Archive | November, 2014

Is it too early for The Best Litpicks of 2014?

18 Nov

I hope not, because I’ve come to the realization that I may not finish another book between now and the end of the year. And if I do finish one, it will likely be one that comes out in the new year. So, I’m bringing it on, bringing it out, ringing in the holiday season. Here are my top ten books of the year (alphabetically)!

I think I’ve talked about all but one of these in the blog this year – the exception being The Other Language. It was a crazy good year for books.

deepest secret

I read The Deepest Secret towards the beginning of the year, but I can remember precisely how it pulled me in. Sort of like Hitchcock’s Rear Window if you replace the apartment building in the movie with a secluded cul-de-sac in the suburbs.

all the light

OH my gosh was this one so good. A WWII saga, nominated recently for the National Book Award (announced on TOMORROW, November 19th!) – if you like epic family/war sagas and missed this one – go back and get it. The story follows two different people: a blind young French girl and an orphaned German boy. One of the bonuses in my mind was that although this sounds like a love story, it really never was. It was just an incredible story.


Peter Heller. Sigh. Such a dreamboat of a writer. I loved his first one, Dog Stars, last year and this one is a chart-topper for me this year. It’s the story of an artist/flyfisher/canker-sore of a guy named Jim and his struggles with life and loss (and the occasional murder).


I get giddy thinking about this one and find that random scenes come floating back to me at least every other week or so. And I read in December of LAST year. If All the Light is the WWII novel of the year, this may be the family saga of the year. It’s thick – but so good. The story is about an Indian-American young woman named Amina who works as a wedding photographer (and has a secret file under the floorboards filled with wedding outtakes, scenes I’ve thought of at every wedding I’ve been to since I read it) who gets word from her mother, living in New Mexico, that her father’s health is declining. So Amina takes a leave of absence and heads to her parent’s house. Then we get back/forth between the father’s past in India and the current story of Amina’s stay in NM. It was great.


Every title on this list gets me so excited about books. This one? also awesome. Loosely based on the life of Margaret Mead (whom I knew nothing about), I thought this was the best “journey into the heart of darkness” tribal story I’ve read. Far surpassing State of Wonder, last year’s blockbuster.


Of all the ones on my list, this was the only one I rated 4 stars. It was the 10th one that came to mind. It’s a YA sort of suspense story that takes place on a private island. One of those endings that makes the whole novel seem way more interesting.

Station Eleven

Another one that is on the National Book Award short list. I can find a reason to recommend this one to just about everyone I know. Although some say that they’ve had enough post-apocalyptic explorations, this one is much smarter than a lot of its contemporaries. I’d say it feels like Michael Chabon and Peter Heller and maybe early Colm Toibin? That last one may not be quite right, but Emily SJM has turned the apocalypse into a work of Literature.

other lang

Remember how last year I had The News from Spain on my list as perhaps the perfect collection of short stories (and I don’t read short stories!)? Well, this one sits right next to it on my all-time favorite shelf. I think I could recite word for word the first three or four stories, they’ve stuck with me that much over the last few months.


Every great list has to have at least one tearjerker and this is mine. This one will break your heart but in the great way that only a really amazing story can. It’s set up like the movie Crash, four different characters whose stories converge. The young immigrant boy, one of the four narrators, is the greatest child voice of the year. If this one doesn’t move you, well I don’t know what will.

astonish me

This was a late addition for me. If you had asked me when I read it if it would be on my Best Of list, I’d probably have said no. But when I started thinking about this list last week, Astonish Me kept popping back up. It’s more of a slow-burn of a novel that has stuck with me much more than I expected it to.


That’s my list, and I have maybe 1 already for next year. Fingers crossed that I can find enough time to read in 2015!