Few topics are more contentious at Powell's than agreeing on the "best" works of fiction. Our tastes run the gamut from experimental tragicomedies to multi-generational sagas to offbeat coming-of-age tales to surreal character studies... and so on. As such, rather than present selections from one perspective, we thought it wise to get a more representative sampling of employees' favorite fiction books of 2014. Consider this a preview of a much larger compendium of our favorite books of the year (fiction and nonfiction) — our Top 5 lists, coming out New Year's Day.
This list is dedicated to all of us whose first instinct, upon entering a store in December, is to run away. Instead, walk in with a mission to buy one of these books. The nonfiction lover in your life will thank you for your fortitude.
I begged our children's new book purchaser at Powell's to feed my growing addiction by supplying me with any and all new releases in YA as soon as he received advance copies from publishers. He delivered, and I dove head-on into the world of death, loss, and heartbreak, as seen through the eyes of a young person trying to grapple with and understand the cruel realities of adulthood. (Read more)
While preparing this playlist, it occurred to me how we all get branded by the music we grew up with; the older we get, the less new music finds its way in. We all tend to stick to our musical roots. For me that is mostly centered on British Invasion Pop of the '60s. I also found myself thinking of the chain of inspiration that happens with music, the passing of the torch. Simply by searching my iPod for songs with the word "time" in the title, I was surprised by the core sample it created of my own musical history.
Here are the books that knocked my socks off in 2014. All of them would make great gifts; each of them was truly something that evoked that inexpressible delight of finding an author you are excited about.
If fairy tale covers a vast territory, fantasy is an even broader umbrella term; it gives shelter to sci-fi, porn, ghost and vampire stories, Gothic fiction — both from the past and its newer guises — steampunk, many computer and role-playing games — and even fancy dress. It is also a genre label, used by publishers and booksellers as a convenient way to market the titles and arrange the shelves. Fairy tales, by contrast, are (still) placed in the children's section, or sometimes with Folklore, which is a kind of crossover category and stretches to Myth and Legends as well as fairy tales.
Falling from Horses is a story of the Westerns boom in old Hollywood, where cowboys reworked their cowpoke skills as stunt riders. Talkies are new, and everyone scrambles to find a foothold in the burgeoning film industry. Threaded throughout is a family mystery of a lost little girl. Gloss's tale is both heartbreaking and heartful. –
Living with Thunder is a stunning coffee table book that doubles as a serious geology study. Anyone with an interest in the Pacific Northwest's scenery, history, or geology will thrill to turn the pages of this beautiful book. – Rhianna
Santella's impressive guide to the world's paddling destinations is both aspirational and inspirational. The beautiful pictures will leave you dreaming of taking a raft or kayak to some of the most treacherous places on the planet, while the advice will motivate you to put your boat on your car and head for the water. – Lizzy
There's a reason Mary Oliver is one of America's bestselling poets: her work resonates not just with poetry lovers but with everyone. Her newest collection explores our cultural obsession with technology, the feeling of disconnectedness it creates, and the ability of the natural world to bring us back into the moment.
What could be worse than being stuck in a car with the Heffleys on a long road trip? Will Greg survive his parents, Rodrick, and Manny? This ninth book detailing Jeff Kinney's laugh-out-loud adventures will surely make you appreciate your next boring car trip.
Crime is afoot again in the town of Stain'd-by-the-Sea, and this time it's arson. Is the villain Hangfire? Where are all the schoolchildren? Will our young investigator ask the right questions in time? Find out in the third installment written in Snicket's signature voice with art by Seth. – Jen
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.