Recommended Books 1999

Fiction

Auster, Paul. Timbuktu. Henry Holt, 1999.
Auster can always be depended upon for unusual tales, and this brief novel is no exception. The main character and the storyteller is Mr. Bones, the canine companion of Willy G. Christmas. A poignant and affecting story.

Barnes, Julian. England, England. Knopf, 1999.
If you were visiting England, how would you like to have all the historic tourist attractions in one great theme park called "England, England"? With sharp wit and humor, Barnes has imagined such a place in this very amusing novel.

Belfer, Lauren. City of Light. Dial Press, 1999.
An exceptionally well written first novel that recreates the social and political milieu of Buffalo, New York at the turn-of-the-century. Personal and public struggles, intrigue, murder, and surprising plot twists make this an engrossing reading experience.

Bolger, Dermot, Editor. Finbar’s Hotel. Harcourt Brace, 1999.
An entertaining collection of interlinked stories that take place in a Dublin hotel. Each of the chapters is written by a different Irish writer, and the reader is challenged to guess which writer contributed which story. The talented writers represented are Dermot Bolger, Roddy Doyle, Joseph O’Connell, Jennifer Johnston, Colm Toibin, Hugh Hamilton, and Anne Enright.

Booth, Martin. The Industry of Souls. St. Martin’s Press, 1999.
Alexander Bayliss, a British citizen, is wrongly arrested for espionage in the l950s and sentenced to 25 years of hard labor in a Russian gulag near the Arctic Circle. Eventually freed, he makes his way to a small village where he becomes a revered member of the community. On his 80th birthday he recalls his life in the gulag and the choice he must make before the day is over. A finalist for the 1999 Booker Prize.

Brown, Carrie. Lamb in Love. Algonquin Books, 1999.
Set in a picturesque English village in the 1960s, this is a charming novel with an old-fashioned flavor. A stodgy postmaster in his fifties falls in love with a woman whose first priority is the retarded young man she has taken care of for twenty years.

Buckely, Christopher. Little Green Men. Random House, 1999.
A host of a Washington, D. C., talk show is abducted by aliens at his country club in this hilarious novel.

Coetzee, J. M. Disgrace. Viking, 1999.
This bleak, unsettling, and heartbreaking novel takes place in post-apartheid South Africa. Disgraced, Professor David Lurie leaves Cape Town to live with his daughter on her small rural landholding. Their relationship is a work-in-progress when a violent act changes each of them in unimagined ways. A powerful and searing testament to the legacy of racism. The right choice for the 1999 Booker Prize in fiction..

Grass, Gunter. My Century. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book. Harcourt, Inc. 1999.
The Nobel Prize winner for Literature has written the story of our century with one hundred short pieces dating from the first entitled "1900" to the concluding one called "1999." A superb collection of stories by Germany’s brilliant writer.

Haruf, Kent. Plainsong. Knopf, 1999.
A novel without pretense and written in simple prose the apropos title suggests. Set in a small town in Colorado, Haruf skillfully mixes a strong sense of place with well developed and appealing characters. A finalist for the National Book Award.

Jin, Ha. Waiting. Pantheon Books, 1999.
Winner of the National Book Award for fiction in 1999. Set in China in the period from 1960 to 1980, the operative word in this novel is the "waiting" done by a military doctor for his first marriage to be officially declared dissolved after eighteen years of living apart.

Just, Ward. A Dangerous Friend. Houghton Mifflin, 1999.
Reminiscent of Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, this powerful narrative of American civilians working in Vietnam in 1965 is an intriguing story of misguided motives, betrayal, and cultural ignorance.

McMurtry, Larry. Duane’s Depressed. Simon and Schuster, 1999.
A very entertaining novel that completes the Texas trilogy that began with The Last Picture Show. Duane Moore is now in his sixties and when he gives up driving his pickup truck, his family and friends are convinced that he is in a precarious mental state.

Mosley, Walter. Walkin’ the Dog. Little, Brown, 1999.
The memorable and philosophical ex-con Socrates Fortlow introduced in Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned returns in this excellent and gritty sequel.

O’Nan, Stewart. A Prayer for the Dying. Little, Brown, 1999.
A Job-like protagonist is the narrator of this powerful and harrowing novel set in a small Wisconsin town after the Civil War .

Proulx, E. Annie. Close Range: Wyoming Stories. Scribners, 1999.
Eleven stories authentic in character and tone make up this brilliant collection.

Saramago, Jose. Tale of the Unknown Island. Harcourt Brace, 1999.
A lovely and simple fable by the Nobel Prize winner for Literature in 1998.

Strout, Elizabeth. Amy and Isabelle. Random House, 1999.
An emotional tug-of-war between a mother and her sixteen-year-old daughter. A competent debut novel.

Thompson, Jane. Who Do You Love? Harcourt Brace, 1999.
A National Book Award nominee for fiction--a collection of fifteen stories that are realistic in their characterization of people in mainly unhappy circumstances.

Troy, Judy. From the Black Hills. Random House, 1999.
A good, solid novel set in a farming community in South Dakota that deals with a decent young man who suffers the consequences of an act of violence committed by his father.

Unsworth, Barry. Losing Nelson. N. A. Talese, 1999.
A reclusive scholar is obsessed with the life and career of Horatio Nelson, the English naval hero. Despite the wealth of historical detail in the plot, it is primarily a psychological novel about a man who is so absurdly immersed in Nelson’s life and personality that his own identity is obscured.

Vreeland, Susan. Girl in Hyacinth Blue. MacMurray & Beck, 1999.
This lovely and elegant novel revolves around a single painting by Vermeer and the history of its ownership since its creation by the artist. Beginning at the present, the vignettes work backward in time with insightful images of life in seventeenth century Holland as well as observations on art. A book to be savored.

Weber, Katharine. The Music Lesson. Crown, 1999.
Very different in tone and atmosphere from a Girl in Hyacinth Blue, this literary thriller involves a Vermeer painting stolen by the IRA and now guarded by an Irish-American art historian in rural Ireland.

Nonfiction

Clymer, Adam. Edward M. Kennedy. William Morrow, 1999.
Clymer is the Washington correspondent for The New York Times and has extensively covered Kennedy’s public and private life as background for this substantial biography.

Cook, Blanche Wiesen. Eleanor Roosevelt Volume 2: 1933-1938. Viking, 1999.
This concluding volume focuses on the emergence of Eleanor Roosevelt as a formidable crusader for social issues.

Epstein, Joseph. Narcissus Leaves the Pool. Houghton Mifflin, 1999.
Epstein is one of the best contemporary essayists and his latest collection is a delight to read. He covers a wide range of topics--napping, music, friendship, talent vs. genius---with an effortless writing style.

Frankel, Max. The Times of My Life: And My Life with the Times. Random House, 1999.
A fascinating account of the author’s boyhood in Nazi Germany, his immigrant experience, and his amazing accomplishments at The New York Times.

Heat-Moon, William Least. River Horse. Houghton Mifflin, 1999.
In his first book Blue Highways, Least-Moon traveled the back roads of America. In this book he shares his experiences when he voyaged on thousands of miles of our inland waterways.

Hertog, Susan. Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Nan A Talese, 1999.
This sympathetic biography is the result of several years of interviews with Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and provides a different perspective on her public and private life.

Hahn, Edith. The Nazi Officer’s Wife. William Morrow, 1999.
A remarkable memoir of a German woman who concealed her Jewish identity and married a Nazi to whom she revealed the truth, but who nevertheless kept her secret.

Holland, Barbara. Wasn’t the Grass Greener? Harcourt Brace, 1999.
A nostalgic look back at the way things were in the not-so-distant past before the advent of e-mail, cell phones, and other wonders of our technological society.

Larson, Erik. Isaac’s Storm. Crown Publishers, 1999.
The engrossing account of the catastrophic hurricane that struck Galveston, Texas in 1900, killing at least 8,000 people.

McCourt, Frank. ‘Tis: A Memoir. Scribner, 1999.
In this follow-up to the enormously popular Angela’s Ashes, McCourt details his experiences as a newly arrived and awestruck immigrant.

McMurtry, Larry. Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen. Simon & Schuster, 1999.
Highly personal essays dealing with his parents and grandparents, Texas ranch life, and other matters that are quite somber and melancholy in tone.

Maraniss, David. When Pride Still Mattered. Simon & Schuster, 1999.
An atypical sports biography of the legendary Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

Sobel, Dava. Galileo’s Daughter. Walker & Company, 1999.
A superb book about the extraordinary relationship between Galileo and his eldest daughter Maria Celeste, a cloistered nun. Sobel has masterfully interwoven actual translations of her letters to her father within the text.

Tvedten, Brother Benet. The View from a Monastery. Riverhead Books, 1999.
For forty years the author has lived in the Blue Cloud Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in South Dakota. With humor and affection he shares with us the legends and oral history of the monastery and what it is like to be a monk in this time and in that place.