Staff Favorites of 2014: Books

"Staff Favorites of 2014" lists The Day's features staff's favorite releases, programs, events and other moments in the arts and entertainment world. As we can't possibly listen to/see/read/experience everything, we can only call these selections "favorites." Here, we share our favorite books that were released in 2014.

"HIS OWNSELF" BY DAN JENKINS; DOUBLEDAY

Well, hell. Folks are gonna have their picks for the funniest writer ever - from S.J. Pearlman and Mark Twain to Tim Dorsey and Carl Hiaasen. My choice, though, is resolutely Dan Jenkins. Whether sportswriting or crafting novels, Jenkins just can't NOT be hilarious -and there's a lot of Swiftian satire and pop culture ridicule in all that he publishes. This memoir lets us see how this all came about. Jenkins has had a wild and fascinating life - and, yes, it's funny as hell.

- Rick Koster

"NATCHEZ BURNING" BY GREG ILES; WILLIAM MORROW

It's been several years since Iles was nearly killed in an auto accident. This triumphant return is a massively ambitious triumph of Deep South noir. Recurring Iles hero Penn Cage, the mayor of Natchez, stars in this first of a planned trilogy. This time, his physician father is accused of murdering his long time nurse. Far more than a homicide, the case has nasty roots in an age-old race war and can possibly expose a top secret and particularly vicious offshoot group of the Ku Klux Klan. Terrific stuff.

- Rick Koster

"DEADLINE" BY JOHN SANDFORD; PUTNAM ADULT

It's hard to believe that Sanford, author of the immortal Lucas Davenport series, has now written eight tangential novels featuring Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension detective Virgil Flowers. In this latest, the always witty officer with a neo-hippie persona starts investigating a dognapping ring and stumbles across a small-town school board whose members are more than happy to authorize murder if a citizen might get in the way of their agenda.

- Rick Koster

"THE FORSAKEN" AND "CHEAP SHOT" BY ACE ATKINS; PUTNAM ADULT

Plenty of writers turn out more than one book a year, and often that might involve two different series. But as to how Atkins handles his own Quinn Colson stories and manages to do a superb job as the Robert B. Parker Estate-selected author carrying on the immortal Spenser books? That's a difficult question. In the meantime, just enjoy. In "The Forsaken," rural Mississippi sheriff Colson continues as the focus of a set of novels that have become the crime-fiction equivalents of Faulkner. As for Atkins' Spenser, "Cheap Shot" not only replicates the master's plotting, rhythm and wit, he continues to develop much-loved characters in amazing and continually refreshing fashion. Parker would be proud.

- Rick Koster

"THE HOLLOW GROUND" BY NATALIE S. HARNETT; THOMAS DUNNE BOOKS

Brigid Howley, 12, narrates the story of her family's life in 1960s Pennsylvania coal country, where a mining blaze smolders beneath the town. Her strong voice animates this story of a dirt-poor Irish clan burning with old resentments.

- Betty J. Cotter

"MY STRUGGLE" (BOOK ONE) BY KARL OVE KNAUSGAARD; TRANSLATED BY DON BARTLETT; ARCHIPELAGO BOOKS

The Norwegian writer brings a microscope to his past and present life in this six-volume memoir (only three volumes of which have been translated into English) and in so doing elevates the ordinary to the sublime.

- Betty J. Cotter

THREE SOULS" BY JANIE CHANG; WILLIAM MORROW

Song Leiyin is the already-dead heroine of this tale set in pre-Revolutionary China, where she wanders the earth with her three souls until the unfinished business of her past is addressed.

- Betty J. Cotter

"I ALWAYS LOVED YOU" BY ROBIN OLIVEIRA; VIKING

The author's second novel brings to life the love affair between artists Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas in 1870s Paris.

- Betty J. Cotter

"THE ORPHANS OF RACE POINT"BY PATRY FRANCIS; HARPER PERENNIAL

While its telling sometimes feels too fast-paced, this tale of high school love gone wrong is enhanced by engrossing characters and the picturesque setting of Provincetown, Mass.

- Betty J. Cotter

"ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE" BY ANTHONY DOERR; SCRIBNER

A beautifully written drama detailing, in alternating chapters, the lives of two young people trying to survive World War II. One is an orphaned German boy with a preternatural knowledge of radios. The other is a blind French girl who flees Paris and ends up living in Saint-Malo with relatives. Doerr creates indelible characters and gives the reader a visceral sense of life in Europe during the war. The title refers to the ability of the brain to create light, even in darkness - a metaphor that Doerr employs gracefully in this rich novel.

- Kristina Dorsey

"TINSELTOWN: MURDER, MORPHINE AND MADNESS AT THE DAWN OF HOLLYWOOD" BY WILLIAM J. MANN; HARPER

Doesn't that subtitle say it all? This is a compulsively readable look at 1920s Hollywood and, in particular, the murder of director William Desmond Taylor.

- Kristina Dorsey

"WE ARE NOT OURSELVES" BY MATTHEW THOMAS; SIMON & SCHUSTER

You'll feel great empathy for the character of Eileen Tumulty. In this family saga, she is the linchpin. Born to Irish immigrant parents, she lives in New York City and longs to create her own American Dream. She seems to be getting close - career, marriage, child - but her husband begins acting oddly, and "Ourselves" takes a heartwrenching turn.

- Kristina Dorsey

"BAKING CHEZ MOI" by Dorie Greenspan; Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

If you'd never imagine putting the words French, baking, and easy together in a sentence, you haven't yet tested out Dorie Greenspan's new cookbook, "Baking Chez Moi: Recipes From My Paris Home To Your Home."

Every category of dessert is covered in this mouthwateringly photographed cookbook: simple cakes, tarts and galettes, petite pastries, cookies and bars and more - with lots of great advice from Greenspan.

If you want to "wow" guests without spending the day in the kitchen, try Marquise Au Chocolat (frozen chocolate mousse).

- Amy Barry

"THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD" by Michael Koryta; Little, Brown and Company

With this effort and the previous "The Prophet," Koryta has moved way up my list. This novel has it all: a likeable, interesting good guy (survival-skills instructor Ethan Serbin); horrifying bad guys (the creepy Blackwell brothers); and a setting so real (Beartooth Mountains) it becomes another character. This was my top summer read of the year.

- Tim Cotter

GLORIOUS: A NOVEL of the American West" by Jeff Guinn; Putnam Adult

It's rare these days to find a quality Western. And while Guinn is guilty of ending "Glorious" in a way to set up the next book in a planned trilogy, there's plenty here to keep you entertained. You'll root for Cash McLendon, who heads for the Arizona Territory as he tries to outrun trouble and win back the heart of his true love. And you'll enjoy getting to know the inhabitants of Glorious, all hell bent on striking it rich.

- Tim Cotter

"JOYLANDby Stephen King; Hard Case Crime

King released this book in 2013 but made Kindle readers wait until this year. Yeah, he can do that.

I'm not a big King fan but I loved this mystery/coming of age novel that follows along as Devon Jones, a college student, accepts a summer job at the Joyland amusement park. He learns the carny lingo, puts an old girlfriend in the past, makes new friends, loses his virginity and solves a murder with the help of a ghost.

- Tim Cotter

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