AbeBooks' Literary Review of 2014

Declared by writer Joanna Walsh as 'the year of reading women', 2014 was a remarkable year for today's female authors. Last year's knock out book The Goldfinch earned author Donna Tartt the 2014 Pulitzer Prize, while three young up-and-comers received recognition from The Women's Prize for Fiction. The trio of debut novelists that included Eimear McBride, Hannah Kent, and Audrey Magee, made the 2014 Women's Prize short list alongside veterans Tartt, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The award went to Eimear McBride for her first novel, A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing.

McBride wasn't the only new author to win big in 2014. First-time writers popped up on many of 2014's award lists, even winning. The National Book Award for Fiction went to Phil Klay for his first book of stories, Redeployment, and Canada's Giller Prize went Sean Michaels for his debut novel Us Conductors, while Ann Leckie took home the Hugo Award for her debut, Ancillary Justice. We didn't consider writers' careers or previous works when we compiled our list of notable reads, and in the end many are from industry newbies. We may not be familiar with the names Celeste Ng, Jeff Hobbs, Matthew Thomas and Lena Dunham now, but we will be soon enough.

While it may have been an exceptional year for the rookies, literary mainstays Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, and Hilary Mantel released new books in 2014 - King actually released two. Rowling released a second book under her male pseudonym Robert Galbraith, after being outed in 2013. The cat out of the bag, Galbraith/Rowling made a live appearance at Harrogate's annual Crime Writing Festival in July. Creating quite a media buzz, Rowling - wearing a smart suit and tie - announced that she, er, Galbraith, would write many more Cormoran Strike novels. Meanwhile, Mantel made British headlines for quite another kind of announcement. Known for her epic historical novels, Mantel caused an uproar when she admitted her new short story, The Assasination of Margaret Thatcher: August 6th, 1983, was inspired by a day in her own life in 1983 when she spied then Prime Minister Thatcher and fantasized about killing her. Despite the controversy, Mantel's new story collection of the same title was indeed one of the biggest books of the year.

Look back on an incredible literary year with our list of the top fiction and non-fiction books, a review of the big award winners, and a tribute to the authors we lost in 2014.


The Top 20 Fiction Books of 2014

These are the books that had literary critics writing rave reviews in 2014. They've climbed to the top of every reader's choice list and the bestseller charts. Some are from veteran pros, and others are from literature's newest names. Regardless, here are the best fiction books of 2014.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd The Invention of Wings

Sue Monk Kidd

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters The Paying Guests

Sarah Waters

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel Station Eleven

Emily St. John Mandel

We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas We Are Not Ourselves

Matthew Thomas

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henrîquez The Book of Unknown Americans

Cristina Henrîquez

Euphoria by Lily King Euphoria

Lily King

Bark: Stories by Lorrie Moore Bark: Stories

Lorrie Moore

The Dog by Joseph O’Neill The Dog

Joseph O’Neill

An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine An Unnecessary Woman

Rabih Alameddine

Lila by Marilynne Robinson Lila

Marilynne Robinson

Orfeo by Richard Powers Orfeo

Richard Powers

Nora Webster by Colm Toibin Nora Webster

Colm Toibin

Some Luck by Jane Smiley Some Luck

Jane Smiley

Perfidia by James Ellroy Perfidia

James Ellroy

The Big Award Winners of 2014

From the Pulizter Prize to the Newberry Medal, here are the books that won the industry's most prestigious awards.

Redeployment by Phil Klay Redeployment

Phil Klay
The National Book Award for Fiction

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Richard Flanagan
The Man Booker Prize

Patrick Modiano Patrick Modiano

Nobel Prize for Literature

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt The Goldfinch

Donna Tartt
Pulitzer Prize

A Girl Is a Half Formed Thing by Eimear McBride A Girl Is a Half Formed Thing

Eimear McBride
Women's Prize for Fiction

Us Conductors by Sean Michaels Us Conductors

Sean Michaels
Giller Prize

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie Ancillary Justice

Ann Leckie
Hugo Award for Best Novel

The Back of the Turtle by Thomas King The Back of the Turtle

Thomas King
Governor General’s Award for Fiction

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld All the Birds, Singing

Evie Wyld
The Miles Franklin Award

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

Kate DiCamillo
The Newberry Medal

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson Brown Girl Dreaming

Jacqueline Woodson
National Book Award for Young People's Literature

Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China

Evan Osnos
National Book Award for Non-Fiction

Notable Non-Fiction Books of 2014

From Lena Dunham to Tennessee Williams to Wall Street, here are the memoirs, biographies, business, and history books that created the biggest buzz in 2014.

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham Not That Kind of Girl

Lena Dunham

Flash Boys by Michael Lewis Flash Boys

Michael Lewis

Updike by Adam Begley Updike

Adam Begley

In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides In the Kingdom of Ice

Hampton Sides

In Memoriam: Authors Who Died in 2014

2014 saw the passing of some of litearture's biggest heroes, including Nobel Prize-winners Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Nadine Gordimer, and three-time National Book Award-winner Peter Matthiessen. Matthiessen's final book, In Paradise, was published just three days after his death in April of 2014. We also bid farewell to Canadian author Farley Mowat, crime fiction pioneer P.D. James, creator of the beloved Adrian Mole books Sue Townsend, Hugo Award-winner Daniel Keyes, and romantic-mystery writer Mary Stewart.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez Gabriel Garcia Marquez

(1927 - 2014)

Peter Matthiessen Peter Matthiessen

(1927 - 2014)

Nadine Gordimer Nadine Gordimer

(1923 - 2014)

Daniel Keyes Daniel Keyes

(1927 - 2014)

Farley Mowat Farley Mowat

(1921 – 2014)

P.D. James P.D. James

(1920 – 2014)

Mary Stewart Mary Stewart

(1916 – 2014)

Sue Townsend Sue Townsend

(1946 – 2014)

Books-Turned-Movies in 2014

Often, a book can go unnoticed until rumours of a movie-version surface. When the rumours start, the book sales creep up until the title becomes a bestseller. The Fault In Our Stars was published in 2012, but thanks to its silver screen edition, it was one of the most talked-about books of 2014. In the case of The Giver, first released in 1993, the 2014 movie gave a classic new life.

The Giver by Lois Lowry The Giver

Lowis Lowry

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn Gone Girl

Gillian Flynn

Wild by Cheryl Strayed Wild

Cheryl Strayed

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand Unbroken

Laura Hillenbrand

Divergent by Veronica Roth Divergent

Veronica Roth

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins Mockingjay

Suzanne Collins

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper This Is Where I Leave You

Jonathan Tropper

What was the best book you read in 2014?