But don't take our word for it. The National Book Critics Circle launched its inaugural Best Recommended List, compiled by polling its members, former book prize winners and finalists. (The NBCC's excellent blog is here: bookcriticscircle.blogspot.com/ )
Here are the lists they came up with, along with links to LA Weekly reviews of the books, where applicable.
1) Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead)
2) Denis Johnson, Tree of Smoke (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
3) Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union (HarperCollins)
4) Philip Roth, Exit Ghost (Houghton Mifflin)
5) Per Petterson, Out Stealing Horses (Graywolf)
1) Edwidge Danticat, Brother, I’m Dying (Knopf)
2) Alan Weisman, The World Without Us (St. Martin’s)
3) Noami Klein, The Shock Doctrine (Metropolitan)
4) David Michaelis, Schulz and Peanuts (HarperCollins)
5) Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes (Doubleday)
After the jump: Poetry winners. (Poetry never gets a fair shake.)
1) Robert Hass, Time and Materials: Poems 1997-2005* (Ecco)
2) Zbigniew Herbert, Collected Poems: 1956-1998 (Ecco)*
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3) Robert Pinsky, Gulf Music (Farrar Straus & Giroux)*
4) Rae Armantrout, Next Life (Wesleyan)
5) Mary Jo Bang, Elegy (Graywolf)
* There was a three-way tie for first place in poetry.