30th Anniversary 30 Books of the Years: 1991 - 2020

DDG turned 30 on May 1, 2021!

Here are our book-of-the-year picks starting from 1991.


Possession (Vintage International) By A. S. Byatt Cover Image
ISBN: 9780679735908
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Published: Vintage - October 1st, 1991

Smilla's Sense of Snow By Peter Hoeg Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385315142
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Published: Delta - October 1st, 1995

The Shipping News By Annie Proulx Cover Image
ISBN: 9780671510053
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Published: Scribner - June 1st, 1994

Corelli's Mandolin: A Novel (Vintage International) By Louis de Bernieres Cover Image
ISBN: 9780679763970
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Published: Vintage - August 29th, 1995

His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass (Book 1) By Philip Pullman Cover Image
ISBN: 9780440418320
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Published: Yearling - May 22nd, 2001

The Debt to Pleasure: A Novel By John Lanchester Cover Image
ISBN: 9780312420369
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Published: Picador - December 7th, 2001

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, Book 1) By J. K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré (Illustrator) Cover Image
By J. K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré (Illustrator)
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ISBN: 9780590353427
Published: Scholastic Paperbacks - October 1st, 1999

The Dragon of Lonely Island By Rebecca Rupp Cover Image
ISBN: 9780763628055
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Candlewick - April 11th, 2006

This was a store favorite and when it went out of print I lobbied the publisher to see it come back into print. One other store was lobbying too, The Flying Pig in Shelburne Vermont.The reprint happened in 2006 and it is still in print. Also, though I didn't know the Flying Pig owners at the time we later become big pals and still are!

A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning By Lemony Snicket, Brett Helquist (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Lemony Snicket, Brett Helquist (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780064407663
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Published: HarperCollins - August 25th, 1999

We loved the Bad Beginning right from the beginning. Here is a review I did For the Franklin journal back in 2000. A Series of Unfortunate Events.

The Thief Lord By Cornelia Funke, Christian Birmingham (Illustrator) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780545227704
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Published: Chicken House - May 1st, 2010

What a book! Here is my Franklin Journal review from 2003.The Thief Lord

River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze By Peter Hessler Cover Image
ISBN: 9780060855024
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Published: Harper Perennial - April 25th, 2006

Still a store favorite. Here is my review from 2001. River Town.

A Story for Bear By Dennis Haseley, Jim LaMarche (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Dennis Haseley, Jim LaMarche (Illustrator)
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ISBN: 9780152002398
Published: Clarion Books - April 1st, 2002

The Amulet of Samarkand (A Bartimaeus Novel #1) By Jonathan Stroud Cover Image
ISBN: 9780786852550
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Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - May 12th, 2004

Utterly Me, Clarice Bean By Lauren Child, Lauren Child (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Lauren Child, Lauren Child (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780763627881
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Published: Candlewick - March 3rd, 2005

An all time DDG favorite! Here is my reivew from back in the day. Utterly Me Clarice Bean!

Temple Stream: A Rural Odyssey By Bill Roorbach Cover Image
ISBN: 9781608933938
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Published: Down East Books - December 1st, 2014

An all time DDG Bestseller, set one town over, and written by Old Store Pal Bill Roorbach.

The Arrival By Shaun Tan, Shaun Tan (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Shaun Tan, Shaun Tan (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780439895293
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Published: Arthur A. Levine Books - October 1st, 2007

A magnificient book! Here is the write up I did for the local newspaper holiday gift guide.

Ellis Island is at once a firm piece of history and a beguiling metaphor. The sense of passage, the struggle for entry, the strangeness and immersion, the aspirations and complex realities which mark Ellis Island, make for both compelling history and a dramatic representation of many aspects of the human experience.

            It is perhaps fitting, given all the holiday bustle, not to mention the struggle among book titles to be a popular choice during the holiday season, that a story whose tale is rooted in the immigration experience, by a relatively unknown Australian author, should be the finest gift book of the year. The Arrival, by Shaun Tan, is a story told entirely through sequential pictures. Several of the drawings are based upon turn of the century historical photographs, rooting the book in the Ellis Island period. The brilliance and the wonder of the book, apart from the truly exquisite drawings, is the element of the fantastic which Tan inserts. The marvel of The Arrival is that its readers are placed inside the story. We too cannot read the signs and billboards written in a strange language. The odd animals and unknown machines are, at first, as bewildering to us as they are to the immigrants. As the story progresses, we move along with it, gaining at first a foothold, and then a steadily building comprehension of the world through which we are traveling.

            The Arrival is a truly exceptional book. To read it is to enjoy a unique, wondrous, and satisfying experience. Giving it as a gift this holiday season isn’t a bad idea either. 

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The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle #1) By Patrick Rothfuss Cover Image
ISBN: 9780756405892
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Published: DAW - April 7th, 2009

Where is book three of The Kingkiller trilogy> No idea. But here is my review of book one from The Daily Bulldog in 2007. The Name of the Wind.

The Hunger Games (Hunger Games, Book One) By Suzanne Collins Cover Image
ISBN: 9780439023528
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Published: Scholastic Press - July 1st, 2010

The Angel's Game: A Psychological Thriller By Carlos Ruiz Zafón Cover Image
ISBN: 9780767931113
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Published: Anchor - May 18th, 2010

The Angel's game, which was our pick for Best Fiction Title of 2009 as well as having been the subject of The False Opinion Corrector,

The Passage: A Novel (Book One of The Passage Trilogy) By Justin Cronin Cover Image
ISBN: 9780345504975
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Published: Ballantine Books - May 17th, 2011

If you're a fiction lover you want a big book that's big fun, and The Passage is both of those things. A calamitous future, fascinatingly developed over a broad span of time, characters you grow attached to, lots of unexpected twists and turns, and flashes of grand style set amidst a hurtling pace is just the thing to spend some time hunkered down with.

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The Night Circus: A Novel By Erin Morgenstern Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307744432
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - July 3rd, 2012

Huge store favorite here. Speaking of Night Circus here is my interview with its author Erin Morgenstern!

Every great story is an enchanted mirror, reflecting both the nature and action of its creation, and the varied experiences of its audience. The Night Circus, warm, brilliantly original, exciting and romantic, is such a book. Some follow the Night Circus as it travels from city to city, experiencing it many times. Others enter its gates only when the Circus appears in their neighborhood, while still others never seek admission. Anyone who does not enter the pages of this novel will be much the poorer for it. This magnificent tale of tales, of passionate contests, of adjoining rooms of wonder and intimacy is itself a wonder and a challenge to all who enter. Whether you call it magic or manipulation Morgenstern has employed her art to put on a literary spectacle from whose pages you will not wish to escape. If you missed it in hardcover take the plunge now.

When We Were The Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico, Maine By Monica Wood Cover Image
ISBN: 9780544002326
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Published: Mariner Books - June 11th, 2013

A wonderful memoir from store favorite Monica Wood. You can read more about the book here in my interview with the author.

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics By Daniel James Brown Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143125471
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Published: Penguin Books - May 27th, 2014

There are successful works of non-fiction that take a mediocre story and live on the strength of their author. There are stories of such strength that they hold up some mediocre storytelling. Boys in the Boat is that rare and exceptional combination of a great story told by a masterful storyteller. As moving as it is compelling, this tale of the 1936 American Olympian rowing team is the perfect read for pretty much anyone.

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The Glass Sentence (The Mapmakers Trilogy #1) By S. E. Grove Cover Image
ISBN: 9780142423660
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Published: Puffin Books - June 16th, 2015

The Glass Sentence is a marvelous work of imaginative fantasy and adventure for all ages. Here is my interview with it's delightful author, S.E. Grove

Seveneves By Neal Stephenson Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062334510
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Published: William Morrow Paperbacks - May 17th, 2016

Here is my full review of Seveneves in the Daily Bulldog

Seveneves is so grounded in good science, solid sociology and astute psychology, that it is an absolute pleasure to be immersed in. Humanity has two years before the fragmentation rate of the moon accelerates exponentially to the point of becoming an apocalyptic event rendering the surface of the planet uninhabitable for 5,000 years. Billions are going to die, but to prevent total extinction a sudden and quantum effort involving both technology and psychology will be required.

At 861 pages, Seveneves is a commitment to be sure. This is no time to be commitment averse, however. First of all the book is only dense in the sense that it hurtles along at enormous speed like an accelerating bolide fragment. In fact, it is such an unusually satisfying reading experience that, if the world were going to end in two years, I would still recommend spending a chunk of your remaining time reading it.

Dark Matter: A Novel By Blake Crouch Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101904244
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Published: Ballantine Books - May 2nd, 2017

Dark matter is a terrific science fiction exploration of the physics involved in multiple dimensionalities. This thought provoking and hard to put down story raises questions of personal integrity and personal identity to go along with its fascinating scientific and thriller elements. A real tour de force, Dark matter's strong writing and well drawn characters enhance all its other strengths.

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit By Michael Finkel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101911532
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Published: Vintage - January 30th, 2018

Here is my interview with the author in The Daily Bulldog:

The 'last true hermit' is Christopher Knight, who until he was arrested after living in the central Maine Woods for 27 years, helping himself to food and supplies from seasonal cabins and a camp for disabled youth, was known as The North Pond Hermit.  This high profile local story is given national treatment in this book which has been a steady favorite at the bookstore, in part because it is of such enduring local interest, in part because Knight is a true outlier and his story is fascinating, and finally because this  book, based on the author's rare personal access to Knight, is extremely well told.

The Labyrinth of the Spirits: A Novel By Carlos Ruiz Zafon Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062668707
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Perennial - June 11th, 2019

Here is my essay on Zafon's completion of The Labyrnith of the Spirits in Publisher's Weekly.

With the Labyrinth of the Spirits Carlos Ruiz Zafon has completed his four book Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. The author, along with providing the fourth book, has also supplied a narrative edict. "Each individual installment in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series can be read in any order , enabling the reader to explore the labyrinth of stories along different paths which, when woven together, lead into the heart of the narrative."

For those who have already begun The Labyrinth is a sublime culmination to a truly outstanding series, but new  readers should feel free to start their journey here. Set in Barcelona from 1938 through the 1970's these four books deftly combine the world of bookselling, the long shadow of the Spanish Civil War, gothic literary interplay, wonderfully salty characters, sublime dialogue and verbal sparring, along with elaborate and satisfying exposition. Taken together or individually they represent a reading experience not to be missed.

Ninth House (Ninth House Series #1) By Leigh Bardugo Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250751362
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Published: Flatiron Books - October 20th, 2020

Here is my essay on Ninth House in Publisher's Weekly.

Bardugo's transition from writing young adult to adult fiction is a towering success. Ninth House 's  main protagonist, Alex Stern, is sure to draw deserved comparisons to Lisbeth Salander for her nuanced imperfections, outsize savagery, creative moral architecture, arresting and florid candor, and gritty vulnerability. The book is filled with vivid, viscerally realized characters, taut, unexpected and terrifying narratives, and a wonderfully evocative and unsavory New Haven cursed by its proximity to the netherworld, its veils too thin between the living and the dead. This is a page turner for the ages, an immersive, entertaining, and engaging reading experience whose only disappointment comes from having finished it.

Piranesi By Susanna Clarke Cover Image
ISBN: 9781635575637
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Published: Bloomsbury Publishing - September 15th, 2020

What a remarkable book Piranesi is. Fifteen years have passed since Clarke's last novel, the magnificent Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.  Clarke has transposed this period of stasis in her life into the pages and passages of Piranesi, infusing the tale with atmosphere and insight. Piranesi, he who is the mysterious hero of this tale, inhabits an almost infinite house filled with halls of porcelain statues and a questing sea whose tides he has mastered. As the truth of his odd existence unspools, it feeds a quiet intensity that suddenly steps out into the light of a brilliant and satisfying conclusion. Many are the tales of portals to adjacent worlds. Piranesi has an air of authenticity about which is unique.