100 Notable Books of 2014

Courtesy New York Times

100 Notable Books of 2014


Credit Illustrations by Jon McNaught
Continue reading the main story Share This Page

The year’s notable fiction, poetry and nonfiction, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review.


ALL OUR NAMES. By Dinaw Mengestu. (Knopf, $25.95.) With great sadness and much hard truth, Mengestu’s novel looks at a relationship of shared dependencies between a Midwestern social worker and a bereft African immigrant.

ALL THE BIRDS, SINGING. By Evie Wyld. (Pantheon, $24.95.) Wyld’s emotionally wrenching novel traces a solitary sheep farmer’s attempt to outrun her past on a remote British island.

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE. By Anthony Doerr. (Scribner, $27.) The paths of a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy converge in this novel, set around the time of World War II.

AMERICAN INNOVATIONS. By Rivka Galchen. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $24.) Most of these stories offer variations on a particular sort of woman: in her 30s, urban, emotionally adrift.

THE ASSASSINATION OF MARGARET THATCHER: Stories. By Hilary Mantel. (John Macrae/Holt, $27.) One has the sense that Mantel is working with some complex private material in these suavely stylish, vastly entertaining contemporary fables.


Credit Illustrations by Jon McNaught

THE BALLAD OF A SMALL PLAYER. By Lawrence Osborne. (Hogarth, $25.) In Osborne’s feverish novel, the playing is done on the gambling tables of Macau by a tortured embezzler on the run.

BARK: Stories. By Lorrie Moore. (Knopf, $24.95.) The uncrowded format of Moore’s first collection in 16 years allows each story the chance it deserves for leisurely appreciation, and lets the reader savor just what makes her work unique.

THE BLAZING WORLD. By Siri Hust­vedt. (Simon & Schuster, $26.) Hustvedt’s multifaceted novel is a portrait of a creative titan whose career and reputation have seemingly been blighted by the art establishment’s ingrained sexism.

THE BONE CLOCKS. By David Mitchell. (Random House, $30.) In this latest head-­spinning flight into other dimensions from the author of “Cloud Atlas,” all borders between pubby England and the machinations of the undead begin to blur.

THE BOOK OF STRANGE NEW THINGS. By Michel Faber. (Hogarth, $28.) Faber is a master of the weird; in his defiantly unclassifiable novel, a pastor from Earth is picked to satisfy an alien planet’s mysterious yen for religious instruction.

THE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS. By Cristina Henríquez. (Knopf, $24.95.) Latino immigrant characters face the challenges of assimilation.

BOY, SNOW, BIRD. By Helen Oyeyemi. (Riverhead, $27.95.) Taking “Snow White” as a cultural touchstone, Oyeyemi’s novel offers up a cautionary tale on post-race ideology, racial limbos and the politics of passing.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF SEVEN KILLINGS. By Marlon James. (Riverhead, $28.95.) Revolving around the assassination attempt on Bob Marley in 1976, this mesmerizingly powerful novel addresses politics, class, race and violence in ­Jamaica.

CAN’T AND WON’T. By Lydia Davis. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26.) In Davis’s stories, the mundane and the fathomless appear together on the same street, and calamity is always close at hand.

THE COLD SONG. By Linn Ullmann. Translated by Barbara J. Haveland. (Other Press, paper, $15.95.) Ullmann’s novel of a guilt-ridden Norwegian family is set in motion by a nanny’s murder.

COLORLESS TSUKURU TAZAKI AND HIS YEARS OF PILGRIMAGE. By Haruki Murakami. Translated by Philip Gabriel. (Knopf, $25.95.) A novel of a man’s traumatic entrance into adulthood and the shadowy passages he must then ­negotiate.

DEPT. OF SPECULATION. By Jenny Offill. (Knopf, $22.95.) Building its story from fragments, observations, meditations and different points of view, Offill’s cannily paced second novel charts the course of a marriage.

THE DOG. By Joseph O’Neill. (Pantheon, $25.95.) In O’Neill’s disturbing, elegant novel, his first since “Netherland,” a lost and tormented New York lawyer recognizes more darkness within himself than in the iniquitous place he works, Dubai.

EUPHORIA. By Lily King. (Atlantic Monthly, $25.) King’s novel turns an episode in the life of Margaret Mead into a taut tale of competing egos and desires in a landscape of exotic menace.

EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU. By Celeste Ng. (Penguin Press, $26.95.) In this novel, a tragedy tears away at a mixed-race family in 1970s Ohio.

F. By Daniel Kehlmann. Translated by Carol Brown Janeway. (Pantheon, $25.95.) Deserted by their enigmatic father, three brothers struggle with life in Kehlmann’s sly tragicomedy.

FAITHFUL AND VIRTUOUS NIGHT. By Louise Glück. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $23.) The poet’s latest collection responds with high art and startling presence to the vantage offered by mortality.

FAMILY LIFE. By Akhil Sharma. (Norton, $23.95.) Sharma’s novel, deeply unnerving and tender at the core, charts a young man’s struggles to grow within a family shattered by tragedy and disoriented by its move from India.

FOURTH OF JULY CREEK. By Smith Henderson. (Ecco/HarperCollins, $26.99.) In Henderson’s impressive novel, an overburdened social worker becomes involved with a near-feral boy and his survivalist father in 1980 Montana.

A GIRL IS A HALF-FORMED THING. By Eimear McBride. (Coffee House Press, $24.) An Irish writer’s odd, energetic first novel.

I PITY THE POOR IMMIGRANT. By Zachary Lazar. (Little, Brown, $25.) Lazar’s brilliant novel of spiritual discovery features Meyer Lansky, an American journalist and an Israeli poet’s murder.

THE LAUGHING MONSTERS. By Denis Johnson. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25.) Johnson’s cheerfully nihilistic novel about two scammers and rogue spies in Africa derives much of its situation from several of his early journalistic pieces.

LENA FINKLE’S MAGIC BARREL. Written and illustrated by Anya Ulinich. (Penguin, paper, $17.) Ulinich’s graphic novel traces the marital and romantic adventures of her immigrant heroine.

LET ME BE FRANK WITH YOU: A Frank Bascombe Book. By Richard Ford. (Ecco/Harper­Collins, $27.99.) In four linked stories, Ford’s aging Everyman surveys life after Hurricane Sandy batters New ­Jersey.

LILA. By Marilynne Robinson. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26.) A young woman with a past of hardship and suffering makes a new start in Robinson’s fictional town of Gilead, Iowa.

LOVERS AT THE CHAMELEON CLUB, PARIS 1932. By Francine Prose. (Harper, $26.99.) Prose, a subtle psychologist, has created a genuinely evil character in Lou Villars, a cross-dressing French racecar driver and Nazi collaborator.

THE MAGICIAN’S LAND. By Lev Grossman. (Viking, $27.95.) In the strong final installment of a trilogy, an exiled magician attempts a risky heist.

THE MOOR’S ACCOUNT. By Laila La­lami. (Pantheon, $26.95.) Estebanico, the first black explorer of America, narrates this fictional memoir.

MOTHERLAND FATHERLAND HOMELANDSEXUALS. By Patricia Lockwood. (Penguin Poets, paper, $20.) Lockwood offers a collection at once angrier, and more fun, more attuned to our time and more bizarre, than most poetry can ever get.

MY STRUGGLE. Book 3: Boyhood. By Karl Ove Knausgaard. Translated by Don Bartlett. ­(Archipelago, $27.) The third installment of Knausgaard’s Proustian six-volume autobiographical novel.

THE NARROW ROAD TO THE DEEP NORTH. By Richard Flanagan. (Knopf, $26.95.) A frail humanity survives the unspeakable in this novel of the Burma-­Thailand Railway of World War II.

NORA WEBSTER. By Colm Toibin. (Scribner, $27.) In Toibin’s luminous, elliptical novel, set in the late 1960s and early ’70s, an Irishwoman struggles toward independence after her husband’s unexpected death.

PANIC IN A SUITCASE. By Yelena Akhtiorskaya. (Riverhead, $27.95.) As a Ukrainian family adapts to life in Brooklyn, old-country memories linger.

THE PAYING GUESTS. By Sarah Waters. (Riverhead, $28.95.) Hard times, forbidden love, murder and justice are the themes of this nevertheless comic novel, set in London after World War I.

THE POETRY OF DEREK WALCOTT 1948-2013. Selected by Glyn Maxwell. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $40.) Stroke by patient stroke, the poems in this largehearted and essential selection from Walcott, now 84, are the work of a painterly hand.

REDEPLOYMENT. By Phil Klay. (Penguin Press, $26.95.) Twelve stories by a former Marine who served in Iraq capture on an intimate scale the ways in which the war there evoked a unique array of emotion, predicament and heartbreak.

REMEMBER ME LIKE THIS. By Bret Anthony Johnston. (Random House, $26.) In Johnston’s skillful and enthralling debut novel, a family is reunited after an abducted son comes home.

A REPLACEMENT LIFE. By Boris Fishman. (Harper, $25.99.) In Fishman’s bold, ambitious and wickedly smart first novel, a Soviet émigré writer in New York becomes disturbingly adept at forging applications for Holocaust reparations.

SONG OF THE SHANK. By Jeffery Renard Allen. (Graywolf, paper, $18.) Allen’s masterly novel blends the personal story of the enslaved autistic piano prodigy Thomas Wiggins with the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

10:04. By Ben Lerner. (Faber & Faber, $25.) A Brooklyn-based narrator preoccupied with identity decides to help his best friend have a child in this frequently brilliant second novel.

THIRTY GIRLS. By Susan Minot. (Knopf, $26.95.) Minot’s novel approaches the atrocities wrought by a murderous African rebel army with candor yet without sensationalism.

THOSE WHO LEAVE AND THOSE WHO STAY: Book 3, The Neapolitan Novels: “Middle Time.” By Elena Ferrante. Translated by Ann Goldstein. (Europa Editions, paper, $18.) The third novel in Ferrante’s series, which tracks a long and complicated friendship.

THE WALLCREEPER. By Nell Zink. (Dorothy, a Publishing Project, paper, $16.) Zink’s heady, rambunctious debut is an environmental novel, if a totally surprising and irreverent one.

WE ARE NOT OURSELVES. By Matthew Thomas. (Simon & Schuster, $28.) Thomas’s gorgeous family epic follows three Irish-American generations.

WHEN MYSTICAL CREATURES ATTACK! By Kathleen Founds. (University of Iowa, paper, $16.) This dark, rich little novel in stories shows Founds as a talented moralist of nearly Russian ferocity.


AMERICAN MIRROR: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell. By Deborah Solomon. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28.) Solomon pays honest respect to Rockwell for his dedication through periods of self-doubt, depression and marital tumult.


Credit Illustrations by Jon McNaught

BEING MORTAL: Medicine and What Matters in the End. By Atul Gawande. (Metropolitan/Holt, $26.) A meditation on living better with age-related frailty, serious illness and approaching death.

BUILDING A BETTER TEACHER: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone). By Elizabeth Green. (Norton, $27.95.) What emerges here is the gaping chasm between what the best teachers do and how they are evaluated.

CAN’T WE TALK ABOUT SOMETHING MORE PLEASANT? Written and illustrated by Roz Chast. (Bloomsbury, $28.) This scorchingly honest, achingly wistful graphic memoir looks at the last years of Chast’s nonagenarian parents.

CHINA’S SECOND CONTINENT: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in ­Africa. By Howard W. French. (Knopf, $27.95.) French delves into the actual lives of the Chinese who have uprooted themselves to live and work in Africa.

CUBED: A Secret History of the Workplace. By Nikil Saval. (Doubleday, $26.95.) This account of office design and technology since the Civil War offers insights into the changing nature of work.

DEEP DOWN DARK: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free. By Héctor Tobar. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26.) Tobar graphically recounts the quandaries faced by the victims of Chile’s 2010 mine disaster.

DEMON CAMP: A Soldier’s Exorcism. By Jennifer Percy. (Scribner, $26.) Percy’s first book follows an anguished Army veteran who searches for salvation in a Christian exorcism camp.

DUTY: Memoirs of a Secretary at War. By Robert M. Gates. (Knopf, $35.) One of the few Obama administration members who come off well in this frank account — probably one of the best Washington memoirs ever — is Hillary Clinton.

DYING EVERY DAY: Seneca at the Court of Nero. By James Romm. (Knopf, $27.95.) A classicist tries to unravel the enigma of the Stoic philosopher who was the Roman emperor Nero’s adviser.

EICHMANN BEFORE JERUSALEM: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer. By Bettina Stangneth. Translated by Ruth Martin. (Knopf, $35.) The Eichmann of this study is a much more motivated Nazi than in Arendt’s version.

ELEPHANT COMPANY: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II. By Vicki Constantine Croke. (Random House, $28.) A rich portrait of a fascinating Englishman in extraordinary times.

EMBATTLED REBEL: Jefferson Davis as Commander in Chief. By James M. McPherson. (Penguin Press, $32.95.) The Confederate president as “a product of his time and circumstances.”

THE EMPATHY EXAMS: Essays. By Leslie Jamison. (Graywolf, $15.) Considerations of pain, physical and emotional, and how it affects our relationships with one another and with ourselves.

FACTORY MAN: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local — and Helped Save an American Town. By Beth Macy. (Little, Brown, $28.) Macy’s folksy concentration on her local hero makes complex global issues ­understandable.

THE FAME LUNCHES: On Wounded Icons, Money, Sex, the Brontës, and the Importance of Handbags. By Daphne Merkin. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28.) Forty-six essays that share a similar curiosity about the glittering byproducts of personal pain.

FIRE SHUT UP IN MY BONES: A Memoir. By Charles M. Blow. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27.) The Times Op-Ed columnist describes overcoming his rage at being abused as a child.

FORCING THE SPRING: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality. By Jo Becker. (Penguin Press, $29.95.) A fly-on-the-wall account of the 2013 Supreme Court case that led to the overturn of California’s ban on same-sex marriage.

GANDHI BEFORE INDIA. By Ramachandra Guha. (Knopf, $35.) It was as a young lawyer in South Africa that Gandhi forged the philosophy and strategies later put to such effect in India.

GEEK SUBLIME: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty. By Vikram Chandra. (Graywolf, paper, $16.) With great subtlety and depth, Chandra, who is both a novelist and a programmer, traces the connections between art and technology.

HOTEL FLORIDA: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War. By Amanda Vaill. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30.) A collective portrait of Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, and two other couples.

THE HUMAN AGE: The World Shaped by Us. By Diane Ackerman. (Norton, $27.95.) An optimistic survey of the technology and innovations that define our human-dominated epoch.

THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan. By Rick Perlstein. (Simon & Schuster, $37.50.) Engrossing and at times mordantly funny, Perlstein’s book treats the years 1973-76 as a Rosetta stone for American politics today.

THE INVISIBLE FRONT: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War. By Yochi Dreazen. (Crown, $26.) Dreazen uses one military family’s tragedy to examine the troubling rise of postwar suicides.

THE INVISIBLE HISTORY OF THE HUMAN RACE: How DNA and History Shape Our Identities and Our Futures. By Christine Kenneally. ­(Viking, $27.95.) Kenneally takes a smart and highly entertaining look at the revelations DNA can provide.

JUST MERCY: A Story of Justice and Redemption. By Bryan Stevenson. (Spiegel & Grau, $28.) An activist lawyer’s account of a man wrongfully convicted of murder reads like a call to action.

LIMONOV. By Emmanuel Carrère. Translated by John Lambert. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30.) Carrère applies his affinity for the big questions to his biography of an uncategorizable Russian writer.

LITTLE FAILURE: A Memoir. By Gary Shteyngart. (Random House, $27.) Shteyngart’s hilarious and touching account of his family’s move from Leningrad to Queens, and his emergence as a writer.

THE MADWOMAN IN THE VOLVO: My Year of Raging Hormones. By Sandra Tsing Loh. (Norton, $25.95.) Loh’s memoir wittily describes her roller-coaster ride through “the change.”

NAPOLEON: A Life. By Andrew Roberts. (Viking, $45.) Roberts brilliantly conveys the sheer energy of this military and organizational whirlwind.

NO GOOD MEN AMONG THE LIVING: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes. By Anand Gopal. (Metropolitan/Holt, $27.) A devastating look at how we got ­Afghanistan wrong.

NOT I: Memoirs of a German Childhood. By Joachim Fest. Translated by Martin Chalmers. (Other Press, paper, $16.95.) The author’s father’s opposition to Hitler brought his family into danger.

ON IMMUNITY: An Inoculation. By Eula Biss. (Graywolf, $24.) Drawing on science, myth and literature, Biss spellbindingly examines the psychological fog of fear that surrounds immunization today.

ON THE RUN: Fugitive Life in an American City. By Alice Goffman. (University of Chicago, $25.) A young sociologist’s remarkably reported ethnography of a poor black Philadelphia ­neighborhood.

100 ESSAYS I DON’T HAVE TIME TO WRITE: On Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children, and Theater. By Sarah Ruhl. (Faber & Faber, $23.) The playwright on how to be creative when life and children intervene.

THE PARTHENON ENIGMA. By Joan Breton Connelly. (Knopf, $35.) With first-rate scholarship, an archaeologist reinterprets the Parthenon frieze in this exciting and revelatory history.

PAY ANY PRICE: Greed, Power, and Endless War. By James Risen. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28.) The Pulitzer Prize-winning Times reporter chronicles the excesses of the war on terror in this important and powerful book.

PENELOPE FITZGERALD: A Life. By Hermione Lee. (Knopf, $35.) In this delicate portrait, Lee takes on the challenge of an elusive late-bloomer — the great novelist and biographer who published her first book at 58 and became famous at 80.

PRO: Reclaiming Abortion Rights. By Katha Pollitt. (Picador, $25.) In this manifesto, Pollitt argues that women should stop apologizing and reclaim abortion as a “positive social good.”

THE SHORT AND TRAGIC LIFE OF ROBERT PEACE: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League. By Jeff Hobbs. (Scribner, $27.) A heartbreaking journey from a New Jersey ghetto to Yale to a drug-­related murder.

THE SIXTH EXTINCTION: An Unnatural History. By Elizabeth Kolbert. (Holt, $28.) A powerful examination of the role of man-made climate change in causing the current spasm of plant and animal loss that threatens the planet.

A SPY AMONG FRIENDS: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal. By Ben Mac­intyre. (Crown, $27.) This account of the high-level British spymaster who turned out to be a Russian mole reads like John le Carré but is a solidly researched true story.

STUFF MATTERS: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World. By Mark Miodownik. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26.) Materials we think banal and boring — paper, concrete, glass, plastic — hold hidden wonders.

THE TEACHER WARS: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession. By Dana Goldstein. (Doubleday, $26.95.) Goldstein offers a lively, personality-driven survey of the public education system, and offers ideas for its reform.

THIRTEEN DAYS IN SEPTEMBER: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David. By Lawrence Wright. (Knopf, $27.95.) How marathon sessions of bare-knuckle diplomacy forged a framework for peace between Israel and Egypt in 1978.

THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING: Capitalism vs. the Climate. By Naomi Klein. (Simon & Schuster, $30.) In her ambitious and consequential analysis, Klein argues there is still time to avoid catastrophe, but not within the current rules of capitalism.

THROWN. By Kerry Howley. (Sarabande, paper, $15.95.) With its sly humor and trenchant vision, this genre-bending work finds sublime poetry in the world of mixed martial arts.

THE TRIP TO ECHO SPRING: On Writers and Drinking. By Olivia Laing. (Picador, $26.) A charming and gusto-driven look at the alcoholic insanity of six famous authors: John Cheever, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Raymond Carver.

THE TRUE AMERICAN: Murder and Mercy in Texas. By Anand Giridharadas. (Norton, $27.95.) Competing visions of the American dream collide in this account of a post-9/11 hate crime and its unlikely ­reverberations.

WORLD ORDER. By Henry Kissinger. (Penguin Press, $36.) Kissinger’s elegant, wide-ranging cri de coeur is a realpolitik warning for future generations from a skeptic steeped in the past.

Categories: Americas, United States

Leave a Reply