The Believer’s List of the Best of 2014

10 books to add to your reading list in November

October was, well, a weird month. We had the usuals: books about people not in the spotlight, books that went beyond a two-page synopsis into a chapter on plot in the back, the annual list of the “best of 2014.”

Our annual list of the best of 2014 is published in the December issue of The Believer, and it is a must-read for anyone who has to keep up with the ever-shifting zeitgeist of contemporary fiction, the ever-present need for self-help, and a steady diet of self-help books. It has a good deal of overlap with the books we publish in January.

The Believer asked us to curate the list of the best of 2014 for readers from around the country, and we agreed, knowing full well that it wouldn’t be easy to do justice to the thousands of worthy contenders.

Our first stop was a long day of research and fact-checking. In the end this was an incredibly humbling experience, and a chance to reflect on what we, as readers of books and as publishers of books, might wish to see on this list, and on the list of the best of 2014 as a whole, as an exercise in humility.

Our second stop was New York, where we have many friends, and where we spent an entire day with a group of bookish people, discussing the list. The questions ranged from the obvious (What books are going to win a major prize? What is book publishing’s “most important function?”) to the deeper ones (To what extent do we, as professional book people, think of ourselves as “writers?” To what extent are we like any other industry members? To what extent, in fact, do we think of ourselves as book people first?), to the less serious ones (How do we avoid being pigeon

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