As promised, here's my quick survey of lists of the best fiction for 2006.
The Boston Globe
The Christian Science Monitor
The Guardian (UK)
The LA Times
The New York Times
The Washington Post
I've already highlighted the books that caught my eye in the NYT's list of notable books, but there are a handful of titles that turn up on several of these lists, and probably deserve a mention of their own. Twilight of the Superheroes by Deborah Eisenberg is mentioned on six of the eight lists that I surveyed. The Road by Cormac McCarthy on five, and both Richard Ford's The Lay of the Land and Claire Messud's The Emperor's Children make four of the lists.
I have my own list of books of special interest ("honorable mention" is such an also-ran word): The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel made the NYT's list of best books of the year, and has been impossible to find since then. (It looks like the print run has sold out and we're waiting for a reprint. I know her publisher is kicking himself for the missed holiday sales.) The Children's Hospital by Chris Adrian is a book I've heard murmurs about from time to time, and is of particular note as a book published by McSweeney's not written by Dave Eggers that has actually turned up on anyone's radar. Finally, I've already plugged Alison Bechdel's illustrated memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic.
So what are you waiting for? Go buy some books. Or better yet, go buy me some books. Other than The Lay of the Land, which I already own, any of the books I've mentioned would be a welcome sight under my tree on Christmas morning. Or, of course, in the mail anytime after.
(Ed note, 6:23 p.m. Actually, it turns out that the McSweeney's book that I kept hearing murmurs about was Icelander by Dustin Long, but there are some good blurbs up on The Children's Hospital on the McSweeney's site—Julie Orringer in particular carries weight with me—so I'll leave the link up.)