ALAN MOORE & DAVE GIBBONS
The story of a ragbag of bizarre, damaged, retired superheroes reunited by the murder of a former teammate, Watchmen is told in fugal, over-lapping plotlines and gorgeous panels rich with cinematic leitmotifs. A work of ruthless psychological realism, it's a landmark in the graphic novel medium. It would be a masterpiece in any. --By Lev Grossman
John Self, the extravagantly wretched man at the heart of this wonderfully funny book, is no ordinary pig. He's a monster of lustrous indulgence. Naturally, he's entering the movie business. But somehow his low cunning and bewitching awfulness make him and this novel perfectly irresistible. --By Richard Lacayo
PHILIP K. DICK
An accident has occurred on the moon. Did Joe Chip survive it? In a world in which science and drugs blur the line between life and death, reality and hallucination, even he isn't sure. Dick spins the stuff of sci-fi into an existential nightmare you'll never be quite sure you've awakened from. --L.G.
A HOUSE FOR MR. BISWAS
All Mohun Biswas wants is his own house, but when he marries into the daunting, smothering Tulsi family, he becomes a magnet for misfortune, oppression and humiliation. Set in the Hindu community of postcolonial Trinidad, Mr. Biswas is an epic of persistence and humor, of dignity and dogged self-respect. --L.G.
Most people think of Updike and Cheever as the masters of postwar American suburbia. Add Yates to the master list. His greatest novel is a bitterly funny account of lethal disappointment in the Connecticut suburbs in 1955. That may sound like a common enough predicament, but Yates gives it devastating force. --R.L.
THE SOT-WEED FACTOR
Dense, funny, endlessly inventive (and, O.K., long-winded), this satire of the 18th century novel is also an earnest picture of the pitfalls awaiting innocence. It's the late 17th century, and Ebenezer Cooke is a poet, a dutiful son and a determined virgin who travels from England to Maryland to take possession of his father's tobacco plantation. Not since Candide has a steadfast soul witnessed so many strange scenes or faced so many comic perils. --R.L.
THE MAN WHO LOVED CHILDREN
The greatest picture of the lousiest family. Sam Pollit is an exhausting monstrosity of a spouse and father. His wife Henny is self-pitying and neurotic. Their six children are the helpless recipients of their toxic attentions. Stead is fearless in her depiction of the Pollits but compassionate in her judgments. --R.L.
THE DEATH OF THE HEART
Portia Quayne is that dangerous thing, an innocent. At 16 she is put in the care of her prosperous older half-brother and his reluctant wife. They and their heedless friends show her the disenchanted kingdom of adulthood. It's not a pretty picture. --R.L.