The New York Times named its 10 best books of 2009, noting that "after so many years, and so many lists, you might think the task of choosing the 10 Best Books would get easier. If only. The sublime story collections alone created agonies of indecision. So did the superb literary biographies we read--and deeply admired. But in the end the decisions had to be made."
2009's top 10:
Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy (short stories)
Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem
A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore (Knopf)
Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel by Jeannette Walls (Scribner)
A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert (Scribner)
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
The New York Times Book Review yesterday listed its top 10 titles for 2005:
* Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami (Knopf, $25.95, 1400043662). "This graceful and dreamily cerebral novel, translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel, tells two stories--that of a boy fleeing an Oedipal prophecy, and that of a witless old man who can talk to cats."
* On Beauty by Zadie Smith (Penguin Press, $25.95, 1594200637). Smith shows "a crisp intellect, a lovely wit and enormous sympathy for the men, women and children who populate her story. "
* Prep: A Novel by Curtis Sittenfeld (Random House, $13.95, 081297235X). "This calm and memorably incisive first novel, about a scholarship girl who heads east to attend an elite prep school, casts an unshakable spell and has plenty to say about class, sex and character."
* Saturday by Ian McEwan (Talese/Doubleday, $26, 0385511809). "As bracing and as carefully constructed as anything McEwan has written."
* Veronica: A Novel by Mary Gaitskill (Pantheon, $23, 0375421459). A "mesmerizingly dark novel . . . narrated by a former Paris model."
* The Assassin's Gate: America in Iraq by George Packer (FSG, $26, 0374299633). "A comprehensive look at the largest foreign policy gamble in a generation."
* de Kooning: An American Master by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan (Knopf, $35, 1400041759). "A sweeping biography, impressively researched and absorbingly written."
* The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr (Random House, $24.95, 0375508015). A "gripping narrative, populated by a beguiling cast of scholars, historians, art restorers and aging nobles, records the search for Caravaggio's Taking of Christ, painted in 1602 and rediscovered in 1990."
* Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt (Penguin Press, $39.95, 1594200653). "Massive, learned, beautifully detailed."
* The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (Knopf, $23.95, 140004314X). "A prose master's harrowing yet exhilarating memoir."