What books from 2014 blew your socks off?
December 24, 2014 9:07 PM   Subscribe

What literature from 2014 would you consider to be the best? I'm looking for page turners that tempt you to stay up late at night and exceed your expectations to a great degree. Fiction, non-fiction, short stories, space opera, graphic novel, anything goes. I'd like the best of the year to enjoy over break, and I'd like the recommendations to come from other like-minded mefites.
posted by SpacemanStix to Media & Arts (44 answers total) 238 users marked this as a favorite
"Us Conductors", from MeFi's Own™ Marquis (MeTa)
posted by scruss at 9:35 PM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle
posted by silby at 9:55 PM on December 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie won the most recent Nebula and Hugo awards, which piqued my attention enough to pick it up. I just finished reading the next book, Ancillary Sword, and am reminded again that it's the best sci-fi I've read in a long time.
posted by serelliya at 9:58 PM on December 24, 2014 [9 favorites]

Ben Aaronovich's Foxglove Summer - it's the most recent in his Peter Grant series which are funny, sharp, and beautifully written. Knowingly on the border between crime and fantasy novels, and definitely the kind of books that will keep you up way after you intended to go to bed.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:06 PM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Words of Radiance kept me up all night long, then towards the end made me slow way down because I knew I'd be heartbroken when it was finished (and I was). It's a sequel though; you'll have to also read the first book, Way of Kings, (then wait anxiously for 2016 for book three apparently).
posted by lilnublet at 10:10 PM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

I just finished All the Light We Can Not See. It is now one of my all time favorite books.
posted by bluesky43 at 11:00 PM on December 24, 2014 [7 favorites]

posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:41 PM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell. I figured I'd like it, because I liked Cloud Atlas, but it was even better than I had anticipated. I had to force myself to put it down so I could go to sleep at night. If you read it, don't find out too much about it beforehand if possible.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:48 PM on December 24, 2014 [9 favorites]

The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Richard Flanagan) and The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher (Hilary Mantel) blew me away.
posted by raw sugar at 11:54 PM on December 24, 2014

Neverhome, by Laird Hunt and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
posted by janey47 at 2:38 AM on December 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

London Falling, by Paul Cornell. Sci-fi/horror + crime drama.
posted by rakaidan at 3:01 AM on December 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

The Miniaturist recently cost me a night's sleep.
posted by flabdablet at 3:57 AM on December 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
posted by djb at 4:17 AM on December 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire by Peter Stark

Mr K and I read out loud to each other, almost always fiction. In the case of both these books, I started reading library copies, stopped almost immediately, bought a copy for us, and we read them out loud with great interest and delight. The Gold Standard of sock-knocking-off in our house.
posted by kestralwing at 4:21 AM on December 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Red or Dead by David Peace.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:27 AM on December 25, 2014

The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 5:09 AM on December 25, 2014 [8 favorites]

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James.
posted by initapplette at 5:13 AM on December 25, 2014

Life Is About Losing Everything by Lynn Crosbie.
posted by janepanic at 6:27 AM on December 25, 2014

Station Eleven & The Southern Reach Trilogy were mentioned above, and I heartily concur. Both kept me up late into the night.

I would add Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi and The Isle of Youth by Laura Van den Berg. Both incredible, incredible books that changed the way I look at the world.
posted by minervous at 7:39 AM on December 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

For non-fiction I love, love, loved The Third Plate.
posted by lydhre at 7:42 AM on December 25, 2014

The Secret Place by Tana French.
posted by matildaben at 8:04 AM on December 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

Neil Patrick Harris's choose your own autobiography was super fun.
posted by Flannery Culp at 8:16 AM on December 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

The YA novel We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. It's dark and poetic and has a super interesting plot twist.
posted by toby_ann at 9:04 AM on December 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Station Eleven and The Drop, by Dennis Lehane.
posted by lyssabee at 10:14 AM on December 25, 2014

Kameron Hurley's The Mirror Empire. $1.99 on amazon right now!!!
posted by homodachi at 10:29 AM on December 25, 2014

I enjoyed Stephen King's Revival.
posted by all about eevee at 11:34 AM on December 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I tore through The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. I kinda forgot that I like fantasy books that aren't heavy with world building.
posted by advicepig at 1:34 PM on December 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

Seconding the Southern Reach trilogy (the first one is Annihilation).

I also loved I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 1:56 PM on December 25, 2014

The Martian, by Andy Weir. A useful survival guide if you find yourself marooned on another planet.
posted by cedar at 2:46 PM on December 25, 2014 [8 favorites]

There are a number I would have brought up if they hadn't already been mentioned, so I'll stick to ones that haven't:

Cuckoo Song, by Frances Hardinge
Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, by Genvieve Valentine
Hild, by Nicola Griffith
A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing, by Eimear McBride
posted by kyrademon at 3:49 PM on December 25, 2014

Claire North's The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is a pretty fantastic SF-ish novel. Its hook is oddly similar to Life After Life's, if that's the sort of thing you fancy, but I enjoyed Harry August much more. And a thousand times yes to Ann Leckie's Ancillary trilogy.
posted by mumkin at 9:20 PM on December 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Bird Box by Josh Malerman. It's horror and it's magnificent. Most horror lit loses me somewhere; this never did.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:02 PM on December 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

I enjoyed all the Louise Penny Inspector Gamache mysteries this summer and early fall.
posted by semacd at 6:28 AM on December 26, 2014

No Roxane Gay yet? Try An Untamed State (warning: some brutal violence of a sexual nature) and Bad Feminist.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 7:55 AM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone. These are excellent.

And please don't let this comment shut down the thread. :)
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:45 AM on December 26, 2014

Let me recommend books one and two of Marcus Sakey's Brilliance saga. (Three has yet to come out.) Alternate universy/sci-fi-ish page turners both!
posted by Work to Live at 11:01 AM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

A few books published this year managed to struggle their way up to 3/5 stars for me (Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun, Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, the aforementioned Wolf in White Van, What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe, and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty) but nothing really rocked my socks off.

EXCEPT FOR the incredibly unsettling and visually stunning Through the Woods by Emily Carroll which was just ... I can't even describe it. If you're not familiar with Carroll's work go check out His Face All Red and if it thrills you then don't hesitate to pick up the book (which contains that story and several more).

Honorable mention to the ongoing actual-comic-book series Sex Criminals, the first five issues of which are available as Sex Criminals Vol. 1: One Weird Trick. Funny, touching, and definitely for adults only and yet somehow not too gauche or vulgar.

If you had said even as recently as last year that my favorite reading material from 2014 would be in the form of comics / illustrated art stuff I probably wouldn't have believed you, but there it is.

[double secret honorable mention to Goodreads for keeping track of all this for me and actually allowing me to see everything I've read this year and when it was published. Without it I would never have even attempted to answer this question.]
posted by komara at 12:46 PM on December 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives by Sendhil and Shafir. Excellent.
posted by Freen at 12:55 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

One I loved that hasn't been mentioned yet is Beautiful Darkness. It's a dark fairy tale with lovely, delicate watercolor art -- and I don't want to say more than that, because it is so surprising and pleasurable to read without knowing much about it in advance.
posted by ourobouros at 5:22 AM on December 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

This Bio of J Robert Oppenhemer was wonderful as

- it contains the rise and fall of a man
- is loosely themed on his search for identity
- humanist depiction of the 20's - 40's quantum physics first golden era
- the dabblings of a scientific man in government/politics are amusingly real

somewhat related the author previously wrote a bio of Ludwig Wittgenstein, hence a good authorial mindset: per me.
posted by benoit at 4:27 AM on December 29, 2014

Seconding Station Eleven and Boy, Snow, Bird.

I also loved:
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
California Bones by Greg van Eekhout
The Bees by Laline Paull
Orfeo by Richard Powers
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (I read this one twice!)
My Real Children by Jo Walton
posted by exceptinsects at 5:28 PM on December 30, 2014

Second Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. I think this book got a shout out on the Radiolab episode "Worth."
posted by hotasianbuffet at 5:38 PM on December 30, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks again, everyone. I've started with the The Bone Clocks, and so far so good.

Happy reading in the New Year!
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:56 PM on January 1, 2015

I'm nearing the end of Bone Clocks too, as a result of this thread (which I trusted due to the recommendations for Station Eleven which I'd already enjoyed) and so popped back for more ideas.
posted by chill at 11:24 AM on January 3, 2015

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