Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Dork Review Top 10 of 2014

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. 


  1. I've read and enjoyed 5 of these. Haven't quite nailed down my Top 10 yet, but I'm pretty sure the Mitchell, Mandel, Weir, and Beukes will all be included.

    I've really enjoyed reading your posts this year and following your Twitter feed. Thank you!

    1. Just to follow up, those 4 did make my Top 10 as well. Shotgun Lovesongs didn't but I really liked the book.

      The rest of my list included Tigerman by Nick Harkaway, The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey, Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle, The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman, Get in Trouble by Kelly Link, and Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh.

  2. Have you read any of Rooney's other work? I haven't gotten to this one yet myself, but I'm simply in love with her poetry.

    1. Other than her always-entertaining Twitter feed, no. Really intrigued by her essay collection and LIVE NUDE GIRL, though.

  3. I just ordered Station Eleven after seeing it on so many lists. I'm with you on it not being my norm, but it has definitely piqued my interest.

  4. I enjoyed Shotgun Lovesongs as well. I've got Bone Clocks sitting here on my shelf. May have to move it up the list now.

  5. I basically shanghai'd my husband into getting me Station Eleven for Christmas - can't wait to read it!

  6. From what you write, it sounds like our book tastes are very similar, and I haven't read any of these books. I need to start reading them. I wish I was a faster reader and had more time. My list of books to read is almost up to 100.