2014 is about half over, and the Amazon team has already chosen their top 10 books of the year so far, just in time for you to make a few additions to your summer reading list before the avalanche of prestige titles hits in the fall. There are already books here that will likely make plenty of top 10 lists at the end of the year, including Redeployment by Phil Klay, as well as some books that should have been a bigger deal: Red Rising by Pierce Brown, anyone?
In case you’re wondering, none of the books in Amazon’s top 10 is a Hachette title, although a few made the top 20: To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris (#11), The Fever by Megan Abbott (#14), and Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta (#19). See below for Amazon’s list:
1. Updike by Adam Begley: This biography of the American master goes far beyond simple chronology of this complex (and often paradoxical) character, layering on the lit crit where his real life bled into his novels. Detailed and compulsively readable, Updike is essential for admirers, and illuminating for anyone with an interest in literature.
2. The Book of Unknown Americans: A novel by Cristina Henríquez: Henríquez’s powerful novel captures readers with the quiet beauty of her characters and their profoundly rendered experiences as immigrants in America. Following nine families who arrived in the States from South and Central America, Henriquez has crafted a novel that is inspiring, tragic, brave, and unforgettable.
3. Redeployment by Phil Klay: The strength of Klay’s stories, all about the Iraq War or its aftermath, lies in his unflinching, un-PC point of view, even for the soldiers he so clearly identifies with and admires. These stories are at least partly autobiographical, and yet, for all their verisimilitude, they’re also shaped by an undefinable thing called art.
4. Euphoria by Lily King: Loosely based on the life of the anthropologist Margaret Mead, Euphoria is both romantic and intelligent. It is the best kind of historical novel—the kind that will send readers running to learn more about its real-life inspiration.
5. No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald: Both a tense account of Greenwald’s cloak-and dagger encounters with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and a blistering commentary on surveillance in a free society, No Place to Hide is thrilling and enlightening, a bellwether moment in a crucial debate.
6. In Paradise: A Novel by Peter Matthiessen: Three-time National Book Award winner Matthiessen set his final story in a mid-‘90s spiritual retreat at Auschwitz, exploring the sadness, horror, and absurdity—and even occasional joy—that accompany it. The result is a novel that is as profound as anything the late author had ever written.
7. The Invention of Wings: A Novel by Sue Monk Kidd: In the early 1830s, the Grimké sisters were the most infamous women in America for speaking out in favor of liberty and equality and for African American slaves and women. Monk Kidd brings Hetty and Sara to life in a powerful novel that spans decades, vividly imagining the Grimké sisters’ courageous trials and personal transformations.
8. Red Rising by Pierce Brown: Pulsing with nonstop action, surprising twists, and unforgettable characters, Brown’s debut—and the first book of a projected trilogy—sets its tale of struggle and revolution in the desolation of Mars, tackling the large questions of fate and loyalty in brutal and heartfelt turns.
9. Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman: Was the scion of an American billionaire eaten by cannibals in New Guinea? Award-winning journalist Hoffman steps into Michael Rockefeller’s boots to investigate his 1961 disappearance, and succeeds in both solving the puzzle and spinning an engrossing tale of adventure.
10. Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs: Continuing the story that mesmerized readers in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Riggs packs Hollow City with more eerie vintage photographs, and like a seasoned magician, seamlessly incorporates them into a remarkable—and totally original—feat of imagination.