This tome rightly made a slew of best-of-the-year lists. It won the National Book Award, too. Boo details the lives of people struggling and surviving in a Mumbai slum with such precision and eloquence that reading "Beautiful Forevers" becomes an immersive experience. This is nonfiction, yet Boo's writing is so evocative, the work reads as if it's a novel. The author draws every person with a keen eye, whether it's the introverted young man who collects and sells trash to recycling plants; the woman who sees upward mobility as striving to become a "slumlord"; or the one-legged woman who takes the notion of revenge to self-defeating depths. Boo - who spent more than three years on site, doing research - conveys the stunning contrast, too, of these Annawadi slums being located next to the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport and in the shadow of luxury hotels.
- KRISTINA DORSEY