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Our Best Of the Year 2014: Fiction

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All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel Cover Image
$29.00
ISBN: 9781476746586
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
Published: Scribner - May 6th, 2014

Idahoan Anthony Doerr has seen his book win starred reviews and award nominations from all corners of the country, and we in his native region agree with the critics' assessment. His story of two young people suffering the trials of world war is rich with a sense of place, of history, and of the marvelous metaphoric possibilities of language. It's not to be missed.


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A Sudden Light: A Novel Cover Image
$26.95
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ISBN: 9781439187036
Published: Simon & Schuster - September 30th, 2014

Island Books favorite Garth Stein returns with another Seattle-set story, this time focusing on the teenaged Trevor Riddell, who finds himself poking around the darker corners of his family's history when he spends the summer at the ancestral home of grandfather, overlooking Puget Sound. The turbulent waters mirror the emotional upheaval at which Stein excels.


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Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy: Annihilation; Authority; Acceptance Cover Image
$36.00
ISBN: 9780374261177
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
Published: FSG Originals - November 18th, 2014

We're all living the future, carrying communicators in our pockets the likes of which Captain Kirk couldn't imagine, so it's no surprise that science fiction has been making deeper and deeper inroads into the literary world in recent years. 2014, though, may have marked the date when SF became inextricable from the mainstream. Several excellent novels showed that it's virtually impossible to write about the way we live now without in some way confronting the world of high technology and the uncanny.

Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy seemed to us the best of that bunch. In it, a shadowy, bureaucratic governmental agency attempts to understand the mysterious Area X, where nature has overrun the last vestiges of human civilization. VanderMeer explores ecology and psychology with equal acuity, and doesn't skimp on suspense, either. The Southern Reach books have been compared to the TV show "Lost" (without the dissatisfying ending) and to the best thrillers of John Le Carré, and they're also available in individual paperback editions: Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance.


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The Narrow Road to the Deep North Cover Image
$26.95
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ISBN: 9780385352857
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - August 12th, 2014

As Flanagan fans, we were delighted to see him win the 2014 Booker Prize for fiction. The Shelf Awareness review of his work sums it up well, we think:

"[T]he virtuosic sixth novel from Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan chronicles the life of Dorrigo Evans, an Australian Army colonel and surgeon who is captured by the Japanese during World War II and forced to work on the Burma-Thailand Death Railway. On the Line--as the prisoners of war call the railway's ever-progressing construction site--Dorrigo and his comrades contend with interminable monsoon rains, starvation, disease and brutal, almost perfunctory beatings at the hands of the Japanese guards.The narrative skips forward and backward through time and among different points of view, sometimes focused on Dorrigo's childhood in rural Tasmania; his prewar love affair with his uncle's wife, Amy Mulvaney; or his future as a conflicted, doubt-filled war hero in contemporary Australia. The bulk of the chapters follow the course of a single day on the Line while Dorrigo watches the murder of a POW unfold. Through it all, Dorrigo's love for Amy serves as the novel's tragic through line, but Flanagan also explores the postwar lives of the colonel's fellow prisoners and their captors, deftly avoiding the pitfall of turning those Imperial Japanese Army officers into caricatures or monsters. Flanagan's book is as harrowing and brutal as it is beautiful and moving. He's filled the pages with poetry: Basho and Issa are quoted as frequently as Tennyson and Kipling, and his own prose is at turns lyrical and stark. This deeply affecting, elegiac novel will stay with readers long after it's over. "


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All My Puny Sorrows Cover Image
$24.00
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ISBN: 9781940450278
Published: McSweeney's - November 18th, 2014

About this book, its publisher says, "Elfrieda, a world-renowned pianist, glamorous, wealthy, happily married: she wants to die. Yolandi, divorced, broke, sleeping with the wrong men as she tries to find true love: she desperately wants to keep her older sister alive. But Elf's latest suicide attempt is a shock: she is three weeks away from the opening of her highly anticipated international tour. Can she be nursed back to "health" in time? Does it matter? As the situation becomes ever more complicated, Yoli faces the most terrifying decision of her life."

About Miriam Toews, we say she's like one of those stand-up comics who tell horrible stories about their families that make you cringe at the same time you're laughing out loud. You recognize the familiar truth while you're also thankful that you never had it quite so bad, and you'd buy a ticket to hear them again and again.


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The Orenda Cover Image
$26.95
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ISBN: 9780385350730
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - May 13th, 2014

"Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda is set in the 17th century in what is now Canada, and its plot is set in motion when Christophe, a French Jesuit missionary there, is captured by a Huron warrior named Bird. The priest is carried back to the Huron village along with a young Iroquois girl named Snow Falls, and each of the three takes it in turn to narrate the story from a very different point of view. Christophe is desperate to stay alive, but even more desperate to save savage souls; Bird wants to sustain and protect his people, whether by negotiation or by force; and Snow Falls must find a way to maintain her personal and cultural identity in an enemy land.

These characters bond and break and reconnect with each other in a series of shifting alliances driven by external events. There’s ongoing political machination by the French colonial government, drought that threatens food supplies, and inter-tribal hostility, but there’s also friendship, familial affection, and the shared pleasures of village life during an idyllic season. It’s a complete, thoroughly researched look at a fascinating time and place that’s just past the edge of familiarity."

--James (to read his full review, see our blog post from earlier in the year)


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Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay: Neapolitan Novels, Book Three Cover Image
By Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein (Translated by)
$18.00
ISBN: 9781609452339
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Europa Editions - September 2nd, 2014

Ferrante is an author who lets her work speak entirely for itself, not granting interviews or revealing anything about her personal life. Fortunately, her books can publicize themselves quite nicely on their own, thank you very much. Her Neapolitan novels trace the development of women's lives and the vicissitudes of their friendships like nothing else in print, and once you've read this one you'll want to read them all.


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A Man Called Ove: A Novel Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9781476738017
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
Published: Atria Books - July 15th, 2014

Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon--the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him "the bitter neighbor from hell." But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn't walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time? Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents' association to their very foundations.


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Bark: Stories (Vintage Contemporaries) Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780307740861
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - October 28th, 2014

Many authors write stories about contemporary life, but no one does it like Lorrie Moore. Her voice is inimitable, whether she's writing about mothers, musicians, or mangy mutts.


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Brother of the More Famous Jack: A Novel Cover Image
$16.00
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ISBN: 9781620407226
Published: Bloomsbury USA - November 11th, 2014

Our Best of 2014 list includes this book as a kind of bonus; it might be the best of 1982 and 2014 at the same time. First published back when New Wave was new, it won a Whitbread Special Award in the UK, but didn’t find traction in the US at the time, which is a crying shame, because a whole generation of readers either missed it entirely or had to wait until they were old and gray to discover it. It’s not too late, though. You owe it to yourself to take a chance on this dramedy of manners, starring a legitimately intelligent heroine named Katherine, a student who falls in love with her professor’s entire family. She moves from naivete to maturity, from Swinging London to Rome and back, and her journey is both hilarious and moving. If Jane Austen had lived through the era of diaphragms and miniskirts, this is a book she might have written.