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Reviewer Picks Reviewers Pick Their Favorite Books of 2014

Recently we asked our reviewers to provide us with a list of some of their favorite books from 2014. Included is a mix of fiction and nonfiction titles, all published this year. Take a moment to read these varied lists of titles and see if you agree with their selections! Please note that due to personal and professional commitments, some reviewers were not able to participate in this feature.


Kate Ayers



Alexis Burling



Tom Callahan

  • NO PLACE TO HIDE: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State, by Glenn Greenwald
    A reporter travels halfway around the world to meet a man he does not know to get a story he does not know. NO PLACE TO HIDE reads like a mystery, but is Glenn Greenwald’s account of how he got the biggest story in decades from Edward Snowden about the government’s warrantless spying on all of our electronic communication. This is Orwell’s 1984 for real and represents the glory of what fearless journalism used to be in America.
  • THE MIND OF AN OUTLAW: Selected Essays, by Norman Mailer
    This is the glory of what writing used to be in America. MIND is the first posthumous publication of the writer’s essays over half a century. Besides being a great wordsmith, Norman Mailer was a difficult writer by design; his goal was to make people think, and think critically, about major subjects, whether they agreed with him or not. This book covers all his great work, from THE WHITE NEGRO to the emergence of JFK to the invasion of Iraq in the early years of the new century. Nobody wrote like Mailer, and he is sorely missed in what passes now for intellectual culture in America.
  • THE GETAWAY CAR: A Donald Westlake Nonfiction Miscellany, by Donald E. Westlake
    Another indispensable writer we lost too soon, we know Donald E. Westlake as creator of the great Dortmunder crime capers and the brilliant noir series about the criminal known as Parker that he authored under the name “Richard Stark,” but he wrote nonfiction as well. The University of Chicago Press has put together here a collection of his nonfiction, and both his fans and newcomers to this great writer will love it.
  • BORDERLINE by Lawrence Block
    No year would be complete without something from the greatest living mystery writer working today. Now this is not a new book --- it was written for the first time in 1958 under a pseudonym and then promptly disappeared for half a century, as was common with paperback pulps. Now published for the first time under the author’s name, it is a perfect example of hard-boiled, sexy pulp fiction. In other words, it is fun and keeps you turning pages.
  • BRAINQUAKE by Samuel Fuller
    Another lost book rediscovered this year. At the end of his life, the great filmmaker Samuel Fuller was in self-imposed exile in France. This is his final book, which was published in France but, amazingly enough, never in America. If you love Fuller’s movies, you will love this pulp story about a physically sick bagman for the mob who makes the most deadly mistake of all: he falls in love.
  • EASY DEATH by Daniel Boyd
    Finally, we end with a newcomer who has written a terrific armored car heist novel as his first crime novel. Daniel Boyd is the pseudonym of a veteran police office and police chief who served 30 years in the Midwest. He has come up with a refreshing novel that deserves attention.



Megan Elliott



Pauline Finch



Harvey Freedenberg





Maggie Harding

  • AMERICA: Imagine a World Without Her, will be a go-to book for a long time to come. Dinesh D'Souza’s presentation of answers to America's critics is both heartfelt and factual. It should be required reading for students in this age of revisionist history.
  • DAYS OF RAGE: A Pike Logan Thriller firmly places Brad Taylor into the elite circle of the likes of Brad Thor and Vince Flynn. There’s never a dull moment in Pike Logan's life as an anti-terrorist operative and never a dull character in his coterie of cohorts.
  • KILLING PATTON: The Strange Death of World War II's Most Audacious General is the latest in a series of historical titles by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard that nearly replaces KILLING JESUS as my favorite. Excellent research and reporting bring this iconic General to life in new and interesting ways.
  • MEAN STREAK by Sandra Brown is just what we've come to expect from this prolific writer who never takes her fans for granted.
  • ACT OF WAR by Brad Thor is the latest in the Scot Harvath series. Thor writes his anti-terrorist adventures from the perspective of one who has been there.



Joe Hartlaub

  • THE KEPT by James Scott
    This debut novel, set in the unforgiving northwest at the turn of the 20th century, was published at the beginning of 2014 and haunted me all year.
  • EYES CLOSED TIGHT by Peter Leonard
    A beautifully told inelegant story about dangerous people. You can’t ask for more or better than that.
  • UNDER A SILENT MOON by Elizabeth Haynes
    The first in a series about a troubled policewoman that happens to be Elizabeth Haynes’ best book to date by far.
  • BRAVO by Greg Rucka
    Greg Rucka’s tales of rough men who stand ready in the night are the flip side of John le Carre’s weary spies and --- dare I say it? -- of equal literary quality. If you are unfamiliar with Rucka, start with BRAVO, a  ticking time bomb of a story that will freeze you into your seat.
  • WAYFARING STRANGER by James Lee Burke
    James Lee Burke presents a work of historical fiction that defies easy categorization but stands as a classic period piece of the ages and contains, even at this late date, some of his best writing.
  • THE DROP by Dennis Lehane
    THE DROP began life as a gritty short story, morphed into a film script and found new life as a novel. All of Dennis Lehane’s talents --- gritty dialogue, plot twists and seedy characters --- come together for one of his best novels to date.
  • CRY FATHER by Benjamin Whitmer
    The reason that grandparents and grandchildren get along so well is because they have a common enemy. That is but one of the elements that propel this beautifully written tale of good deeds punished, redemption wasted and misplaced faith. The ending had me simultaneously laughing and screaming.
  • THE WHITE VAN by Patrick Hoffman
    An elderly couple gets hoodwinked out of their possessions. The crooks picked on the wrong people. A great book for all ages, but particularly for those of a seasoned age.
  • FOR THE DEAD: A Poke Rafferty Thriller by Timothy Hallinan
    This latest installment in Timothy Hallinan’s Poke Rafferty series contains the best ending of any book I read this year, and the remainder of the novel is as good as it gets. Jump onto this brilliant series of an American expatriate living in Bangkok if you haven’t already.
  • BAD COUNTRY by CB McKenzie
    As fine a bit of desert noir as was to be had this year. I can’t wait for CB McKenzie’s next book, which, I suspect, will be even better.



Jamie Layton



Michael Magras

- Click here to read Michael’s blog post about his favorite books of 2014.



Bronwyn Miller


L. Dean Murphy

  • DESTROYER ANGEL: An Anna Pigeon Novel by Nevada Barr
    U.S. Park Services ranger Anna Pigeon sets off on an autumn camping trip with her friends and their daughters. On their second night, Anna sets off for solo canoeing on upstate Minnesota’s Fox River. Returning, she sees four thugs taking her companions captive. With limited resources and no access to the outside world, Anna has only two days to rescue them before her friends are either killed or flown out of the country. DESTROYER ANGEL is Nevada Barr’s best book ever.
  • SAINTS OF NEW YORK by R.J. Ellory
    Trying to live up to the reputation of his father (a legendary NYPD detective and one of the “Saints of New York” who virtually cleansed New York of Mafia control in the 1980s), Detective Frank Parrish struggles to come to terms with the broken pieces of his own life. But, as the murders escalate, he must discover the truth behind them before there are further innocent victims. Dark and intense, this novel of corruption and redemption, of the relentless persistence required to find the truth, is one man’s search for meaning amidst the ghosts of his own conscience.

- Click here to read’s exclusive interview with R.J. Ellory.

  • THE BOY WHO KILLED DEMONS by Dave Zeltserman
    In quiet Newton, Massachusetts, nothing ever happens --- until Henry Dudlow’s 13th birthday, when neighbor Mr. Hanley suddenly seems…different. Everyone else sees a balding, beer-belly man, but Henry sees a bilious demon. Once Henry catches on to the real Hanley, he sees demons all around, and his boring, adolescent life is transformed. How many saw Hitler for what he was and did nothing to stop the horror before it began?
  • TRILEMMA by Jennifer Mortimer
    Maverick executive Lin Mere gives up almost everything to tackle the demands of the job as CEO for a telecom company competing with the big boys in New Zealand. Lin has followed her dad’s trail to New Zealand to try to establish a relationship with her father’s estranged family. When danger enters Lin’s life, she faces an ordeal even more challenging than the boardroom battles. It’s not so much whether Lin will succeed in the corporate world, but whether she’ll survive at all.
  • THE LAWS OF MURDER: A Charles Lenox Mystery by Charles Finch
    It’s 1876, and Charles Lenox forfeits his title as Member of Parliament to form a private detective agency with three others. Dark forces prevent his new firm from succeeding. As he struggles to recapture his old skills, Lenox begins to wonder if he has what it takes to be a private investigator. Perhaps the most enigmatic character involved in the Lenox series is Charles Finch himself, who weaves words as intricately as Peter Paul Rubens did tapestries.
  • ONE TO GO by Mike Pace
    Tom Booker is an attorney at a powerful Washington law firm. Texting while driving across Memorial Bridge, he loses control and crashes into an oncoming minivan carrying his young daughter and three of her friends. But then time freezes, and Tom is alone on the bridge. A preppy couple approaches and offers him a Faustian do-over. The crash would be averted and the children saved. But he must kill someone every other week --- a “soul exchange.”
  • ELECTIVE PROCEDURES: An Elle Harrison Novel by Merry Jones
    Elle Harrison is back! She and gal pals Jen, Becky and Susan travel to Mexico for Jen’s cosmetic surgery. Soon after arrival, Elle sees the woman in the suite next door fall --- or pushed --- from her sixth floor balcony. Days later, Elle finds a mutilated body on that same balcony. And Elle’s murdered husband, Charlie, reappears when Elle gets pushed under the ocean and nearly drowns. As dangers swirl and intensify, Elle is forced to face unresolved issues with Charlie, even as she races to find the connections between the murders, before more patients --- including Jen --- are killed.
  • THE LAST ENCHANTMENTS by Charles Finch
    After graduating from Yale, Will Baker expects nothing more than a year off before resuming the comfortable life he’s always known, but he’s soon caught up in a whirlwind of unexpected friendships and romantic entanglements that threaten his safe plans. As he explores the heady social world of Oxford, he becomes friends with his snobbish but affable roommate, an Indian economist with a deep love for gangster rap, and a German historian obsessed with photography. What he’s least prepared for is Sophie, a witty, beautiful and enigmatic woman who makes him question everything he knows about himself.
  • COVER YOUR EYES by Mary Burton
    Public defender Rachel Wainwright struggles to reopen a decades-old case, convinced that the wrong man is in prison. Homicide detective Deke Morgan doesn’t agree. But if Rachel’s hunch is correct, whoever fatally bludgeoned Annie Dawson 30 years ago could be the source of a new string of brutal slayings. Rachel’s investigation is about to reveal answers --- but at a price she never thought to pay. dubbed Mary Burton “the modern-day Queen of Romantic Suspense.”
  • APART AT THE SEAMS: A Cobbled Court Quilts Novel by Marie Bostwick
    There’s a bit of a Steel Magnolias thing with several ladies of diverse backgrounds. They meet at the Cobbled Court Quilts shop, instead of a beauty salon, to discuss issues important to them, and sew metaphoric and realistic scraps of significant material into a communal crazy quilt. Quilt-making binds them in a support system, like the many stitches that bind fabric fragments into an artful quilt. Sewing smaller pieces to create larger sections is metaphoric of each lady’s assembling broken pieces of her life into a useful, complete treasure.



Ray Palen



Norah Piehl



Barbara Bamberger Scott

  • FOR THE BENEFIT OF THOSE WHO SEE: Dispatches from the World of the Blind by Rosemary Mahoney
    I learned a great deal from FOR THE BENEFIT OF THOSE WHO SEE. It provides a visit to the realm of the blind, an attempt to let us experience that dark world and decide for ourselves how much of a limitation blindness can be. Blind children have acutely heightened other senses --- for example, the ability to know who is walking by their footfall, even by their breathing. I found it fascinating that in the rare case when someone blind from birth recoups sight, the world seems rather ugly and unmanageable compared to one's previous image of what things, and especially people, "look" like.


Stuart Shiffman

  • BABE RUTH’S CALLED SHOT: The Myth and Mystery of Baseball’s Greatest Home Run, by Ed Sherman
    A remarkably written, affectionate book about one of baseball’s true legendary moments. Ed Sherman has gathered a great deal of evidence, including two grainy movie clips that capture parts of Ruth’s at-bat. Modern technology allows these clips to be viewed on YouTube. Sherman places the called shot in the context of what the home run meant for Ruth, baseball and America. This is a book for every baseball fan.
  • UPDIKE by Adam Begley
    Adam Begley notes in this outstanding biography that “John Updike wrote about himself naturally, then very quickly learned to write about himself professionally.” And write he did, as more than 60 novels, countless short stories for The New Yorker, poetry and cartoons all can be found in the Updike library. A great American novelist deserves nothing less than a great biography, and Begley’s book meets that benchmark.
  • THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan by Rick Perlstein
    Rick Perlstein’s third volume in his epic historical study focusing on the rise of modern American political conservatism is replete with historical anecdotes and facts that serve as reminders of American political battles that have been fought for decades --- and are still being fought today. An extraordinary book, massive in scope and detail, and essential to a complete understanding of our nation’s politics.
  • ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr
    Anthony Doerr is known mostly as an author of short stories, and this beautiful novel set in World War II follows the short story format with short and intense chapters. Set in the days after the Allied invasion of France, the story alternates between the lives of a young, blind French girl and a young German soldier. A majestic novel that is easily read but difficult to forget.



Carly Silver



Miriam Tuliao

  • DEPT. OF SPECULATION by Jenny Offill
  • FAMILY LIFE by Akhil Sharma
  • GHOST MONTH by Ed Lin
  • THE GUEST CAT by Takashi Hiraide
  • THE INTERIOR CIRCUIT: A Mexico City Chronicle by Francisco Goldman
  • LEAVING THE SEA by Ben Marcus
  • THE MADWOMAN IN THE VOLVO: My Year of Raging Hormones, by Sandra Tsing Loh
  • THE SEA INSIDE by Philip Hoare
  • WINNING MARRIAGE: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits -- and Won, by Marc Solomon
  • WITHOUT YOU, THERE IS NO US: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite, by Suki Kim



Kathy Weissman

  • LIFE DRAWING by Robin Black
    An intimate novel of marriage, art and family --- small in scale but beautifully observed.
  • LONGBOURN by Jo Baker
    PRIDE AND PREJUDICE from the servants’ point of view. A 2013 title, but not, I suspect, as well known as other Austen prequels, sequels and retellings. (I loved DEATH COMES TO PEMBERLEY--- R.I.P., dear P.D. James--- but this is far better.)
  • THE PAYING GUESTS by Sarah Waters
    A twisty gay-themed historical thriller delivered with Sara Waters’ characteristic intelligence and luscious detail.
  • THE SECRET PLACE by Tana French
    This is a novel that also happens to be a mystery. Like all of Tana French’s work, it is sad, fascinating and thrilling all at once. Here she explores the bonds among adolescent girls --- their obsessions and yearnings, fantasies and cruelties --- and the helplessness of the adults who confront them.
  • SLEEP DONATION: A Novella by Karen Russell
    Spooky concept, ravishing language. This dystopian novella (eBook only) might keep you up all night.
  • THE SON by Jo Nesbø
    Any mystery by this Norwegian writer is fantastic: pace, voice, plot --- it’s all there.