Penguin Random House doesn’t just control best-seller lists these days — it controls books picks lists, too.
In Amazon’s “Best Books of 2014 (So Far)” list, nearly half of the top-20 picks chosen by Amazon’s book editors were titles from the largest publisher in the world. HarperCollins took the top spot with Updike, a biography about American writer John Updike, by Adam Begley. HarperCollins had a total of two titles in the top-20.
Conspicuously absent from the list were books from Amazon Publishing, the book publishing arm of the bookseller, and independent authors, who have at times made “best-of” lists.
Hachette, which has been in a business dispute with Amazon over the past few months, had three titles on the list.
Among the large publishers, smaller houses were able to attract the attention of Amazon’s editors. Grove Atlantic hit the list at No. 4 with Euphoria by Lily King; Quirk Books had a title at No. 10 with the novel Hollow City (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children), the second in a series by Ransom Riggs; and Graywolf Press clocked in at No. 12 with The Empathy Exams, a collection of essays by Leslie Jamison.
Large publishers Simon & Schuster had two books on the list and Macmillan had one, as did W.W. Norton.
The top ten are listed below and the full list can be found here.
Amazon.com Chooses the Best Books of 2014 (So Far)
From hit biographies and political hot topics to breakthrough novels and trilogies, Amazon Books Editors share their picks for the best new titles of the year to help customers get the most out of the summer reading season
Today Amazon.com announced its annual list of the Best Books of the Year So Far, a midyear retrospective that highlights the must-reads released between January and June 2014. The titles were hand-picked and ranked by Amazon’s expert team of Books Editors, who awarded the top spot to Adam Begley’s Updike, with The Book of Unknown Americans: A novel and Redeployment following close behind.
“It’s never easy to narrow down our favorites, but after much debate and discussion, we’ve arrived at a list that will fit every customer’s summer reading agenda—whether you’re headed to the beach, traveling the world or enjoying a staycation,” said Sara Nelson, Editorial Director of Print and Kindle Books at Amazon.com. “Updike may seem like an unusual choice for our number one pick, but it’s poised to be one of the best biographies of 2014. It’s a candid, enthralling book that readers won’t be able to put down.”
The Amazon Books Editors’ picks for the Top 10 Best Books of the Year So Far are:
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, Henríquez 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.
To see the complete list of the Best Books of the Year So Far, available in both print and Kindle editions, visit www.amazon.com/bestbookssofar.
In addition to the overall Top 20, the Amazon Books Editors also selected 10-20 titles in 17 different categories: Art & Photo, Audiobooks, Biographies & Memoirs, Business & Leadership, Comics & Graphic Novels, Cookbooks, Food & Wine, Crafts, Hobbies & Home, History, Humor & Entertainment, Kindle Singles, Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Nonfiction, Romance, Science Fiction & Fantasy, and Teens, as well as the Top 20 Children’s Books for each age range (Baby-Age 2, Ages 3-5, Ages 6-8, Ages 9-12), plus a new nonfiction children’s book category.
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