Best Read in 2014: A Top 20 Year-End List

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As we round the corner of Typographical Era’s second anniversary, we’ve decided to continue our Best Read in the year tradition, and what a year it has been!  Between translations, short stories, novels, memoirs, and essays, readers of all genres will surely find Typographical Era’s Best Read in 2014 list to be a perfect place to start for reading endeavors in 2015.  At least we hope so.  Here’s to a great year in reading and to another great year for Typographical Era.  Cheers!

Looking for more great recommendations? Check out our previous year-end lists:
[2013] [2012]

20: Don’t Forget Me, Bro by John Michael Cummings

Don’t forget Me, Bro is an expertly-crafted and painfully realistic account of what happens when mental illness intersects with abuse, poverty, and misinformation in the South…if you’re looking for a tale of heart-warming redemption, you won’t find it here.  You will, however, find an engrossing, honest, and empathetic account of the bravery, will-power, and perseverance it takes to endure mental illness on a daily basis.  -Karli

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19: Through the Night By Stig Saeterbakken

It’s hard to move forward when you’re wracked with what-ifs, regret, and guilt.  It’s even harder still when you’ve become crippled by the loss of a life, a family, and a child that has willingly chosen to disappear forever.  -Aaron

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18: Thunderstruck by Elizabeth McCracken

What begins as a subtle unease slowly transitions into a sharp and brilliant exposure of truth.  Readers may find themselves somewhat uncomfortably bursting with empathy for characters who live for no more than 10 or 20 pages.  That’s how good Elizabeth McCracken is.  You’ll find empathy in an elderly widower, a pizza-stealing teenager, a bored grocery store clerk, a grieving mother and a naive father to name a few. -Karli

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17: Dead Stars By Álvaro Bisama

When you look up at the night sky and peer at the brightly burning stars, what you’re really staring at is the past, for those lights you’re seeing burned out and died long ago.  Dead Stars takes a striking look back into the difficult life of a woman and the dissatisfaction of a country, and reminds us that even though the moments may have passed, the choices we made are forever shaping our present and future lives.  -Aaron

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16: Beyond the Pale Motel by Francesca Lia Block

With this novel, Block steps out of her YA comfort zone and into the Adult Mystery genre with a tale of lust, deceit, addiction, and murder in L.A…Quick-paced, erotic and highly sensitive, Beyond the Pale Motel is a triumph for Francesca Lia Block and her loyal fans. -Karli

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15: The Forbidden Kingdom by Jan Jacob Slauerhoff

…an action/adventure colonization shipwrecked love affair time traveling science fiction magical realism epic in which its author executes every one of these genres at an extremely high, perplexing, near maddeningly perfect level. Reading it is like watching the most confounding magic trick get executed right before your very eyes.  -Aaron

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14: Battle Bunny By Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett

I must admit, when I first saw this book at the library, I thought someone had horribly defaced an adorable children’s book about a birthday bunny.  I was right, but all the “defacing” was intentionally done by the authors…a one-of-a-kind picture book experience. -Karli

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13: Horses of God by Mahi Binebine

Truly great pieces of literature have a way of pulling us away from the safe confines of what we believe to be true by asking us to examine situations from a different perspective or point of view.  That’s exactly what Binebine does here to great effect, creating a novel that forces us to ask the question: should we see these suicide bombers, these people who willfully chose to strap explosive devices to their chests and kill citizens of Casablanca, as victims as well?  -Aaron

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12: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Grasshopper Jungle is the story of how the world will end.  If you’re thinking global warming, war, a giant asteroid, or nuclear holocaust then think again.  As 16-year-old Austin Szerba reports, the apocalypse begins in a small town called Ealing, Iowa. -Karli

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11: Navidad & Matanza By Carlos Labbé

Reading this first Carlos Labbé novel to be translated to English is a bit like playing a really fucked up version of The Game of Life, one where the author controls your every move, the Pay Day squares have been replaced with kidnappings, vacation time translates to losing your beach towels, reaching the ultimate goal of retirement really spells your grizzly death, and every turn of the spinner emits the type of sound you’d expect to hear from a spooky theremin.  -Aaron

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10: Exley by Brock Clarke

A genre-defying, mind-bending tale of a young boy’s love for his father, Exley will keep you guessing as to the tale’s overarching mystery, but it will also introduce readers to an exceptional combination of narrative voices and an incredibly smart, well-crafted storyline. -Karli

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09: All Dogs are Blue By Rodrigo de Souza Leao

Moving and honest, yet also fractured and tragic, All Dogs are Blue is a fierce accomplishment.  It reminds us how delicate our mental stability truly is as it presents us with the world as seen through the eyes of a subject deemed to be too aberrant to be allowed to walk freely amongst us.  What we find within is not flat out insanity, but instead the thoughtful, tender, and playful voice of a man that’s teetering on the edge of both greatness and darkness with every breath he takes. -Aaron

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08: Off Course by Michelle Huneven

While Off Course seems to begin as a coming-of-age type of story, the novel ultimately explores the decisions we make out of discontentment and their immediate and delayed consequences.  Plenty of novels evaluate scenarios of adulterous affairs, but Huneven’s novel is a sober and uncomfortably realistic account of extramarital obsession and the desire to fulfill basic needs of human connection, love, friendship, and trust. -Karli

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07: Natural Histories By Guadalupe Nettel

Guadalupe Nettel’s storytelling power is majestic. With an unflinching eye, time and time again, she drives readers on an exploratory safari into the heart of human nature. Funny, touching, terrifying, horrific and/or sad-you never know what you’ll find when you tentatively set out in search of potential dangers, but one thing is abundantly clear: safe in her skilled hands, each journey holds the promise of being a life changing event. -Aaron

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06: The Bees by Laline Paull

Laline Paull’s debut novel gives new meaning to the concept of “hive mentality,” with the story of Flora 717 – a lowly worker bee who is desperate to spread her wings and become a forager…Written with elegance, grace, and suspense, The Bees is a delectable treat for lovers of general fiction, fantasy, dystopian novels, and mysteries. -Karli

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05: Sex Criminals: Volume One By Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky

Targeted toward an adult audience, Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s beautiful, insightful, and honest comic book series Sex Criminals (lie, beg, and steal your way to copies of this one you uneducated horny young adults!), relies heavily on the universally felt feelings of sexual awkwardness, loneliness, and frustration to create two highly realistic protagonists, a pair who become immediately endearing to the reader because of the candid confessions they repeatedly make regarding their sexual history and preferences. -Aaron

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04: Bird Box by Josh Malerman

You could easily read this novel in one sitting, but whether or not you do, you will be thoroughly creeped-out either way. After all, no vision is more sinister than what lurks beneath the mind’s eye, and Malerman has a subtle way of bringing your most horrific fantasies to life. Focusing on the delicate intuition of the senses rather than detailed descriptions, Malorie’s post-apocalyptic tale will leave you shaken and breathless. -Karli

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03: The Missing Year Of Juan Salvatierra by Pedro Mairal

A living, breathing, often dazzling portrait of the universal familial struggles inherent in growing up desperate to escape one’s roots, Nick Caistor’s translation of Pedro Mairal’s slim, perfect novel is packed with more life than even miles upon miles of artwork, imagined or otherwise, could ever hope to convey.  -Aaron

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02: Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal

Set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights movement, Dollbaby is a richly layered, bittersweet tale of what it truly means to be a family – and all the joy, grief, celebration, and disappointment that come along with it. With the wit and charm of Fannie Flagg and the consciousness of The Help, Dollbaby establishes Laura Lane McNeal as a fabulous debutante of fiction and a loyal southerner. -Karli

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01: Talking to Ourselves by Andres Neuman

With Talking to Ourselves, Andres Neuman has meticulously crafted an affecting, absorbing portrait of modern family life, one that’s centered on the mystery and tragedy of death, but ultimately pulses with the overwhelming power of life. -Aaron

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What do you think of our list? What were some of the best books that YOU read in 2014? Let us know!

About Karli Cude

Karli Cude, previous moderator of Hooked Bookworm, is an avid reader and former bookseller. She graduated from the University of Tennessee with a B.A. in English Literature in 2010 and completed a Master’s degree in Library and Information Sciences in 2013.

  • http://www.bookbinges.blogspot.com/ Cynthia Parten

    Great list! Bird Box is on my TBR.