The Irrefutable Best Books of 2014, As Determined by Science*

19 Dec

IMG_0092It’s been a trying year here at Sorry Television. Sidetracked by work—and, let’s be honest, an endless procession of binge-worthy Netflix inventory—I am set to close out 2014 with a mere 32 books under my belt, near enough to bi-weekly that I should probably rebrand as You’re Welcome Television (subtitle: Reading Books Every So Often, Like When the Power Goes Out). I’m already planning redemptive 2015 reading goals (a book a day? a book an hour?) but for the time being I’ll have to accept mediocrity, and foist as much blame as possible on a shorter commute’s ability to stymie even the most dedicated bibliophile.

But I can claim a smidge of productivity this month, which is why I’m Indiana-Jonesing under the content door that is Christmas week to bring you The Irrefutable Best Books of 2014, a master list of this year’s greatest hits, as determined by 21 other “best of”s written by people who have actually read them. Let’s get into it.

In a bit of sheer serendipity, this year’s No. 1 book happens to be the only one I’ve read, in that I’m reading it right now: Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings, which appeared on 11 out of the 21 lists surveyed. A gripping novel loosely centered on the 1976 assassination attempt on Bob Marley in Kingston, Jamaica—which took place two days before a free concert meant to ease political and gang tensions—ABHOSK (or the 40% of it I’ve read so far) is truly stellar; I’m not surprised to see it on The List.

At No. 2 is Lila, the fourth novel from universally beloved author Marilynne Robinson. Years ago, I read and liked/disliked Robinson’s Gilead (which is beautifully written but didn’t resonate with me on an emotional level) and I think the shame of my disinterest—after all, Obama called Gilead one of his favorite books—has kept me away from Robinson ever since. Lila, which is the third book in a loose trilogy that begins with Gilead, seems to cover similar territory as its predecessors: After a hardscrabble upbringing, Lila marries a minister and must find a way to reconcile her past with his generous-but-judgmental Christian worldview. Whether or not I personally struggle with faith, I certainly appreciate that it’s a conflict central to modern times. I’m sure Robinson does it exquisite justice; 10 lists can’t be wrong.

The rest of this year’s crop is a mixed bag, a hodgepodge of styles and genres and subject matters. There’s The Sixth Extinction, a nonfiction “oh shit” moment whose tl;dr is everythingsdyingwerealldead. Just below T6E comes Phil Klay’s Redeployment, a timely collection of stories about soldiers on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan (which also won this year’s National Book Award for fiction). Two books by the inimitable Roxane Gay made the list—her novel, An Untamed State, and essay collection, Bad Feminist,. There’s also Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, a quirky graphic memoir from Roz Chast, and On Immunity: An Innoculation, Eula Bliss’s rebuttal to the idea that something controversial (in this case, the anti-vaccine movement) can’t be discussed without name-calling.

Here are the Irrefutable Top 21—books that showed up on at least 5 lists.
Happy reading, nerds.
(PS: Mom, don’t buy any of these until after Christmas!)

A Brief History of Seven Killings Marlon James 11 BuzzFeed
Lila Marilynne Robinson 10 NPR
The Empathy Exams Leslie Jamison 10 Library Journal
Station Eleven Emily St. John Mandel 9 The Washington Post
The Sixth Extinction Elizabeth Kolbert 9 Time Out
Redeployment Phil Klay 8 Publishers Weekly
The Bone Clocks David Mitchell 8 New York Times
Bad Feminist Roxane Gay 7 Vulture/New York
A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing Eimear McBride 6 Amazon
An Untamed State Roxane Gay 6 Kirkus
Being Mortal Atul Gawande 6 Wall Street Journal
Euphoria Lily King 6 TIME (fiction)
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay Elena Ferrante 6 TIME (nonfiction)
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? Roz Chast 5 The AV Club
Dept. Of Speculation Jenny Offill 5 Business Insider
Everything I Never Told You Celeste Ng 5 Slate
On Immunity Eula Biss 5 Flavorwire (novels)
The Paying Guests Sarah Waters 5 Flavorwire (nonfiction)
Thirteen Days in September Lawrence Wright 5 Boston Globe
What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions Randall Munroe 5 The Economist
Wolf in White Van John Darnielle 5 Newsweek

*aggregation, data entry, spreadsheets, coffee

115 Responses to “The Irrefutable Best Books of 2014, As Determined by Science*”

  1. Jenna at Boston Chic Party December 19, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

    Thanks for sharing- look forward to reading some on the list 🙂

  2. moisesmansurcisneiros December 19, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

    Reblogged this on Moises Mansur 2.

  3. patb0309 December 19, 2014 at 6:42 pm #

    Trust me, I won’t. I’m in the midst of a wonderful book: ‘All the Light We Cannot See.’ Actually reading something that’s won major awards. Next up, Matt Taibbii’s latest on income inequality. Then there’s the stack next to my bed that probably looks like yours ; )

  4. qrparker December 21, 2014 at 5:47 am #

    Diggin’ the blog, and your pervasive humor throughout.

  5. lutheranliar December 22, 2014 at 9:48 am #

    You are hilarious as well as extremely well-read (!) You will love Station 11. I’m a jillion years old and I couldn’t put it down. But neither could my daughter, who is probably more your Ballpark Age. (Hi, Kira’s Mom!) Anyway, your list gives me some great new material, so thank you. And if you do enjoy Station 11 as much as I think you will, give ‘The Book of Strange New Things’ a try. Amazing Michel Faber. I read it all at one go, it’s that addictive.

    • Kira Bindrim December 25, 2014 at 10:54 pm #

      Thanks for the recommendations! And let me just say – you don’t look a day over a half-jillion.

  6. zodiacimmortal December 22, 2014 at 2:49 pm #

    Reblogged this on Multi-screen MO-T-Vision.

  7. zodiacimmortal December 22, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

    I love your set up so I have nominated you for the Liebster award.
    You can find more information here

  8. Quinn's Books December 23, 2014 at 10:49 pm #

    Station Eleven has been sitting on my reading list for far too long. Thanks for reminding me to bump it up. 😉

  9. raulconde001 December 29, 2014 at 11:47 pm #

    Interesting list of books. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  10. Stuart M. Perkins January 3, 2015 at 12:25 pm #

    Love lists like this, thanks for posting!

  11. Stuart M. Perkins January 3, 2015 at 12:25 pm #

    Love lists like this, thanks for posting!

  12. johnberk January 3, 2015 at 12:49 pm #

    It is a shame I do not know a single book from your list. This is mainly due to the fact I was reading Song of Fire and Ice books for many months. I also went through Palahniuk’s Lullaby, or The Stranger by Camus. I was lucky and attended the Festival of Authors in Toronto, where I bought so many books that I’m still ashamed by not opening them. Thanks for your list though, I will definitely check it out.

  13. Leighton Paige January 3, 2015 at 1:14 pm #

    So looking forward to reading the whole list 🙂 Thanks for posting!

  14. My Perfect Breakdown January 3, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

    I always love a good book, so thank you for sharing!

  15. visulizationofdreams January 3, 2015 at 3:37 pm #

    Thank you for sharing, I’ll have to read some of these.

  16. beautifulyule January 3, 2015 at 4:28 pm #

    Thanks. Now i need to get round to reading these. If interested check out my new blog. I will be writing a review about a couple books 🙂

  17. rejectreality101 January 3, 2015 at 5:09 pm #

    Nice post! I look forward to reading some of these.

  18. besthomeidea January 3, 2015 at 5:28 pm #

    thank for sharing

  19. GenerationUp January 3, 2015 at 6:30 pm #

    Reblogged this on GenerationUP.

  20. Socially Awkward Butterfly January 3, 2015 at 9:37 pm #

    Reblogged this on coliecolehasablog and commented:
    saving for later

  21. spencerkenan January 3, 2015 at 10:42 pm #

    Reblogged this on The Cardboard Box.

  22. abuckley2014 January 3, 2015 at 11:03 pm #

    I loved Gilead even though I had a difficult time relating to the speaker. I found it very moving, and I’m not religious.

  23. vaseofcaribou January 3, 2015 at 11:33 pm #

    Cool thanks for sharing!

  24. kankanabhowmick January 4, 2015 at 3:37 am #

    i’m a bookworm too. but seems like these are the books which i ought to read.. wonderful ands persuasive blog

  25. Poppy@In Search of the Catfish Café January 4, 2015 at 4:01 am #

    It’s great to have the recommendations – I’m looking forward to a year of books!

  26. somya97 January 4, 2015 at 4:05 am #

  27. pvjois January 4, 2015 at 4:49 am #

    I believe that I am a good reader until when I enter a library or read notes from people like you. Then I get confirmed that I am an illiterate. Nice to see your blog. I would like to follow them.
    I thought the “Road to Wigan Pier” is good reading. Thanks for recommending Phil klay’s “Re-Deployment”.

  28. xabuuls January 4, 2015 at 5:42 am #

    Reblogged this on xabuuls Blog.

  29. gasibusi January 4, 2015 at 10:33 am #

    Reblogged this on .

  30. SHANTELHEART January 4, 2015 at 11:29 am #

    awsome collection i must start to catch up do you have a listing im browsing your sight now first time here

  31. SHANTELHEART January 4, 2015 at 11:29 am #

    Reblogged this on eNISED eMARKETING firm and commented:
    welcome to enised blogspot

  32. serinaspen January 4, 2015 at 11:59 am #

    Thank you for sharing.

  33. SammiHerondale January 4, 2015 at 4:02 pm #

    Reblogged this on sammyhatesya's Blog and commented:
    I enjoyed this blog and I think you, if I have any Readers, might as well!

  34. sheetalgurung January 4, 2015 at 4:10 pm #

    Reblogged this on aprilshower and commented:
    Just when I was looking for a list of books to catch up on …

  35. dilektosun January 4, 2015 at 5:38 pm #

    Reblogged this on Dilek Tosun Blog.

  36. aryanapinksky7 January 4, 2015 at 7:02 pm #

    Your cool that cool

  37. truerose44 January 4, 2015 at 8:08 pm #

    Reblogged this on truerose44.

  38. vuvanphong286 January 5, 2015 at 1:51 am #

    Reblogged this on vuvanphong286's Blog.

  39. jonjominns January 5, 2015 at 2:49 am #

    Reblogged this on jonjominns's Blog and commented:
    Many Thanks for posting your list. Have shared with my readers and will be reading some titles from your list myself.

  40. tranthanhbinh202 January 5, 2015 at 5:20 am #

    A lot of books have been listed, The schedule has been made to… finish them

  41. AnaLuciaSilva January 5, 2015 at 6:35 am #

    Great choices =)

  42. 360ultimate January 5, 2015 at 8:04 am #

    Reblogged this on 360ULTIMATE.

  43. oluwasogun4 January 5, 2015 at 8:54 am #

    Great collections

  44. Juan Pablo Gargiulo January 5, 2015 at 11:27 am #

    Great list. It’s such a shame that “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” didn’t make the list!

  45. sydthomps January 5, 2015 at 11:44 am #

    I am looking forward to Redeployment, On Immunity, and Being Mortal just as soon as those other people who go to the library get their grubby hands off of them. Nice overview.

  46. Andrea Waldron January 5, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

    Thanks, I needed new books to add to my to-read list!

  47. sophiehannah3 January 5, 2015 at 8:58 pm #

  48. Skyscapes for the Soul January 5, 2015 at 9:32 pm #

    I surely didn’t make 32 books last year – maybe 15 – and I don’t have tv!

  49. cellenbogen January 5, 2015 at 10:44 pm #

    After “7 Killings,” which I intend to get to soon, try James’ “Book of Night Women.” It is astonishing.

    • Kira Bindrim January 6, 2015 at 11:36 am #

      Thanks! But man if it’s halfway as dark as 7 Killings I’ll def need something upbeat in between.

  50. sarkhanhuseyn January 5, 2015 at 11:21 pm #

    Thanks for sharing)) a useful reading

  51. supitssabs January 6, 2015 at 12:07 am #

    I will have to check some of these out! If I ever finish The Stand by Stephen King then Bad Feminist will be first on my list!

    • Kira Bindrim January 6, 2015 at 11:35 am #

      Power through! The Stand is super long, but it’s a good one.

  52. text me, love mom January 6, 2015 at 1:04 am #

    I just copied your list for my purse – so I can bring your suggestions with me when I escape this 25 below weather for some beach reading! thanks – I’ll read what you read – haha

    • Kira Bindrim January 6, 2015 at 11:35 am #

      Nice! If you haven’t read Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, I highly recommend it as a good beach read, or a good “sitting inside covered with blankets wishing I was at the beach” read.

  53. stevpny January 6, 2015 at 1:10 am #

    One of the most moving, inspirational and courageous books I have ever read was this last year’s “Unbroken”

  54. balauru January 6, 2015 at 2:33 am #

    Reblogged this on Sharing Maniak.

  55. ofopinions January 6, 2015 at 2:52 am #

    I too have been bad with reading books in 2014. I’m still caught up with The Goldfinch. I look forward to reading the David Mitchell and Sarah Waters books.
    Congratulations n being Freshly Pressed!

    • Kira Bindrim January 6, 2015 at 11:33 am #

      Hey thanks! The Goldfinch took some dedication, but it’s worth it.

  56. preetamnandal1 January 6, 2015 at 8:16 am #

    Nice collocation of books and share to all persons

  57. surkant07 January 6, 2015 at 9:09 am #

    Reblogged this on surkant07's Blog.

  58. Mathuto January 6, 2015 at 11:36 am #

    Reblogged this on Phattest and commented:
    I’m such a book enthusiast and this post is going to be so helpful in deciding my reads of choice in the following weeks.

  59. mylifeisthebestlife January 6, 2015 at 11:38 am #

    This is so delightfully written that I totally laughed out loud at my desk and got busted for not-quite-working at my desk. TOTALLY worth it.

  60. dishaseta January 6, 2015 at 11:53 am #


  61. dishaseta January 6, 2015 at 11:54 am #

    Plz follow

  62. elmbay January 6, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

    Reblogged this on elmbay.

  63. dakenhowlett January 6, 2015 at 5:09 pm #

    Reblogged this on Daken from Vault 101.

  64. daleychronicles January 6, 2015 at 6:53 pm #

    I love that I don’t know half of these books. Now I can look up for them and possibly read one or two…or more this year! Thankies

  65. curatoronline January 6, 2015 at 8:56 pm #

    Wow… what have I been reading all year? None of these! Good ideas to start my 2015 book binge maybe.

  66. lovelylynettelaughs January 6, 2015 at 10:34 pm #

    I certainly want to read more in 2014 as well! Thank you!

  67. Swetha Sankaran January 7, 2015 at 12:12 am #

    Reblogged this on Sleep, Coffee, SharePoint and commented:
    I have ‘The Habit’!

  68. jsackmom January 7, 2015 at 12:34 am #

    Thank you for the honest and great review. I look forward to adding these books onto my list of must reads. 😊

  69. dunjav2013 January 7, 2015 at 3:19 am #

    Reblogged this on dunjav.

  70. Bex Walton January 7, 2015 at 10:42 am #

    As someone who considers themself a prolific reader I am ashamed to say I haven’t read any of these yet! However, I always tend to be a couple of years behind on books as I try to squeeze in as many classics as possible. I will be adding some of these to my neverending ‘to read’ pile, so thank you!

  71. anyanicoleb January 7, 2015 at 11:16 am #

    Wow! Thank you for sharing this amazing list. May have to quit school so I can have free time to read. 😉

    Again, thank you,
    Anya N. Burnett

  72. V January 7, 2015 at 11:36 am #

    Thanks for sharing the list. And are you serious about 32 books being mediocre? haha, that’s a good year for me when I have nice weather to lay out by the pool and read

    • Kira Bindrim January 7, 2015 at 4:37 pm #

      It’s a good run for a year, but considering the goal was 1/week, there’s def room for improvement!

  73. candidkay January 7, 2015 at 3:51 pm #

    Gilead–I’ve been on the fence as to whether to read. I had heard so many good things but a quick scan–same as you–just was not resonating with me.

    • Kira Bindrim January 7, 2015 at 4:37 pm #

      Well the upside is it’s short. So maybe read that one to get a feel for her, and then decide about the rest.

  74. bearfilmcritic January 7, 2015 at 5:22 pm #

    Reblogged this on bearfilmreview.

  75. awnishbaria January 8, 2015 at 1:43 am #

    Reblogged this on awnishbaria.

  76. crowdfunding7 January 8, 2015 at 4:46 am #


  77. crowdfunding7 January 8, 2015 at 4:47 am #


  78. TheGuyWithaStick January 8, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

    Reblogged this on TheGuyWithaStick©.

  79. gurbadesha January 9, 2015 at 8:51 am #

    Reblogged this on gurbadesha's Blog.

  80. skipthename January 10, 2015 at 5:24 am #

    Ah! I am not happy to see the absence of All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr!

  81. moneersmadi January 11, 2015 at 9:05 am #

    Reblogged this on moneersmadi.

  82. bloomvibes January 11, 2015 at 11:08 am #

    Wow ! What a nice list of books …

  83. mlknpb January 12, 2015 at 4:24 pm #

    Many of these are on my 2015 to-read list. Of the books I read last year, here are my Top 14 of 2014.

  84. amberlisa January 12, 2015 at 5:43 pm #

    Reblogged this on Amber Lisa's Literary Boutique and Spa! and commented:
    For those of us who love complex literature, I can personally recommend Bone clocks by David Mitchell….loved it!

  85. Liz_Casey January 12, 2015 at 9:39 pm #

    Reblogged this on lizgotacamera and commented:
    Kristaaaa get some for LFL!

  86. emere101 January 13, 2015 at 6:42 am #

    Reblogged this on emilyruane12's Blog and commented:
    interesting, keeping in mind for future reads for 2015

  87. Coco pas Chanel January 14, 2015 at 1:51 pm #

    Reblogged this on nicolaandthediamonds.

  88. apkfrog January 16, 2015 at 6:04 am #

    Thank you
    Fantastic Blog
    Good luck


  89. The Dysfunctional Writer January 17, 2015 at 7:07 pm #

    Fantastic work! Thank you!

  90. denachaja January 18, 2015 at 9:34 pm #

    Reblogged this on oaxaqueñapatia.

  91. Tiffany J. January 20, 2015 at 4:52 pm #

    me too!

  92. prita4 January 21, 2015 at 1:53 am #


  93. apkfrog January 22, 2015 at 5:29 am #

    Thank you
    Fantastic Blog
    Good luck

  94. PicturesquePen January 23, 2015 at 6:06 am #

    Reblogged this on aconcealedlife.

  95. bookzulove January 23, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    Great blog! I have actually even read some of these! Check out my new up and coming blog!

  96. Mathangi January 26, 2015 at 5:18 am #

    Nice.. I am currently putting together a reading list for this year, i will be sure to incorporate some of these.. Thanks much!

  97. junisafitri January 28, 2015 at 12:30 am #

    Reblogged this on Warna Langit.

  98. uwillumination January 29, 2015 at 8:10 pm #

    Reblogged this on Illumination.

  99. ninish1 February 16, 2015 at 3:08 am #

    Reblogged this on ninish1.

  100. Don Royster February 18, 2015 at 1:48 am #

    I see you are reading “Going Clear”. I read it early last year and I thought it was an extraordinarily good book on a somewhat taboo subject. Now I hear there is a documentary which I am anxious to see.

  101. Laura @ canido52 February 21, 2015 at 2:19 am #

    Interesting list… would love to see a version with maybe the top 10 simply published in English language… would it change (not suggesting you do this – just a curiousity). A few added to my list but to be fair, I’d heard of few of these!

    Thanks for sharing

  102. shikhatickoo March 6, 2015 at 9:58 am #

    Reblogged this on decodingindia and commented:
    A great collection!!!!

  103. quevedos3d March 11, 2015 at 9:37 am #

    Reblogged this on quevedos3d.

  104. FalseFabs April 10, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

    Great List! Thanks for doing this instead of me. Have reblogged too. 🙂

  105. FalseFabs April 10, 2015 at 2:18 pm #

    Reblogged this on falsefabs and commented:
    As posted from original poster. A great collection of literature to check out.

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