The Raider Review

The Best Books of 2014

Nora Stewart

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As 2014 came to a close, many newspapers, blogs, and other publications compiled lists of their favorite books, movies, and TV shows that made appearances during the year. So, without further a do, here are some of my favorite books that were published throughout 2014.


This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl by Esther Earl, with Lori and Wayne Earl

John Green’s Young Adult novel The Fault in Our Stars has drawn extensive acclaim, but This Star Won’t Go Out tells a different kind of story. It’s a collection of the diary entries, artwork, and stories of Esther Grace Earl, a young girl who helped inspire Green’s book and became a close friend of his in real life. Esther passed away from thyroid cancer when she was 16, but TSWGO serves as a beautiful introduction to a girl that loved Harry Potter, loved to write, and was extremely empathetic. She becomes so lifelike and real in the pages, and it’s difficult not to imagine that she’s sitting at home, scrolling through Tumblr and laughing with her friends. The Fault in Our Stars was a beautiful novel that stayed glued in your hands, but this book about the girl who inspired it is just as good. Definitely one of the best books of the year.


We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

There are books that are so complex and well-done that they leave a reader reeling, and We Were Liars is one of those books. Written by Young Adult author E. Lockhart, We Were Liars focuses on Cadence Sinclair, the oldest grandchild in a family of old-money Democrats. Each summer, the Sinclairs vacation together on Beechwood Island, where Cadence has had many happy times with the Liars, a group comprised of her, her cousins Johnny and Mirren, and Johnny’s best friend Gat. But the summer Cadence is fifteen, everything changes, in ways she literally cannot remember. Something has happened, and the book tells the story of Cadence’s efforts to find out what it is. The plot is amazing, and the writing slips between prose and poetry in a way that works very well. We Were Liars is a book that shocks and amazes, making it an easy candidate for the best books of 2014.


The Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

It’s the 1930s in Munich, Germany, and something is brewing. Gretchen Müller is a part of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle, a close-up witness to his political rise, and not to mention, his niece. However, everything changes when Gretchen meets Daniel, a Jewish reporter who contacts her about some facts he’s discovered about the death of her father several years before. As Gretchen begins to investigate the mystery, she finds herself questioning much about her old way of life, especially regarding her “Uncle Dolf.” Anne Blankman infuses the desperation felt by those struggling in the post-World War I economy in 1930’s Germany flawlessly. Her characters are masterfully crafted, and she handles the dark subject matter with considerable talent. This is the kind of book I finished reading and immediately felt like thumbing through again; the kind of the book that leaves you all too ready for the sequel.


Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Lies We Tell Ourselves,  the debut novel of author Robin Talley, is the story of Sarah Dunbar and Linda Hairston, two young girls living in Jefferson, Virginia in 1959. Sarah is one of the African American teenagers integrating Jefferson High School, while Linda is the white daughter of one of the town’s most prominent segregationists. Both of the girls are determined to hate each other, but when they’re forced to work together on a school project, they find themselves increasingly draw to the one person they don’t want to have feelings for. Robin Talley writes her characters with immense skill, and makes it so the reader just has to know what happens next, even after the pages are closed. Lies We Tell Ourselves is a great debut novel, and without a doubt one of my recommended reads for 2014.


I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

If I had to make a list of the books that really blew my mind this year, I’ll Give You the Sun would definitely be on it. This contemporary novel from Jandy Nelson focuses on twins Noah and Jude, who are stunningly different but also somewhat alike. However, a rift has grown between the two teenagers, one that encompasses everything from their parents, to art, to the new boy living down the street. Nelson tells their story by alternating between the twins at 13 (which Noah narrates) and the twins at 16 (when Jude gets a chance to speak). It all adds up to a beautiful story about family, love, and mending broken parts. Nelson’s writing is beautiful, and the characters, even those that don’t play a huge role, are all very well-done. It was impossible for me to stop thinking about this book after I’d finished it, and I strongly recommend it to anyone looking for a new read.


Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

While all of the previous books on this list have been fiction, Brown Girl Dreaming is far from it. This is a memoir in verse written by Jacqueline Woodson, a Young Adult author who spent her childhood in Ohio, South Carolina, and New York. Through her poetry, Woodson writes about what life was like for her as she was growing up, touching on everything from her best friend Maria to the Civil Rights Movement. She makes even the most everyday activities seem lyrical and unique, while also writing about bigger issues, such as the racism that many argue still exists in the U.S. today. Brown Girl Dreaming is also the recipient of a National Book Award, and it deserves it so much. The writing is beautiful, and it’s the kind of book that I want to recommend to absolutely everybody, because it’s just that good.


From This Star Won’t Go Out to The Prisoner of Night and Fog, 2014 brought some really spectacular books to the shelves. I look forward to whatever comes in 2015 just as much.

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The Best Books of 2014