Updated Best of 2014 Mainstream Meta-List
My collated list of “Best of 2014” list grows by the day! We’re up to 15 different “Best Books of 2014” lists already, which I think gives us a pretty good idea of what the mainstream world thinks of this year’s crop of SFF novels. What I’ve included in this list are the mainstream outlets (complete list at the bottom) such as The New York Times, Amazon, Entertainment Weekly, Barnes and Noble, NPR, basically anyone who is not specifically dedicate to reading and reviewing SFF. These kinds of outlets have a definite slant on speculative fiction, tending—by miles—to favor “literary” novels over “genre” novels, even if that distinction is often arbitrary.
So, without further ado, here’s the Top 20 of the list:
1. The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell: on 10 lists
2. Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer: on 8 lists
3. The Martian, Andy Weir: on 7 lists
3. The Peripheral, William Gibson: on 7 lists
3. Boy, Snow, Bird, Helen Oyeyemi: on 7 lists
3. Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel: on 7 lists
7. The Magician’s Land, Lev Grossman: on 6 lists
8. On Such a Full Sea, Chang Rae-Lee: on 5 lists
9. Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie: on 4 lists
9. Tigerman, Nick Harkaway: on 4 lists
9. Lock In, John Scalzi: on 4 lists
9. The Book of Strange New Things, Michel Faber: on 4 lists
13. Fool’s Assassin, Robin Hobb: on 3 lists
13. Half a King, Joe Abercrombie: on 3 lists
13. The Broken Eye, Brent Weeks: on 3 lists
13. The Slow Regard of Silent Things, Patrick Rothfuss: on 3 lists
13. Words of Radiance, Brandon Sanderson: on 3 lists
13. California, Edan Lepucki: on 3 lists
What does this list mean? This is the mainstream presses picks for the best SFF novel of 2014, nothing more, nothing less. This likely does not correlate to what SFF fans think are the best novels of 2014, although there will be some definite overlap. The list definitely reveals the biases of the mainstream: almost all the popular fantasy novels of the year are down at the bottom, where the popular literary novels of the year are up at the top. That’s what you would expect out of the mainstream; they’re very swayed by literary prestige.
Since Chaos Horizon is a website dedicated to predicting the Hugo and Nebula awards, what can we learn? Placement on this list means you’re getting lots of attention from the mainstream—and thus selling lots of books. That can only help your award chances. If you take a look at the top of the list and toss out some authors who won’t make the Nebula cut—Weir because he might not be eligible, Oyeyemi because she’s not speculative enough, Grossman because his book is the third in a series—you’d have a pretty decent Nebula prediction: Mitchell, VanderMeer, Gibson, Mandel, Lee, and Leckie. I doubt that many literary novels will make it—probably swap out Lee for City of Stairs—but you could do worse as a guess. The Hugo will probably float up the popular SF novels from slightly lower down the list like Scalzi and ignore the literary novels.
The list includes the following sources: Entertainment Weekly, The Guardian, Slate, Huffington Post, Christian Science Monitor, NY Times, NPR, Amazon, Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Goodreads Choice Awards, Washington Post, Kirkus Review, Chicago Tribune, and Barnes and Noble.
If you want to dig deeper, here’s the Best of 2014 with all 87 novels that have appeared at least once on these 15 lists. Click at your own peril!
I think that’s about it for the mainstream—15 lists seems like a lot, and I don’t know if we can learn anything more by collating more lists. I’m looking forward to more SFF specific lists coming out. In the long run, those will tell us more about the Hugo and Nebulas than anything from the mainstream.
So, any surprises on the list? Any snubs? How close do you think this list will be to the eventual Hugo and Nebula slates?