Recommended ReadsRecommended Reads 2002

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.

The Quantum rose Catherine Asaro
The winner of the Nebula Award for science fiction. In order to protect her people, Kamoj Quanta Argali agrees to marry Jax Ironbridge, whose quixotic mood swings both attract and terrify her. The arrival of Havyrl Lionstar, a visitor from a distant planet, brings about political changes that instead force Kamoj into a marriage with the alien stranger.
Servants of the map Andrea Barrett
A collection of stories and novellas that travel the territories of loss and unexpected discovery. A mapper of the highest mountain peaks realizes his true obsession. A young woman afire with scientific curiosity must come to terms with romantic fantasy. Brothers and sisters, torn apart at an early age, are beset by dreams of reunion.
The stars can wait Jay Basu
A tale of two brothers locked on a tragic course by fate, family, and one brother's secret past in German-occupied Poland. A young Polish boy with a passion for stargazing and astronomy tries to cope with the ramifications of his older brother's erratic behaviour in a small village in historically riven Silesia, at the beginning of the Nazi occupation of Poland.
Buffalo soldier Chris Bohjalian
Two years after their twin daughters drown in a flash flood, Laura and Terry Sheldon take in a quiet African American foster child named Alfred. Disregarded by his foster parents and discriminated against by others in their small Vermont town, Alfred is befriended by an older neighbour, who introduces him to horseback riding and the story of the "Buffalo Soldiers", the name given to the black cavalry on the Western frontier after the Civil War.
Audubon's watch John Gregory Brown
A fictional tale of the life of ornithologist John James Audubon and his fateful meeting with physician and anatomist, Emile Gautreaux. Gautreaux arrives at Oakley with his wife, Myra, to visit the plantation owner. Alighting from the carriage, Myra Gautreaux collapses, and in the midst of great confusion it is discovered that she is dead. That evening, the distraught Gautreaux asks the young Audubon to sit with him through the night over his wife's dead body.
The city of your final destination Peter Cameron
Omar has won an award to write the authorised biography of a celebrated yet obscure writer named Jules Gund, author of The Gondola. It only remains for him to obtain permission from Gunds literary executors: his widow, his mistress and his brother. The three cannot agree to approve the work and if he cannot reverse the executors decision, he will lose his award, his job and, perhaps, his redoubtable girlfriend. Not allowing himself time for doubt, Omar acts against instinct and flies to Uruguay. There, he disturbs the uneasy intimacy of the world Gund has left behind and changes it forever.
The sex life of my aunt Mavis Cheek
Dilys has a lovely home, husband and family. Apart from the envy of her less contented sister everything in Dilys' rags-to-riches life is fine.Then she meets a lovely man at a railway station. She hurtles towards either her destruction or her liberation she discovers that deceit is in the blueprint of our birth, that ancient Aunts have their own dark secrets, that envious sisters have their reasons.
Casanova in Bohemia Andrei Codrescu
The old adventurer relives his life while writing his memoirs in a provincial Bohemian castle. Far from being defeated by age, Casanova delights in the maidservants, reacts with intellectual vigour to the unfolding of the French Revolution, and collaborates with Mozart on Don Giovanni. At once a libertine, a defender of women, a reactionary, a revolutionary, a brilliant observer, and a visionary, Casanova was a man ahead of his time both in thought and in action.
The Good men: A novel of heresy Charmaine Craig
This debut recreates the 1320 testimony of Grazida Lizier, who was tried for heresy during the Inquisition, relating a story of religious persecution where three generations are town between spiritual grace and sensual wonder.
The House of blue mangoes David Davidar
This story begins in the last year of the nineteenth century with Solomon Dorai, the headman of Chevathar, desperately trying to hold together village life at a time of great social and political unease. The spectre of caste unrest hangs about the South, threatening everything that Solomon holds dear. When violence finally erupts, it takes Solomon, and the traditional structure of village life, with it. Three generations of Dorais come and go in the village by the sea, winning and losing the battle for Chevathar.
The Crimson petal and the white Michel Faber
This Dickensian jaunt is set in 1870s London, and the action centers on an ambitious young whore named Sugar, whose fight to escape her predicament brings her into the extended family of a perfume magnate.
The Eyre Affair Jasper Fforde
In this alternate 1985, dodos are regenerated in home-cloning kits and everyone is disappointed by the ending of Jane Eyre. In this Britain, culture is supreme (not soccer) and supporters of the Surrealists fight with French impressionists. Time travel is possible and Thursday Next is a special operative in literary detection who battles a villain who is kidnapping favourite literary characters.
SpadeworkTimothy Findley
This novel depicts the disintegration of a family against the backdrop of the Stratford, Ontario Shakespeare Festival. Griffin and Jane Kincaid live with their son, Will, in idyllic Stratford. Griffin, a repertory actor, discovers that his future success may depend on his response to homosexual overtures by the theater's director. Jane's simultaneous infatuation with Milos, the handsome Canada Bell repairman who arrives to mend a broken phone line, comes when she is most vulnerable.
Gould's book of fish Richard Flanagan
William Buelow Gould's penchant for thievery may have landed him in prison cells, but his talent for painting still lifes has always allowed him small improvements in his station. The novel shows Gould providing paintings according to his patron's whims, culminating with his task of creating an illustrated taxonomy of Tasmania's sea life.
Everything is illuminated Jonathan Safran Foer
With only a yellowing photograph in hand, a young man - also named Jonathan Safran Foer - sets out to find the woman who might or might not have saved his grandfather from the Nazis. Accompanied by an old man haunted by memories of the war, an amorous dog named Sammy Davis and Alex, a young Ukrainian translator who speaks in a sublimely butchered English, Jonathan is led on a quixotic journey over a devastated landscape and into an unexpected past.
A multitude of sins Richard Ford
Another story collection from another well-loved author. Set in places as disparate as Montreal and the Grand Canyon, Fords tales deal with the perpetually disrupted relationships between men and women.
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.
Inez Carlos Fuentes
Mexican novelist Fuentes offers a profound novella that follows two tales of love and passion mirrored in a mysterious crystal seal that magically grants access to unknown languages and impossible music. In this tale, the love between the worlds first man and first woman parallels the love between an orchestra conductor and a jewel of a singer.
Spies Michael Frayn
Following up Booker Prize finalist Headlong, Frayn crafts a story of World War II London, where two boys playing at spy discover things about family and neighbours they shouldnt know.
Lake of dead languages Carol Goodman
When Jane returns to teach at the Heart Lake School, where three friends committed suicide, she encounters more death and pages from a missing journal she kept at the time.
The Mulberry Empire: or The Two Virtuous Journeys of the Amire Dost Mohammed Khan Philip Hensher
The Mulberry Empire begins in the spring of 1839 when the forces of the British Empire entered Afghanistan in splendour. Three years later, only one horseman returned. The pride of the British led to their destruction and the Afghans triumphed.Scot Alexander Burnes returns to London after his daring Asiatic exploits and is welcomed as a hero. In Kabul, he is a curiosity but the wise Amir Dost Mohammed Khan offers him respect and love.
When the elephants dance Tessa Uriza Holthe
The mystical world of the war-ravaged Philippines circa World War II is explored in this debut. After nearly three years of violent Japanese occupation, the Karangalans and several of their neighbors, including the wife of a famous guerrilla commander, are holed up in the basement of their house as U.S. forces advance on Manila. To fuel their courage and sustain their hope, the basement dwellers spend time telling magical tales based on Filipino myth.
A child's book of true crime Chloe Hooper
This is a book about Lucien, a child prodigy, and Kate, the 22-year-old schoolteacher who is having an affair with his father. Lucien's mother, Veronica, has just published a true-crime story - Murder at Black Swan Point - about Ellie Siddell, a local girl who was hacked to pieces in 1983. In the book, Veronica argues that Ellie was murdered by her lover's abandoned wife and Kate starts to fear that Veronica has a similar fate lined up for her.
Atomised (also published as The Elementary particles) Michel Houellebecq
Half-brothers Michel and Bruno have a mother in common but little else. Michel is a molecular biologist, a thinker and idealist, a man with no erotic life to speak of. Bruno, by contrast, is a libertine, though more in theory than in practice. Both are symptomatic members of our atomised society, where religion has given way to shallow 'new age' philosophies and love to meaningless sexual connections.The subject of the novel is the dismantling of contemporary society and its assumptions, its political incorrectness, and its caustic and penetrating asides.
Roscoe William Kennedy
The 7th in Kennedy's Albany cycle. Roscoe is a politician, a suave Falstaffian in a double-breasted white Palm Beach suit, unscrupulous, brilliant, exploding with courtly romance. It's V-J Day, the war's over, and Roscoe, after twenty-six years as chief braintruster of Albany's notorious political machine, decides to quit politics forever. But there's no exit, only new political wars, mysterious death, self-destructive party feuds, and scandalous threats to his beloved and her family.
Mr Potter Jamaica Kincaid
Elaine Cynthia, a writer, tells the story of her father, called Mr. Potter throughout, who was born in 1922 and died 70 years later. Like her father, Elaine is illegitimate, one of many daughters Mr. Potter fathered on the island of Antigua. He was the illegitimate son of Nathaniel Potter, fisherman, and a sixteen-year-old girl, who, when he was five, gave him to another couple, Mr. and Mrs. Shepherd, then walked into the sea and drowned.
The Impressionist Hari Kunzru
The "impressionist is Pran Nath Razdan, born into a wealthy Indian family early in the 20th century. While his family assumes that he is the son of his mother's husband and raises him in the lap of luxury, the house servants despise his very existence for they know the secret of his conception. Later, living on the streets, he undergoes a series of transformations in order to survive. In a brothel, he becomes a beautiful plaything to both colonists and natives, and later he plays the role of the perfect English schoolboy for a perverse British major. Though Pran's shape-shifting begins as a survival technique, he later perfects it so that he can deliberately mislead and manipulate.
The Horned man James Lasdun
Lawrence Miller is a professor of gender studies at Arthur Clay College in New York. He sits on the college's sexual harassment committee. In the past, the committee examined the case of celebrated Bulgarian poet Bogomil Trumilcik. Strange coincidences have lately made Miller suspicious that Trumilcik may be stalking him, or at least using his office after hours. When Elaine Jordan, another committee member, suddenly disappears, Miller concludes that something is definitely amiss. But who's the culprit? As Miller's paranoia mounts, he begins to take the investigation into his own hands.
Lost nation Jeffrey Lent
Set in the early nineteenth century, this story opens with a man known only as Blood guiding an oxcart of rum toward the wild country high in New Hampshire. Blood is a man of contradictions who sets forth to establish himself as a trader, hauling with him Sally, a sixteen-year-old girl won from the madam of a brothel over a game of cards. Their arrival in Indian Stream triggers an escalating series of clashes that serve to sever the master-servant bond between them and presents both a second chance at life.
Miracle at St Anna James McBride
Inspired by a historical incident that took place in the village of St. Anna di Stazzema in Tuscany and by the experiences of the famed Buffalo Soldiers of the 92nd Division in Italy during World War II, Miracle at St. Anna is an evocation of war, cruelty, passion, heroism, and love. It is the story of four American soldiers, the villagers among whom they take refuge, a band of partisans, and an Italian boy, all of whom encounter a miracle.
Sin Killer Larry McMurtry
Against the immense backdrop of the American West, this is a tale of a family confronting every bigger-than-life personality of the frontier, from the painter George Catlin to Indian chiefs, beaver trappers and mountain men, as they make their way up the great river, surviving attacks, discomfort, savage weather, and natural disaster.
The far field Edie Meidav
It's 1936, the world is sliding into war, and Henry Fyre Gould has left behind the salons of New York City for the British colony of Ceylon, the tear-shaped island off the coast of India. Driven by an arrogant faith in his ideals and convinced of his heroic destiny, he storms into the village of Rajottama, determined to build a model Buddhist society.
The rapture Susan Minot
Taking place entirely during a single, specific sex act between former lovers who meet after their relationship has come to its official end, Minot alternates segments of the pair's inner dialogue as the act progresses. Utterly self-involved, the two struggle to understand their own romantic motivations and the measure of affection they once held for each other -- or perhaps still hold.
Family matters Rohinton Mistry
Set in modern-day Bombay, the story centres on a 79-year-old Parsi widower named Nariman who first lives with his step-son and step-daughter and then his daughter, Roxana.
Twelve bar blues Patrick Neate
Spanning three continents and two centuries Twelve Bar Blues is an epic tale of jazz and juju, fate, family and friendship which finally unfolds in the Louisiana bayou. At its heart is Lick Holden, a young jazz musician, in 1900 New Orleans. The story of Lick's search for his step-sister echoes throughout the other stories in the book - of Sylvia, the English hooker and Jim her young companion; of the mysterious seashell head-dress; of Musa, the itinerant witchdoctor and of Tongo, the frustrated African chief.
Female trouble Antonya Nelson
Thirteen stories about the vagaries of marriage, the uncertainties of family, and the revelations of female life. The title story features a thirty-year-old man carrying on intimate relationships with three different women - one institutionalized, one pregnant, one purely maternal - but unable to commit to any of them.
Beasts Joyce Carol Oates
A talented junior at Catamount College in the 1970s, Gillian Brauer strives to realize more than a poet's craft in her workshop with the charismatic professor Andre Harrow. Gillian falls in love - with Harrow, with his aesthetic sensibility and bohemian lifestyle, with his secluded cottage on Brierly Lane, with the mystique of his imposing, russet-haired French wife, Dorcas. A sculptress, Dorcas has outraged all with the crude, primitive, larger than life-sized wooden totems that she has exhibited under the motto "We are Beasts and This is Our Consolation." As if mesmerized, Gillian enters the rarefied world of the Harrows.
In the forest Edna O'Brien
Michen O'Kane grew up in the Irish countryside among respectable folk who were far from rich but wanted for very little. His mother died while he was quite young, and he was raised mostly by his older sister Aileen. Early on, he developed a reputation as a troublemaker, to such an extent that the other children grew terrified of him and the grownups nicknamed him the "Kindershreck." Murder is the story's climax, but the killer's motives are deeply buried.
At swim, two boys Jamie O'Neill
Set in the year leading up to Dublin's 1916 Easter Uprising, this work tells the story of two young men seeking political, emotional, and sexual liberation as they come of age in troubled times.
Rouse up o young men of the new age Kenzaburo Oe
K is a famous writer living in Tokyo with his wife and three children, one of whom was born with a brain anomaly that has left him mentally disabled. A highly cerebral man who often retreats from real life into abstraction - in this case, the poetry of William Blake - K is confronted by his wife with the reality that this child, Eeyore, has been doing disturbing things: behaving aggressively, asserting that he's dead, even brandishing a knife at his mother. (Originally published in 1986 and previously unavailable in English).
Silent Joe T. Jefferson Parker
Joe Trona is attacked by his father as a child and left scarred. Later he is adopted by Will and Maryann Trona. In this story, he is 24 years old and works as a sheriff's deputy. By night, he serves as his father's bodyguard. When a night mission goes wrong, gunmen murder Will Trona. Joe begins to investigate his father's secret life and the surprising circumstances behind his death.
Bel Canto Ann Patchett
In a South American country, a world-renowned soprano sings at a birthday party in honor of a visiting Japanese industrial titan. His hosts hope that Mr. Hosokawa can be persuaded to build a factory in their Third World backwater. In the opening sequence, just as the accompanist kisses the soprano, a band of 18 terrorists enters the vice-presidential mansion. Their quarry is the president, who has unfortunately stayed home to watch a favorite soap opera.
The Dream of Scipio Iain Pears
The centuries are the fifth (the final days of the Roman Empire); the fourteenth (the years of the Black Death); and the twentieth (World War II). The setting for each is the same - Provence - and each has at its heart a love story. The narratives intertwine seamlessly, but what joins them thematically is an ancient text - "The Dream of Scipio" - a work of neo-Platonism that poses timeless philosophical questions.
Homo Zapiens Victor Pelevin
The collapse of the Soviet Union has opened up a vast market ripe for exploitation. Everybody wants a piece of the action. But how do you sell things to a generation that grew up with just one brand of cola? Enter Tartarsky, a lowly shop assistant who is hired as an advertising copywriter and discovers a hidden talent for devising home-grown alternatives to Western ads. Tartarsky is propelled into a world of gangsters, spin doctors, and drug dealers, fueled by cocaine and hallucinogenic mushrooms. But as his fortunes soar, reality soon loosens its grip.
The Amber spyglass Philip Pullman
The third volume of Philip Pullman's critically acclaimed fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials. Along with the return of Lyra, Will, Mrs. Coulter, Lord Asriel, Dr. Mary Malone, and Iorek Brynison the armoured bear comes a host of new characters: the Mulefa, mysterious wheeled creatures with the power to see Dust; Chevalier Tialys and Lady Salmakia, hand-high spy-masters to Lord Asriel; and Metatron, a fierce and mighty angel. So, too, come startling revelations: the painful price Lyra must pay to walk though the land of the dead, the haunting power of Dr. Malone's amber spyglass, and the names of who will live - and who will die - for love. And all the while, war rages with the Kingdom of Heaven, a brutal battle that will uncover the secret of Dust.
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.
Literary Prize winner Austerlitz W G Sebald
Over thirty years, in the course of conversations that take place across Europe, a man named Jacques Austerlitz tells a nameless companion of his ongoing struggle with the riddle of his identity. A small child when he immigrates alone to England in the summer of 1939, Austerlitz is told nothing of his real family by the Welsh couple who raise him. When he is a much older man, fleeting childhood memories return to him, and he obeys an instinct he only dimly understands and follows their trail back to the vanished world he left behind a half century before, the void at the heart of twentieth-century Europe.
After Nature W G Sebald
A three-part prose poem, which explores the life journeys of Renaissance painter Matthias Grunewald, explorer/botanist Georg Stellar, and Sebald himself.
Unless: a novel Carol Shields
Until her daughter Norah begins living on the streets of Toronto in the spring of 2000, Reta Winters "thought tragedy was someone not liking my book." She and physician Tom Winters have been together for 22 years, and Reta has a modest literary reputation as author of a comic novel, My Thyme Is Up. Shortly after Norah leaves home, Reta starts a sequel, and we find her grieving and "at the same time plotting what Alicia will say to Roman" in Thyme in Bloom.
Something like a house Sid Smith
Set in China during the Cultural Revolution, this is the story of James Stuart Fraser, a private in the British Army, who deserts and ends up spending 35 years "among the unshiftable Chinese". Many of those years are spent in the wretched poverty of a village of the despised Miao people, where life revolves around the solitary buffalo. The incredible tedium of Fraser's rural subsistence is portrayed and as time passes Fraser grows aware of the pseudo-academic work going on at the clinic, where eugenicists wreak havoc with village life in their search for the scientific "truth" of race.
Autograph man Zadie Smith
Alex-Li Tandem sells autographs - it is his business to hunt for names on paper, collect them, sell them and occasionally fake them in order to give people a little piece of Fame. Pushing against the tide of his generation, he is on his way to find enlightenment, some part of himself that cannot be signed or sold.
Tepper isn't going out Calvin Trillin
Murray Tepper, New Yorker, loving husband, father and grandfather also has a dark side - he likes to park. But he doesn't just park, he finds a "beautiful spot", puts his money in the meter, and sits in his Chevy Malibu reading the newspaper until his time is up. Not only does this perfectly legal, seemingly harmless behaviour rile other drivers who are circling the block, but it also puzzles his family and starts to attract attention.
The Passion of Artemesia Susan Vreeland
At age eighteen, Artemisia Gentileschi finds herself humiliated in papal court for publicly accusing the man who raped her -- Agostino Tassi, her painting teacher. When her father does not stand up for her, she knows she cannot stay in Rome and begs to have a marriage arranged for her. Her new husband, an artist named Pietro Stiatessi, takes her to his native Florence, where her talent for painting blossoms and she becomes the first woman to be elected to the Accademia dell'Arte. But marriage clashes with Artemisia's newfound fame as a painter, and she begins a lifelong search to reconcile painting and motherhood, passion and genius.
Fingersmith Sarah Waters
In Victorian London, the orphaned Sue Trinder is raised by Mrs. Sucksby, den mother to a family of thieves, or "fingersmiths." To repay Mrs. Sucksby's kindness, Sue gets involved in a scam but soon regrets it.
The Bulgari connection Fay Weldon
Grace Salt, 55, has just served a 15-month jail sentence for trying to run over 32-year-old Doris Dubois, the host of trendy TV show ArtsWorld Extra who has made off with Grace's husband, real-estate developer Barley. All three are dismayed to find themselves collectively in attendance at a charity event.
Dirt Music Tim Winton
Georgie Jutland is forty, with her career in ruins. She finds herself stranded in White Point with a fisherman she doesn't love and two kids. Her days have fallen into domestic tedium and social isolation. Her nights are a blur of vodka and pointless loitering in cyberspace. Then she meets the local poacher, Luther Fox.