It seems like only yesterday that we were sharing our most anticipated books of 2014, and now it's already May! Time to take a look and see which of this year's books have had you guys buzzing. And so we present Your top 20 books of 2014 (so far!), based on the number of pageviews on BookPage.com.
After you've looked through the list, be sure to let us know what you think in the comments section below. And then vote in our poll for your favorite book published this year (so far!).
Pioneer Girl, which takes its title from the working title of the first book in the Little House series, offers a deeply resonant portrait of contemporary Asian-American immigrant life. But with (for example) a marvelous riff on the generic Chinese restaurant that exists at the edges of many towns in the Midwest, the novel makes clear that it is exploring a different sort of immigrant experience than we often read about—call it the Middle America Asian-American experience. (Read more of our interview with Nguyen.)
#19: Steal the North
By Heather Brittain Bergstrom
Author Bergstrom has won awards for her short fiction from the Chicago Tribune and Atlantic Monthly, among others. Her outstanding debut novel, Steal the North, is almost guaranteed to add to Bergstrom’s award collection. Narrated from multiple perspectives, the novel is a heartbreaking tale of family secrets, unrequited love and the unbreakable bond of family. (Read more of our review.)
#18: Under the Wide and Starry Sky
By Nancy Horan
First the woman behind Frank Lloyd Wright and now Robert Louis Stevenson’s wife—author Nancy Horan has carved a niche for herself as a novelist who gives voice to strong, influential yet largely forgotten women. Her new novel, Under the Wide and Starry Sky, is a dazzling love story that unspools across years and continents. Horan deftly brings to life a woman shamefully overlooked by history, and celebrates her contributions to the man whom history remembered. (Read more of our interview with Horan.)
#17: The Mangle Street Murders
By M.R.C. Kasasian
Who knew that in 2014, with the book world awash in knit-and-craft cozies, Scandinavian noir and genre detectives competing with hot new sleuths of every description, there’d be room for a couple of fresh, intriguing characters, or a series with both dark local realism and laugh-out-loud moments? It’s all here, in M.R.C. Kasasian’s immensely pleasurable debut mystery, The Mangle Street Murders. (Read more of our review.)
#16: The Weight of Blood
By Laura McHugh
Let’s get one thing straight: With The Weight of Blood, it’s clear that Laura McHugh is more than a pretender to the throne of the “rural noir” genre. If her dazzling and disturbing debut novel is anything to go by, she’s got her eye on the crown and has more than the necessary talent and skills to nab it for herself. Daniel Woodrell had better watch his back. (Read more of our review and our interview with McHugh.)
#15: Mimi Malloy, at Last!
By Julia MacDonnell
It has been 20 years since Julia MacDonnell wrote her first novel, A Year of Favor. But readers will find her highly entertaining and heartfelt second novel, Mimi Malloy, at Last!, well worth the wait. At 68, Mimi Malloy finds herself divorced, forced into early retirement and spending her days fending off check-in phone calls from her six daughters and four surviving sisters. (Read more of our review.)
By Maria Hummel
Sometimes life presents you with a slate of bad choices—though some are braver than others. In Motherland, Maria Hummel, author of several novels and a former Stegner Fellow in poetry, enters relatively unfamiliar literary territory to tell the story of one so-called Mitläufer family: German citizens who would never have personally countenanced the terrible abuses that Jews suffered, but nonetheless went along with the Nazi regime. They paid for it in the end—if not as heavily as their Jewish counterparts. (Read more of our review.)
#13: The Widow's Guide to Sex and Dating
By Carole Radziwill
I was skeptical when I found out the author of The Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating stars on “The Real Housewives of New York.” And when the epigram was a Lady Gaga quote, I thought I was in for a long slog. What a pleasant surprise, then, when the book turned out to be one of the richest, most deeply satisfying stories I’ve read in a long time. (Read more of our review.)
#12: Mercy Snow
By Tiffany Baker
Tiffany Baker, whose debut, The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, was a bestseller, proves with her third book that she is a novelist with staying power. Mercy Snow is the story of two disparate families in a small New Hampshire town, irrevocably linked because of a murky history and a present-day tragedy. In the town of Titan Falls, the citizens and its one lingering industry, the paper mill, are on the brink of financial ruin. (Read more of our review.)
By Rachel Joyce
Rachel Joyce’s masterful second novel, Perfect, explores how one event can unravel a life. Byron Hemmings is an ordinary British schoolboy in 1972. He’s not the most sociable child, but Byron has a best friend in James Lowe. Like many adolescents, he’s got a curious mind. And so, when James reads in a newspaper that two seconds will be added to time, Byron becomes fixated on how, when and what the ramifications might be. (Read more of our review.)
#10: The Crane Wife
By Patrick Ness
Patrick Ness has made a well-deserved name for himself in the realm of young adult fiction, where he’s crafted magical tales full of sensitivity and raw emotional energy. With The Crane Wife, he brings all of those talents to a story for adults, and the result is a viscerally beautiful, subtly magical and instantly memorable realistic fairy tale that will linger in your brain. (Read more of our review.)
#9: The Wind Is Not a River
By Brian Payton
Losing a loved one to the chaos of war would be devastating enough, but lingering doubt as to whether a husband were alive or dead could slowly consume a wife. Especially if her last words to him were an ultimatum: Choose his reporting work, or her. In The Wind Is Not a River, Helen and John Easley find themselves caught in the upheaval of World War II, separated emotionally and physically by the lengths to which he will go for a story. (Read more of our review.)
#8: Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening
By Carol Wall
At first, Carol Wall’s memoir, Mr. Owita’s Guide to Gardening, sounds like a book you might have read before: An unlikely friendship develops between two people who appear to have nothing in common. Giles Owita is an immigrant from Kenya who works part-time as a gardener. Wall is a high school English teacher and writer whose work has graced the pages of magazines like Southern Living. But things are not as they seem. In time, Wall will regard Owita as the greatest professor she has ever had. And you will be convinced she is right. (Read more of our review and our interview with Wall.)
#7: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
By Gabrielle Zevin
Gabrielle Zevin may be one of the few authors alive who thanks her lucky stars she hasn’t had J.K. Rowling’s level of success. If she had, she never would have written The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, the lovely, irresistible story of a down-on-his-luck bookseller. “I never would have gotten to know the publishing business the way I did,” Zevin says in an interview with BookPage from her Los Angeles home. “I never would have gotten to drive around the Midwest during a book tour with a sales rep in an old Toyota.” (Read more of our interview with Zevin.)
#6: The Museum of Extraordinary Things
By Alice Hoffman
Alice Hoffman’s latest novel has the word “extraordinary” in the title for good reason: The best-selling author of The Dovekeepers has served up another historical novel that will dazzle readers until the last page. Set in New York City in the early 1900s, The Museum of Extraordinary Things veers from the extravagant mansions dotting the Upper West Side to the foul conditions of the overcrowded tenements on the Lower East Side to the seaside apartments stretched across Coney Island to tell the interwoven stories of Coralie Sardie and Eddie Cohen. (Read more of our review.)
#5: The Good Luck of Right Now
By Matthew Quick
Author Matthew Quick probably is tired of hearing the word “quirky,” but it really is the singularly best way to describe his storytelling. After his first novel, The Silver Linings Playbook, was adapted into an Oscar-nominated movie starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, Quick delivers a new story featuring Bartholomew Neil, a uniquely likable protagonist who at nearly 40 has lived with his mother his entire life. (Read more of our review.)
#4: The Secret Rooms
By Catherine Bailey
Historian Catherine Bailey was all set to write a book about the impact of World War I on the people who lived on the Duke of Rutland’s huge estate in the Midlands of England. As part of her research, she delved into the family archives at the duke’s stately home, Belvoir Castle—and found another story that makes the fictional shenanigans at Downton Abbey look like a tea party. (Read more of our review.)
“Rebecca Winter” remains a household name, thanks to the iconic photograph “Still Life with Bread Crumbs” that catapulted her art career into the public eye. But Rebecca Winter, the person, has changed significantly in the decades since she captured that domestic image of her kitchen counter after her husband and son retired for the evening. She’s no longer married, for one. And it’s been so long since she made a significant sale that she can no longer afford the upscale Manhattan apartment that contains the kitchen immortalized in that famous picture. (Read more of our review and our interview with Quindlan.)
An exquisitely told tale of loss and triumph, The Invention of Wings is based on the real lives of Sarah and Angelina (Nina) Grimké, unconventional women who broke from their high-society family to fight against slavery and for women’s rights. Kidd first learned about these radical but largely forgotten sisters at an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. (Read more of our interview with Kidd.)
#1: The Winter People
By Jennifer McMahon
“The first time I saw a sleeper, I was nine years old.” Best-selling author Jennifer McMahon (Promise Not to Tell) opens her new novel, The Winter People, with a sentence that offers a tantalizing glimpse of the horrors to come in this marvelously creepy page-turner. Set in on a rural farm in West Hall, Vermont, this multigenerational paranormal tale alternates between the early 19th century and the present. (Read more of our review.)
What do you think of the list? Any surprises? Or ones you feel are missing? Let us know in the comments. And be sure to vote for your favorite book of 2014 (so far!) in our poll. Voting ends on 5/15—stay tuned to The Book Case, where we'll announce the winnner!
It's April 1st, book lovers, and the beginning of a month devoted to celebrating one of our favorite places on the planet: libraries! First off, April is School Library Month, and then there's National Library Week (April 13 through 19), National Library Workers Day (on April 15) and National Bookmobile Day (on April 16). Phew—that's a lot of celebrating!
All of this library love got us thinking about our favorite books about libraries and librarians, and so we decided to put together a list of them. Featuring cats, bookmobiles, archivists, time travelers, even Dracula—these 15 books will inspire a renewed appreciation for a place that is, in the words of Jamie Ford in his novel The Songs of Willow Frost, "like a candy store where everything is free."
Henry is a 28-year-old librarian who has a genetic disorder that causes him to travel through time involuntarily. Stacking books on the shelves in the library's inner sanctum, he'll suddenly vanish, leaving behind a pile of clothes, only to materialize in some unknown past or future moment, naked and nauseated. Often he travels to a certain Michigan meadow and visits a little girl, Clare, who sneaks him food and clothes. (Read more)
The Ice Queen is the tale of a librarian in a small town whose wishes come true, but not always for the best. When the unnamed narrator is 8 years old and her brother, Ned, 12, their mother leaves the children alone one night, ostensibly to celebrate her birthday with friends. The narrator wishes her mother would disappear—and she dies that night, her car crashing on an icy road. Years later, Ned becomes a meteorologist and moves from New Jersey to Florida, while his sister goes to library school, still feeling the guilt and self-loathing brought on by her wish the night her mother died. (Read more)
This Book Is Overdue!
By Marilyn Johnson
As Marilyn Johnson postulates in the gloriously geeky This Book Is Overdue!, librarians are no longer ladies in cardigans hovering over the card catalog. The new librarians are bloggers, information junkies and protectors of freedom and privacy in the Patriot Act era. Says Johnson, “The most visible change to librarianship in the past generation is maybe the simplest: Librarians have left the building.” (Read more)
The Historian follows a motherless young girl's quest to learn the truth about her father's secret past and his search through Cold War-era Eastern Europe for the murderous fiend that has cost him so much—Dracula. The two journeys (which include stops at several libraries) eventually become one as the story traces the monster's footsteps from the hallowed halls of Oxford to the mist-shrouded mountains of Transylvania and finally to a medieval monastery that yields a shocking truth. (Read more)
By Martha Cooley
At its surface, The Archivist is the tale of its narrator, Matt Lane, a 60-ish librarian at a private university near New York. Matt has been entrusted with the care of certain personal correspondence between the poet T.S. Eliot and his friend Emily Hale, letters that are supposed to remain sealed until the year 2020. But the archivist's attempt to preserve the privacy of those letters is a metaphor for larger concerns. (Read more)
The Geographer's Library
By Jon Fasman
Reading The Geographer's Library is like stepping into a sepia-toned daguerreotype: The past here holds all the clues. The novel's narrator is Paul Tomm, a young, sometimes painfully naive cub reporter coasting along at a weekly newspaper in a sleepy New England town. When a professor at his alma mater dies in mysterious circumstances, the reporter's research for a routine obituary leads him into an unimaginably poisonous labyrinth. (Read more)
By Rebecca Makkai
What do you get when you pair a children’s librarian—whose father may be connected to the Russian mafia—with a curious 10-year-old boy whose dubious sexuality has caused his evangelical parents to enroll him in an anti-gay class and strictly monitor his library material? What sounds like the setup to a joke of questionable humor transforms into a charming debut novel in Rebecca Makkai’s hands. (Read more)
On a cold winter night in a small town in Iowa, the director of the Spencer Public Library, Vicki Myron, was shocked to discover a tiny, weeks-old orange ball of fluff deposited in the returned book slot. For the next 19 years, the sweet and magical cat known as Dewey Readmore Books lived in the library, touching countless lives, offering hope and pride to a struggling community, and gaining worldwide adoration along the way. (Read more)
A thriller about a librarian? Have no fear, best-selling author Brad Meltzer soon gets you hooked. After a somewhat slow start, The Inner Circle quickly becomes a fast, fun thriller. Once the twists start coming, Meltzer proves his prowess with the Washington, D.C., political thriller, and soon it’s impossible to resist the lure of the next page. Meltzer cleverly disguises who’s telling the truth, making readers question if there’s anyone they can trust. (Read more)
Bartholomew Neil is a uniquely likable protagonist who at nearly 40 has lived with his mother his entire life. After her death, Bartholomew sets a few life goals, like having a beer in a bar with an age-appropriate friend and pursuing Girlbrarian, the lovely but withdrawn woman who shelves books at his local library. “Her long brown hair . . . covers her face like a waterfall can cover the entrance to a mysterious cave,” Bartholomew writes. (Read more)
Imagine a man who can bend a horseshoe with his hands, whose outsized literary interests include everything from Jonathan Franzen to Stephen King and who towers above most of us at six feet seven inches. He sounds like a comic book hero, but the most heroic thing about him is this: He chooses to spend his days working in a public library, even though he suffers from a syndrome that compels him to act out, often audibly. Tourette’s, which Josh Hanagarne has referred to for years as Misty (for Miss T), is a formidable foe and constant companion. (Read more)
This literary mystery begins in a marvelous place called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a repository for literary works no longer remembered by anyone. A 10-year-old boy named Daniel is taken there by his bookseller father to assuage the lingering pain of his mother's death. The old caretaker tells Daniel to choose one book from the labyrinthian stacks, take it away and make sure it never disappears. (Read more)
The Camel Bookmobile
By Masha Hamilton
Masha Hamilton's compelling third novel, The Camel Bookmobile, leaves no room for doubt: Books are essential. Cookbooks, novels, parenting books—they all matter to Fiona "Fi" Sweeney, a librarian from Brooklyn searching for fulfillment atop a book-laden camel in the arid and dangerous bush of Kenya. Tiny, far-flung villages populated by nomadic tribes, largely forgotten and neglected by the greater population of a more modern Africa, welcome the bookmobile and Fi with a combination of curiosity and wary distrust of Westerners' belief that the rest of the world needs guidance. (Read more)
Running the Books
By Avi Steinberg
Avi Steinberg was meant for greater things. If not a doctor or lawyer (per his family’s expectations), his time in yeshiva should at least have turned out a decent rabbi. But no; he left yeshiva for Harvard, then stalled out as a freelance obituary writer for the Boston Globe. In search of a new direction, and the security of a job with benefits, Steinberg answered an ad on Craigslist and began life anew as a librarian in a Boston prison. Running the Books chronicles Steinberg’s years on the job, introducing a cast of inmates with whom his involvement went beyond mere book recommendations. (Read more)
Library: An Unquiet History
By Matthew Battles
Our Well Read columnist writes: "If you are a regular reader of BookPage (or even an occasional one), chances are you are also someone who has spent a fair amount of time in a library. Like me, you probably remember the monumental day when you got your first library card and, since reaching that milestone of childhood, have spent perhaps a little too much time roaming the stacks. Until I read Matthew Battles' engaging book, Library: An Unquiet History, though, I had not given much thought to the colorful past of those buildings-full-of-books that so many of us love." (Read more)
What do you think, fellow library lovers? Help us expand the list by adding your recommendations below!
With February right around the corner, let's take a look at the February LibraryReads list, which features 10 books coming out next month that librarians across the country are the most excited about sharing with their patrons.
Topping the list is Red Rising by Pierce Brown, which Cindy Stevens of the Pioneer Library System in Norman, Oklahoma, proclaims as "the next great read for those who loved The Hunger Games."
While the list offers up lots of suspenseful thrillers to curl up with by the fire—The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon (our Top Pick in fiction for February!) and The Ghost of the Mary Celeste by Valerie Martin, among them—it also features much-anticipated new novels from best-selling authors Matthew Quick and Wiley Cash. See the full list right here.
What do you think, readers? Any of the books going straight to the top of your TBR list?
Australian Graeme Simsion has hit it out of the park with his first novel, The Rosie Project. The hilarious and endearing tale follows genetics professor Don Tillman—who's brilliant but socially awkward—as his scientific quest to find a wife is sidetracked by the gorgeous and free-spirited Rosie. Our reviewer declares the book to be "a wacky, wonderful love story that is just plain fun to read." (Read the full review here.)
We were curious about the books Simsion has been reading lately, so we asked him to recommend three recent favorites:
THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
By Matthew Quick
I was sent an advance copy of Matthew Quick’s Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock to review and enjoyed it so much (despite not being a “young adult”) that I grabbed a copy of The Silver Linings Playbook. I love and envy Mr. Quick’s ability to make even his most minor characters real, original and sympathetic.
• • • • • • • •
GOODBYE FOR NOW
By Laurie Frankel
Another advance copy—we authors have our reading chosen for us! An original idea that appealed to my information technology background, and didn’t stretch my credulity so far that I lost interest. A light read, but some big topics to reflect upon later.
• • • • • • • •
THE CHEEKY MONKEY
By Tim Ferguson
I read a lot of nonfiction, especially about writing craft. Tim Ferguson was my comedy teacher, and the best I know at explaining how comedy works. He told me to make 'em laugh, make 'em cry, make 'em think. It’s a great motto for writing.
What do you think, readers? Will you be checking out The Rosie Project or any of Simsion's recommended books?
Those who were introduced to Matthew Quick through the Academy Award-winning film adaptation of The Silver Linings Playbook may not be aware that he is a former high school teacher with three YA novels under his belt. His most recent, the riveting Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, introduces readers to a teenager in crisis who is contemplating a murder-suicide. (Read our interview with Quick about the book here.)
We were curious about which books Quick has enjoyed reading lately and asked him to share three recommendations. Here they are:
DR. BIRD’S ADVICE FOR SAD POETS
By Evan Roskos
Fantastic title. Little known fact: Evan Roskos and I once tried to write a book together. It was called MonkeyShark. We never finished it—instead he took his parts and wrote Dr. Bird, and I wrote Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock. Like me, Evan cares deeply about mental health awareness. His take on anxiety, Walt Whitman, family and friendship is as authentic as they come. It’s a beautiful, hopeful story. And it features a talking pigeon! That alone makes it a must read.
THE BEST OF YOUTH
By Michael Dahlie
I met Michael at the PEN Hemmingway Awards when my debut was an Honorable Mention to his winner. He handled his victory with the same class and grace that imbue his novels. Dahlie’s hapless protagonists are as hilariously flawed as they are earnestly humane. Almost a year after first reading an advance copy, my wife and I still discuss scenes—especially the one featuring a herd of rare goats—from The Best of Youth. For all the Young Adult and ghost authors out there, this is a must, as it explores the fickle and sometimes even pernicious aspects of the writing life.
THE ROSIE PROJECT
By Graeme Simsion
Not sure when I’ve loved a character more than Don Tillman, “Professor of Genetics and licensed server of alcohol.” With Twain-like efficiency, Simsion constructs his humor on a sturdy foundation of humanity. This is the type of book that makes you believe in people, love and taking chances. I smiled and laughed all the way through and then gave the book to my wife, who loved it just as much. This one is forthcoming in the U.S. (October 1), and I suggest you preorder today.