TOP 10 MOST POPULAR BOOKS OF FICTION -- Summer 2014
Unwanted: A Novel by Kristina Ohlsson (translated by Sarah Death) is a suspense-filled police procedural from Sweden. A little girl has been abducted from a train near Stockholm while her mother’s attention was diverted. Days later, when the child’s corpse is discovered in a far away northern city, the word “unwanted” has been scratched into the skin on her forehead. Inspector Alex Recht and his special team of federal investigators are assigned to the case, assisted by a new investigative analyst, Fredrika Bergman. Frederica’s academic degrees and social service experience do not impress her more experienced police colleagues until a second abduction disproves all their theories.
Gone Girl: A Novel by Gillian Flynn is an irresistible page turner. Last year, we recommended taking it to the beach, and it has been flying off the shelf ever since. Where has the girl gone? Why? How? The answers seem to be unfolding gradually, but plot twists and turns keep readers guessing all the way through. Never mind that Nick turns out to be obsessive and overbearing; so does Amy! They are also romantic, witty, fashionable, creative, beautiful people. Chapters alternating observations from Nick with diary entries by Amy are short and entertaining. Solving this mystery is an impressive challenge and just when you think you know, Flynn will turn the tables again.
Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult is loaded with issues, as her novels always are. This one is about wolves and their behavior, human family and stepfamily dynamics, infidelity, betrayal, and end-of-life decisions. Luke Warren, a wolf scientist, and his daughter Cara have been in a traumatic automobile accident that has left him in a vegetative state. 17-year-old Cara has been told that his condition is irreversible, but her Internet research turns up enough “miraculous cures” and misdiagnosed cases to buoy her hopes. Picoult has her major characters speak for themselves in chapters narrated by: Cara, her brother Edward, their mother Georgie, their step-father Joe, and even Luke who speaks from the past. Picoult based Luke’s character on a real-life wolf expert named Shaun Ellis who actually has lived with wolves, but unfortunately Luke does not sound much like a scientist. When Luke asserts that female wolves know all about the pups they are destined to bear in the future, his voice descends into ghostly omniscience. Still, fiction is fiction, and Picoult’s loyal fans will find plenty to enjoy in this page-turner.
The Witness by Nora Roberts offers up Roberts’ trademark combination of thrilling suspense and sweet romance. Teenage Elizabeth Finch defies her mother and sneaks out for a night on the town where she and her friend are charmed by a pair of tall, dark and handsome men. Elizabeth becomes the witness to a Russian mob murder, but miraculously, she escapes. On the run, she uses her hacking skills and high intelligence to forge new identities, and supports herself doing software security work on contract for remote tech companies. Moving from place to place, when she settles in a cabin on the outskirts of a small town in the Ozarks, she hopes to arouse no notice, but the local chief of police decides to find out more about her.
Six Years by Harlan Coben is a thriller full of plot twists and turns, and just when you think you know what has happened, it will surprise you. The protagonist, Jake Fisher, is a college professor who was jilted six years ago by the newly-found love of his life. Suddenly she told him she realized she really belonged with her old boyfriend. She invited Jake to their wedding, saying they would be leaving the country to pursue her husband’s career and she insisted Jake promise not to pursue her. Six years later, the husband’s obituary caught Jake’s attention in a big way. He could not resist flying to Georgia and attending the funeral just to see her, even if only from a distance.
The Casual Vacancy disappointed some readers who reported starting the book but not finishing it, not just because there was no magic or quidditch in it, but because the nicest character in the whole book dies in chapter one. It is the death of Barry Fairbrother, a councilman in the fictional English village of Pagford, that creates the casual (i.e., mid-term) vacancy on the village council. Unfortunately, the petty suburban quarrels of that body continue well into the main plot of the novel, unlike the similarly small-minded struggles of Petunia and Vernon Dursely to dominate their nephew Harry Potter, which we were always able to put behind us within a few chapters. Readers who persevered, however, enjoyed the imaginative means by which comeuppance came up to several council contenders. The mysteriously untraceable comments posted on the village council website, signed “the ghost of Barry Fairbrother,” were truthful. Rowling's dark humor stops short of the meanness she exposes in the councilors who hoped to jettison a public housing project from village jurisdiction.
Home: A Novel by Toni Morrison follows Frank Money, black Korean War veteran, from his postwar funk in Seattle to his hometown in Georgia, on a mission to rescue his sister. Interwoven with the spellbinding narrative, Frank’s flashbacks of vivid bloody death and dismemberment and feelings of guilt haunt his every step. He has gambled away his Army pay, gained and lost a girlfriend, slept on the streets and been jailed more than once, but when he gets a letter telling him his sister Cee is in trouble, he faces South and cautiously follows the not quite “underground” routes African Americans traveled to be safe on the road in the time of Jim Crow. Rather than free him of his PTSD, the journey brings on childhood nightmares and torments him with memories of desperation that drove him and Cee to run away from Lotus, Georgia a lifetime ago.
Calico Joe by John Grisham looks back at the childhood of Paul Tracey, son of a mean and neglectful father who pitched for the Mets for several years but is only remembered for throwing the beanball that destroyed the career of an exceptionally promising rookie called Calico Joe. Paul, the boy with the scrapbooks full of baseball memorabilia was haunted by the certain knowledge that his father nearly killed Joe on purpose. After his parents divorced, Paul worked through his feelings about the way he was treated, but thirty years later, he is still troubled about the man who was maimed by his father, and the man who got away with it.
Catch Me by Lisa Gardner finds Boston’s top homicide detective D. D. Warren returning to work from maternity leave, in hopes of a quiet transition. However, even though a couple of murder victims have turned out to be pedophiles does not mean she and her team can overlook a serial killer in their district. Likewise, the young woman who has asked D.D. to investigate her own murder, which she expects to happen on January 21st, may be crazy, but the two murders on that date in the past two years did happen, and there is not a lot of time left to assess the potential threat. The threat of D. D.’s mother and father’s impending visit to meet their new grandchild has her more worried than anything else, even while she digs into the disturbing details of these investigations, making for a suspense-filled thriller.
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini begins in an impoverished village in Afghanistan, with a boy who has lost his mother and will soon lose a sister and his father. From poverty to war to the children who leave home and never look back, Hosseini’s meditation on loss draws characters from Afghanistan’s tumultuous history -- the refugees, aid workers, and ex-pats -- and settles at last in the West. Somehow, Hosseini evokes the magic of tales from his homeland, as if his melodramatic scenes sprung from the spells of jinns and divs and the wisdom of dervishes. This is a sentimental journey that draws the reader on by promising one last improbable connection.
Popularity rankings are based on circulation records for books that have been added to the Browsing Collection during the last two and a half years. So, the 2014 rankings are based on the circulation of books added to the Browsing Collection from January 1, 2012 to present.
The Browsing Collection is comprised of new books, mostly bestsellers, that Adams Library rents, rather than buys, due to their short-term popularity. Most Browsing Collection books are retained on average, for two or three years, then returned for newer popular books.
Browsing Collection books that are selected for lasting value are purchased, rather than exchanged for newer rental books, usually two or three years after they arrive. The books that are selected for purchase are shelved on the New Books shelves in the front lobby until they are borrowed one more time. Upon return, they are then shelved in their permanent locations in the main circulating book collection on levels 1, 1a, and 1b.