The booksellers at Booksellers’ favorite reads of 2014

Every Booksellers at Laurelwood team member was recently asked to name his or her favorite book s/he read in 2014, regardless of when the book was originally published.

While most took the opportunity to praise the book or books they loved, you’ll see some couldn’t pick just one favorite. Many wrote of their favorite and offered up several other titles they found particularly noteworthy. Check out their picks. You’re almost guaranteed to find something (or many things) here you’ll love or that someone you love will love this holiday season.


Here’s the booksellers at Booksellers’ favorite books of 2014 in their own words.


Corinne Walker

My favorite book of 2014 is surprisingly a book that will not be released until March 2015. Due to the perks of sneak peeks for being in the book industry, I happily discovered and devoured Mosquitoland by David Arnold which became my single FAVORITE read of the Summer 2014 and onward. You need to come to the Booksellers and buy Mosquitoland in March because you want to launch the career of the next John Green! I’m not joking. Arnold’s YA novel has the classic tropes of adolescent discovery, angst, and love combined with an unique cast of characters. I guarantee you haven’t met another powerful female protagonist like Mim, and her voice will surely stay in your head.

Another awesome read to note:

Cory Doctorow’s graphic novel In Real Life illustrated by Jen Wang has stolen my heart! Give it all the awards, folks! And please give it to your Telgemeier lovers- They can only read Sisters so many times! This piece of art and literary genius features a chunkier, more realistic gamer girl coasting through her daily life but then accidentally stumbling upon a major ethical dilemma in the cyber realm. Doctorow always has a moral for us but he isn’t heavy-handed. This book can lead to so many interesting talks if you let it! Doctorow sets up an interesting thematic paradox with real world versus digital world rules and Wang’s visual representation is absolutely astute.


Eddie Burton

My favorite book I read this year is Pictures at a Revolution, by Mark Harris. By focusing on the five movies that were nominated for academy awards for best picture in 1967, Harris manages to capture perfectly the fascinating and tumultuous times in both the film industry, and to a large extent, American society as a whole. The book is both an insider’s look at the making of the five movies: Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, In the Heat of the Night, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, and Dr. Doolittle–yes, Dr. Doolittle, and a well-researched (and well-written) account of a period when American cinema was about to change forever.

Others worth noting:

Respect Yourself by Robert Gordon

Moneyball by Michael Lewis

In the Kingdom of Ice, Hampton Sides.

I had a non-fiction kind of year.


Karen Tallant

The Southern Reach Trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance) by Jeff Vandermeer- What happens when humanity no longer has control over the narrative description of reality? A brilliant effort at saying the unsayable.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel- The contrast and comparison of two different art forms at the end of civilization. Frightening and tender.

The Laughing Monsters by Denis Johnson- A tale of two intelligence officers traveling through their own agendas and several failed African states. Part Graham Greene, part Joseph Conrad, all cynicism, with just a whiff of catch 22.

No Place To Hide: Edward Snowden, The NSA and The U.S. Surveillance State by Glen Greenwald- Greenwald’s 10 days in Hong Kong with Edward Snowden bring timely questions about our media, the health of our government, and the nature of understanding the surveillance state.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson- Woodson’s autobiographical free-verse account of growing up in the South is beautiful, lyrical and accessible to all.


Mark Frederick

Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South by Andrew Maraniss

The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and their Eric Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller by Richard Norton

The Forgotten Adventures of Richard Halliburton: A High Flying Life from Tennessee to Timbuktu by R. Scott Williams

When the Garden was Eden: Clyde, the Captain, Dollar Bill and the Glory Days of the New York Knicks by Harvey Araton

Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter by Frank Deford


Nicole Yasinsky

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

I have been raving about this book since before it came out, and I’m not going to stop! Brown Girl Dreaming, written completely in verse, is the story of award-winning author Jackie Woodson’s childhood–split between rural North Carolina and the New York City. Woodson’s writing is lyrical, yet accessible, and she doesn’t waste one word in telling her beautiful story. I think everyone can find something to enjoy in here–from the strong bond between Jackie and her Grandfather, to lazy, sun-filled days on the farm, to moving into a scary new place and making a lifelong friend. In this sparse text, Woodson also manages to address much heavier things–loss and grief, sibling rivalry, and witnessing and experiencing injustice-with an eloquence and grace that allows the reader to reflect and come away with a richer understanding of themselves and others. As a young girl, Jacqueline Woodson struggled with reading, struggled to find her voice, but came to the eventual realization that she was a born storyteller, and never stopped writing–and for that, I am truly grateful! P.S.–I’m not the only one who liked it–Jacqueline Woodson just received the 2014 National Book Award for Brown Girl Dreaming!!

***Fun Fact: We like this one SO much, that it was our inaugural book selection for Turning pages: A City-wide read for a Storied City encouraging everyone in the region to read this book! As part of this program, we are also holding a book drive, with the goal of getting at least one copy of this book into every school in Memphis! As you know, that is a LOT of books, so if you are interested in donating a book, give us a call or come on by!

Other books of note:

The League of Seven by Alan Gratz

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

My Teacher is a Monster by Peter Brown

The Graphic Canon of Children’s Literature: The World’s Greatest Kid’s Lit as Comics and Visuals by Russ Kick


Joanne Van Zant

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

My favorite book I read this year is All the Light We Cannot See. My greatest pleasure as a bookseller is finding books I know my customers will love. I knew immediately that the perfect blend of history, relationships and imagination in this book would please my valued customers as much as it pleased me.

Other books of note:

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles


Matt Nixon

My top-5 (+1) favorite books I read in 2014 are:

1 ) Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy: Annihilation, Authority and Acceptance by Jeff Vandermeer

2) Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

3) My Struggle, Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausgard

4) Silence Once Begun by Jesse Ball

5) The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman (out February 2015)

(Bonus pick for the ongoing Image Comics series, Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. Little I read in 2014 engaged me as much as this incredible series does every month.)


Jason Bouck

Colorless Tsukura Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage: A Novel by Haruki Murakami — for fans of his earlier work (Norwegian Wood, Kafka On The Shore) and a return to form after the murky 1Q84, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki hooks you from the start. A fascinating and hypnotically-paced mystery.

Other books of note:

Blood Will Out by Walter Kirn

Attempting Normal by, Marc Maron

It Came From Memphis by Robert Gordon


Pat Swink

The best book I read in 2014 was The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein. I have joined the chorus of reader and reviewers around the world in praising Stein’s creation and in my love for narrator Enzo, a philosopher who also likes race cars.

Other books of note:

The Dinner by Herman Koch – not your same old menu

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, poetry by Robert Frost, illustrated by Susan Jeffers – a perennial re-discovery with crossover appeal for adults and youngsters alike

Itsy-Bitsy Spider by Richard Egielski – a delight pop-up book by the Caldecott medalist, Egielski


Macon Wilson

My favorite book I’ve read this year is Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. Unlike anything I have ever read, Annihilation is the perfect blend of horror, sci-fi, and psychological thriller. For someone like me who is constantly looking for a book that produces nightmares (not JUST because I’m strange… but more so because it displays the rare talent of a great horror novelist), this one will not only do the trick, but will leave the reader thinking about it for days on end. Instead of a campy-like writing style that oftentimes floods the horror genre, VanderMeer’s writing is hauntingly beautiful and frequently reminded me of a modern-day H.P. Lovecraft. I dare you to read it.

Other books of note:

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

You by Caroline Kepnes

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

A Kim Jong-Il Production by Paul Fischer (Out March 2015!)


Joey Carr

My favorite book I read this year is Stella Adler on Ibsen, Strindberg, & Chekov.  Stella Adler, one of the world’s most renowned acting teachers, breaks down the art of playwriting and script interpretation through the works of Henrik Ibsen, August Strindberg, & Anton Chekov.

Other books of note:

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn

Cinematography for Directors: a Creative Collaboration by Jacqueline Frost

Kazan on Directing by Elia Kazan

(I’m 1/3 way through Zoobiquity, by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, which will be highly recommended once I finish it.)


Kat Leache

My favorite book I read this year was Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. You could say it’s post-apocalyptic for poets (and other sensitive souls). Set twenty years after a fast-acting plague has wiped out most of the earth’s population, Station Eleven is concerned primarily not with the chaos and violence that accompanies the end of the world, but with the questions that must be answered by those forging a new one. Mandel’s writing is spare but lyrical, and she manages to make the barren, unfamiliar new world she describes seem strangely inviting. I would recommend it to almost anyone.

Other books I read and loved in 2014:

The Kids Will Be Fine: Guilt-free Motherhood for Thoroughly Modern Women by Daisy Waugh

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

The Secret Place by Tana French

The Children Act by Ian McEwan


Dianna Dalton

My favorite book I read this year is In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides (that one probably doesn’t need any help but I enjoyed it). It’s a riveting true account of the expedition of the USS Jeanette to be the first to explore, map, and stake claim to the uncharted North Pole turned into a survival story. Phenomenal. Very well written. Couldn’t put it down.

Other books of note:

The Wild Truth by Carine McCandless, telling the other side to the Chris McCandless story not covered in the book or the movie Into the Wild.

–I reread The Hot Zone by Richard Preston in light of the Ebola virus epidemic.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore

Doctored by Sandeep Jauhar

On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History by Nicholas Basbanes

The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli


Megan Fortas

My favorite book this year is Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover. The author never disappoints me because of her amazing writing style, her interesting characters, and her original story lines. I was hooked on this book from the beginning. What I had expected from this book was love but what surprised me was that it made my heart feel like it was being shredded. I suggest reading this book and all her other books because her books are AMAZING!

Other Favorite Books:

Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover

Jane’s Melody by Ryan Winfield

Fallen Too Far by Abbi Glines

Rush by Maya Banks


Kelly Burchfield

East of Eden by John Steinbeck is by far the best book I’ve read this year.  I still can’t believe I went this long without reading this fantastic book.  It’s got everything – brotherly strife (times two), a completely sociopathic woman, and a whole lot of humor in between the nail-biting moments.

Other favorites of the year:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

In the Woods by Tana French

Coptown by Karin Slaughter

Bird Box by Josh Malerman.


Stuart McCommon

Though I typically read fiction (and after much internal debate), I’d have to say that my favorite book that I read in 2014 is All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon & Yoko Ono conducted by David Sheff. The book contains an intimate view into Lennon’s post-Beatles life as a father, a husband, an artist, and a political activist. Though these interviews are more focused on Lennon’s passions outside of music, there is still plenty of insight into his creative process as a songwriter as well.

Other notable works:

House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday

You by Caroline Kepnes

Beneath the Underdog by Charles Mingus

An American Dream by Norman Mailer


Jamie Wells

My favorite book I read in 2014 was Cruddy, by Lynda Barry. Cruddy wins the distinction of featuring possibly the most screwed up and awful relationship between a father and a daughter that I’ve ever encountered in fiction or otherwise. The narrative is split between our main character both before and after a terrible incident that defines her life and attitudes towards people, sexuality, family, and addiction. Though the present day narrative has its highlights (including many wild nicknames our protagonist comes up with as she meets the rest of the damaged cast), the highlight of the story takes place in the past: where our main character is trapped with her mentally unstable father as he checks off his bloody to-do list. What makes him (she refers to him strictly as The Father) such an intimidating character is that he seems to go back and forth between gruffly affectionate to suddenly violent. In-between these events he encourages her to drink, gives her a knife of her very own, and dispenses fatherly advice, all while refusing to call her anything but “Clyde”, the boy he wishes he’d had.  The book is accompanied by gritty (and frankly ugly) illustrations that put one in the mood for the sort of dark, vomit-inducing horrors that await the reader.

Other books of note:

Authority by Jeff Vandermeer

Pictures at a Revolution by Mark Harris

Hiroshima by John Hersey

Ant Colony by Michael Deforge

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