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We’ve barely finished removing our Halloween makeup, and already we’re seeing year-end round-ups starting to emerge. Case in point: Amazon’s 100 Best Books of 2014 selections. Not that we’re complaining: There’s no better way spend chilly fall days than with a stack of good books. Plus, we’re approaching the holiday season, which means lots of days off, train rides, plane trips, and extended family time—aka, prime reading opportunities.
The Amazon team certainly knows their stuff: All 100 editor’s picks are enticing, so we’ve highlighted 10 buzzy selections from the list to check out first. After you’re done, head over to Amazon to peruse ’em all, and be sure let us know in the comments section below if you’ve already read any, and which you’re planning to tackle!
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Amazon’s pick for the number one best book of 2014, Ng’s debut novel follows a Chinese-American family living in 1970s Ohio. Middle-child Lydia is the favorite of Marilyn and James Lee—parents that are set on Lydia fulfilling the goals they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the family is forced to examine the long-kept secrets that have been pulling them apart.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Set mostly in Germany and France before and during World War II, it’s not really a “war novel.” As Amazon writes, “the author’s focus is on the interior lives of his two characters. Marie Laure is a blind 14-year-old French girl who flees to the countryside when her father disappears from Nazi-occupied Paris. Werner is a gadget-obsessed German orphan whose skills admit him to a brutal branch of Hitler Youth. Never mind that their paths don’t cross until very late in the novel, this is not a book you read for plot (although there is a wonderful, mysterious subplot about a stolen gem). This is a book you read for the beauty of Doerr’s writing.”
The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henriquez
From Amazon: “The story takes place in a run-down apartment building in Delaware, home to nine families who arrived in the States from various South and Central American countries, each looking to better the lives of the next generation. In alternating chapters, these men and women share stories of how their adopted country has left its mark on them, for better and worse.”
Revival by Stephen King
From Amazon: “Revival, is vintage King … The story here centers on a reverend who comes to a New England town, befriends and mentors a young boy, and then goes wild with grief when his family dies in an accident; he gives a blasphemous sermon and is, basically, run out of town. Cut to: a couple decades later, when the boy, now a junkie, meets up by chance with the disgraced clergyman, and they form another disturbing relationship. Reverend Jacobs, it turns out, was always more complicated than the stereotypical man of God – he is fascinated by electricity, by science – and pretty demonic, too. How he and Jamie find and fight each other over their lifetimes is as shocking and inevitable as the explosive and, yes, horrorish, climax of the book.”
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
From Amazon: “Set in an Australian suburb, Big Little Lies focuses on three women, all of whom have children at the same preschool. One is a great beauty married to a fabulously rich businessman; they have a “perfect” set of twins. One is the can-do mom who can put together a mean pre-school art project but can’t prevent her teenage daughter from preferring her divorced dad. The third is a withdrawn, single mother who doesn’t quite fit in. Right from the start—thanks to a modern ‘Greek chorus’ that narrates the action—we know that someone is going to end up dead. The questions are who and how.”
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
From Amazon: “A flight from Russia lands in middle America, its passengers carrying a virus that explodes “like a neutron bomb over the surface of the earth.” In a blink, the world as we know it collapses … Survivors become scavengers, roaming the ravaged landscape or clustering in pocket settlements, some of them welcoming, some dangerous. What’s touching about the world of Station Eleven is its ode to what survived, in particular the music and plays performed for wasteland communities by a roving Shakespeare troupe, the Traveling Symphony, whose members form a wounded family of sorts. The story shifts deftly between the fraught post-apocalyptic world and, twenty years earlier, just before the apocalypse, the death of a famous actor, which has a rippling effect across the decades.”
The Laughing Monsters by Denis Johnson
From Amazon: “Roland Nair and Michael Adriko are soldiers, spies, friends, liars. They’ve fought side by side, witnessed torture and death. They also once made stacks of illicit cash (diamonds), and now Michael has an outrageous plan to make more (uranium—maybe). Years after they last parted, they reunite in Freetown, Sierra Leone, with Michael’s innocent and stunning fiancé along for the adventure. Uncowed by the madness and deceptions swirling around them all, Michael is an absolutely shimmering fictional creation — both an elegant trained killer, and a lovable man-child … As he drags his friend and fiancé deeper into West Africa, in a desperate search for his long-lost village, we root for Michael, even as this irresistible and infuriating child of war barrels exuberantly toward darkness.”
Savage Harvest by Carl Hoffman
From Amazon: In 1961, while on an expedition to collect pieces for his father’s Museum of Primitive Art, Michael Rockefeller and his traveling companion were plunged into the warm waters off New Guinea. The billionaire scion tied two empty gas cans to his body for floatation and swam for shore, and by most accounts, he made it. But what happened there, when he encountered members of the Asmat tribe—a culture marked by ritual violence and cannibalism—has been long debated. Did he disappear into the tropical jungles, or was he rendered and eaten by the tribesmen, as many speculated and the Rockefeller family long denied? Award-winning journalist Carl Hoffman has stepped into Rockefeller’s boot prints and Asmat society, interviewing generations of warriors in an exhaustive and engrossing attempt to solve the mystery.
Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
From Amazon: “In an era where twenty-something women are told how to think, where to work, who to date, and what to wear, it’s refreshing that a voice has broken the mold to empower women to do one thing—be yourself, flaws and all … [Dunham’s] painfully-relatable stories of graduating from one-night stands with toxic men and dead-end jobs with no purpose, to loving relationships and a fulfilling career will leave you laughing, cringing, and sighing “me too.” Thoughtful, hilarious, and exquisitely-written, Dunham’s memoir is like reading your quirky big sister’s diary.”
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
From Amazon: “It is 1922, in a genteel house in a genteel neighborhood just outside of London. Here, the widowed Mrs. Wray and her 26-year-old daughter, Frances, pass each day very much like the day before—with Frances busying herself with household chores, maybe a bit of needlepoint, and her mother nibbling on a lunch of cauliflower cheese while making notes for the parish newsletter. In less skilled hands, such prolonged stage-setting would test even the most patient reader. But in Waters’, it’s mesmerizing, with every small but evocative detail serving to transport you further into this place and time. Take a deep breath as you’re reading, because as soon as you are you lulled into the calm cadence of these lives, the Wray’s tenants—the “paying guests” they have taken in to help with the bills—turn everything topsy-turvy, and by the novel’s conclusion, you have gone from straight-up period piece, to love story, to edge-of-your-seat crime thriller.”