It’s the time of year when we are beginning to see “best of” book lists

The one from the Library Journal is below.  I have read only two of these titles – The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell which is a long complicated book that begins with magic and ends in a dystopian world and The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin which is a warm lovely story of a widower in a book store who finds an abandoned child that turns his life around.

So here’s my question -how do you decide on what’s a best book?  What are your criteria and how broad does it have to be to encompass two such different books? (both recommended by the way).

Best Books 2014: Top Ten

By Bette-Lee Fox, Liz French, Barbara Hoffert, Stephanie Klose, Amanda Mastrull, Annalisa Pesek, Stephanie Sendaula, Henrietta Verma, and Wilda Williams

state Best Books 2014: Top TenGay, Roxane. An Untamed State. Grove. ISBN 9780802122513. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780802192677. F
In Gay’s debut novel, Mireille Jameson is kidnapped while visiting her parents in Haiti with her American husband and their son. Her father will not pay the ransom, despite being well able to afford it, and Mireille’s awareness of his refusal magnifies the horrors she endures. Though she is eventually released, she struggles to adjust to life after the ordeal. Gripping, harrowing, and unforgettable. (LJ 2/1/14)—SK

hide Best Books 2014: Top TenGreenwald, Glenn. No Place to Hide. Metropolitan: Holt.ISBN 9781627790734; pap. ISBN 9781250062581. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781627790741. POL SCI
Greenwald provides the authoritative story of the 2013 national security leak by National Security Agency (NSA) whistle-blower Edward Snowden. A Guardian columnist at the time, Greenwald here details meeting Snowden in Hong Kong and the legalities and logistics of publishing articles about leaked material while criticizing the media’s response. Particularly noteworthy is his comprehensive and fascinating examination of the documents—including why the NSA’s actions should matter to all citizens. (LJ 6/15/14)—AM

five Best Books 2014: Top TenHarris, Mark. Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War. Penguin. ISBN 9781594486005. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698170506. FILM
Film historian extraordinaire Harris (Pictures at a Revolution) conveys the very different personalities of award-winning directors John Huston, George Stevens, William Wyler, Frank Capra, and John Ford as they went to war for the United States. We see how their experiences shaped their work when they returned to Hollywood—and how they helped to transform the U.S. War Department’s propaganda machine. (LJ 3/1/14)—LF

brief Best Books 2014: Top TenJames, Marlon. A Brief History of Seven Killings. Penguin.ISBN 9781594486005. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698170506. F
Ironically, this stunning fictional investigation of the attempted assassination of reggae star Bob Marley days before Jamaica’s 1976 general election isn’t about Marley, who hardly appears. It’s about Jamaica itself, as we’ve never seen it, revealed in a lush, intensive outpouring of voices that range from lowlifes and CIA agents to a naïve reporter and a woman on the make. As the accumulated detail reveals, this history could never have been brief; there’s too much to learn. (LJ 7/1/14)—BH

sixth Best Books 2014: Top TenKolbert, Elizabeth. The Sixth Extinction. Holt. ISBN 9780805092998. $28; pap. ISBN 9781250062185. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780805099799NAT HIST
There have been five major species extinctions over the past half billion years, the result of natural catastrophes. Earth is now in the midst of a sixth extinction, says New Yorker writer Kolbert, and we humans are the primary cause. Drawing on the research of marine biologists, atmospheric scientists, geologists, forest ecologists, and paleontologists, her eye-opening and movingly written report is science journalism at its finest and an important wake-up call. (LJ 2/15/14)—WW

sin Best Books 2014: Top TenKrist, GaryEmpire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans. Crown. ISBN 9780770437060. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780770437077. HIST
Join the eccentric coterie within Storyville, New Orleans’s red-light district. There’s resolute saloon owner Tom Anderson, the “Mayor of Storyville”; thriving madam Josie Arlington; determined musician Louis Armstrong; and a serial killer colloquially referred to as the “Ax-Man.” Moments of vigilante justice and loose affiliations with the Mafia complete this gripping true-crime narrative. (LJ 10/1/14)—SS

clocks Best Books 2014: Top TenMitchell, David. The Bone Clocks. Random. ISBN 9781400065677. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780812994735. F
In this breathtaking, audaciously brilliant book, Holly Sykes gets caught in the battle between good Horologists and evil soul decanters, fleeing her grubby English hometown after her brother’s disappearance for a fling with amoral Hugo in the snowy Alps, marriage to urgently rational war reporter Ed, and beyond. The book isn’t about Holly, though, but about the variety of fantastically rendered worlds we move through as her story—which is to say our story, past, present, and future—unfolds. (LJXpress Reviews, 10/9/14)—BH

us Best Books 2014: Top TenNicholls, David. Us. Harper. ISBN 9780062365583. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062365606. F
Meet the Petersens, off on a summer grand tour of Europe. Son Albie, heading to university in the fall, isn’t totally on board, while artist Connie and biochemist Douglas skirt around the disintegration of their 24-year marriage. It could all turn into a ghastly mess, but in the hands of the astute and fulgent Nicholls, this family tale probes the true value and power of love. (LJ9/15/14)—BLF

luck Best Books 2014: Top TenSmiley, Jane. Some Luck. Knopf. ISBN 9780307700315. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385350396. F
In a work both grand and intimate, about parents and children, hope and disappointment, countryside and country, Smiley moves from the 1920s to the 1950s as she unfurls the life of Iowa farmers Rosanna and Walter Langdon. Then, as their children grow up and sometimes move away, she steps back to offer a wide-angle view of the country midcentury. The beautiful, you-are-there language allows ordinary events to amass, giving us a significant feel for life at the time. (LJ 7/14)—BH

life Best Books 2014: Top TenZevin, Gabrielle. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. AlgonquinISBN 9781616203214. $24.95;
pap. ISBN 9781616204518. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616203948. F
A.J. Fikry, a young widower, is the owner of Island Books on Alice Island, trying to heal and keep his bookstore and himself from going under. A.J.’s life takes a wondrous turn when he happens upon an abandoned two-year-old in the store. Maya is clever and charming and quickly captures his curmudgeon heart. Zevin’s adult fiction debut, “about a life of books, redemption, and second chances…reminds us exactly why we read and why we love.” (LJ 2/1/14)—AP

2 thoughts on “It’s the time of year when we are beginning to see “best of” book lists

  1. I also read A Storied Life of AJ Filrey. I actually have not felt this has been the best year for new books. There is one on the list which I definitely think does not belong and that is Jane Smiley’s book which I attempted to read. Truly boring and in need of heavy editing; disappointed. Here are some books that I did enjoy that were released this year:

    Books 2014

    *The Museum of Extraordinary Things Alice Hoffman
    *Shotgun Lovesongs Nickolas Butler
    **The race underground : Boston, New York, and the incredible rivalry that built America’s first subway / Doug Most. (non-fiction)
    *The hotel on Place Vendôme : life, death, and betrayal at the Hôtel Ritz in Paris / Tilar J. Mazzeo. (WW II non-fiction)
    *All The Light We Cannot See Anthony Doerr (WW II fiction)
    *Natchez Burning Greg Iles
    *I Am Pilgrim Terry Hayes
    *In the Kingdom of Ice Hampton Sides (non-fiction)
    * Long Way Home Louise Penny
    *A Sudden Light Garth Stein

  2. Interesting list – I read the Long Way Home and A sudden Light and gave The Race Underground to my husband for Christmas – don’t know if he has read it yet. And All the Light We cannot See is on my shelf – the rest are new titles for me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s