06 December 2014

The New York Times Notable 100 Books of 2014: What's Good? What's Missing?

Emma Stone loves book lists almost as much as I do!    
So, it's that time of year again, y'all.  Everybody and her mama seems to be making Top Whatever Lists   like there's no tomorrow.  I love lists as much as the next person, and if they happen to be bookish lists?     Well, then, my excitement knows no bounds.

One list that generates a lot of buzz is the New York Times 100 Notable Books of the year.  This year we've had the added entertainment of author Ayelet Waldman kveching on social media about the non-inclusion of her book on the list.  Why is it that we never get tired of other people's bad behavior? Anyway, you can read all about Ayelet Waldman here at The Slate.

I usually list the full top 100 titles, but as I read very little nonfiction this year, I'm going to concentrate on the Top 50 Fiction & Poetry titles.  I haven't read as proportionately as many this year as I did last year.  And you know what? I'm okay with that. Here they are, in alphabetical order by title. I'm gonna bold all of the titles that I read (or tried to read) and put the dust jacket images in of the ones I actually finished.

1. All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu. I read this one and briefly reviewed it here.  Not only that, but I had the distinct pleasure of chatting with the author when he visited our store in March.

2. All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

3. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.  Started this one but never finished it, through no fault of its own.

4. American Innovations by Rivka Galchen.  Also started this one, but when I DNF'd it, it was definitely the book's fault.

5. The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel.

6. The Ballad of a Small Player by Lawrence Osborn.  I mean, I don't think I've even heard of this one. #booksellerfail

7. Bark by Lorrie Moore. I went to a book reading in Nashville and heard her read one story.  Does that count? I'm gonna count it.

8. The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt.

9. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.  I not only read and loved and reviewed this one, but got to spend an afternoon in the author's company while he was signing books for my store. #ilovemyjob

10. The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber.  I'm currently reading this one right now.

11. The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez.

12. Boy Snow Bird by Helen Oyeyemi. Read this one.  The first 98% of the book was great.  The last 2% is mostly WTF. I have a mini review of it here.

13. A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James.  Tried reading this one, and while what I read was excellent, it was making me work a bit harder than I was willing to work at the time.  #lazyreaders

14. Can't and Won't by Lydia Davis.

15. The Cold Song by Linn Ullman.

16. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami.  This book convinced me that I probably will never really get Japanese culture. It's a Grade A book design, though.  Review here.

17. Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill.  Ugh, I forgot that I read this one.  Didn't really get what all of the fuss was about with this novel.

18. The Dog by Joseph O'Neill.

19. Euphoria by Lily King.  This is the book I most wish that I had read this year.

20. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

21. F. by Daniel Kehlmann.

22. Faithful and Virtuous Night by Louise Gluck.  (And yet, she pronounces her last name like "Glick." Don't ask me why.)

23. Family Life by Akhil Sharma.

24. Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson. I loved this book but I never ended up reviewing it.  SOOOOO good.  And the author looks like a hipster lumberjack, so there's that.

25. A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride.

26. I Pity the Poor Immigrant by Zachary Lazar.  Damn, I've never heard of this one, either. #booksellerfail

27. The Laughing Monsters by Denis Johnson.  Good but disturbing.  Like a post-911 and post-colonial Heart of Darkness.

28. Lena Finkle's Magic Barrel by Anya Ulinich.

29. Let Me Be Frank With You by Richard Ford.

30. Lila by Marilynne Robinson. I've not reviewed this one, either, but it's definitely on my personal Top Ten list for the year.

31. Lovers at the Chameleon Club by Francine Prose.  I read almost half of this one.

32. The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman.

33. The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami.

34. Motherland, Fatherland, Homelandsexuals by Patricia Lockwood.

35. My Struggle Book 3 by Karl Ove Knausgaard.  I'm sorry, but I've been rolling my eyes at his books all year long.

36. The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan.

37. Nora Webster by Colm Toibín.

38. Panic in a Suitcase  by Yelena Akhtiorskaya.

39. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters.  Goodness, I actually finished this one and I have no idea why I put forth the effort.  I really didn't care for this book. Review here.

40. The Poetry of Derek Walcott.  Bet you can already guess who wrote this.

41. Redeployment by Phil Klay.  Didn't finish this one.  I admired the writing and the content, but the book was ultimately not for me.  It did go on to win the National Book Award for fiction this year.

42. Remember Me Like This by Bret Anthony Johnston.  I liked this one.  Interesting take on the child abduction theme.

43. A Replacement Life by Boris Fishman.

44. Song of the Shank by Jeffery Renard Allen.  Didn't read this one, but I wanted to.  It somehow always pleases me when paperback originals make it on to lists like this.

45. 10:04 by Ben Lerner

46. Thirty Girls by Susan Minot. I really liked this one, but apparently not everybody read into this novel what I read into this novel. Review here.

47. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante.  This book is making just about everybody's Top Ten list this year.  I've never read any of the books in this trilogy but this book's critical attention just may have clinched it for me.

48. The Wall Creeper by Nell Zink.  Zounds! Yet another book I have no recollection of ever seeing.  #booksellerfail

49. We Are Not Ourselves my Matthew Thomas.  I gave this book the ol' college try, but at the time, it couldn't hold my attention AT ALL.

50. When Mystical Creatures Attack by Kathleen Founds.  This just might be the ultimate demonstration that you cannot judge a book solely by its cover.  I remember when my sales rep was pitching this book to me, and I couldn't get beyond this cover graphic. I mean, look at it. It does not look like something that goes with a university press publication.

So...eleven out of 50 books read completely, with an additional eight of them attempted but left in varying stages of incompletion. That's actually a little better than I thought it would be.  Last year I'd read fourteen of the 50 fiction/poetry titles.

Frankly, there are some titles that I'm really surprised aren't listed here.  James Scott's The Kept, Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel, and Joshua Ferris' To Rise Again At a Decent Hour, and above all, Ruby by Cynthia Bond.

What about y'all?  What is on this list that you loved?  What books are you outraged over their exclusion from this list? 


  1. I haven't read Ruby, but I'm shocked it's not on there either. I heard SO many good things about it early in the year. But from what I've heard, NY Times isn't usually a good indicator of the general public's fave books...

    Also, I should put David Mitchell on my must-read list for next year. He's been all over the place lately.

    1. David Mitchell has definitely grown in mindshare between his last book and this book. I was only vaguely aware of his international stature as a writer until this book.

  2. I had 6 read and 2 DNF. Boy, Snow, Bird was a DNF - weirdest book ever IMO. I'm glad to see Bone Clocks on there. It was a strange read but obviously this book was poured out of the soul of the author. I stand behind that kind of writing. When I look at my complete reading list for 2014, I did not have too much that stole my heart. I'm kind of hoping really hard for something that inspires me in 2015. Belle

    1. "poured out of the soul of the author." Yeah, i love it when books give me that impression, too.

      I hope 2015 will be better for you. I'm still mulling over my top reads for 2014. probably won't post it until January, though/

  3. These lists always shock me a little, because I never really consider how few of these newly released novels I read each year. I think I'm operating about 2-4 years behind.

    1. I wonder how many readers that's the case for. I feel like about half of the bloggers I know are not concentrating on new releases. and since bloggers clearly read more than the average member of the public, it makes me wonder why there's ONLY an emphasis on new books in marketing campaigns.

  4. I laughed at "I DNF'd it and it was definitely the book's fault."

    And I have read none of these. I think like Kayleigh I'm like a year or two behind on books. I need a list of top titles from like the last 5-10 years. Though I guess you couldn't put that list out yearly. At least not without repeats.

  5. I have heard of most of these, but I think I've only read five of them. While I'm interested in these big "best of" lists, I think I tend to pay more attention to the ones that fellow bloggers make!

  6. I'm with Kayleigh and Alley on this one - was I sleeping under a rock this whole time?! I've only read 1, and it was the Murakami. *shakes head*


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