Daughters of famous writers Kiran Desai (The Inheritance of Loss) and Lisa Fugard (Skinner’s Drift) proved they could hold their own. The creative Internet ad for Grégoire Bouillier’s The Mystery Guest nudged publishing into the YouTube age. George Saunders and Adrian Nicole LeBlanc got well-deserved MacArthur “genius” grants. Allegra Goodman’s Intuition was the best science-fiction book of the year (as in fiction about scientists). David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas) went intimate and autobiographica in Black Swan Green. William Styron’s death reminded us of his gutsy, deeply moral novels. Ian Buruma’s Murder in Amsterdam demonstrated how Europe’s relationship with its Muslims is even more critical than our own. Fledgling Europa Editions brought classy but edgy European fiction to America (Amazing Disgrace, Old Filth). Peter Carey savaged the go-go art market in Theft.
Richard Powers got his due, winning a National Book Award for his ninth novel, The Echo Maker. In Absurdistan, Gary Shteyngart did funny-sad as only a Russian could. The Wild West anarchist-revenge tale at the heart of Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day—cut out the other 600 pages and you’ve got the best novel of the year. Peter Hessler’s Oracle Bones captured China on the brink of a prosperous, uncertain future. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Half of a Yellow Sun) and Dave Eggers (What Is the What) wrote brilliantly of Africa for a new generation.