Recommended ReadsRecommended Reads 2001

Are you looking for some good novels to read? Try our list featuring some of the year's best books. Books marked with a Literary Prize winner have won literary prizes this year.

You might also like our Staff Picks and a list of More favourite reads.

Portrait in sepia Isabel Allende
With her earliest memories erased by a brutal trauma, Aurora del Valle is raised amid great wealth in Chile by her shrewd, commanding grandmother. She begins a search for her missing years and unwinds a twisted saga linking three generations of a powerful family to a courageous Chinese physician and Eliza Sommers, protagonist of Allende’s Daughter of Fortune.
According to Queeney Beryl Bainbridge
Dr Johnson, having completed his life's major work (the first ever Dictionary of the English Language) is running an increasingly chaotic life, torn between his strict morality and his undeclared passion for Mrs Thrale, the wife of an old friend. Her daughter, Queeney, narrates.
Border crossing Pat Barker
Tom Seymour is a child psychiatrist who has worked in the north of England for many years. One day, while walking by the river, he rescues a young man from drowning, and realizes it is a child murderer at whose trial he gave flawed evidence.
Darwin's radio Greg Bear
The discovery of a mass grave of mutated villagers in the Caucasus; a mummified prehistoric family revealed by ice-thaw high in the Alps; a mysterious new disease that strikes only pregnant women, resulting in miscarriage -- three disparate facts that will converge into one science-shattering truth. Can their leap of faith overcome mass panic and superstition? (Winner of the Nebula Award)
If the invader comes Derek Beaven
Clarice Pike and Vic Warren are from completely different backgrounds. An impossible affair has already driven them thousands of miles apart. 1939 finds Clarice in Malaya, and Vic in East London. As their feelings conspire to draw the lovers back together, the world erupts with a terrible violence.
A son of war Melvyn Bragg
The story of Joe Richardson, a boy growing up in post-war Cumbria and dealing with conflicting interests from his parents, girls and school bullies. Although Joe is the most important thing in the world to his parents will they be able to put him on the path to happiness?
The bay of angels Anita Brookner
Newly liberated by her mother's sudden marriage and subsequent move to France, Zoe's freedom is cut short by the unexpected death of her stepfather, the mysteries surrounding his life, and her mother's sudden illness.
Carry me across the water Ethan Canin
August Kleinman is an entrepreneur of advancing years. Born in Germany to a wealthy man and a wise woman, both Jewish, Kleinman escapes with his mother as the Nazis rise to power, makes his way to Brooklyn, N.Y., and begins his new American life. His story, told in flashes through the years, is not unusual but Kleinman has a wartime secret; now, in old age, he has a chance to right a few of his life's wrongs.
True History of the Kelly Gang Peter Carey
Ned Kelly, the famous Australian bushranger, was a mythic outlaw whose life embodied tragedy, perseverance, and freedom. This is the story of his life, told by Ned Kelly himself. (Winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize)
Shamrock tea Ciaran Carson
The narrator, his cousin and a strange Belgian friend know that their lives are ruled mysteriously by the great Van Eyck painting, the Arnolfini portrait, and they have travelled in dream-like moments through the painting into other times. They discover that each moment is connected to every other.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay Michael Chabon
In his native city of Prague, Joe Kavalier is a boy pupil of the great conjurer Kornblum. Joe's doctor parents never know that their plan to get him to New York almost fails, but through Kornblum's aid, Joe eventually does make it to the home of his cousin Sam Clay in that land of opportunity. (Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction)
Width of the sea Michelle Chalfoun
Michelle Chalfoun's debut novel is set in a New England fishing community that is facing the loss of its traditional way of life, as it struggles against the imposition of fishing quotas.
The Rotters' Club Jonathan Coe
This novel captures a fateful moment in British politics during the 1970s - the collapse of Old Labour - and imagines its impact on the topsy-turvy world of the bemused teenager: a world in which a lost pair of swimming trunks can be just as devastating as an IRA bomb.
All families are psychotic Douglas Coupland
Sarah, the star of the latest NASA shuttle mission, has an elegant mother, an ex-husband and three children. But three of them have AIDS, one is manic-depressive and one was shot in the stomach by his father. No one is looking forward to getting together for Sarah's pre-flight farewell banquet.
Being Dead Jim Crace
Joseph and Celice are zoologists on an impromptu visit to Baritone Bay, where they met 30 years before. They take a short, nostalgic detour and are discovered in flagrante delicto by a mentally deficient miscreant.They are bludgeoned and left to die in the sand. Crace takes this violent ending as a beginning and proceeds to "upend the hourglass of Celice and Joseph's life together." (Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award)
The Devil's Larder Jim Crace
A hundred part fiction that goes into the Devil's larder and takes the hundred different foods that are in the larder and makes fictions out of them.
The element of water Stevie Davies
In pre-war Germany, two boys grow up together inseparable. However as adulthood approaches and Nazism continues its inexorable march, Dahl and Quantz can no longer reconcile their childhood friendship as one becomes an SS officer and the other a pawn in the intelligence unit.
In the blue house Megan Delahunt
This novel unravels the passions and betrayals of Trotsky's final years in Mexico, while laying before the reader a panorama of Russian history during the first half of the 20th century. We hear from Stalin's desolate young wife, Trotsky's father, and from Trotsky himself, smarting from his affair with Frida Kahlo.
The body artist Don DeLillo
Lauren Hardke, body artist, is having breakfast with her thrice-married husband, Rey. Rey says he's taking a drive and he does - all the way to the Manhattan apartment of his first wife, where he shoots himself. An unsentimental novel about marriage and the idiosyncrasies that bind us.
The peppered moth Margaret Drabble
When Faro Gaulden visits a mining town in South Yorkshire, she wonders what her life would have been like had her grandmother not left there as a young girl. As she soon learns, the past has a way of reasserting itself.
The Last report on the miracles at Little No Horse Louise Erdrich
As a priest nears the end of his life, he is asked to prove or disprove the sainthood of a woman he knows well and struggles to guard his own secret identity in the process.
Swift as desire Laura Esquivel
A novel based on the life of the author's father follows the fortunes of Don Jubilo, a telegraph operator, as his life parallels the birth, rise, and eventual fall of the telegraph.
On Green Dolphin Street Sebastian Faulks
Both a poignant love story and a period portrait of America, this is the story of a solitary woman in great turmoil. As the Eisenhower years end and 1960 ushers in John F. Kennedy. Mary van der Linden confronts the terror of the Cold War - a dark background to her carefree existence in Washington.
The Corrections Jonathan Franzen
In this family drama, the author brings an old-time America of industrialism and civic duty, of Cub Scouts, Christmas cookies and sexual inhibitions, into brilliant collision with the modern absurdities of brain science, home surveillance, hands-off parenting, and do-it-yourself mental healthcare.
Ellie and the shadow man Maurice Gee
Ellie Crowther becomes a great painter but her canvasses are haunted by a presence she thinks of as her shadow man. Ellie and the Shadow Man move between adolescence and adulthood, between art and domesticity, suburban Wellington and rural Nelson.
Carter beats the devil Glen David Gold
At the birth of the Jazz Age in San Francisco, the magician Charles Carter walks on stage for the most daring performance of his life. Two hours later, President Warren G. Harding is dead. As the 20th century marches on, the stakes are raised as magic is fast out-stripped by science and cinema.
The pickup Nadine Gordimer
When Julie Summers' car breaks down in a sleazy street, a young Arab garage mechanic emerges from beneath the chassis of a vehicle to aid her. Out of this meeting develops an extraordinary story of unpredictable and relentless emotions that turn on its head each one's notions of the other.
Dogside story Patricia Grace
A warm and powerful new novel set in a rural Māori coastal community. The power of the land, the strength of whanau, and the humour and aroha of the community.
The Idea of perfection Kate Grenville
To Karakarook, a tiny New South Wales town characterised by its inhabitants’ commitment to curtain-twitching and grimly social barbecues, come two outsiders, strangers to one another and, as it emerges, to themselves. Each trails caravan-loads of inarticulated baggage and disappointment. (Winner of the Orange Prize for fiction)
By the sea Abdulrazak Gurnah
The tale of two men who have left the paradise of Zanzibar. When Saleh and Latif meet in a small English seaside town, there begins the unravelling of a story begun long ago - a story of seduction and deception, of the haphazard displacement of people, of love, betrayal and possession.
The Drink and dream teahouse Justin Hill
This is a historical romance set in a rural town in contemporary China. Through the lives of its central characters, it chronicles the transition from a communist society to the uncertainties of the future. The characters are largely emblematic and accommodate traditional Chinese culture with emergent capitalist and Western ideas: Old Zhu, the keeper of the old communist faith and founder of the factory; Da Shah, his entrepreneurial son and part of the Tiananmen Square generation; Madam Fan, the local amateur opera singer and her daughter Peach.
The love of stones Tobias Hill
Precious stones pass through the hands of many people, hands that leave no apparent trace. But traces arethere all the same - impressions, like the atoms of hydrogen drawn to the surface of a diamond. This story charts three lives linked by one such jewel
How to be good Nick Hornby
According to her moral calculations, Katie Carr has earned her affair. She's a doctor and on top of that, her husband David is the self-styled Angriest Man in Holloway. But when David suddenly becomes good - properly, maddeningly, give-away-all-his-money good - Katie's sums no longer add up, and she is forced to ask herself some very hard questions. A painfully funny account of modern marriage and parenthood, and asks that most difficult of questions: what does it mean to be good?
The Fourth hand John Irving
Television reporter Patrick Wallingford loses his hand to a caged lion while in India covering a circus. Before long, plans are made to equip Patrick with a new hand. Doctor Nicholas M. Zajac, superstar surgeon, indefatigable dog-poop scooper, runner, and part-time father, is poised to perform the operation. But the donor--or rather the widow of the donor--has a few stipulations. Doris Clausen wants to meet the one-handed reporter before the procedure, and insists on visitation rights afterward.
Five boys Mick Jackson
Bobby, a cockney evacuee to rural Devon, is victimized by a local gang called the Five Boys. But he is not the only stranger to have an impact on the village. There are US soldiers destined for Operation Tiger off Slapton Sands, an English deserter in hiding, and above all the mysterious Bee King.
The Book of Fame Lloyd Jones
A semi-fictional account of the 1905 All Black tour of Europe. The tour was an event that shaped New Zealand's identity, and the players were accorded almost God-like status on their return. The Book of Fame is a tribute to New Zealand's first sporting celebrities, and an investigation into the curious workings of fame.
Translated accounts James Kelman
This novel is set in an unnamed country that appears to be under military rule. The narrators and most of the characters remain anonymous. The language used is an atypical English form, but akin to the basic translation that might appear within a department of an overseas "foreign office".
The pursuit of happiness Douglas Kennedy
Manhattan, Thanksgiving Eve 1945. War is over and Eric Smythe's party is swinging. Everyone is there, including his sister Sara. Then in walks the gatecrasher - Jack Malone, an army journalist fresh from a defeated Germany. This chance meeting between Sara and Jack will have profound consequences.
Lick Creek Brad Kessler
In a West Virginia mining town in the 1920s, Emily Jenkins, a determined young woman who has lost most of her family in the coal mines, works to support herself and her mother just as construction begins on the first power lines in the region.
English passengers Matthew Kneale
Follows the journey of a Yorkshire vicar determined to prove that the Garden of Eden was originally located in Tasmania. Travelling with him is a surgeon attempting to confirm a more sinister thesis, the supremacy of the Saxon race. (Winner of the Whitbread Award for best novel and book of the year)
Black oxen Elizabeth Knox
Part fantasy, part mock-biography, part Latin American magic-realism. Carme Risk and her "not-quite-human" father contain and connect the action, becoming anchors through 50 years, three countries and numerous lives. Most of the people encountered are from Lequama, a Latin American country that had an inspirational revolution in the 1980s; the young, attractive leaders continue to live life on the edge, through love affairs and government posts, until the 2020s.
Somewhere south of here William Kowalski
A 20 year old sets off on a road trip to New Mexico in search of his mother who deserted him as a baby. It is a journey that will teach him many things about family, friends, love and death.
Gabriel's gift Hanif Kureishi
The protagonist of this novel is a 15-year-old schoolboy called Gabriel. He is forced to come to terms with a new life and use his gift for painting to make sense of his world once the equilibrium of his family home has been shattered by his father's departure.
The Bottoms Joe R Lansdale
A tale reminiscent of the classic "To kill a mockingbird". East Texas in the early thirties was in the throes of the Depression, but for young Harry Collins and little sister Tom, the woods are filled with excitement and mystery. But when Harry and Tom find the body of a young black woman on a creek bank in the area called the Bottoms, profound changes come to the Collins family. (Winner of the Edgar Allan Poe award for mystery fiction)
The Travelling vampire show Richard Laymon
When three teenagers see the flyers for The Travelling Vampire Show, featuring the only known vampire in captivity, they know they have to go. But defying parental curfews and sneaking into the show gets them into more trouble than they would have imagined possible. (Winner of the Bram Stoker Award)
The sweetest dream Doris Lessing
At Freedom Hall, the most welcoming household in North London, Frances Lennox stands at her stove, bringing another feast out to the motley, youthful crew assembled around her table. Freedom Hall stands sentry to all the changes, all the dreams of the 1960s - embracing its charges before seeing them off again into the outside world.
Homestead Rosina Lippi
Set among the women of a remote Alpine village, this novel spans most of the 20th century and puts at the heart of each chapter a different woman, at a point in her life when her long-suppressed desire of anger or jealousy flares briefly into vivid life.
The feast of the goat Mario Vargas Llosa
The novel deals with the last days of the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, who ruled the Dominican Republic for more than 30 years until his assassination May 31, 1961.
Thinks ... David Lodge
The growing relationship between two very different individuals - Ralph Messenger, an expert on artificial intelligence, and Helen Reed, a recently widowed novelist - is chronicled in the alternating voices of the two characters.
Atonement Ian McEwan
A story that begins with three young people in the garden of a country house on the hottest day of 1935, and ends with three profoundly changed lives. A depiction of love and war, class, childhood and England, that explores shame and forgiveness, atonement and the possibility of absolution.
As meat loves salt Maria McCann
Set in the English Civil War. Jacob is an educated manservant in a loyalist household. He is fearful of being identified as the murderer of a local boy, and is forced to flee on the day of his wedding feast, dragging his new wife with him. He proceeds to wreak havoc on the lives of others, but mostly on his own fortunes.
The Anatomy school Bernard MacLaverty
The story of the growing up of Martin Brennan, a troubled boy in troubled times. This is Belfast in the late sixties. Before he can become an adult, Martin must unravel the sacred and contradictory mysteries of religion, science and sex; and he must learn the value of friendship.
*No great mischief Alastair McLeod
After being orphaned, Alexander MacDonald comes to Cape Breton Island yearning for family connections and finds himself working in the mines with his wild older brother and caring for another brother, who is dying. (Winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award)
The blue tango Eion McNamee
A thriller set in post-war Ireland that portrays a shadowy world of corruption and sexual intrigue, false accusation and savage murder. It is presided over by the tragic figure of the 19-year-old murdered daughter of a judge.
Oxygen Andrew Miller
In a house in the English countryside a woman in her sixties, Alice, is dying. In the garden, her younger son is working on the translation of a play by a celebrated Hungarian playwright, Lazlo Lazar. In Vienna, Lazlo Lazar is having supper with his lover, Kurt, and an American painter, discussing the revolutions of 1956 and 68. Each of these characters will soon face a test of courage.
Number 9 dream David Mitchell
Eiji Miyake arrives in a sprawling Japanese metropolis to track down the father he has never met, but the city is a mapless place if you are 18, broke, and the only person you can trust is John Lennon.
Fairness Ferdinand Mount
The narrator meets Helen, a tiny, blonde, serious girl when they are both looking after children during a summer holiday in Normandy. Helen's adventures in search of a morally satisfying life lead her into situations that are neither satisfying nor moral.
Sputnik sweetheart Haruki Murakami
K, a primary school teacher, is in love with Sumire. But Sumire is in love with an older woman, Miu. They go to the Greek islands, but then K. gets a phonecall from Miu and a mystery evolves in this hauntingly melancholic book.
Half a life V S Naipaul
Sometime in 1930s India, Willie Chandran's father, an upper-caste man, married an ''untouchable'', as part of his youthful experiment to follow in Mahatma Gandhi's ''life of sacrifice''. Willie leaves home - on a scholarship - for London, and plunges into an alien world. He tries desperately to fit in. When he meets Ana, a half-Portuguese girl from Africa, Willie decides to move to Africa with her.
The same sea Amos Oz
Not far from the sea, Mr Albert Danon lives in Amirim Street, alone. He is fond of olives and feta; a mild accountant, he lost his wife not long ago. Slowly, the connections unfold between the quietly grieving Albert, his dead wife Nadia, their absent son Enrico, and the two women in his life--Enrico's sensuous girlfriend Dita, and his widowed friend Bettine.
*The Human stain Philip Roth
Set in the summer of 1998, with Bill Clinton's impeachment hovering in the background, The Human Stain chronicles the disgrace and downfall of Coleman Silk, an eminent classics professor at New England's small Athena College. When Silk asks about two absent students, "Do they exist or are they spooks?" a specious charge of racism is brought against him, and in the bitter fight that follows, his life begins to unravel. (Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award)
The dying animal Philip Roth
David Kapesh, white-haired and over 60, is a TV culture critic and lecturer at a New York college. He meets Consuela, a 24-year-old student, daughter of wealthy Cuban exiles, who puts his life into erotic disorder and haunts him for the next eight years.
The discovery of chocolate James Runcie
A young Spaniard sets off for South America in 1518 with Cortez and the Conquistadors in search of a treasure for his love that no man or woman has ever seen, but instead falls in love with a native woman who gives him a magical chocolate elixir.
Fury Salman Rushdie
The story of a dollmaker whose dolls run wild, living women turned into dolls and then broken, and a revolt on the planet's far side led by an army of living dolls. A portrait of life at the start of the third millennium, in a world empire that America rules, though it barely knows where it is.
*Empire Falls Richard Russo
Miles Roby, a gentle, funny loser, runs the Empire Grill and hopes one day to own it. Meantime, though, his wife has run off with his worst customer, he's anxious about his adored teenage daughter and his one-handed brother, and his incorrigible father sponges off everyone.
The dark room Rachel Seiffert
Follows the lives of three ordinary Germans, a boy who works as a photographer during the 1930s, a teenage girl who journeys through occupied Germany in search of her grandmother, and a young man seeking the truth about his grandfather, imprisoned by the Russians.
The last time they met Anita Shreve
The major characters in this novel back and forth in time and place, from a Toronto literary festival in the present, to their first meeting in high school, to an encounter in Kenya. In between, Thomas and Linda have both moved on, married others, had children, and become distinguished writers. More importantly, they have both endured tragedies that have etched their lives with pain.
Landor's tower Iain Sinclair
The narrator is accused of one of the murders that Kaporal is researching. Incarcerated in an asylum on the River Usk, long suppressed memories of his childhood in Wales return to haunt him.
Hotel World Ali Smith
This story brings alive five characters, one of whom is dead, during one night in a hotel. The author traces their intersecting lives, examining the themes of time, chance, money and death.
*White teeth Zadie Smith
The story of two North London families--one headed by Archie, the other by Archie's best friend, a Muslim Bengali named Samad Iqbal. Archie marries Clara, a beautiful Jamaican woman half his age, and the couple have a daughter named Irie. Samad weds in a prearranged union and has twin sons named Millat and Magid. The riotous histories of the families are intertwined, capturing an empire's worth of cultural identity, history, and hope. (Winner and nominee for many literary awards, including the Commonwealth Writers Prize for best first book, the Whitbread Award for best first novel, The Betty Trask Award and the Guardian First Book Award in 2000)
The Death of Vishnu Manil Suri
Vishnu, the odd-job man in a Bombay apartment block, lies dying on the landing. In his fevered state, he looks back on his affair with the seductive Padmini, while around him is played out the drama of the apartment block dwellers. This novel blends Hindu mythology with acute social detail.
The Bonesetter's daughter Amy Tan
Set in contemporary San Francisco and in a Chinese village where Peking Man is unearthed, this novel is an excavation of the human spirit: the past, its deepest wounds, its most profound hopes. LuLing Young searches for the name of her mother, the daughter of the famous Bonesetter from the Mouth of the Mountain. The story conjures the pain of broken dreams, the power of myths, and the strength of love that enables us to recover in memory what we have lost in grief.
Hotel Honolulu Paul Theroux
Like the Canterbury pilgrims, every guest in the 88-room Hotel Honolulu has come in search of something and everyone has a story. In this unforgettable novel, Theroux reveals a funny, languid, louche floating world, island style - the essence of Hawaii as it has never been depicted.
Back when we were grown ups Anne Tyler
Rebecca Davitch thinks back to when she selected the older Joe and his three daughters over her college beau. A calamitous family picnic on top of the last daughter’s upcoming marriage leaves Beck to question is that all there is? She wonders if she has accomplished anything of meaning with her life. Would she be happier now if she chose her high school sweetheart and continued her college studies when she took the altar path with Joe?
The stone carvers Jane Urquhart
Father Archangel Gstir, a good-natured Bavarian priest, has been sent to the wilds of Canada to set up a new parish. He recruits Joseph Becker to create a crucifix. Many decades later is granddaughter Klara who has learnt Joseph's skills is called upon to carve a monument to the Canadian dead.
The Leto bundle Marina Warner
A story full of myth, mystery and great imaginative power about a young woman who searching for her lost baby son, like Mother Courage, appears in different guises across different centuries and cultures. She is the eternal refugee but ultimately, the survivor.
*Affinity Sarah Waters
Amongst the murderers, poisoners and common thieves of Millbank Prison, lady visitor Margaret Prior finds herself increasingly fascinated by one apparently innocent inmate, the enigmatic spiritualist Selina Dawes. As her visits progress, so Selina's strange story is unravelled, and Margaret is drawn into a twilight world of seances and shadows, unruly spirits and unseemly passions and is ultimately persuaded to play a role in a desperate plot to secure Selina's freedom, and her own. (Winner of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Award)
Glue Irvine Welsh
The new novel by the author of the cult bestseller Trainspotting delivers the story of four boys growing up in Edinburgh, and about the loyalties, the experiences -- and the secrets -- that hold them together into their 30s.
The Fall of Light Niall Williams
Beginning in mid-19th century Ireland, this story concerns the Foley family after they have lost their home and mother. Francis Foley is a bitter man and his harsh proud soul can only bring destruction. Inevitably the five Foleys are scattered, each to his own road.