Not all the "best of" book lists are out, but I can issue a preliminary report, with possible updates to follow. This year opinion about best books seems unusually diverse. Not so many books have been intellectually central to the market. I have seen the following titles pop up repeatedly on "best of" lists:
Roberto Bolaño, 2666. Duh. After four hundred pages of reading, I see it as less perfect than The Savage Detectives but it has greater world-historic reach and even some sprawl. A clear first choice in almost any year.
Julian Barnes, Nothing to be Frightened Of. I like some of Barnes’s work, most of all Flaubert’s Parrot, but I am embarrassed that such a shallow book would receive any favorable notice at all.
The Forever War, Dexter Filkins. The quality of the journalism is high but for me it was insufficiently conceptual so I put it down after fifty pages or so.
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A Novel, By David Wroblewski. I liked the 150 or so pages I read but just didn’t have the time or the love to finish it. It reminds me of Stephen King’s better work.
I’ve drawn from the lists you will find here, among others.
During the year I saw many favorable reviews for Alexsandar Hemon’s The Lazarus Project (I liked it) and Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies (I haven’t read it yet), though neither seems to be popping up on so many "best of" lists. Perhaps Robin Hanson would view such lists as signaling rather than a honest statement of preferences.