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25 Books to Remember from 1999


Books to Remember is an annual list of 25 titles chosen for their distinct and lasting contribution to literature and/or general knowledge for adult readers. Selection criteria include literary excellence, information value and importance, sincerity and honesty of presentation, skill in presentation, and importance in historical context.

The Alphabet of Desire
Barbara Hamby
NYU Press
Breathless and bountiful, these poems give "shape and significance to the strange and the familiar."

Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity
Bruce Bagemihl
St. Martin's Press
One step beyond nature or nurture, a controversial study of the sexual diversity of life on earth.

Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War
Mark Bowden
Atlantic Monthly Press
This account of the Battle of Mogadishu, Somalia, examines the issues and actions that led to one of the
worst American military encounters since Vietnam.

Close Range: Wyoming Stories
Annie Proulx
Idiosyncratic tales from the American West where there is "nothing much but weather and distance."

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams: A Novel
Wayne Johnston
A fictional biography of Newfoundland politico Joe Smallwood and Shelagh, his friend, enemy and love.

Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II
John W. Dower
W. W. Norton
A fascinating and fresh account of the watershed sociological and economic upheaval in Japan during the American Occupation.

Ethel & Ernest
Raymond Briggs
Alfred A. Knopf
A graphic novel that touchingly illustrates how people gradually come to terms with a changing world.

For the Relief of Unbearable Urges
Nathan Englander
Alfred A. Knopf
Nine remarkable short stories rooted in the Orthodox Jewish experience.

Freedom Song: Three Novels
Amit Chaudhuri
Alfred A. Knopf
Life in contemporary India is brilliantly explored in these three short works.

Interpreter of Maladies: Stories
Jhumpa Lahiri: Houghton Mifflin
A dazzling debut collection of short stories which illuminate the immigrant experience.

Into the Porcupine Cave and Other Odysseys: Adventures of an Occasional Naturalist
William W. Warner
National Geographic
Essays which document a born naturalist's lifetime of experiences with the natural world.

Liar's Moon: A Long Story
Philip Kimball
Henry Holt
This highly original novel introduces characters who bear witness to the myths and realities of the American West.

The Migration of Ghosts
Pauline Melville
Guyanese and European tales of magic and mystery.

Morgan: American Financier
Jean Strouse
Random House
The intriguing story of the merchant banker who helped shape the American capitalist economy.

On the Bus with Rosa Parks: Poems
Rita Dove
W. W. Norton
The former Poet Laureate's new collection sheds light on both history's most famous and most forgotten characters.

The Orchid Thief
Susan Orlean
Random House
A vivid and bizarre tale of obsession and theft set in and around the swamps of South Florida.

Kent Haruf
Alfred A. Knopf
A small town on the Colorado plains is the setting for this tale of an unlikely group of people leading unsettled lives.

A Prayer for the Dying
Stewart O’Nan
Henry Holt
Jacob Hanson, sheriff, undertaker and pastor, copes with a mysterious fatal disease in a small town in Wisconsin.

Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties
Mike Marqusee
An exploration of the global impact of Ali's conversion to Islam, his anti-war efforts, and his civil rights activities.

Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette
Judith Thurman
Alfred A. Knopf
An intelligent biography which explores the many facets of the life and work of the great French novelist.

Sonny Liston Was a Friend of Mine: Stories
Thom Jones
Little, Brown
Twelve stories that reveal the underside of American society through characters fighting to prove themselves despite unforgiving odds.

T. S. Eliot: An Imperfect Life
Lyndall Gordon
A biography of a troubled poet whose personal and professional lives were tragically contradictory, but whose work provided a moral compass for the 20th Century.

Those Bones Are Not My Child
Toni Cade Bambara
Pantheon Books
A posthumously published novel based on the Atlanta child murders of the early Eighties.

Ha Jin
Pantheon Books
A married army doctor falls in love with a nurse during the Cultural Revolution in China.

Woman: An Intimate Geography
Natalie Angier
Houghton Mifflin
A map of a woman's body, with its landmarks of anatomy, function, and feeling.

These books were selected by the following committee from the staff of The New York Public Library: Tim Gleisner, Todd Gwinn, Lawrence Kapture, Chair, Barbara McGlamery, Ned Richards, Miriam Tuliao.