25 Best Books of 2014, Otherwise Known as the 25 Books You Need On Your Bookshelf Now

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2014 was a ridiculously good year for books. Some of our best living writers produced new works this year, which is always cause for crazed celebration; indie publishers turned out NYT Bestsellers like it was no big deal whatsoever; first-time novelists kept splashing onto the scene, already glittering with awards and New Yorker profiles like they'd just won the lottery. And female writers were particularly on their game this year, whether they were writing about girlhood or dead-end jobs or post-apocalyptic hijinx. Ladies, what was in the water?

Those who bemoan the taste of the reading public should be happy to hear that quality short story collections are still selling like hotcakes (Bark, The UnAmericans, and so on) and that readers aren't afraid of experimental prose (A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, Dept. of Speculation, Leaving the Sea). Books with sensitive, nuanced treatments of gender, race, and death were also prominent, both on this list and in our best nonfiction list.

One of the things I find most fascinating about this list is how similar many of the titles are. There are multiple How to... titles, which always makes for a snappy-sounding book. We've got The UnAmericans and The Book of Unknown Americans, speaking perhaps to larger cultural fear or guilt? Titles with "girl" or "woman" in the title were everywhere this year, and not just on this list. I also noticed fewer snappy one-word titles and more long, vaguer titles without particularly colorful words in them; e.g., Nobody is Ever Missing, Everything I Never Told You, or books not included on this list like To Rise Again at a Decent Hour or We Are Not Ourselves.

From dead daughters to depressed waitresses, from an Ethiopian boy in the Midwest to a sad American woman in New Zealand, these books (listed in no particular order!) raked in some of the year's best prizes, moved more than one reader to tears, scared us, haunted us, and took us — like all good fiction does — somewhere we never would have reached on our own.

Images: wiestbrianna/Instagram

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