Posted December 22, 2014 by in Book Lists

Best Books of 2014: Fiction

2014 has come to an end. There were some wonderful novels released this year. Debut writers were very hot in 2014, but established writers were also impressive. Before we get busy sorting through the upcoming 2015 titles, we want to have one last say on the year that was.

Here, in no particular order, are our 10 fiction choices for the best books of 2014:

Brad’s Picks:


An Untamed State by Roxane Gay


Mireille Duval James—it’s a name you need to know. Mireille is the protagonist of Gay’s tour-de-force, An Untamed State. She’s a woman who is taken as a hostage and tortured. Even when Mireille is undergoing treatment that is beyond horrific, she still fights to live. She hopes. She dreams. Her internal fire is one of intense, fiery flames.  I can still remember her saying, “You cannot tame me. Know that.” Gay’s novel is one that oozes with moments of fear, but it also possesses tender moments that display love and reconciliation. This is a profound and inspiring novel.  It’s my favorite book of 2014. (See Brad’s full review here.)


21547852Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

Smith Henderson’s debut is a great American novel. The Pulitzer folks might come calling soon, but before they do, I’m going to officially give Henderson’s novel my support. Fourth of July Creek is a brilliant book. Pete Snow is a social worker whose main job is to help kids. Pete has problems with his own daughter, so his interactions with his clients become symbolic routes to redemption. The cast of children, from Benjamin to Cecil, is downright perfect. Fourth of July Creek is violent and raw, and the ending is absolute perfection. If you haven’t already, be sure to read Fourth of July Creek.



Redeployment by Phil Klay 


Regular readers of Bookkaholic know how I feel about Phil Klay’s debut collection of short stories.  I’ve recommended it throughout the year. The reason: it’s that good. The best story in Klay’s Redeployment is the title story. It’s about a man who can’t escape the anxious feelings of war even when he is back home on American soil. When I finished reading it, I literally heard myself whisper, “Wow.” It’s a brutal read, but it’s worth it. Universal themes run rampant throughout Klay’s collection. He presents a discussion of guilt, faith, longing, isolation, fear, and love. I can’t wait to see what this new writer does next. (See Brad’s full review here.)


all the light we cannot seeAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Generally, I don’t care for historical fiction. Generally, I don’t like novels that are perfectly polished. Generally, I don’t like World War II novels. Generally, I guess I’m very troubled. Doerr’s novel has a lot of characteristics that I tend to avoid, but I’m so glad that I decided to dive inside of it. I love every single word of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. Doerr presents two young characters, Marie-Laure and Werner, who serve as dual protagonists. One fights her blindness, while the other struggles with a future that he is hesitant to pursue. Their stories are told in alternating chapters, but they collide. And the collision is so tender and beautiful. All the Light We Cannot See is a novel is about finding hope and doing the right thing. It’s a very quiet and kind story. It’s a poetic masterpiece. (See Brad’s full review here.)


Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia Millet


Comedy is tough to get right, but when it’s good, it’s reallllllllly good. Well, friends, Mermaids in Paradise is comedy at its best. Millet’s plot is about a seemingly mismatched couple, Chip and Deb, who are on their honeymoon. She’s the world’s biggest cynic, and he’s the world’s favorite person. They don’t make sense together, but what couple is perfect—eh? As the novel progresses, Chip and Deb are coaxed into participating into a mermaid hunt. Things get really wild from there. A murder happens. More mermaids appear. Television personalities show up. Millet is a master of creating voices. The dialogue is smart and snappy. The whole thing is a complete riot. I laughed a lot—and I mean a lot. Mermaids in Paradise is easily one of my favorite reads of the year.


 Rebecca’s Picks:


invention of wingsThe Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The novel opens in 1803, on Sarah Grimké’s eleventh birthday, when she is given a slave girl her own age: Hetty, or “Handful.” Sarah and her younger sister Nina were Quakers and became known as abolitionists and suffragettes. Handful is a fictional character, but her experiences, including harsh punishment at a workhouse and involvement in a slave uprising, are based on the historical record. She and Sarah alternate first-person narration duties with each chapter, and both voices are wonderfully convincing, unique and feisty. Rich in historical detail and emotional substance.


The Sixteenth of June by Maya Lang

Sixteenth of June

Maya Lang’s playful and exquisitely accomplished debut novel, The Sixteenth of June (set on the centenary of the original Bloomsday), transplants many of Ulysses’s characters and set pieces to near-contemporary Philadelphia. On June 16th, 2004, brothers Leopold and Stephen Portman have two major commitments: their grandmother Hannah’s funeral is happening at the local synagogue in the morning; and their parents’ annual Bloomsday party will take place at their opulent Delancey Street home in the evening. Around those two thematic poles – the genuine emotions of grief and regret on the one hand, and the realm of superficial entertainment on the other – the novel expands outward to provide a nuanced picture of three ambivalent twenty-something lives.


Mollie’s Picks:

mollie pic2

A Star for Mrs BlakeA Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith

Mothers who lost sons during WWI became known as Gold Star Mothers. Following that war, many gold star moms were awarded passage to Europe to visit the graves of their deceased sons whose bodies were interred overseas. A Star for Mrs. Blake is the story of one gold star mom’s experience on such a trip. Well written and beautifully executed, the book was both entertaining and a learning experience. (See Mollie’s full review here.)


Secret of MagicThe Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson


I reviewed this book back in March, and at that time, I gave it a “B.” I think, sometimes, we should wait to review a book to give it time to sink in. Of course, my fear is that I’ll begin to forget the details if I do wait to review. Although I do stand by what I said regarding the book having a few issues, I must admit that it’s a book that has stuck with me. Following the murder of a young, black soldier in Mississippi in 1946, a NAACP female lawyer takes on the case in a work that deals with racism, loyalties, and secrets. A solid read!


 Rachel’s Pick:

Rachel Storey

18490684People of the Morning Star by Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear

This is the 21st installment in this husband and wife archaeological team’s series of North America’s Forgotten Past which began with People of the Wolf. Each of these books is absolutely magical to a history buff, and this one is no different. This time, the duo depict the mistrust and panic that rocks the strong and flourishing Cahokia Empire when an assassin targets their spiritual leader. These authors are able to bring to life a people and their culture that has long been forgotten, and make them matter in a a world of television and instant gratification.


What were your favorite fiction books of 2014? Sound off in the comments below.

Bradley Sides

Bradley Sides holds an M.A. in English. His fiction appears in numerous print and online journals. He is a staff writer for Bookkaholic and a frequent contributor to Drunk Monkeys. He resides in Florence, Alabama, with his wife, and he is working on securing a release date for his debut novel, Leaving Today.