CHICAGO — For the first time, the Chicago Public Library is putting out its own year-end "Best of the Best" literary list geared toward adult readers.
Among the books chosen were Evanston author Eula Biss' "On Immunity: An Inoculation," along with a graphic novel memoir, a collection of feminist essays and a dystopian best-seller.
"We definitely wanted to keep an eye out for books that were supported both by critics and readers," said Stephen Sposato, manager of content curation at the Chicago Public Library. "We were interested in books that would strike a chord with our patrons."
Sposato said he and his staff polled the city's librarians, watched what was popular with patrons and kept tabs on the buzz new releases got throughout the year, eventually coming up with an initial list of 600 to then whittle down.
For the final 10 "Best of the Best," Sposato said he wanted to draw from a variety of genres — and keep Chicagoans' book clubs in mind.
"We weren't interested in a list that showed off how smart we are or trying to impress anyone," he said. "We really just wanted to have a list that would serve our patrons well over time."
His personal favorite of 2014 is "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr, a "very moving" fictional tale of a French girl and German boy set before World War II.
Read more about the top 10 "Best of the Best" below:
"All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr
Sposato said the fictional "All the Light" is one of the best books to come out since Donna Tart's "The Goldfinch," a book that made the New York Times' end-of-year list in 2013. "There are classic good-versus-evil touches to the story," he said. "It's very moving, and you can't put it down."
"Bad Feminist" by Roxane Gay
The collection of essays on politics, criticism, and yes, feminism from Gay was just one of her critically acclaimed books from 2014, and Sposato said it was difficult to choose between them: "We were blown away."
"Big Little Lies" by Liane Moriarty
Moriarty is a prolific Australian writer who's popularity has grown a lot in 2014, Sposato said. "Big Little Lies" is a contemporary fiction book that follows families in an Australian suburb. Moriarty "is becoming a real sensation, and it's a page turner."
"A Brief History of Seven Killings" by Marlon James
Jamaican author James sets his epic, sprawling novel on the island in the 1970s, using the 1976 assassination attempt on Bob Marley as a starting point. "He's a really exciting up-and-coming author," Sposato said.
The graphic novel centers around Chast's real experience caring for her aging parents. Sposato called it "heartbreaking, but really, really funny: It's got everything."
"Euphoria" by Lily King
The novel from King is inspired by the life of anthropologist Margaret Mead, and centers on a love triangle involving anthropologists and their subjects in New Guinea. "We think it's going to be really great for book clubs," Sposato said.
"On Immunity: An Inoculation" by Eula Biss
In this nonfiction book, Evanston-based author Biss explores childhood immunization through the lenses of science, culture and her own experience. Sposato said it's his second-favorite of 2014. "It's a little bit academic, but it's grounded in everyday experience and easy to read. I hope a lot of people will read that one."
"Redeployment" by Phil Klay
Klay is a veteran himself, and his collection of short, fictional stories centers on soldiers returning to the United States after tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. "It's very contemporary," Sposato said.
"Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History" by Elizabeth Kolbert
Kolbert's work of nonfiction looks toward the future of the world and humankind, as the Earth has seen five mass extinctions so far. Sposato said the book is "thought-provoking and really important."
"Station Eleven" by Emily St. John Mandel
Station Eleven is a dystopian novel, but it's different from the "Hunger Games" and "Divergent," Sposato said. "It's a little bit quieter of a book, not a pulse-pounding thriller, but a more thoughtful look at how humanity adapts and how art serves us in a time like that."
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