By David Hackett Fischer. WILL IN THE WORLD: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare By Stephen Greenblatt.
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DISAPPEARING EARTH By Julia Phillips. THE TOPEKA SCHOOL By Ben Lerner. EXHALATION By Ted Chiang. LOST CHILDREN ARCHIVE By Valeria Luiselli. NIGHT BOAT TO