Each year, millions of books make their way through The New York Public Library system. With so many books to choose from, it would seem an impossible task for our librarians to select their favorites. But, shockingly, it wasn't nearly as difficult as we thought!
Below are the favorite books NYPL staff read in 2014. These are the books that -- in the words of Supervising Librarian Betsy Bird -- worm their "way into the crevices of my brain, set up house, and will NOT be evicted for a very long time." The selections cross genres -- Children's books, fantasy, fiction graphic novels, and non-fiction -- and there are even a few older books that could be found in a librarian's eager hands this year, as well. Take a look, read a book, and enjoy the holidays!
Visit the Library's blog to find more great titles and share the books living in your brain.
NYPL's Favorite Books of 2014:
The best book I read in 2014 was I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. Words to describe this novel: breathtaking, dazzling, vivid, electric, magical, lyrical, a complete tour-de-force. It's the kind of novel that pulls you in, makes you weep, and then punches you in the gut it's so good! A story of sibling rivalry, family, love, art, betrayal, perseverance, death and dreams: it filled my soul with hope and humanity and made me a better person. It made me fall in love all over again with the power of books and reading and everything a YA book can be. Simply put this is a masterpiece of character, theme and writing. I've never read a YA book like it and I doubt I ever will again. --Anne, Mulberry Street
The best book I read this year would be An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay. The experiences that Mireille goes through as a kidnapped victim, physically, emotionally, and mentally, absolutely broke my heart. It really gave me chills to read what she resorted to doing just to survive such traumatizing events. -- Sherise, Grand Concourse
Unremarried Widow: A Memoir by Artis Henderson left me feeling like I could not breathe. Oh yes, it's achingly sad, but it is a beautiful love story that in spite of the heartache, leaves you smiling. --Maura, Volunteers Office
The Interior Circuit: A Mexico City Journal is Francisco Goldman's (latest) gift to the world. It's at once a deeply felt love story, an elegy, political study and meditation on home. I savored the writer's vivid and poetic descriptions of place (from the "megacity's stunning enormousness" to the barrios)--all locations teeming with life. --Miriam, Selection Team
One of my favorite books this year was Lucy Knisley's wonderful graphic travel memoir, An Age of License. It's about a trip Knisley took to Europe and Scandinavia when she was in her late twenties, single, and figuring out what to do with her life ("an age of license"). With lovely and evocative illustrations, it perfectly captures the fun of traveling as a young person, while also touching on the anxieties that come with being a twenty-something. I'm in my late thirties and definitely feeling a bit more encumbered by responsibility these days, so this was a breath of fresh air to read! It made me nostalgic for when I was foot loose and fancy free, but it also made me feel grateful to be past my tumultuous twenties. :) I enjoyed traveling with Lucy! --Susie, Mulberry Street
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki. This graphic novel is an evocative coming-of-age tale that perfectly captures the innocence of feeling small when experience reveals that the world is a much larger and darker place than the familiarity of summer suggests. Exceptional for its insight, but even more so for the artist's masterful use of line work, panels and perspectives. This is the type of story that leaves you both wanting and changed. --Daniel, Mid-Manhattan
My favorite book of 2014 was Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. It mixes a far-out premise (giant insects start taking over the world) with a solid bedrock of character development and an unusual storytelling style. Austin Szerba is a great character and a fascinating narrator, and we follow him down surprising paths as his mind takes leaps backwards and forwards in time to tell this story. Reading this book was like a brain-stretching exercise--when I was done reading it I felt exhausted, but in a really positive way. It's a young adult book, but it would be an exciting and challenging read for teens or even grownups! --Andrea, Kingsbridge
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. Vampires, witches, time travel, romance--what's not to love? The best part is the rich historical detail that makes it oh so credible. Think Diana Gabaldon meets J. K. Rowling at midnight in the Bodleian Library. Or Nora Roberts channels Anne Rice. I'm already halfway through the second book in the trilogy, Shadow of Night. The third volume, The Book of Life, was published this year. --Lois, Mid-Manhattan
The best book I've read this year has to be A Memory of Light by Brandon Sanderson. It's the culmination of Robert Jordan's fantasy masterpiece,The Wheel of Time. It was continued by Sanderson after the master's death. Seeing so many character stories wrap up, others end in tragedy and saying goodbye to favorites you've followed over the course of fourteen epic novels was a bit wrenching. I'm not afraid to admit there were tears. --Joshua, Sputen Duyvil
The book that stood out for me this year was Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. Particularly memorable was the chapter about the time when she was a child and she really wanted to have a piece of cake, but was forbidden to have it. So here's this kid who will do anything, and I mean ANYTHING, to get the cake, and predictably hilarity ensues. In part I can relate to her utter desperation for the cake, and then there's the part where I appreciate her total honesty in pointing out her own flaws. It was smart, funny, and book that made the rest of us feel normal. --Rabecca, Kingsbridge
I have two greats for this year, both a few decades old. The most amazing fiction book I read this year is Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. Every sentence is vivid. I felt the leaves build up in the corners of my rooms and paint began to peel on my door frames. In non-fiction, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown opened a door to another point of view on American history and I am a more conscientious person for it. It is also a great conversation starter, many people have strong feelings about reading this book. --Jessica, Mid-Manhattan Library
The best book I read this year was The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, whose writing transported me to 1899 New York City. Wecker does a wonderful job of mixing genres (fantasy, romance, mystery, historical fiction) in an epic story that documents the immigrant experience of the two unlikely title characters. It is hard enough being a stranger in a strange land--imagine what it would be like for two fantastical mythical creatures trying to pass as human. --Rosa, AskNYPL
I cannot choose one. I have to choose two. So I will be brief. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters satisfied every part of me as a reader. The setting is rich, the characters captivating, the writing inspiring, and the story! The book turns from fascinating historical fiction to thriller. It's amazing! I have loved every Sarah Waters novel I have read. This one was heads above the others and that is saying a lot. I also loved Miranda July's The First Bad Man. It was so funny and fresh. The narrator is socially spastic. She will make you cringe like Larry David. I haven't read a book that surprised me as much since Magnus Mills's Restraint of Beasts. --Lynn, Readers Services
The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham. This fantasy adventure reminded me just how much fun it can be to plunge into a world of deliciously awful villains, mysterious rogues and fearsome monsters with a group of undaunted young protagonists. Can't remember the last time I missed so many subway stops because I just didn't want to stop reading! --Stephanie, Seward Park
The novel I enjoyed the most this year is Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See, about a young girl and boy, on opposite sides of a war, inexorably closing in on each other as each must solve life-or-death puzzles lying beyond the realm of mere eyesight. It's not just that characters are finely drawn, the path Doerr sets them on left me thinking for days afterward about the people I meet and the paths and puzzles that draw us together, for whatever reason, for however long. --Christopher, Sites and Services
Although it wasn't the best book I read this year, The Sweet Science & Other Writings by New Yorker staff writer A.J. Liebling was the book that I enjoyed reading the most (and that's an important distinction). The collection is part of the estimable Library of America series and comprises five works, the best of which are "The Sweet Science" (about the boxing world in the 1950s), "The Earl of Louisiana" (a masterful analysis of Louisiana politics circa 1960), and "The Jollity Building" (a composite profile of grifters, loan sharks, bookies and "grade z" talent agents plying their trade in Midtown in the late 1930s). Liebling's deftness at turns-of-phrase, his inventive word choice--two men injured in a duel were "seriously discommoded" and a bar is a called a "dispensatorium"--could there be a more perfect name for a hipster bar in Brooklyn?) as well as his wry humor and trenchant analysis make him--for my money--one of the best writers the New Yorker ever published. His "Jollity Building" piece alone is worth picking up this collection. Imagine if Damon Runyon's "Guys and Dolls" stories were as well-written as they are entertaining. That's how good "The Jollity Building" is! --Wayne, Selection Team
My favorite children's book of the year was Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald. If you want a fun, art history mystery for kids, this is it! The story is set in New York City and introduces readers an array of fascinating residents. Think art, science, WWII, celebrity kids, Monuments Men, gardening and super cool librarians all rolled in one. --Louise, Children's Center 42nd Street
This summer I finally read Just Kids, Patti Smith's eloquent memoir of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe and their development as artists. It was wonderful to see the New York City of the late 1960s and 1970s through her eyes. I wonder if any of our future poets are sleeping in city parks like she sometimes did when she first arrived in New York. --Elizabeth, Mid-Manhattan
My favorite YA book this year was Candace Fleming's The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia. Fleming interweaves excerpts from diary entries of peasants and shop girls with descriptions of the Romanovs' lives of excess and grandeur. In a less skilled writer's hands, this could easily have been a list of grievances against the Romanovs. Instead, Fleming humanizes the Romanov Family by highlighting their personality quirks and playful affection for one another. This is a suspenseful and juicy read (one of the princesses has a romantic encounter with her guard) that reveals the chilling circumstances surrounding the Romanovs' deaths during a truly tumultuous period of Russian history. --Mina, Epiphany
My best read of 2014 was The Riverman by Aaron Starmer. That's a book that wormed its way into the crevices of my brain, set up house, and will NOT be evicted for a very long time. I can feel tendrils of it affecting everything I do even now. --Betsy, Selection Team