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We're proud to present the fifth annual Staff Top 5s! Each year we ask employees to name the best five books published during the previous year. There are 59 lists this time around, so stop dawdling — and start browsing our 295 favorite books of 2013!

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

Jen W.

  1. 1. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra This is my pick for the best under-the-radar book of 2013. Life during wartime Chechnya is not easy to read about, but this novel is too beautiful to be depressing, and Marra's skilled plotting pushes you backward and forward heart-first. I cannot lie — reading this book may kill a little part of you inside, or force you to seriously wrestle with your understanding of forgiveness — but I guarantee that you will emerge stronger for it.
  2. 2. The Son by Philipp Meyer
  3. 3. Trances of the Blast by Mary Ruefle
  4. 4. All That Is by James Salter
  5. 5. The Gorgeous Nothings by Emily Dickinson

Ten Billion

Gary C.

  1. 1. Ten Billion by Stephen Emmott This is the most terrifying book ever about overpopulation and the impending environmental horrors! Think 7 billion people is a strain on natural resources? Trying to feed 10 billion would deforest the entire planet and consume every drop of fresh water available... and current population growth figures, if left unchecked, lead experts to believe the population could hit 28 billion by 2100! Forget the economy, forget politics, forget religious objections — if we don't take drastic action now(!!) regarding overpopulation, carbon emissions, deforestation, and water use, I feel Stephen Emmott's concluding sentence will inevitably be true: "We are f%$#*ed."
  2. 2. Full Rip 9.0 by Sandi Doughton
  3. 3. Zealot by Reza Aslan
  4. 4. Wheelmen by Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O'Connell
  5. 5. The Way of the Knife by Mark Mazzetti

Bring Up the Bodies

Doug C.

  1. 1. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel Hilary Mantel continues the story of Cromwell, Henry VIII, and those pesky wives. Her stylistic form works to slow down the reader so we can enjoy what she does with language and character. And she pokes some subtle fun at anyone peeved at her pronoun usage in Wolf Hall.
  2. 2. In One Person by John Irving
  3. 3. The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
  4. 4. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
  5. 5. Countdown City (The Last Policeman #2) by Ben H. Winters

The Son

Adrienne C.

  1. 1. The Son by Philipp Meyer Poetic and visual, with stunning prose and startling violence, The Son weaves a multigenerational tapestry beginning with reminisces by Eli McCullough of being captured by the Comanches and living with them. The book spans through his 100-year life and beyond with chapters by his family members in future times. Empire of the Summer Moon by S. C. Gwynne inspired me to read this amazing novel.
  2. 2. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  3. 3. And Sons by David Gilbert
  4. 4. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
  5. 5. Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

Two Boys Kissing

Jordan G.

  1. 1. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan This is the most important young adult book that I have read this year. Levithan combines the teenage plights of the gay community with omnipresent voices from Stonewall and the AIDS crisis. There's history and a lot of heart. If you are looking to empower or inspire a young person — or yourself — this new year, then this is your book.
  2. 2. Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
  3. 3. The Round House by Louise Erdrich
  4. 4. Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
  5. 5. Mr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner

Throne of Glass

Erin D.

  1. 1. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas Sarah J. Maas hits a home run for young adult fantasy with the start to her debut epic series. This book has everything a fantasy reader could want: assassins, mystery, magic, battles, romance, and ancient destinies.
  2. 2. The Dream Thieves (Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater
  3. 3. Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer
  4. 4. The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy
  5. 5. Friendship Is Magic (My Little Pony #1) by Katie Cook

A Memory of Light

Kaila S.

  1. 1. A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson It might be a little daunting to start the Wheel of Time, a 14-novel epic fantasy series, but look on the bright side: you'll probably be able to finish it long before A Song of Ice and Fire finishes. A Memory of Light is the legendary conclusion to a fantasy series many people consider to be the most epic ever written.
  2. 2. The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
  3. 3. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
  4. 4. The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson
  5. 5. The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord

L.A. Son


  1. 1. L.A. Son by Roy Choi Part memoir, part travel guide to Los Angeles, and part cookbook. Choi sends you through the streets of L.A. through the eyes and tastes of a Korean American with a hand in both the culinary elite and the grimy underbelly of the streets. Like his celebrated Kogi taco truck, Choi delights you with a multicultural wild ride.
  2. 2. Mo' Meta Blues by Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson
  3. 3. Miracle Men by Josh Suchon
  4. 4. Stickerbomb XL by Laurence King Publishing
  5. 5. Banksy by Will Ellsworth-Jones

Let Him Go

Dianah H.

  1. 1. Let Him Go by Larry Watson What would you give up for someone you love? For George and Margaret Blackledge, that answer is: everything. Set in North Dakota in 1951, the Blackledges leave home, security, and safety behind in order to retrieve their grandson from a situation they deem untenable. Unfortunately, George and Margaret are up against overwhelming forces, and they begin to realize that they are in way, way too deep. Watson writes a masterful tale so heartbreaking and so sorrowful, it hurts to read it. Yet, at the same time, it is a gorgeous story about family, unconditional love, and sacrifice. My favorite book this year, Let Him Go is absolutely perfect.
  2. 2. Enon by Paul Harding
  3. 3. Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish by David Rakoff
  4. 4. The President's Hat by Antoine Laurain
  5. 5. The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

The Smartest Kids in the World

Benjamin H.

  1. 1. The Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley Finally! The book on education has been written. Check your assumptions at the door because only hard data earn respect as Ripley cuts through myths and unsupported opinions. Follow the engrossing story of three American students studying in Finland, South Korea, and Poland, all of which outperform America academically. Their perspectives provide perfect launching points for understanding where we've gone wrong — and how we can inject rigor into our own schools. Critical yet hopeful, this was the one I'd been waiting for.
  2. 2. David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
  3. 3. The Black Count by Tom Reiss
  4. 4. The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida
  5. 5. Merge/Disciple by Walter Mosley

Eleanor and Park

Jen M.

  1. 1. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell This is the perfect teen romance. Set in 1986, the characters bond over mixtapes, comic books, and feeling like outsiders. Both sad and hopeful, this is my favorite book of the year. I've been recommending it to all of my YA-reading friends.
  2. 2. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  3. 3. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
  4. 4. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers
  5. 5. Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon

Roth Unbound

Jeff J.

  1. 1. Roth Unbound by Claudia Roth Pierpont Finally, a "biography" on the world's greatest living writer. Roth Unbound is more of a look at Philip Roth's novels than his life, but his work is very autobiographical, so the reader gets plenty of his personal life as well. As a fan of Roth, Roth Unbound made me want to reread his work. This book is also great for readers interested in Roth. It will give them the ambition to dive into a catalog of work stretching over 50 years, from Goodbye, Columbus in 1959 to Nemesis in 2010.
  2. 2. Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
  3. 3. Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin
  4. 4. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
  5. 5. The Greatest Game Ever Pitched by Jim Kaplan

Tenth of December

Nathan W.

  1. 1. Tenth of December by George Saunders The fact that I read this all the way back in January and it still immediately jumped to mind as my favorite book of the year is a testament to the lingering power of every single one of these stories. You'll laugh until you cry, and vice versa — both reactions are George Saunders specialties. And upon completion, each story will have you looking at the world around you with a newfound sense of wonderment. It almost feels redundant to single out this collection after the year it's had, but consider this one last imploration to believe the hype.
  2. 2. Enon by Paul Harding
  3. 3. Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
  4. 4. Crapalachia by Scott McClanahan
  5. 5. Personae by Sergio De La Pava

To Anacreon in Heaven and Other Poems

Drew S.

  1. 1. To Anacreon in Heaven and Other Poems by Graham Foust With a Top 5 list of poetry books like this one, the expectation may be a bow to the romantic and lyric nature of verse. Do not be fooled! Graham Foust, one of my favorite contemporary poets, has written a coming-of-age of aging, all composed in a gorgeous and clever language game. He reminds me of James Salter or Saul Bellow, but stripped down to the very core. If my apartment were on fire, I'd be sure to grab this book.
  2. 2. Great Guns by Farnoosh Fathi
  3. 3. Trances of the Blast by Mary Ruefle
  4. 4. My Dead by Amy Lawless
  5. 5. The First 4 Books of Sampson Starkweather by Sampson Starkweather

A Simplified Map of the Real World

Helen S.

  1. 1. A Simplified Map of the Real World by Stevan Allred Stevan Allred guides us through the devious pathways of the human heart in this debut collection of linked short stories set in the fictional town of Renata, Oregon. Acts of neighborly kindness rub elbows with acts of raw prejudice. A rejected son learns complicated grief after the death of his father. The stunt of two brothers, an unexpected variation on boys will be boys, brings laughter in one story, then recurs in a tragic later story in a moment of magical realism. Allred offers a dazzling variation in storyteller voices, each revealing how often we hide our desires from ourselves and each other.
  2. 2. Dear Life by Alice Munro
  3. 3. Quiet by Susan Cain
  4. 4. Shout Her Lovely Name by Natalie Serber
  5. 5. Pilgrim's Wilderness by Tom Kizzia

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Amantha K.

  1. 1. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman Neil Gaiman at his fantastical best! The story of a man discovering that his childhood may have contained more than he ever imagined possible, The Ocean at the End of the Lane will enchant from the very first sentence. It is the sort of tale you can read over and over again, and it will never lose its magic.
  2. 2. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
  3. 3. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
  4. 4. That Is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Willems
  5. 5. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Of Beast and Beauty

Melissa B.

  1. 1. Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay Of Beast and Beauty gave me a book hangover. I was blown away by the entire story. When I was near the end, I honestly did not think all of my questions would be answered in the pages that were left, but Jay pulled it off. I love this book and the great twists and turns the story took. I recommend reading this and then picking up Jay's book The Locket, which will also give you a book hangover.
  2. 2. Pivot Point by Kasie West
  3. 3. The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die by April Henry
  4. 4. In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
  5. 5. The Fellowship for Alien Detection by Kevin Emerson

Hyperbole and a Half

Sarah M.

  1. 1. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh I try to stay away from the most popular titles — but I loved this book. Every story drove me into hyperventilating paroxysms of giggles. It's the kind of hysteria I only achieve when I finally see what's so funny about all the things I waste time fretting over.
  2. 2. My Brother's Book by Maurice Sendak
  3. 3. LEGO Minifigure Year by Year by DK Publishing
  4. 4. The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia by Shigeru Miyamoto, Eiji Aonuma, and Akira Himekawa
  5. 5. Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades by Steve Solomon


Kaitlin B.

  1. 1. MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood I was so excited to read the final installment of Atwood's dystopian trilogy. Questions such as "Who is MaddAddam?" and "What exactly is the origin of the green/religious group God's Gardeners?" are finally answered. The novel also covers the hopeful futures of the characters from the previous books, including the superhuman Crakers and the genetically modified "pigoons" — giant pigs that host human organs for transplant. More than just fun, this series was written with Atwood's usual keen discernment regarding the human race and inspired a lot of introspection on my part. I would recommend it to anyone!
  2. 2. The Tragedy of Mister Morn by Vladimir Nabokov
  3. 3. Letting Ana Go by Anonymous
  4. 4. The Circle by Dave Eggers
  5. 5. Tenth of December by George Saunders

Eleanor and Park

Jordan S.

  1. 1. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell Last year, The Fault in Our Stars was my #1 book for this list. So, when John Green gave a glowing blurb for Eleanor and Park, I decided to read it — and I'm glad I did. It's wonderful. Even better than The Fault in Our Stars. It's like a punch to the gut and the sweetest, softest kiss on the lips... and you're going to love every minute of it. Prepare to be all swoony inside.
  2. 2. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers
  3. 3. Bluebird by Bob Staake
  4. 4. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
  5. 5. Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet

The Humans

Jessie L.

  1. 1. The Humans by Matt Haig If asked to host and invite anyone of my liking to a dinner party, a seat would most definitely go to alien Andrew. This endearing fella is what makes The Humans sing with charm and humor. As readers see the world through Andrew's eyes, there is confusion and ugliness but also beauty and wonder. And it is that wide-eyed wonder and optimism for humanity that makes Andrew and his story so inspiring to read but never too cloying. And with a winsome character like that fighting on our side, how can you not save a seat for him?
  2. 2. Life after Life by Kate Atkinson
  3. 3. Ghostman by Roger Hobbs
  4. 4. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers
  5. 5. Journey by Aaron Becker

A Musical Hell

Chris Faatz

  1. 1. A Musical Hell by Alejandra Pizarnik Published in pamphlet form, this incredibly stunning and visionary collection of poems is enough to set anyone's surrealist imaginings on fire. With a truly adulatory — and much deserved! — preface by Julio Cortázar.
  2. 2. The Collected Poems of Denise Levertov by Denise Levertov
  3. 3. Eye of Witness by Jerome Rothenberg and Heriberto Yépez
  4. 4. Let Him Go by Larry Watson
  5. 5. Dakini Power by Michaela Haas

In Case We Die

Lisa M.

  1. 1. In Case We Die by Danny Bland With grace and honesty, Danny Bland poetically pulls no punches in this gritty, sad, and inspiring story of love, loss, and redemption in rain-drenched, drug-fueled Seattle in the early '90s. He was there, he lived it, and he goes back to take you along for the ride. What a beautiful ride it is!
  2. 2. Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford
  3. 3. After Her by Joyce Maynard
  4. 4. Spider Woman's Daughter by Anne Hillerman
  5. 5. Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage

D. Lozano

  1. 1. This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett I fall in love with books, all over again, almost every single day. But it's been a while since I fell in love this deeply with words on a page — on every single page. After finishing this gorgeous collection of writing, I feel like I'm carrying the author around in my pocket. That, next to my cell phone and my keys, is a lucky rock or a rare coin that makes me just a bit better, a bit happier, a bit more than I was.
  2. 2. Cowboys and East Indians by Nina McConigley
  3. 3. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  4. 4. The Circle by Dave Eggers
  5. 5. I Wear the Black Hat by Chuck Klosterman


Kevin S.

  1. 1. Tampa by Alissa Nutting Nutting's pedophile novel is cringe-inducing in its subject matter but somehow seductive like a modern-day Lolita. Sometimes it was laugh-out-loud funny and way more graphic than I expected. This book will get talked about and make many folks uncomfortable for a long time. But Nutting is a firecracker of a writer and truly turns risky writing into an art form here.
  2. 2. Wedlocked by Jay Ponteri
  3. 3. Sexual Boat (Sex Boats) by James Gendron
  4. 4. With or Without You by Domenica Ruta
  5. 5. Don't Kiss Me by Lindsay Hunter

Homo, 99 and 44/100% Nonsapiens

Dennis M.

  1. 1. Homo, 99 and 44/100% Nonsapiens by Gerald B. Lorentz Originally published in 1985 (before construction of the claustrophobic deprivation tank of free thinking called political correctness was completed), Homo, 99 and 44/100% Nonsapiens is now back in print. Author Gerald Lorentz is your tour guide on an astute and hilariously misanthropic ride through history to show that, despite how "wise" mankind thinks he is, his overriding behavior is that of an irrational predator. It's a book that's guaranteed to upset the belief systems of all except those who see the brutal truth about human nature. Recommended, but not to everyone. (You know who you are.)
  2. 2. Jack Cole's Deadly Horror (The Chilling Archives of Horror #4) by Jack Cole
  3. 3. Universal Hunks by David L. Chapman
  4. 4. A Government of Wolves by John W. Whitehead
  5. 5. Diableries by Brian May, Denis Pellerin, and Paula Fleming

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

Shawn D.

  1. 1. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra I was about halfway through A Constellation of Vital Phenomena when I started to get nervous. This is a novel so beautiful and ambitious I thought there was no way Anthony Marra, a debut author, could pull it off. But pull it off he did, right through to the very end. You'll finish this book feeling transformed. It will break your heart and give you hope.
  2. 2. The Dinner by Herman Koch
  3. 3. The Old Ways by Robert MacFarlane
  4. 4. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
  5. 5. Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon


Billie B.

  1. 1. Winger by Andrew Smith Ryan Dean is a 14-year-old high school junior who is doing his best to navigate adolescence and all its highs and lows. And you know what? Synopsizing this book doesn't really do it justice or explain why it's my #1 pick. Andrew Smith gets teenagers. He writes teen characters that are awesome and imperfect and completely identifiable. With this book, Smith manages to perfectly capture that ineffable something about the high school years that made them both the best and worst of times, and he will make you feel it all just as deeply as Ryan Dean, whether you want to or not.
  2. 2. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
  3. 3. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
  4. 4. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
  5. 5. Splintered by A. G. Howard

The Dream Thieves (Raven Cycle #2)

Azalea M.

  1. 1. The Dream Thieves (Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater The second book in Stiefvater's Raven Cycle, The Dream Thieves takes us deeper into the mystery that is Glendower and the town of Henrietta. School's out and summer's begun, and we soon learn that everything has changed for Gansey, Blue, Adam, and especially Ronan. As he falls further and further into his dreams, Ronan finds his dreams falling into his waking life. Of course, waking the ley lines also means that other, more sinister people may be looking for Glendower. Stiefvater spins a tale full of magic and mystery that will leave you gasping for more.
  2. 2. The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater
  3. 3. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  4. 4. S. by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst
  5. 5. The Invention of Murder by Judith Flanders

The Residue Years

Peter N.

  1. 1. The Residue Years by Mitchell S. Jackson A searing novel about life in Northeast Portland during the 1990s, The Residue Years brilliantly captures what it was like to be a young, headstrong African American growing up enveloped in poverty and broken families, tempted by drugs, and overwhelmed by a palpable racial divide. A must-read for anyone open to learning about the unseen side of Portland.
  2. 2. Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
  3. 3. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
  4. 4. The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna
  5. 5. The Round House by Louise Erdrich

The Humans

Tracey T.

  1. 1. The Humans by Matt Haig An absurd, comic, and touching examination of the human condition. An alien has a mission on earth to destroy new mathematical developments that would lead to human interdimensional space travel. They don't want our nonlinear thinking with them in outer space. This may sound sci-fi, but as the title implies, it's all about humanity and what makes us tick. The alien at first finds us repulsive, but grows to begrudgingly appreciate our quirks and even learns to love us for all of our frailty. An enjoyable read about the meaning of life, with plenty of hilarious one-liners tossed into the mix.
  2. 2. Help for the Haunted by John Searles
  3. 3. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
  4. 4. The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer
  5. 5. Pomegranates and Pine Nuts by Bethany Kehdy

Woman Rebel

Robin A.

  1. 1. Woman Rebel by Peter Bagge This graphic novel about contraception pioneer Margaret Sanger is humorous, fast-paced, and inspiring. Bagge highlights not only her accomplishments but also her quirks and flaws in this well-researched biography.
  2. 2. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
  3. 3. Tampa by Alissa Nutting
  4. 4. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers
  5. 5. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan


Rachael W.

  1. 1. Maps by Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinski I am obsessed with this book; I have spent hours poring over all of the maps. The authors include all sorts of information on various countries from around the world: historical events and people, landmarks, traditional food and dress, wildlife, and more using beautiful illustrations. My only complaint was that they couldn't include all the countries!
  2. 2. Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
  3. 3. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  4. 4. The Book of Barely Imagined Beings by Caspar Henderson
  5. 5. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Eleanor and Park

Linda C.

  1. 1. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell Billie told me this book would break my heart, and still I went like a lamb to the slaughter. Eleanor and Park is bittersweet and lovely. It's like your favorite song and your first kiss mixed together. You will want to keep it forever in that special place in your heart.
  2. 2. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
  3. 3. Me before You by Jojo Moyes
  4. 4. The Year of Shadows by Claire Legrand
  5. 5. Boxers and Saints Boxed Set by Gene Luen Yang

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Morgan R.

  1. 1. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman This novella swallows you up. Like a trust fall into a pool, it surrounds and holds you in suspension. You know it. It comes to you in fog, like a dream you recognize and haven't quite woken up from. And like a dream, it's done. Just like that.
  2. 2. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
  3. 3. A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire #5) by George R. R. Martin
  4. 4. A Little Book of Sloth by Lucy Cooke
  5. 5. Taxidermy by Alexis Turner

Tenth of December

Jeremy F.

  1. 1. Tenth of December by George Saunders The stories in Tenth of December are as entertaining as they are important. Even when they are set in a slightly more dystopian and bizarre version of our own world, the stories say a great deal about our culture and the way people are now. Saunders is the master of modern short fiction, and this may be his finest book yet. And, perhaps most importantly, this book was so much fun to read that I couldn't put it down.
  2. 2. Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon
  3. 3. The Late Parade by Adam Fitzgerald
  4. 4. Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
  5. 5. The Silence of Animals by John Gray

The Dream Thieves (Raven Cycle #2)

Kathy H.

  1. 1. The Dream Thieves (Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater How often is the second book in a series even better than the first? (Never?) The Dream Thieves is the exception. Blue begins to discover which Raven boy she really loves, Adam finds his true vocation, and Ronin brings his dreams to actual physical life. I've barely touched the surface of all that happens in this book! My only question: How can book three possibly manage to keep up?
  2. 2. Mr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner
  3. 3. Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown
  4. 4. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
  5. 5. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Children of the Days

Portia R.

  1. 1. Children of the Days by Eduardo Galeano One cannot read any of Galeano's books and not be moved to think, to consider, and to wonder about life and all the histories we carry with us. Every one of his publications are worth reading, and this is the latest in a long line of his beautiful masterpieces. It is a meditation, a remembering, and a call to humanity to wake up, to be better, and also to stop and smell the roses.
  2. 2. Woman Rebel by Peter Bagge
  3. 3. Of Walking in Rain by Matt Love
  4. 4. Shantytown by César Aira
  5. 5. The Mongolian Conspiracy by Rafael Bernal

The Riots

Ariel B.

  1. 1. The Riots by Danielle Cadena Deulen The Riots is one of the most beautiful collections of personal essays I've found. Stories of confused youth, racial identity, love, abuse, and mental illness are punctuated by evocative vignettes and still lifes. Her prose is crisp and deliberate, and the nonlinear, sometimes experimental, style challenges my inner writer to defy conventions. Deulen, raised here in the Pacific Northwest, bares herself completely, the fierce and the vulnerable. This is a book I recommend to fiction and nonfiction readers alike, but particularly to those with an interest in creative memoir.
  2. 2. This Explains Everything by John Brockman
  3. 3. Quiet by Susan Cain
  4. 4. Drift by Rachel Maddow
  5. 5. This Land Was Made for You and Me (but Mostly Me) by Bruce McCall and David Letterman

Wool (Silo Series)

Carla M.

  1. 1. Wool (Silo Series) by Hugh Howey I don't usually read too much in the post-apocalypse genre, but two employees chose this self-published book in their Top 5 list last year, and when Simon & Schuster produced it this year, I just had to give it a try. And, yeah, the title and cover are odd, but don't let them stop you from reading this book. Wool took me by surprise. It was so amazing I want to tell everyone to read it!
  2. 2. The Human Division by John Scalzi
  3. 3. Wisp of a Thing (Tufa Novels) by Alex Bledsoe
  4. 4. Codex Born (Magic Ex Libris #2) by Jim C. Hines
  5. 5. Carniepunk by Various Authors

This Is How You Lose Her

Paul J.

  1. 1. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz A wonderful series of vignettes that expose the absurdity of love and relationships. Growing up in a Latino neighborhood, I found Díaz's narrative tone very familiar. Each of these stories could've easily been told to me while riding with a cholo in a broken-down Honda Accord, cruising down Boyle Heights, while listening to The Delfonics.
  2. 2. Soulacoaster by R. Kelly
  3. 3. Going Clear by Lawrence Wright
  4. 4. Furious Cool by David and Joe Henry
  5. 5. An Afghanistan Picture Show by William T. Vollmann

Seiobo There Below

Jeremy G.

  1. 1. Seiobo There Below by László Krasznahorkai Not since Bolaño's 2666 have I read a novel that was at once so beautifully composed, heartbreaking, imperfectly epic, singular, effortlessly alluring, sprawlingly reflective, and comprising the gradations of earthly reality and its many hues of horror and hopefulness. László Krasznahorkai's Seiobo There Below — if such an achievement could even be distilled without imperiling its potency — is a work of art and beauty about art and beauty. With the sacred, solemn, and sublime swirling nearby, Seiobo stakes its claim against a world that increasingly cherishes the disposable and frivolous while overlooking and discarding the sacramental or magnificent.
  2. 2. The Unknown University by Roberto Bolaño
  3. 3. The No World Concerto by A. G. Porta
  4. 4. Children of the Days by Eduardo Galeano
  5. 5. Mo' Meta Blues by Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

Brandon W.

  1. 1. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick Hands down the best book I have ever read! Gripping. Dramatic. The author really humanized the boy about to turn school shooter, creating a character you would be hard-pressed not to identify with. I could not put this down, and it is one of the few books I can't wait to reread. Oh, and it has footnotes.
  2. 2. Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
  3. 3. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
  4. 4. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
  5. 5. The Mysterious Woods of Whistle Root by Christopher Pennell

A Wild Justice

Keith M.

  1. 1. A Wild Justice by Evan J. Mandery Mandery takes on the Supreme Court's landmark death penalty cases of the '60s and '70s and succeeds at an exceptionally difficult task: writing an engaging legal nonfiction book for general readers. This book gives the reader a balanced picture of the politics, legal doctrines, and personalities at play in the Supreme Court — when most books of this genre struggle to cover just one of those topics. A Wild Justice is very simply what every reader seeks: an important story well told.
  2. 2. Hawkeye, Volume One by Matt Fraction and David Aja
  3. 3. American Savage by Dan Savage
  4. 4. The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer
  5. 5. The Center Holds by Jonathan Alter


Rachel G.

  1. 1. MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood Margaret Atwood doesn't just imagine a potential world for us; she guides us to a world we are likely to encounter. While most of society continues to abuse the Earth and play God with gene splicing, God's Gardeners work to gain mutual respect with the Earth. And this is just the beginning. Months after reading, I still bring this vision of our inevitable future with me. An ambitious, triumphant end to my most-beloved trilogy.
  2. 2. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  3. 3. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
  4. 4. The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner
  5. 5. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Necessary Errors

Adam P.

  1. 1. Necessary Errors by Caleb Crain Set in 1990, Necessary Errors follows Jacob Putnam through his first year after graduating from Harvard. While most of his friends continue their schooling immediately, Jacob spends the year far away from everyone he knows, teaching English in Prague. He spends time exploring the city, makes friends with other expats, and also frequents a gay bar where he falls in and out of love with two local men. This remarkable first novel made me reminisce about spending time abroad in my early 20s and also reminded me to be my most authentic self, even if others may not always approve.
  2. 2. Hawkeye, Volume One by Matt Fraction and David Aja
  3. 3. The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer
  4. 4. Very Recent History by Choire Sicha
  5. 5. Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler

The People in the Trees

Amanda F.

  1. 1. The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara A beautifully written debut novel. Based partially on the real-life story of an anthropologist, the novel describes what happens when cultures collide and science interferes with nature. Though the islands that "The Dreamers" live on are not real, Yanagihara's story will have you thinking they are. This book is incredible; I've been recommending it to everyone I know!
  2. 2. Fran by Jim Woodring
  3. 3. Shift (Silo Series) by Hugh Howey
  4. 4. Dust (Silo Series) by Hugh Howey
  5. 5. The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell

A Simplified Map of the Real World

Gigi L.

  1. 1. A Simplified Map of the Real World by Stevan Allred Stevan Allred's linked short story collection about the complicated, flawed folks in the fictional rural town of Renata, Oregon, is smart, funny, and heartbreaking. With its people and its peculiarities, Renata is a place I found hard to leave after the last page.
  2. 2. This Is Between Us by Kevin Sampsell
  3. 3. The Residue Years by Mitchell S. Jackson
  4. 4. God Is Disappointed in You by Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler
  5. 5. Smash: Trial by Fire by Chris A. Bolton and Kyle Bolton

Far from the Tree

Cindy P.

  1. 1. Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon Andrew Solomon is the most life-changing writer I know of. His journalism about psychology and identity is brilliant, poignant, and exacting. Far from the Tree, his latest book, explores families whose children are very different from their parents — due to deafness, autism, physical disability, prodigy, criminality, and other factors. Anyone who valued Solomon's award-winning 2001 book about depression, The Noonday Demon, needs to read Far from the Tree.
  2. 2. Dear Life by Alice Munro
  3. 3. MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
  4. 4. Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
  5. 5. Cooked by Michael Pollan

Ivan Ramen

Zack B.

  1. 1. Ivan Ramen by Ivan Orkin For an outsider, in a place so controlled by tradition, to get a foothold in and then rise to the top of Tokyo's highly competitive ramen scene seems like an impossible task. Ivan's obsession with perfecting his craft, down to the most minute detail, make this the indispensable book on ramen. On top of that, the story of how it happened is a great read. In the words of Anthony Bourdain, "What Ivan Orkin does not know about noodles is not worth knowing."
  2. 2. Smoke by Tim Byres
  3. 3. Saving the Season by Kevin West
  4. 4. Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop
  5. 5. Canal House Cooks Every Day by Melissa Hamilton

Hyperbole and a Half

Gin E.

  1. 1. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh Allie Brosh has won the Internet. Including new material along with some of her most popular blog postings, Hyperbole and a Half is extraordinary. Brosh's book is hilarious throughout and, with the most accurate description of depression that I have ever encountered, very moving.
  2. 2. Bad Pharma by Ben Goldacre
  3. 3. The Particle at the End of the Universe by Sean Carroll
  4. 4. Traveler of the Century by Andrés Neuman
  5. 5. The Adventure Time Encyclopaedia by Martin Olson

My Lunches with Orson

Mark S.

  1. 1. My Lunches with Orson by Henry Jaglom and Peter Biskind In the last years of his life, Orson Welles lunched regularly with his tiny dog Kiki and his good friend Henry Jaglom. They talked about everything: the past, the projects that Welles was planning right up until his death, friends, rivals, lovers, film, politics, and food ("Oh my God. On a hot day, roast pork? I can't eat pork. But I'll order it, just to smell pork."). Welles is irrationally bitchy, funny, and frequently wise. Often a deliberately provocative statement from Welles, designed to goad the more politically correct Jaglom, leads to a brilliantly argued idea. Hilarious throughout but sad too, especially when Welles's frustrations about his reputation and his mortality well up. Just think of all of those unmade films.
  2. 2. Speedboat by Renata Adler
  3. 3. Artful by Ali Smith
  4. 4. This Is Between Us by Kevin Sampsell
  5. 5. Supernatural Strategies for Making a Rock 'n' Roll Group by Ian F. Svenonius

Pickles, Pigs and Whiskey

Robin F.

  1. 1. Pickles, Pigs and Whiskey by John Currence I collect Southern cookbooks, and this is my new favorite. Currence, like all good Southerners, knows how to tell an entertaining tale that will make you want to pour a drink and pull out a cast-iron skillet to dive into his amazing recipes. He also pairs each recipe with a song (all of which you can download from Spotify) to help with the background flavor. He had me at Pickled Sweet Potatoes but won my heart with everything else, from amazing vegetables to all things pig. This cookbook is pure joy.
  2. 2. How the Light Gets In (Chief Inspector Gamache #9) by Louise Penny
  3. 3. A Serpent's Tooth (Walt Longmire) by Craig Johnson
  4. 4. Alex (The Commandant Camille Verhoeven Trilogy) by Pierre Lemaitre
  5. 5. Speaking from among the Bones (Flavia de Luce) by Alan Bradley

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

Kim S.

  1. 1. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra Marra's debut novel is fantastic. His beautifully written story so eloquently expresses the intricacies of human behavior involving love and sacrifice during a brutal war. It's hands down my favorite book of the year and one you must read!
  2. 2. The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell
  3. 3. Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
  4. 4. My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
  5. 5. The Color Master by Aimee Bender

The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastard #3)

Mary Jo S.

  1. 1. The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastard #3) by Scott Lynch Third in the Gentleman Bastard series, Lynch's dialogue often had me guffawing out loud and wiggling my toes in glee. I found the plot wildly entertaining and enjoyed myself immensely. If you haven't read The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas under Red Skies, start there.
  2. 2. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  3. 3. Benediction by Kent Haruf
  4. 4. The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne
  5. 5. Play It Again by Alan Rusbridger

The Blood Telegram

Sheila N.

  1. 1. The Blood Telegram by Gary J. Bass One of the Financial Times picks for best political books of the year, The Blood Telegram is a horrifying and shocking story of the birth of Bangladesh and the terrible part that Nixon and Kissinger played in all of it. The worst thing is that one comes away with the realization that nothing has changed — and that Kissinger, at least, has managed to undeservedly clean up his image.
  2. 2. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
  3. 3. Levels of Life by Julian Barnes
  4. 4. Return of a King by William Dalrymple
  5. 5. A Calamitous Chinese Killing (Inspector Singh Investigates) by Shamini Flint

Eleanor and Park

Dot D.

  1. 1. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell This is the story of two young people scraping against the walls of life as they know it and pushing together to escape everybody's narrow definitions of what it means to be them, sometimes losing that strength, and sometimes discovering it in heartbreaking ways. It's a tactile story, an emotional story, and kind of the most bittersweet thing in the whole world. It also feels real as hell, which makes it all the more gripping. Immediately after finishing the last page of Eleanor and Park, I went back and reread the final chapter, spent some time drying my eyes, and then proceeded to tell as many people about it as possible.
  2. 2. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
  3. 3. The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson
  4. 4. Fuse (Pure Trilogy #2) by Julianna Baggott
  5. 5. The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

Bobcat and Other Stories

Renee P.

  1. 1. Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Lee Rebecca Lee confessed in an interview that she's a "glacially slow" writer, and it's no wonder. Her language is so exquisitely wrought, and her affection for her characters so strong, that each story feels like a masterpiece. Bobcat is cosmopolitan without being pretentious, graceful without being precious, and funny without being overly clever. If you're a reader who appreciates the lovingly crafted, you'll adore this collection.
  2. 2. One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses by Lucy Corin
  3. 3. The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit
  4. 4. Tenth of December by George Saunders
  5. 5. Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon

Life after Life


  1. 1. Life after Life by Kate Atkinson Life after Life is not a traditional novel, with its stops and starts, its looping repetitions; Kate Atkinson builds a fully realized world by accruing a constellation of possibilities. It is a fantastically ambitious book, seeking to capture the complexity and momentousness of life itself, which succeeds on every level, and it is one of the best books I've read in years.
  2. 2. Subtle Bodies by Norman Rush
  3. 3. Under the Sign by Ann Lauterbach
  4. 4. The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
  5. 5. Tenth of December by George Saunders

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