The OF Blog: Top 50 releases of 2014: #1-20

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top 50 releases of 2014: #1-20

Was a bit too busy yesterday to post #11-20, so I decided to combine it all together for the final 20 of 2014.  Appropriate anyways, as it would have been very difficult to decide which belonged in which subgroup of ten.  The differences between #1 and #20 are miniscule, as each of these are excellent works, featuring many new writers.  Hope some of these works will lead to you considering reading them.

20.  Lydie Salvayre, Pas pleurer

Winner of the 2014 Prix Goncourt, this novel mixes personal recollection of the author's mother's experiences during the Spanish Civil War with the change in French writer George Bernanos's views on the war to create a powerful story of loss and suffering in the midst of a cruel and devastating war.

19.   Eimear McBride, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing 

Winner of the 2014 Baileys Prize for Women's Fiction, this is one of the most daring narratives published this year.

18.  Blake Butler, 300,000,000

The line between deranged and brilliant at times seems to be (purposely) blurred in this tale of obsession and mass killing.

17.  S.  Yizhar, Khirbet Khizeh (translated from Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange and Yaacob Dweck)

Finally released in translation in the US, this 1949 novella by one of Israel's founding fighters/politicians is one of the most harrowing and damning accounts of the eviction of the Palestinians following the 1948-1949 war that established the state of Israel.

16.   Daša Drndić, Trieste (translated from Croatian by Ellen Elias-Bursać)

One of the better WWII/Holocaust tales that I've read in recent years.

15.  Paul Kingsnorth, The Wake

Longlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize, this novel of a last stand in the immediate aftermath of the Norman Conquest is brilliant in its use of a "shadow English" to narrate the story.

14.   Roxane Gay, An Untamed State 

This novel about a Haitian-American woman's experiences after being kidnapped in Port-au-Prince was one of the best, most unsettling debuts I've read this year.

13.   David Grossman, Falling Out of Time (translated from Hebrew by Jessica Cohen)

In prose, poetry, and play genres, Grossman explores the loss of his son during one of the rocket attacks in northern Israel during the 2006 mini-conflict with Hezbollah.  Powerful, sad, and so much more.

12.  Rabih Alameddine, An Unnecessary Woman 

Finalist for the 2014 National Book Award, this novel about a Lebanese woman and her abandoned translations of some of the world's greatest literature speaks volumes about why some do give up or go in directions their hearts would rather not travel.

11.   Johanna Sinisalo, The Blood of Angels (translated from Finnish by Lola Rogers) 

One of the best narratives of ecological collapse that I've read in quite some time.  Chilling in its plausibility.

10.   Kyle Minor, Praying Drunk 

One of the more moving, probing collections I've read this year.

9.  Jeff VanderMeer, The Southern Reach trilogy (Annihilation; Authority; Acceptance)

The best weird fiction/ecological mystery story I've read this year.  All three now available in a single-volume hardcover edition.

8.  Richard Flanagan, The Narrow Road to the Deep North 

Winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize, this novel in some sense could be seen as an Australian version of the non-fiction Unbroken in its treatment of WWII prisoners and the humanity discovered even within the worst abuses against human beings.

7.   Julia Elliott, The Wilds

This debut collection is full of outstanding stories.  To say much more would spoil the bountiful surprises.

6.  Ali Smith, How to be Both 

Finalist for the 2014 Man Booker Prize (and the one I thought which should have won), this is an outstanding meditation on art and life, stretching across nearly five centuries.

5.  Evie Wyld, All the Birds, Singing 

This was a delight to read, this wonderfully-written tale of a woman fleeing her past in Australia only to come upon a seemingly-minor and yet frightening episode in rural Britain.

4.  Catherine Lacey, Nobody is Ever Missing

This tale of a woman who up and leaves her dissatisfying home and professional life to discover herself is well-written and moving.

3.  Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See 

Finalist for the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction, this tale, set in WWII France, of a blind girl and a German radio savant, constantly surprises with its rich language and poignant moments.

2.   Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You

This story of a biracial American family's fissioning, leading up to the suicide of their daughter, was a devastating read.

1.  Phil Klay, Redeployment 

This National Book Award winning collection is my favorite book of the year for its combination of humor, rage, frustration, doubt, and all the gamut of human emotions in these tales of Iraqi War veterans dealing with their experiences, both wartime and after.  Just an outstanding debut and a well-deserving winner of the National Book Award.

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