Wednesday, December 10, 2014

2014 Top Ten: Fiction

2014 was such a good year for readers that my compilation of the annual Book Chase top ten lists has been a bigger than usual challenge this year.  But after several days of tweaking the list, I'm finally happy with it.  Readers will not go wrong with any of these:

1.   The Homesman - Glendon Swarthout - this 2014 reprint was also issued as part of a movie tie-in and tells the story of a woman driving a wagon load of mad women back East to their families after the women were driven crazy by their experiences as homesteaders in the 1850s American West.  The movie will star Meryl Streep, Hilary Swank, John Lithgow, and Tommy Lee Jones.
2.   The Lobster Kings - Alexi Zentner - this family saga tells the story of the Kings family which for the last 300 years has lost its first born son of every generation to the waters in which the family gathers its living.  The family is at a crossroads: a daughter is about to inherit the family reins...if there is anything left to inherit.
3.   Monday Monday - Elizabeth Crook - In 1966, Charles Whitman went to the top of the tower on the University of Texas campus and began shooting shooting at students on the ground.  He killed 16 people and wounded 32 others.  This novel helps explain why it happened and how it impacted the lives of survivors.   
4.   Etta and Otto and Russell and James - Emma Hooper - Eighty-two-year-old Etta has never seen the ocean.  One morning she wakes up and decides it is time to fix that, so she begins walking from central Canada to the nearest ocean she can find.  This is her story.
5.  The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher - Hilary Mantel - Mantel has, of course, had spectacular success with her novels, and even though she is not known as a short story writer, this is a very fine collection.  The name of the story she chose as the title for the collection caused a controversy in the U.K. that guaranteed that the rest of the world would hear about this book.  Thank goodness for all that free publicity.
6.   Wayfaring Stranger - James Lee Burke - I have heard this one described as a "classic American success story," and it certainly is that.  Burke, best known for his Dave Robicheaux series, introduces a new character here, Weldon Avery Holland, and tells his spectacular life story, one that starts with the sixteen-year-old's run-in with Bonnie & Clyde and morphs into the history of the U.S. oil industry.
7.   I Shall Be Near to You - Erin Lindsay McCabe - Rosetta never wanted her new husband to join the Union Army.  But when he did, she disguised herself as a man and joined him on the battlefield.  This is her story, but it is a story based on real-life women who did exactly this during the American Civil War.  (This is a 2014 reprint.)
8.   World of Trouble - Ben H. Winters - This is the third book of The Last Policeman trilogy, and the end is near.  Only days before the Earth collides with an asteroid that will almost wipe out the human race, an ex-policeman still searches for his missing sister.   Solving this final mystery, is how he decides to spend his last days.
9.    The Girl Next Door - Ruth Rendell - What happens when a group of children that played together in World War II London is reunited to help solve a crime that happened in 1944?  Not what you would expect, that's for sure.  As Ruth Rendell ages, she focuses more and more on aged characters and shows just how intriguing an approach to writing that can be.
10,  Prison Noir - Various Authors (edited by Joyce Carol Oates) - This is one of a long line of short story collections published by Akashic Books.  Each of the stories was written by a current or former prisoner, or someone associated with the prison system.  Oates provides the collection's introduction.

There you have it: my 2014 favorites.  Enjoy.

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