Didn't we just do this for 2013?
December 10, 2014 12:52 AM   Subscribe

It's turned December, we can no longer pretend 2014 isn't almost over and of course that means it's time for NPR's best books of 2014, which you can filter according to taste. Into science fiction & fantasy or rather realistic fiction? Wanting a long or a book or perhaps just a short, seriously great book about sex? NPR has got you covered.
posted by MartinWisse (31 comments total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
 
Dammit I had just got my books-to-get list down to a somewhat more manageable, um, 172. That's about to go up ...

Nice to see a book by one of MetaFilter's own on the list.
posted by kyrademon at 1:48 AM on December 10, 2014


I've gotten The Martian by Andy Weir to read over the holidays. It seems like an interesting list to pick from.

We have all next year to play catch-up.
posted by flippant at 2:26 AM on December 10, 2014


I'm currently reading The Martian. It's a seriously great old school science fiction novel.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:31 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm glad The Martian got the recognition it deserved this year. When it first came out, I had to practically throw it at patrons to get them to give it a shot. "HeyDidYouLikeGravityWell-THUNK-TryThis!"
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:40 AM on December 10, 2014


The audiobook for The Martian is read by a voice actor with a very strong sense of wryness, and it just zooms along. I loved it!
posted by wenestvedt at 3:48 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Just in case anyone cares about the recommendations or tastes of other mefites:

-- Had already read from this list: The Inheritance Trilogy, Ancillary Sword, The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, The Silkworm

I enjoyed all of these. I would particularly recommend The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, which is among the best books I read this year.

-- Had already heard about and planned to read: Station Eleven, A Girl is a Half Formed Thing, The Stone Mattress, Us Conductors, Lightspeed: Women Destroy Science Fiction

Of these five, one I learned about through a MetaFilter FPP (A Girl is a Half Formed Thing), one I learned about through a MetaTalk FPP (Us Conductors), and one got recommended to me by a fellow Mefite (Station Eleven.) Hm. I suspect MetaFilter may account for a larger number of the books I read than I'd thought.

-- Added to my "plan to read" list after hearing about them here: Sex Criminals, On Such a Full Sea, How to Be Both, Horrorstör, The Bees, Girl in Reverse, The Hawley Book of the Dead, The Southern Reach Trilogy, The Witch, The End of the Sentence, How to Be a Victorian, Rat Queens, Pretty Deadly, Dear Committee Members, Words Will Break Cement

Probably the most interesting reason for my selecting one of these was for The Hawley Book of the Dead. The Amazon blurb includes the phrase "In the tradition of ... A Discovery of Witches ...", and I was about to cross it off the list because "A Discovery of Witches" is one of the most laughably bad books I have come across in recent years. But then the first review of The Hawley Book of the Dead there is a two-star pan that reads: "As you can see from the statement above taken from the blurb of this book, it's been compared to a Discovery of Witches, a book I enjoyed very much. I don't agree with that at all, the only comparison I would say it has is the fact they are both stories built around a book." So I thought, well, if it's actually hated by people who like A Discovery of Witches, maybe I'll like it after all ...
posted by kyrademon at 4:22 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


(Oh, and The Bone Clocks, forgot about that one, that's a to-read as well.)
posted by kyrademon at 4:35 AM on December 10, 2014


Dammit I had just got my books-to-get list down to a somewhat more manageable, um, 172

....and there's my little spiritual meditation for the day: I am going to miss most stuff, and that's OK. No straw is big enough to slurp it all in. If I read every book on this list, two more will be written for each I finish, emerging like a new head of the Hydra. Who was that sports star who claimed that he slept with 10,000 women? Wilt Chamberlain, I think. That's a lot of sex! But the number is dwarfed by the millions, no, billions, of women who did not, and will not ever, go to bed with him.
posted by thelonius at 5:12 AM on December 10, 2014


I do not weep at night either for the books I have not read, or for the orgasms I have not experienced.

Nonetheless, a few of each every week does keep me in a cheerful mood.
posted by kyrademon at 5:23 AM on December 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


I really loved Station Eleven.
posted by rtha at 5:34 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


My to-read list keeps getting longer, which is a fun problem to have. I appreciate these kinds of lists, because there's always books on them that are new to me and that end up being great.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:52 AM on December 10, 2014


As an addition to what looks like a mainstream publisher-heavy list, here's Flavorwire's The 50 Best Independent Fiction and Poetry Books of 2014 list. It was linked in the MeTa thread about Sean Michaels' Us Conductors, so there's some overlap, but Flavorwire's list is better for that simultaneously delicious and infuriating "goddammit there are too many great books I've never heard about" feeling.
posted by mediareport at 6:32 AM on December 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


I enthusiastically second wenestvedt's recommendation of the audiobook version of The Martian, which is read by R.C. Bray. He does a great job.
posted by neushoorn at 6:32 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Went looking for a gift for my dad — nonfiction, history, especially American history is a pretty reliable pick for him — and instead ended up adding three to my own to-read list.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:36 AM on December 10, 2014


Nthing The Martian, a superb read. The NPR app (which is great) filters it out when you hit "Seriously Great Writing" which I think was an oversight on NPR's side. It's amazingly thorough scientifically and somehow manages to also be entertaining and funny throughout. Given its subject matter, that had to have been one very difficult narrative to pull off like that.
posted by mcstayinskool at 6:59 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm not a huge reader, I prefer Jack Reacher over Tolstoy and mostly just read half a chapter in bed before I zonk out - but I do enjoy a good book.

The last book i truly loved was "a fraction of the whole" which apparently appeared on no lists and is regarded as trash to the literati. But I loved it. (Along with loving 3 of Tom Wolfes most recent, which were similarly panned).

So I find these lists, and picking out my next book, incredibly, incredibly stressful. What if I don't enjoy the top picks? Have I failed as a true reader? Am I not smart enough to enjoy great writing?

As a result, I - literally this week - finished up a severely misguided marathon of all 13 "Mitch Rapp" books by Vince Flynn. They were awful, but at least I didn't have to decide what to read next.
posted by remlapm at 7:11 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I really like the interface and was curious what tech they used to build it. Took a while to find it, but here it is. From app-footer-min.js:

/*
* Looking for the full, uncompressed source? Try here:
* https://github.com/nprapps/%s
* The following files are included in this compressed version:
* www/js/app_config.js
* www/js/lib/modernizr.js
* www/js/copy.js
* www/js/console.js
* www/js/lib/jquery-2.1.1.js
* www/js/lib/isotope.pkgd.js
* www/js/lib/imagesloaded.pkgd.js
* www/js/lib/html5.js
* www/js/lib/jquery.scrollTo-1.4.13.js
* www/js/lib/underscore.js
* www/js/lib/bootstrap.js
* www/js/lib/signals.js
* www/js/lib/hasher.js
* www/js/lib/jquery.unveil.js
* www/js/lib/ZeroClipboard.js
* www/js/templates.js
* www/js/app.js

posted by mcstayinskool at 7:15 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


But the number is dwarfed by the millions, no, billions, of women who did not, and will not ever, go to bed with him.

Particularly since he died in 1999.
posted by blucevalo at 7:41 AM on December 10, 2014


The Usagi Yojimbo Saga Volume 1 By Stan Sakai

OMG! I loved Usagi Yojimbo as a teenager, and to see it get praised here fills my heart glee! For anyone who likes samurai, strong story telling, and comic books, Usagi Yojimbo is a must.
posted by Vindaloo at 8:05 AM on December 10, 2014


Yay! My friend Nick's novel is on the NPR list! (He is a brilliant and witty writer, please go read everything he has done.)
posted by Kitteh at 8:14 AM on December 10, 2014


I really enjoyed The Martian, it's basically like Apollo 13 set on Mars. I'm sure it's already been optioned by Hollywood, because it's just the right kind of story to make a movie out of.

I hadn't heard about Genevieve Valentine's book, I'll have to look for that.

I really like that the NPR interface includes a link to search your library for the book. Good job, NPR.
posted by suelac at 8:24 AM on December 10, 2014


> "So I find these lists, and picking out my next book, incredibly, incredibly stressful. What if I don't enjoy the top picks? Have I failed as a true reader? Am I not smart enough to enjoy great writing?"

These picks are literally just, like, some people's opinions, man. You say there are books you love? Then as a reader, you've won.
posted by kyrademon at 8:26 AM on December 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm sure it's already been optioned by Hollywood

Indeed it has...
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:41 AM on December 10, 2014


I find myself incredibly delighted that there are comics in there. Just dropped alongside the other books without any apologies. It's like they're not just for kids anymore or something.
posted by egypturnash at 9:56 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


I have been poking through this and why does this happen when I need to clean out my to-read list?
posted by immlass at 10:06 AM on December 10, 2014


"Funny Stuff" yields the complete Zap comix and nothing else.

Not that I expected to find stuff that I as a codger would find funny, but they could only come up with one suggestion? This does not look good.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:33 AM on December 10, 2014


"Funny Stuff" yields the complete Zap comix and nothing else.

Not true. You have another filter on if you are only seeing that one book.

I really like that the NPR interface includes a link to search your library for the book. Good job, NPR.

Funny you should mention this: it launched without that feature, but a reader suggested it almost right away, and as soon as they heard the suggestion, the team that had just crashed for weeks to get this project done and was basking in having it finished went back and crashed again for a bit to get it added. I think it'll be there when they do this next year.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 10:35 AM on December 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


The Martian, a superb read. The NPR app (which is great) filters it out when you hit "Seriously Great Writing" which I think was an oversight on NPR's side.

I also loved the book. An incredible engineering thriller. But I agree with NPR - at least what I think NPR is saying. There is nothing about the writing that makes you think how well-written it was. However, the writing does exactly what is should do - it gets completely out of the way of the story.

I have such mixed feelings about The Bone Clocks. The first three quarters was an incredible set of character studies with a slight mysterious magic realism/fantasy undertone, and then the last quarter devolved into some sort of pulp-fantasy novel shoot-em up.
posted by rtimmel at 11:42 AM on December 10, 2014


All of the books I am interested in appear to have bad Amazon and Goodreads reviews...
posted by sonic meat machine at 12:32 PM on December 10, 2014


I really liked The Martian, but my favorite book did not make the list The Innovators
posted by WillRun4Fun at 3:41 PM on December 10, 2014


I liked The Tropic of Serpents and the rest of the Lady Trent dragon trilogy by Marie Brennan. I also very much liked The Martian, as everyone who reads it seems to.
posted by artistic verisimilitude at 5:50 PM on December 14, 2014


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