Authors and critics pick top books

Novels by Philip Roth and Michael Chabon and a memoir by Edwidge Danticat among those cited.

updike 88 (photo credit: )
updike 88
(photo credit: )
John Updike, Anne Tyler and Walter Isaacson were among the more than 100 authors who participated in a poll initiated by the nation's book critics on the year's best releases. Novels by Philip Roth and Michael Chabon and a memoir by Edwidge Danticat were among those cited. "Best-seller lists really only show people what's selling, not what people are reading. Recommendations are personal because it means someone has actually read that book. And who better to ask than award-winning poets, novelists, historians and critics?" John Freeman, president of the National Book Critics Circle, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. Starting in 2008, the critics circle will issue a monthly list of recommended picks. For this year's books, authors and critics chose five works in each of three categories: fiction, nonfiction and poetry. The winners were novelist Junot Diaz's "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," Danticat's "Brother, I'm Dying" and, in a three-way tie for poetry, Robert Hass' "Time and Materials," the late Zbigniew Herbert's "Collected Poems" and Robert Pinsky's "Gulf Music." Also mentioned were Roth's "Exit Ghost," Chabon's "The Yiddish Policeman's Union" and two recent winners of the National Book Award: Denis Johnson's Vietnam War novel, "Tree of Smoke," and Tim Weiner's CIA history, "Legacy of Ashes." Other judges, all of whom have either won or been nominated for a National Book Critics Circle prize, included Jane Smiley, Cynthia Ozick, Jonathan Lethem and Sue Miller.