As part of our Best Books of 2014 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
Australian author Liane Moriarty proves that the success of her fifth novel, The Husband’s Secret, was no fluke. Not since Where’d You Go, Bernadette has the competitive nature of parents of school-aged children been so deftly skewered—and Moriarty is also adept at creating emotional moments that have real impact. Thanks to Moriarty’s genuine writerly chops, this juicy page-turner is a pleasure that’s anything but guilty.
Daniel Handler—perhaps better known as Lemony Snicket—is the sort of writer whose work you can't fail to recognize. There's always a playful, imaginative turn of phrase just around the corner. Something that's just not quite right. As shown below, in a passage where beleaugered father Phil Needle has had enough of the angst of his teen daughter, a pirate in the making who has recently been caught shoplifting.
Phil Needle looked down at the front section of the newspaper, which at the time this story takes place showed a photograph of a senator who was resigning his position in order to spend more time with his family. Phil Needle also wanted to spend more time with the senator's family. Look at them! Such beaming daughters! Not like Gwen, who was giving her mother a look of such violent nonchalance—I don't give a fuck—that she might as well have said it out loud.
"Talk to her," Marina said to him. "I'll finish your suitcase." Her robe ruffled with every step out of the kitchen. Gwen glared at everywhere. Phil Needle wished he could give her a tiny package with whatever it was inside, whatever her scowling little soul desired, but he couldn't. He couldn't, and since he couldn't, would she just goddamn stop?
What are you reading this week?
The year's best mysteries and thrillers took us from 1970s Atlanta to 1880s London, strung us along with flawed detectives and impenetrable cold cases and left us hungry for more. We picked our Top 10 of the year, but we'd love to hear yours! Browse all our Mystery and Suspense coverage here, and share your 2014 favorite in the comments below.
Slaughter's first standalone novel takes readers to 1970s Atlanta, an era she first explored in 2012's Criminal. Veteran patrol officer Maggie Lawson and her new rookie partner Kate Murphy face harassement, sexism and racism from the boys' club police force—all while searching for a serial killer who is targeting cops. Complex characters, the realistic and retro setting and a gripping plot make Cop Town one of Slaughter's best ever.
Read our interview with Slaughter for Cop Town.
"He-said, she-said" thrillers are so popular these days, but Smith left us spinning with this conspiracy-laden tale. When Daniel visits his aging parents in rural Sweden, he discovers a web of distrust that could upend everything he knows about his own life. We love the fantastic, award-winning historical thrillers of Smith's Child 44 series, but this first-person psychological thriller has taken our admiration to the next level.
Read our review of The Farm.
The Salem witch trials continues to fascinate us hundreds of years later—but it's extra creepy to realize people can still fall prey to hysteria. Inspired by the real-life “mass hysteria” outbreak in Le Roy, New York, in 2012, the new novel from Abbott (Dare Me) got under our skin, especially with those disturbing, slightly erotic depictions of the girls' creepy seizures.
Read an essay by Abbott about the story behind The Fever.
Former Chief Inspector Gamache has retired to Three Pines—but there's no such thing as rest for beloved fictional investigators, is there? He steps in to help his neighbor Clara Morrow, whose husband has disappeared after a year away. His quest takes him far from Three Pines and deep into the mind of the missing husband, a tortured artist who may have gone to extreme lengths to recover who he once was. As always, Penny's brilliantly drawn characters are the book's greatest delight.
Little did we know how badly we wanted a new sleuthing team! Kasasian’s debut mystery delivered while walking a fine line between charming, cozy fun and gruesome, gory crime scenes. Set in 1882 London, the first in a new series introduces 21-year-old March Middleton and her guardian, the celebrated and curmudgeonly P.I. Sidney Grice. It's sharp, witty and packed with unforgettable secondary characters.
Read our review of The Mangle Street Murders.
After a five-year hiatus following a near-fatal car accident that resulted in the amputation of part of his right leg, Iles is back, and he brought Penn Cage back, too. Natchez Burning kicked off a new trilogy starring the Southern lawyer and former prosecutor. It's pure Southern noir gold: a little "Breaking Bad," a little "True Detective" and a whole lotta Faulkner. So good.
Ellroy kicks off his second L.A. Quartet—which is actually sort of a prequel to the first Quartet—with this ambitious historical thriller, set on the American homefront of World War II. The plot itself is pretty straightforward—L.A. cops investigate a Japanese-American family's murder that occurred the night before the bombing of Pearl Harbor—but this subversive novel goes beyond its central whodunit. Emotions are running high on the precipice of war, and it's all conveyed brilliantly through alternating character perspectives and Ellroy's classic, punched-up writing style.
Read our review of Perfidia.
Mosley’s impressive 13th Easy Rawlins mystery is packed with all those goodies you'd want in a story set in L.A. during the height of the Vietnam War: hippies, drugs, radical politics, revolutionaries, etc. Because Rawlins is black, L.A. cops think he'll be able to deal with black ex-boxer Uhuru Nolica, who has kidnapped the daughter of a weapons manufacturer. With equal parts social commentary and suspenseful entertainment, Rose Gold stands out as one of the best installments in this excellent series.
Read our review of Rose Gold.
You could call it a classic police procedural, but that wouldn't quite cut it. Sure, you've got your down-and-out detective Frank Parrish, recovering from his partner’s death, wrestling with his father’s legacy and investigating the murders of some petty criminals—but that's just the beginning. Frank's personal demons run bottom-of-the-ocean deep, and the crimes he's investigating are worse than you can imagine. The history of Mob corruption in 1980s NYC is alone worth the price of admission.
The secrets of teenage girls have never been as disturbing as in the newest Dublin Murder Squad mystery. Sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey, a student at a posh girls' school in Ireland, finds a note that reads "I know who killed him," referring to the cold-case murder of a former student at the boys' school next door. Alternating between the voices of the present-day detectives and the teenage schoolgirls pre-murder, this novel is nearly impossible to put down—a cliche, sure, but still true.
Readers, what were your favorite mysteries of 2014? Share in the comments, or vote in our survey for the chance to win 10 great books.
There's a growing trend amongst some of America's most popular authors: the "fan fest," or fan retreat. At these events, fans get to hangout with the author, chat about books and mingle with other enthusiasts.
Recently, best-selling chronicler of the Lowcountry, Dorothea Benton Frank, and William Morrow held a fan fest as a thank you to the legions of readers who have supported her throughout her career. Fans of Frank's humorous tales of love and middle age spent the weekend in the author's hometown, Charleston, South Carolina, and enjoyed cocktails, walking tours of the historic city, a cooking demonstration and more.
Popular romance author Debbie Macomber held her own fan retreat, hosted by Random House, in Nashville last year, and this past summer, Diana Gabaldon held an Outlander retreat with Random House to celebrate the release of Written in My Own Heart's Blood.
We're in the last stretch of 2014 (no, we can't believe it either)—which means it's time to start our annual look back at the year's best books. The full list of 50 will debut in our December issue, available online on December 1—but here's a sneak peek at the second half. Agree with our choices? Let us know in the comments!
26. Under Magnolia by Frances Mayes
27. The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis
28. Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler
29. Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose
30. All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld
31. The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez
32. The Vacationers by Emma Straub
33. Us by David Nicholls
34. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
35. Living with a Wild God by Barbara Ehrenreich
36. The Bees by Laline Paull
37. Frog Music by Emma Donoghue
38. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
39. The Trip to Echo Spring by Olivia Laing
40. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
41. What Is Visible by Kimberly Elkins
42. Blood Will Out by Walter Kirn
43. Evergreen by Rebecca Rasmussen
44. Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey
45. Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan
46. My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff
47. My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead
48. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
49. The Wind Is Not a River by Brian Payton
50. Natchez Burning by Greg Iles
Much more coverage of the Best Books of 2014 to come!
The People in the Trees was one of the most celebrated and imaginative debuts of 2013. Now author (and former editor) Hanya Yanagihara has put her creative talents to work in a twist on the small-town friends trying to make it in NYC story: A Little Life, which will be published by Knopf on March 10. The publisher says, "Yanagihara has fashioned a tragic and transcendent hymn to brotherly love, a masterful depiction of heartbreak, and a dark examination of the tyranny of memory and the limits of human endurance."
Were you a People in the Trees fan? Will you read this one?
Every month, we review the hottest new romance releases in our Romance column. But why let the print books have all the fun? In Digital Dalliances, we highlight digital-only releases guaranteed to heat up your eReader.
Fast and loose living rocker Luke "Lucifer" Blackwell lives up to his nickname, but when his lifestyle lands him in hot water, he heads back to his hometown to cool off. Here, he runs into his first girlfriend, Kayleigh, whom he could never forget. Kayleigh's never been able to forget him either, but she's also never forgiven him for leaving her. However, keeping her distance proves to be difficult, and Luke appears determined to win her back. At only 80 pages, this steamy read will heat you up fast—perfect for winter!
Kayleigh had come to terms with the fact that life wasn’t fair a long time ago. If it had been, her parents wouldn’t have saddled her with a house that was rotting into the ground while they retired on a beach in Mexico, she wouldn’t have to tutor snotty middle-schoolers over the summer to make ends meet, and she’d be living happily ever after with the man of her dreams, not kissing every frog within a hundred-mile radius only to be disappointed time and again.
It only added insult to injury that the man she’d thought she was going to spend the rest of her life with was standing in her living room in the exact same spot he’d been in eight years ago when he broke her heart and told her he was leaving.
Do you think you'll be picking up any romance novels for your eReader?
Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison (Beloved, Home, A Mercy) will publish her 11th novel, God Help the Child, in late April 2015 with Knopf. The novel focuses on the painful relationship between Sweetness and her daughter, Bride. Sweetness, a light-skinned black woman, pushes her daughter away because of her deep black skin. Yet, despite Sweetness' refusal to accept her, the resilient, confident Bride thrives.
No doubt, Morrison will stay true to the themes of femininity and race that she has so beautifully and masterfully handled in past novels. Are you looking forward to the latest from this literary giant?
Thanksgiving is almost here, and although the turkey gets most of the credit, the side dishes deserve just as much attention. Luckily, Southern chef Sean Brock is sharing his simple, yet rich and flavorful recipe for Creamed Corn. Check out our review of his new cookbook Heritage—our Top Pick for November!
My grandmother made creamed corn the old-fashioned way: strip the kernels from the cobs, scrape all the milk from the cobs using an old box grater, add a little salt, and then process in Mason jars in a canner. These preserves would be saved for special occasions, like Thanksgiving dinner. At Husk, I gussy up the recipe a little with a bit more cream and butter. You can also serve this as a soup by adding a little milk to thin it out. Either fresh or preserved under glass, nothing says summer like sweet corn from the garden, even when you’re eating it in the dead of winter.
1. Cut the kernels from the corn; set aside. Using a box grater, scrape the “milk” from the cobs into a wide bowl; set aside.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add half of the corn kernels, the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots and garlic have softened considerably, about 7 minutes. Add the cream, bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.
3. Working in batches if necessary, transfer the corn mixture to a blender and blend on high until completely smooth, about 5 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve into a saucepan.
4. Add the remaining corn kernels, the reserved “milk” from the cobs, the thyme and butter to the pan, bring to a simmer over medium heat and simmer until the creamed corn has thickened and the whole kernels are soft, about 10 minutes. Remove the thyme, season with salt and white pepper and serve.
The creamed corn can be made up to 2 hours ahead and held at room temperature; gently reheat over low heat. Leftovers will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.