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Amazon’s best books of 2014: How did they choose them? We have the answer

Amazon book editors recently released their list of the top books of 2014, and you might be surprised to find you haven’t read any of them. As a professional book nerd, trust me, it’s true.

Highlights of the list include, at No. 1, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng and Stephen King’s Revival. There are even two debut authors in the top 10.

Still, the question remains: Where were these books in the media? Why weren’t our book nerd friends expounding over the immaculate graces of Big Little Lies or Station Eleven?

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We asked Sara Nelson, editorial director at Amazon Books, about this year’s list and, apparently, putting together a top 10 (and even a top 100) is no easy task. The editorial team reads approximately 500 books per year in putting together their “best of” list, which equates to about 250,000 pages.

Books don’t need to be nominated to be considered. In fact, according to Nelson, “We try not to look at outside sources when we’re selecting the books on the list.” Instead, the editors look at “Best Books of the Month” lists that Amazon curates every month of the year, as well as any books that might have slipped broad recognition.

The way Nelson tells it, choosing the Amazon top 10 is kind of like electing a new president. She said, “We often convince each other to revisit certain books and lobby for those books that we absolutely loved. In the end, the books we choose are those that really made us excited.”

Amazon star ratings and sales have nothing to do with making the coveted cut. Neither does media buzz, which is perhaps why we haven’t read several of the top 10… but, maybe we should.

According to Nelson, “There are books on this list that are universally great and then there are books that might not be bestsellers. With the top pick , Everything I Never Told You, it’s well respected, has gotten good reviews and, while it wasn’t a blockbuster, we absolutely loved it. It’s a beautiful book. Our hope is that if we can help readers discover books they might have not otherwise known, then we’ve done our job.”

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So, what books made the final cut? Here is the full list of Amazon’s top 10 editors’ picks of the year, in their own words:

1. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told You

Quiet and beautiful, this novel about an unknowable teenage girl in a mixed-race family in the 1970s Midwest will make you cry.

2. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See

A beautiful, atmospheric story about two young people, one French, one German, growing up on the eve of World War II.

3. In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides

In the Kingdom of Ice

The ultimate adventure story, but with a touch of romance and intrigue. A historical The Perfect Storm.

4. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace

At once extremely personal and culturally wise, this reported memoir will change the way you think about race, class and the meaning of friendship.

5. Redeployment by Phil Klay


Strong, brilliant stories about survival of something almost as dangerous as war itself — its aftermath.

Amazon sells 1 million Kindles each week in December

6. Revival by Stephen King


The best kind of King book: a little horror, but mostly pitch-perfect details about youth and faith and family.

7. Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman

Savage Harvest

The Rockefeller clan might not have wanted to believe it, but author, Hoffman, is convincing about what led to the scion’s death. It’s not pretty… but it is fascinating.

8. The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez

The Book of Unknown Americans

Told in the many voices of the Latin American tenants of one apartment complex in Delaware, this novel illuminates several different kinds of immigrant experience.

9. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies

Moriarty dazzles with another novel about “ordinary” Australian families and the secrets they keep.

10. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven

Set in the not-so-distant future, this apocalyptic novel is surprisingly hopeful in its depiction of a culture that both mocks and mourns its disappeared past.

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