If you want great book recommendations, just ask the folks who know books best.
Librarians from the New York Public Library recalled the best books they read in 2014. From romance to thriller to biography, you’ll find your new favourite books below.
“I’ll Give You the Sun” by Jandy Nelson: Twins Noah and Jude are total opposites, but very close growing up. Fast forward to adulthood, and they’re no longer speaking. “A story of sibling rivalry, family, love, art, betrayal, perseverance, death and dreams,” said Mulberry Street branch librarian Anne Rouyer, “it filled my soul with hope and humanity and made me a better person.”
“An Untamed State” by Roxane Gay: Mirelle is an attorney on her way to visit her parents with her husband and son when she is kidnapped and held for ransom. “It really gave me chills to read what she resorted to doing just to survive such traumatizing events,” said Grand Concourse branch librarian Sherise Pagan.
“The Paying Guests” by Sarah Waters: In 1922 London, an impoverished widow and her spinster daughter take in some boarders to earn a little extra money. “The setting is rich, the characters captivating, the writing inspiring, and the story!” said Lynn Lobash, in Readers Services. “The book turns from fascinating historical fiction to thriller. It’s amazing!”
“Unremarried Widow: A Memoir” by Artis Henderson: Artis Henderson’s soldier husband dies in a helicopter crash in Iraq — a death which mirrors that of her father, who died in a plane crash when Artis was five. “It’s achingly sad,” said Maura Muller, in the Volunteers Office, “but it is a beautiful love story that in spite of the heartache, leaves you smiling.”
“The Interior Circuit: A Mexico City Chronicle” by Francisco Goldman: Goldman’s grief over the death of his wife manifests itself in his fear of driving in Mexico City, a fear which he symbolically tries to overcome. “It’s at once a deeply felt love story, an elegy, political study and meditation on home,” said Miriam Tuliao, on the NYPL Selection Team.
“An Age of Licence” by Lucy Knisley: This graphic travel memoir follows Kniskley on a trip to Europe and Scandinavia she took in her twenties to try and discover herself. “With lovely and evocative illustrations, it perfectly captures the fun of travelling as a young person, while also touching on the anxieties that come with being a twenty-something,” said Mulberry Street branch librarian Susie Heimbach.
“This One Summer” by Mariko Tamaki: “This graphic novel is an evocative coming-of-age tale that perfectly captures the innocence of feeling small when experience reveals that the world is a much larger and darker place than the familiarity of summer suggests,” said Mid-Manhattan branch librarian Daniel Norton.
“Grasshopper Jungle” by Andrew Smith: In a world where giant preying mantises are taking over the world lies a story “with a solid bedrock of character development and an unusual storytelling style,” Kingsbridge librarian Andrea Lipinski said. “Austin Szerba is a great character and a fascinating narrator, and we follow him down surprising paths as his mind takes leaps backwards and forwards in time to tell this story.”
“A Discovery of Witches” by Deborah Harkness: The first book in a trilogy of vampires, witches, time travel, and romance where a student navigates a long-lost alchemical manuscript and discovers a fantastical history. “What’s not to love?” said Mid-Manhattan librarian Lois Moore. “I’m already halfway through the second book in the trilogy, ‘Shadow of Night.’ The third volume, ‘The Book of Life,’ was published this year.”
“A Memory of Light” by Brandon Sanderson: This is the finale of Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” fantasy series, continued by Sanderson after Jordan’s death. “Seeing so many character stories wrap up, others end in tragedy and saying goodbye to favourites you’ve followed over the course of fourteen epic novels was a bit wrenching,” Spuyten Duyvil branch librarian Joshua Soule said. “I’m not afraid to admit there were tears.”
“Hyperbole and a Half” by Allie Brosh: Based on the author’s popular blog, this is a book of hilarious, everyday situations accented by spunky, crudely-drawn illustrations that help tell a story. “I appreciate her total honesty in pointing out her own flaws,” said Rabecca Hoffman, from the Kingsbridge branch. “It was smart, funny, and … made the rest of us feel normal.”
“Housekeeping” by Marilynne Robinson: Two sisters face grief, growing up, and survival as they’re shuffled from one relative to another as each dies. “Every sentence is vivid,” said Mid-Manhattan branch librarian Jessica Cline. “I felt the leaves build up in the corners of my rooms and paint begin to peel on my door frames.”
“The Golem and the Jinni” by Helene Wecker: Both Chava, a golem, and Ahmad, a jinni, are mythical creatures who exist in Jewish and Muslim lore, respectively. A chance meeting between the two in New York city mixes genres and mythologies at the same time. This is “an epic story that documents the immigrant experience of the two unlikely title characters,” said Rosa Caballero-Li, in the AskNYPL service.
“The First Bad Man” by Miranda July: Cheryl is a neurotic woman living alone when her bosses ask if their 21-year-old daughter — a spoiled bully who thrusts Cheryl into reality — can live with her for a while. “It was so funny and fresh,” said Lynn Lobash, in Readers Services. ” The narrator is socially spastic. She will make you cringe like Larry David.”
“The Luck Uglies” by Paul Durham: “This fantasy adventure reminded me just how much fun it can be to plunge into a world of deliciously awful villains, mysterious rogues and fearsome monsters with a group of undaunted young protagonists,” Seward Park librarian Stephanie Whelan said. “Can’t remember the last time I missed so many subway stops because I just didn’t want to stop reading!”
“Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” by Dee Brown: A history of Native American Indians in the West, Brown’s novel “opened a door to another point of view on American history,” said Mid-Manhattan librarian Jessica Cline. “I am a more conscientious person for it. It is also a great conversation starter, many people have strong feelings about reading this book.”
“All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr: A blind girl and a young German soldier, on opposite sides of World War II, come together as each must solve a puzzle of their own. “It’s not just that characters are finely drawn, the path Doerr sets them on left me thinking for days afterward about the people I meet and the paths and puzzles that draw us together, for whatever reason, for however long,” said Christopher Platt, in Sites and Services.
“The Sweet Science & Other Writings” by A.J. Liebling: “The collection is part of the estimable Library of America series and comprises five works,” Wayne Roylance, in the Selection Team, said. “Liebling’s deftness at turns-of-phrase, his inventive word choice … as well as his wry humour and trenchant analysis make him — for my money — one of the best writers The New Yorker ever published.”
“Under the Egg” by Laura Marx Fitzgerald: “The story is set in New York City and introduces readers an array of fascinating residents,” said Children’s Center 42nd Street librarian Louise Lareau. “Think art, science, WWII, celebrity kids, Monuments Men, gardening and super cool librarians all rolled in one.”
“Just Kids” by Patti Smith: This is Smith’s “eloquent memoir of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe and their development as artists,” said Elizabeth Waters, a librarian at the Mid-Manhattan branch. “It was wonderful to see the New York City of the late 1960s and 1970s through her eyes. I wonder if any of our future poets are sleeping in city parks like she sometimes did when she first arrived in New York.”
“The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia” by Candace Fleming: “Fleming interweaves excerpts from diary entries of peasants and shop girls with descriptions of the Romanovs’ lives of excess and grandeur,” Epiphany branch librarian Mina Hong said. “This is a suspenseful and juicy read … that reveals the chilling circumstances surrounding the Romanovs’ deaths during a truly tumultuous period of Russian history.”
“The Riverman” by Aaron Starmer: Two kids, Alistair and Fiona, get wrapped up in a treacherous situation involving a portal into another world where a creature called the Riverman steals childrens’ souls. This book of fantasy vs. reality “wormed its way into the crevices of my brain, set up house, and will NOT be evicted for a very long time,” said Betsy Bird, in the Selection Team. “I can feel tendrils of it affecting everything I do even now.”
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