More Best of 2014 Lists: NYTimes, CSM, HuffPo, Slate, The Guardian

Plenty of significant “Best of 2014” lists this week, including the NYTimes, Christian Science Monitor, HuffPo, Slate, and the Guardian. All of these outlets are very mainstream (i.e. friendly to literary fiction and hostile/indifferent to genre fiction), and they’re important because of the sheer number of readers who see these lists.

Let’s start with the most widely read list of the year, the New York Times “100 Notable Books of 2014.” For mainstream lists, I’ve always erred on the side of caution: anything that is even vaguely speculative makes my collations. Out of 50 novels, 5 are vaguely speculative:

American Innovations, Rivka Galchen
The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell
The Book of Strange New Things, Michel Faber
Boy, Snow, Bird, Helen Oyemi
The Magician’s Land, Lev Grossman

Well, we can note the obvious: the NYTimes doesn’t much care for speculative fiction, particularly anything that comes from the “genre” world. I would have thought Station Eleven would have made this list (and probably Annihilation). Most of these books come straight out of the world of literary fiction, not SFF, and that reflects the NYTimes bias against the SFF world.

We have a couple more mainstream outlets offering their lists. Over at The Christian Science Monitor, they give their “10 Best Fiction Books of 2014”. Two speculative books make the cut:

On Such a Full Sea, Chang-Rae Lee
the Magician’s Land, Lev Grossman

2 out of 10 is actually a pretty high percentage of speculative fiction for a list like this. The Huffington Post pretty much duplicates that ratio for their “Best Books of 2014,” offering 2 speculative novels out of their 13 choices:

Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer
Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel

Slate has begun their week long “Best of 2014” posts, starting with their “Best Books of 2014: Slate Staff Picks”. A few speculative novels make the list:

Lock In, John Scalzi
The Peripheral, William Gibson
The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell
The Annotated H.P. Lovecraft

They also threw together an “Overlooked Books of 2014” that includes:

Boy, Snow, Bird, Helen Oyeyemi
Southern Reach, Jeff VanderMeer
Broken Monsters, Lauren Beukes
Doctor Who: The Blood Cell, James Goss
The Elementalists, Chris Sharp

And finally, their Book Review Picked the Ten Best Books of 2014. No speculative books made the Top 10.

To round out this massive post, let’s look at The Guardian‘s “Best Fiction of 2014” post. Broadly discussing a number of books, the post selects two speculative works:

The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell
The Book of Strange New things, Michel Faber

While there’s a lot of information here, nothing new really emerges. Mitchell, Mandell, Faber, and Lee dominate the “literary” side of these lists. Oyeyemi’s retold fairy-tale—which many readers probably wouldn’t consider speculative—also does well. On the genre side, it’s Gibson, VanderMeer, and Grossman who are grabbing spots on the lists. If The Magician’s Land wasn’t the last of a trilogy, it’d be a major contender this year. I wonder if anyone is going to argue that Grossman’s trilogy deserves a nomination?


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