1. Michael Crichton, Next. Yes it is "writing-by-numbers," yes it is better than his recent work, but no, it is not nearly as good as Jurassic Park, Sphere (my favorite), Congo, or for that matter his book on Jasper Johns. Some critics like it. The start is OK but it falls apart as it proceeds. By the way, here is my previous post on human-chimp hybrids.
2. Robert Bolaño, Distant Star. A minor masterpiece. He is another of those first-tier Latin writers, along with Asturias and Rulfo, who for mysterious reasons no one in the United States seems to read.
3. Richard Powers, The Echo Maker. A deserving winner of a National Book Award, plus I am interested in the neurology theme. I find many of Power’s earlier books too intellectualized, but this one held my attention throughout. By the way, I also tried the non-fiction National Book winner, the book about the Dust Bowl years, but it didn’t hold my interest.
4. The Poor Always Pay Back: The Grameen II Story, by Asif Dowla and Dipal Barua. A very good look at the micro-credit movement.
Addendum: The NYT picks its ten best books of the year.