December 18, 2009 at 05:00 AM EST

1. In Other Rooms, Other Wonders
Daniyal Mueenuddin
Broken men and women from rich and varied walks of Pakistani life collide and combust in Mueenuddin’s haunting collection of short stories, giving us a window into a wholly foreign existence.

2. The Help
Katheryn Stockett
Book clubs across the country have swooned over this bighearted story of black maids hearing the first whispers of civil rights in Jackson, Miss., and the young white journalist who believes their stories are worth telling.

3. This Is Where I Leave You
Jonathan Tropper
The occasion that draws the Foxman clan together in this magnificently funny family saga is a sad one?the death of a father. But as described by Tropper with a menschy, irreverent soulfulness, the Jewish rituals of mourning lead to multigenerational mayhem. — Lisa Schwarzbaum

4. Let the Great World Spin
Colum McCann
In a series of gorgeously wrought vignettes, McCann brings 1970s New York City to life on the page. His characters — a monk, a prostitute, a society matron, and so on?are held together by the thinnest of cords: the tightrope that daredevil Philippe Petit slung between the World Trade Center towers in August 1974. — TJ

5. Blame
Michelle Huneven
Blame spins the seemingly straightforward tale of an alcohol-abetted tragedy into a delicately crafted study of guilt and redemption. — Leah Greenblatt

6. Asterios Polyp
David Mazzucchelli
After a decade of silence, comic-book artist Mazzucchelli emerged with this sprawling, trippy, moving graphic novel about an architecture professor’s double life. — Sean Howe

7. Too Much Happiness
Alice Munro
Munro’s story collections always dazzle. As usual, these 10 tales are short on plot but long on emotion, dousing the reader in sorrow, heartache, and laughter. — TJ

8. Sing Them Home
Stephanie Kallos
This fantastical story of three grieving siblings in windblown Nebraska might fly off into the heavens were it not for Kallos’ muscular prose.

9. A Monster’s Notes
Laurie Sheck
Sheck’s novel, burrowing into the mind of the creature from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, is no monstrous mash of brainy bits and hot air but an electrifying literary triumph. — Jeff Jensen

10. Await Your Reply
Dan Chaon
Three separate plots ultimately converge in this finely honed novel about the dangers?and consequences — of reinventing yourself. — TG

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