With upwards of a million books published in the United States each year, the percentage mentioned in reviews is a teeny, tiny representation. With 2014 arguably being the best book year yet, there were so many amazing books that didn’t get enough notice. Here are 10 great reads you might not have heard about.
“The Painter” by Peter Heller: From the author of the amazing 2012 novel “The Dog Stars” comes a tale about a painter — and ex-con — who moves out west to get a fresh start and work on his art, and immediately runs into trouble with the local hoods. I call it “Asher Lev: First Blood.”
“Bellweather Rhapsody” by Kate Racculia: The description of this book calls it a mash-up of “The Westing Game,” “The Shining” and Agatha Christie, and that’s exactly what it is. Racculia delivers a delightfully fun and scary story of a group of students at a band convention trapped in a hotel during a blizzard. There are rumors of ghosts, and when one of their own goes missing, the students and chaperones must band together to solve the case.
“City of Stairs” by Robert Jackson Bennett: This is Bennett’s best yet, about a diplomat who must solve the murder of a visiting professor. Complicating matters is the fact that the professor was studying the country’s dead gods, a forbidden subject. Assisting the diplomat in her investigation is Sigrud, one of the greatest characters I’ve encountered. Imagine if Sherlock Holmes and River Tam had a baby and that baby was raised by the Predator. That’s Sigrud.
“Land of Love and Drowning” by Tiphanie Yanique: Yanique tells the story of three generations of the Bradshaw family in St. Thomas, a family history wrought with magic, love and tragedy. Starting in the early 1900s with two orphaned sisters and their half-brother, “Land of Love and Drowning” is sure to delight fans of Toni Morrison and Gabriel García Márquez.
“The Girl with All the Gifts” by M. R. Carey: Melanie is a sweet, studious 10-year-old. She lives alone in a cell and attends school each day with other children and her favorite teacher, Miss Justineau. Because it is the only life she’s ever known, Melanie doesn’t realize that she and the other students are not like other kids. But the whole world is about to find out just how special Melanie really is. This is perfect distraction for people eagerly waiting for the final book in the “Passage” trilogy.
“Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis” by Alexis Coe: This is the true story of a young woman who murdered her lover in broad daylight in Memphis in 1892. The reason the crime captivated the nation was not because of the murderer’s age or the gruesomeness of the crime. It was because the lovers were both women. Coe does an amazing job recreating Alice and Freda’s story and addressing issues that still exist today.
“Neverhome” by Laird Hunt: Hunt has created a fictional character based on several accounts of women who disguised themselves as men to fight in the Civil War. Ash Thompson is a farmer’s wife who signs up for battle when her husband cannot. Ash is a natural when it comes to fighting, but still lives in fear of her secret being discovered. This is a brutal, gorgeous book.
“The Girls from Corona Del Mar” by Rufi Thorpe: Mia and Lorrie Ann are total BFFs, daydreaming about boys and their lives after high school. When a tragedy sends Lorrie Ann spinning off on another course, the friendship starts to fall apart. Following her own dreams, Mia must decide how much help she can offer Lorrie Ann, and if she really knows Lorrie Ann at all. A razor-sharp look at female friendships.
“Bird Box” by Josh Malerman: Something unknown and terrifying is roaming the Earth. When people see it, they go crazy. No one who has seen it lives to describe it. Malorie lives in a house with two small children. They cannot go outside or look out the windows for fear of seeing whatever is out there. But supplies have run out, and Malorie has heard mention of other survivors down the river. Can she get the children to safety when she doesn’t know what she’s up against?
“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory” by Caitlin Doughty: Doughty is a licensed mortician and host of the “Ask a Mortician” series. This hilarious and moving memoir recounts Doughty’s journey to her chosen career, her thoughts on how America handles death, and her belief that the process of death should be less mysterious. She has a lot of great ideas.