It’s the middle of December, which means that people are already thinking about January and every media outlet has already released their lists of the “Best ___ Books of 2014.” The year hasn’t closed its eyes yet, but everyone is shouting over one another to declare which books were/are the best of the year. Honestly, there’s a small part of me that hopes an author pulls a “Beyonce” (aka a verb meaning “to release a killer piece of art that shakes up everyone’s “Best of…” lists right at the end of the year.”) Though this won’t happen because the contenders for “Best Books of the Year” were probably published before awards season (aka were definitely published before awards season).
And even though I have been obsessively favoriting, reading, and tweeting my favorite “Best of” lists, I’ve decided not to personally weigh in. Mostly because I have not read many of the books published this year, but also because I don’t really see the point in reiterating the same list as everyone else. Instead, I have decided to share my favorite end of the year book lists written by other people.
So without further adieu, I present the “Best of…the Best of…Lists for 2014.”
Not only is NPR’s book guide one of the most comprehensive lists on my list, but it is also one of the most aesthetically pleasing and user friendly. Just look at all of those stunning covers! It’s an interactive list where you click on the covers and a small box pops up containing the following: the NPR staffer who recommended the book, the book’s summary, reviews, features, interviews, handy book “tags,” and where you can buy/borrow the book from (including your local library). Can you say the absolute coolest “Best of” list of the year? Plus the list is varied and includes literary fiction, graphic novels, cookbooks, YA literature, and everything in-between and beyond. However, reader beware: you will lose many hours exploring this amazing “Best of 2014” list. Congrats NPR, you are my Best “Best of” list this year!
Honestly,The Millions is probably my favorite book-centric website on the planet, so it’s not shocking that I fell in love with their series featuring posts by Millions’ contributors and authors. I’m also a voyeur when it comes to reading and books–I guess that’s why I write a book blog and follow so many. I want to know what you’re reading just as much as I want to tell you what I’m reading. So hearing what prominent authors, including Phil Klay (winner of the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction), Anthony Doerr, and Janet Fitch, are reading is like peering in on a secret literary world and I love it. The posts range from lists to memoir-style narratives to a single book that defined their 2014 “reading experience.” If you’ve ever wanted to see the bookshelf of your favorite writer or any writer, you should check out this lovely “best of” series.
BuzzFeed’s round-up of the most swoon-worthy, aesthetically-pleasing, totally-allowed-to-judge-them-by-their-cover book covers is quite simply…beautiful. The list is simple and they credit the artists who designed the covers, which is super cool. Honestly, the list lets the covers speak for themselves–as pieces of art housing pieces of art. Some of my favorite covers of the year (and list) include Catherine Lacey’s Nobody is Ever Missing, Merritt Tierce’s Love Me Back, Sue Miller’s The Arsonist, John Darnielle’s Wolf in White Van, Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch, and David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks. Nothing makes my heart race quite like a stunning book cover.
P.S. Ben Lerner’s 10:04 and Celeste Ng’s Everyone I Never Told You were personal favorites that weren’t on BuzzFeed’s list.
Of course I had to include a list from the NYT’s Sunday Book Review, but I surprisingly found their shorter “Top Ten” list to be repetitive and lackluster. This list however included all kinds of writing, authors, and genres, which I loved. The nonfiction list was as extensive as the fiction list and they even included poetry (woo!). There’s also a separate children’s list with categories for picture books, middle-grade, and YA books. If you want a list that will keep you reading all the way into 2015 then this is the list for you.
I like that this list is both short in the number of chosen books, but long(ish) in terms of the blurbs about the books. There’s a mix of fiction and nonfiction books; experimental and traditional prose; and a focus on women writers (something I can always get behind). The mini-reviews were a nice mix of plot summary and opinions/observations, and I wanted to order almost all of the books immediately after reading the Huff Post’s blurbs. I think that’s a sign of a good “best of” list.
5. The Guardian has “Writers pick the best books of 2014”
Similar to The Millions’ feature, I love the Guardian’s list because I get to peep on what my favorite writers (and not-so-favorite writers) are reading. The list is broken up into two volumes–here is part two. Who doesn’t want to know what Margaret Atwood, David Nicholls, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie thought was the best book of the year? It’s always fun to see fiction writers who are hardcore nonfiction readers or genre writers who love to read literary fiction. Also, most of the writers included more than one “best book,” which as a fellow reader I can empathize with–the inability to pick just one best book.