Over the last few years, my consumption of fiction has grown considerably compared to what it was only a few years ago. Heck, in January of 2009 I posted on my old Vox site that during the preceding year I’d read only two measly works of fiction. But as we all know, tastes change. So for whatever reason, nowadays I find myself reading a significant amount of fiction.
So much fiction that for the first time, I’m able to post a top ten list of my favorite fiction from 2014. This covers the best English language fiction I read over the course of the year.
- You Deserve Nothing by Alexander Maksik – Dead Poets Society meets The Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.”
- Midnight in Europe by Alan Furst – I had a hard time deciding if Furst’s earlier novels The Spies of Warsaw, Mission to Paris or Spies of the Balkans were better books and therefore more deserving of being included on my list. But his Midnight in Europe made me wanna read everything in his Night Soldiers series. So Midnight in Europe it shall be.
- The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow – Hard not like a great debut novel. Harder still to not like one that’s set in my hometown of Portland, Oregon.
- The Coffee Trader by David Liss – To quote a librarian at my public library “a Portuguese-Jewish trader partners with a sexy Dutch widow to corner the coffee market. Who knew 17th century commodities trading could be so suspenseful? ” What more could I want from a novel?
- Harvard Square by André Aciman – Two North African immigrants, one Jewish and the other Muslim could not be more different from each other. But their unlikely friendship helps make for a thoroughly enjoyable novel.
- The Expats by Chris Pavone – Who wants to read a novel about a bored, stay at home mom in Luxembourg? Probably no one. Make her an ex-CIA assassin and have her solve a mystery or two and you’ve got a winner.
- The Explanation for Everything by Lauren Grodstein – For me anyway, the conflict between science and faith has always made for fascinating reading. When you see that conflict played out in a novel it’s a very special thing.
- Border Angels by Anthony Quinn – If you told me I’d fall in love with a mass-marketed, paperback edition of a crime thriller set in Northern Ireland I would have called you crazy. Well, I did. Quinn’s novel is fast-paced, intelligent and entertaining.
- Jacob’s Oath by Martin Fletcher – Two young Holocaust survivors meet and fall in love amidst the ruins of postwar Germany. Perfect to read alongside Keith Lowe’s Savage Continent.
- Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement – A fictional account of the Mexican drug wars from the perspective of a young woman coming of age in the mountains of Guerrero, Mexico.
So what jumps out at me when I survey this list? Seven of these ten books are set abroad, with six out of the seven set in Europe. Education is a recurring theme with Harvard Square and The Explanation for Everything both set at universities on the American East Coast, while You Deserve Nothing taking place at an exclusive high school in Paris. Over half the novels on the list are set at least ten years in the past with The Coffee Trader reaching all they way back to the 17th century. Lastly, I find it surprising that The Expats, You Deserve Nothing and The Girl Who Fell from the Sky are all debut novels.
Trust me, it wasn’t easy proclaiming a winner. But after much consideration, my favorite piece of fiction from 2014 has to be Chris Pavone’s The Expats. His debut novel did not disappoint me. I have no problems recommending it, or any other novel on this list.