These books were not all necessarily published in '04, but it's when I got to them, so here are my faves. I read several of the books on the "buzzed about" list this year and was not impressed; however, I don't pan books. There is way too much of a writer's heart in any book. Criticizing a book is like smacking someone's baby. So I may think that certain writers are overblown gasbags, but I'm not going to pick on their books.
This is a fiction list. Non-fiction will appear later.
1. The Wilderness Karen Novak. Leslie Stone is a detective with a leaky imagination, haunted by children she cannot save. Having discovered the bones of a child long-dead on Christmas Day, Stone's unraveling of the crime leads her into the wilderness where there is strange fruit hanging from the trees.
2. A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali Gil Courtemanche. A French journalist falls in love with a Rwandan hotel worker in the months leading up to the genocide.
3. Eyes Like Mine Paul Cody. Cody narrates this disturbing but mesmerizing story of a young man who kills the members of his family.
4. The Darling Russell Banks. I would read Cracker Jack boxes if they were written by Banks, but his latest is great. A member of the Weather Underground flees America to escape the FBI, lands in Liberia, and marries a government official. From her vantage point, she watches as the country moves toward civil war, and watches as her children are drawn into it.
5. The Shadow of the Wind Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Fascist Spain, a love of books and their secrets, and young lovers' yearning combine to create an incredibly intelligent, lyrical book about a quest.
6. The Dogs of Babel Carolyn Parkhurst. Devastated by an accident that killed his wife, a widower sets out to get the truth from the only living witness: the couple's dog. An amazing meditation on grief.
7. Oracle Night Paul Auster. This book is not for everyone. If you like tidy endings, this'll kill you. Auster's character is enchanted by the notebooks in which he writes his stories. A book that is really about the writing process.
What would you recommend?