Final Mainstream Best of 2014 Meta-List

More clean-up: I’ve been tracking a variety of “mainstream” outlets and their “Best Books of 2014” to see how SFF is being received by the broader publishing/reading world. I don’t think this list is likely to be collated very closely to the eventual Hugo and Nebula slate, but lists like these certainly sell books. On some level, more sales = more awareness = more likely chance of a nomination?

Remember, the goal of Chaos Horizon is to develop a predictive model for the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel. In this, the first year of my website, I’ve been collecting broad amounts of data to see what works; I’ll be able to refine this over the next several years.

So, the “Mainstream Meta-List” is a collation of 20 lists from various popular newspapers and websites, none of which are particularly representative of SFF fandom. These lists tend to dip very shallowly into SFF, and are swayed by big names: Gibson, Mitchell, etc., or “literary buzz,” as in the case of Mandel. I added the lists as they popped up in December, and I’m going to finish with two more lists (one from Audible, because I think audio-books are a forgotten aspect of the market), and then one from the San Francisco Gate, to balance out the US East-coast bias.

I’m stopping at 20 for a couple reasons. First, this is a sample, not a comprehensive study. Second, I don’t think I’m adding much new information: each new “Best of List” is repeating the same books over and over again, so I think we’ve triangulated into what the mainstream believes are the best SFF books of the year. Lastly, I’ve got other things to look at—I don’t want to spend too much time getting caught up with what the mainstream thinks.

So, let’s get to the final list. 92 total books received at least one vote, and the 20 lists cast over 212 votes total. Here’s everyone who received at least 3 lists:

1. The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell: on 13 lists
2. The Martian, Andy Weir: on 10 lists
3. Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer: on 9 lists
3. The Peripheral, William Gibson: on 9 lists
3. The Magician’s Land, Lev Grossman: on 9 lists
6. Boy, Snow, Bird, Helen Oyeyemi: on 8 lists
6. Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel: on 8 lists
8. Lock In, John Scalzi: on 7 lists
9. On Such a Full Sea, Chang Rae-Lee: on 5 lists
9. Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie: on 5 lists
9. Words of Radiance, Brandon Sanderson: on 5 lists
12. Tigerman, Nick Harkaway: on 4 lists
12. Revival, Stephen King: on 4 lists
14. The Book of Strange New Things, Michel Faber: on 4 lists
14. Fool’s Assassin, Robin Hobb: on 3 lists
14. Half a King, Joe Abercrombie: on 3 lists
14. The Broken Eye, Brent Weeks: on 3 lists
14. The Slow Regard of Silent Things, Patrick Rothfuss: on 3 lists
14. California, Edan Lepucki: on 3 lists
14. Broken Monsters, Lauren Beukes: on 3 lists
14. Mr. Mercedes, Stephen King: on 3 lists
14. The Book of Life, Deborah Harkness: on 3 lists
14. The Girl with all the Gifts, M.S. Carey: on 3 lists
14. The Bees, Laline Paull

No real surprises. The mainstream vastly prefers writers who are already famous (Mitchell, King, Gibson), mainstream authors who are writing SFF (Mandel, Oyeyemi, Rae-Lee), or books that have so much buzz around them their inclusion is obvious (Weir, VanderMeer). Books that have buzz in genre circles, like City of Stairs, don’t fare very well in mainstream outlets.

Mitchell is the clear winner here. Will that translate over into the Nebulas and Hugos? I’m higher on Mitchell’s chances for a Nebula than some other critics. With this list behind us, we can now move on to the SFF Critics list—one that I expect to be much more closely correlated to the Hugos and Nebulas.

Here’s the full list if you’re interested: Best of 2014. The list includes the following sources: SF Gate, Audible, LA Times, the A.V. Club, the Wall Street Journal, 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.

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