What a stupendous year in books! So many highlights: I finally read Jane Eyre, I was dazzled by David Mitchell and amused by Murikami, and James Michener took me on a 1,200-page historical trip to Hawaii (prior to an actual trip to Maui in May). In total, for the fourth consecutive year, I broke my previous record (61) for books read (67) in a year. Yep, it was a great year.
Here are the 10 best novels published in 2014 I read this year. They're in no particular order (except for No. 1 —The Bone Clocks. My favorite of the year.)
Broken Monsters, by Lauren Beukes — I haven't been glued to the page of any novel in a very long time like I was to the last 100 or so of this one. It's a cool, creepy, contemporary tale of the broken American dream — and what happens to people when their dreams go to dark places.
Shotgun Lovesongs, by Nickolas Butler — This story about friendship, secrets, music, celebrity, and loyalty takes place in a small town in Wisconsin. Several different characters narrate parts of this novel about mid-30s lifelong friends, and how their friendships have changed as they've gone out into the world, and then returned. It's just a fantastically profound and fun novel — and one that hit me just at the right time in my life to really love.
The UnAmericans, by Molly Antopol — I stepped up my short story reading in 2014, and of the 10 collections I read, this was my favorite. These character-driven stories will are by turns devastating and enlightening – but they're all about imagining yourself in someone else's shoes. Wonderful.
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel — I'm not a huge fan of the burgeoning post-apocalyptic novel genre, but this story is so much more than a traditional "what happens after everyone dies" story. Going back and forth to before and after the flu that kills much of the population, this intricate story is a masterwork of craft in how St. Mandel slowly reveals themes and each characters' back stories. It's a novel that slowly builds on itself for a whole that is so amazingly good.
The Sleepwalker's Guide To Dancing, by Mira Jacob — Another story that jumps back and forth in time, I loved the protagonist of this story, and her attempt to deal with her slowly-going-insane-(or-is-he?)-Indian-immigrant father.
An Untamed State, by Roxane Gay — Just a horrifying novel about a woman kidnapped, raped, and beaten in Haiti — and then she has to try to re-acclimate herself with "normal" life with her husband and son. I include this on my list for several reasons, but mostly the sheer bravery it must've taken to write this book.
Fourth of July Creek, by Smith Henderson — A novel about our limits — both in terms of our "freedom" to deal with others' problems and of our ability to deal with tragedy. This novel has perhaps the most sobering and sad end-reveal of any novel I read this year.
O, Democracy!, by Kathleen Rooney — I loved this small-press novel by Chicagoan Rooney about a staffer for the Senior Senator from Illinois during the 2008 election. It's, I guess, satire — but dammit if it doesn't feel real.
The Martian, by Andy Weir — The most fun I had with a book this year, this novel about a stranded astronaut on Mars is part fiction about science, part goof-off novel, part testament to human ingenuity. Word is that Matt Damon is starring as Weir's astronaut in an adaptation of the novel, which in my mind, is an absolutely inspired piece of casting.
The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell — This is my favorite of the year. Mind-blowingly good. Mitchell is a genius.