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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Which books are the best of 2014?

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

I love lists of the best books of the year, but I can’t believe how early they’ve come out this year.  Library Journal had their list published online on October 22!  I’m looking over that list, as well as Amazon’s and Publishers Weekly’s  lists of the best of 2014.  I like to see where they agree on what was the best, and how many of them I ordered for our library in the past year.  How many of these have you read?

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James made all three lists.  This is a novel about the attempted assassination of Bob Marley during political turmoil in Jamaica in the ‘70s.  The style is unique, with multiple characters providing an oral history of the events in dialect.  One reviewer said that he didn’t expect to enjoy it but that it was both entertaining and eye-opening, with strong characters.

The Martian by Andy Weir also made all three lists, as well as the New York Times bestsellers list.  This is a science fiction novel about an astronaut who is one of the first people to walk on Mars.  He’s stranded and presumed dead, and he has to try to survive on his own with the equipment left with him.  If you like suspenseful survival stories, this sounds like a book for you.

Margaret Atwood has a new book of short stories called Stone Mattress: Nine Tales.  This collection was included on two of the best-of lists I've seen so far.  The stories are wild, dark, and funny, in a science fiction/horror vein.

Euphoria is a novel by Lily King that has made a couple of the lists of the best, as well.  It’s a story of three anthropologists in New Guinea between the two world wars.  Inspired by but only loosely based on the life of Margaret Mead, the novel is about a love triangle involving a married couple and another anthropologist they encounter in the wild while fleeing from a cannibalistic tribe. 

No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald is a nonfiction book that has been chosen for two of the lists mentioned above.  Greenwald, an investigative reporter for The Guardian, met with Snowden in 2013 and accepted documents from him on the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.  He was one of the writers of the series of reports on the controversial matter, winning the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service with others at The Guardian US for that reporting.  Whatever you think of the subject, you can read Greenwald’s further revelations and perspectives in this book.

The Bone Clocks is a literary science fiction novel that is in demand by our library patrons as well as acclaimed by critics.  Author David Mitchell also wrote “Cloud Atlas”.  The plot sounds incredibly complicated, spanning the years from 1984 to the 2030s and involving a secret supernatural war.  Reviewers are practically breathless in the ways they describe the writing.


It’s interesting how some books appear on every year-end list, while another book can be named some publication’s best book of the year but not make another’s top 100.  Even among those who review books for a living, so much depends on taste.  I hope you’ll find some new books to read that will fit your taste.  Browse our shelves or order something particular you’ll enjoy from the library.