Washington Post’s Best Books of 2014

The Washington Post has gotten into the year-end “Best Of” act. For their top 5 Science Fiction/Fantasy novels of 2014, they have:

The Angel of Losses, Stephanie Feldman
A Darkling Sea, James L. Cambias
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Claire North
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, Genevieve Valentine
Half a King, Joe Abercrombie

Like most mainstream outlets, that’s an interesting take on the year in SFF. You’ve got three authors—Feldman, North, and Valentine—that blur genre boundaries, one SF debut, and one fantasy novel. By edging away from works that are too overtly speculative, outlets like The Washington Post re-enforce the literary/genre split that is so prevalent today. Why have a dedicated Science Fiction/Fantasy list if you’re going to fill it with literary fiction? On a more positive note, Cambias is getting some good attention at the end of the year, and I’m going to have add him to my Hugo prediction. I haven’t read The Darkling Sea yet, but this is one of the reason I run Chaos Horizon, to help me find cool books that might have slipped under my radar.

A few other speculative novels show up on their other lists, including “The Ten Best Books of 2014” and “The Top 50 Fiction Books for 2014.”

Station Eleven made the main list of the “Ten Best” list, further solidifying Mandel’s position as the literary SFF darling of the year.

Other SFF Books on the Top 50 list:
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
J by Howard Jacobson
On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee
The Peripheral by William Gibson
Tigerman by Nick Harkaway
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Nice to see Gibson joining a range of more literary SFF novels. Fowler’s book was published way back in May of 2013, so I don’t know why it’s on a 2014 list. Fowler already scored a Nebula nom for her book last year, meaning that the Post can predict the Nebulas after they happen. Way to go! Fowler was up for the Booker this year (due to a later British publication date), so someone likely looked at the Booker list and assumed the book came out in 2014. Good to know even a major newspaper makes mistakes.

You might also want to include Revival by Stephen King, depending on how flexible your notion of SFF is. There’s also an interesting novel called Shirley by Susan Scarf Merrell, which is about Shirley Jackson—not sure it would count as horror, but it sounds like a cool book.

Mainstream lists like this tell us relatively little about who is going to win the Hugo or Nebula award. The totality of these lists, though, frame the conversation that is going to happen over the next five or six months about the best SFF novels of the year, so they’re definitely worth keeping track of. I think mainstream reception, oddly enough, impacts the Nebula more than it does the Hugo; maybe writers are more swayed by the “lure” of literary fame than fans. Station Eleven has been so ubiquitous in the mainstream press that it is likely picking up votes.

This brings us up to 5 “year-end” lists already; I’m going to put up a collation of all these lists soon, so we can see who is leading the mainstream “year-end” race. Once the major SFF outlets start putting their lists up—and those lists matter a great deal more for predicting the Hugos and Nebulas—I’ll do the same with them.

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3 responses to “Washington Post’s Best Books of 2014”

  1. booksbrainsandbeer says :

    “Fowler already scored a Nebula nom for her book last year, meaning that the Post can predict the Nebulas after they happen.” Lol.

    I just finished The Angel of Losses and was confused by its inclusion on WaPo’s “Best of SFF” list. Certainly it’s fantasy, but it’s not what most readers would consider “fantasy.” What a strange, out of touch list that is.

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