CBR’s Best Books of 2014

CBR_Logo2As 2014 comes to a close, we’ve looked back at scores of book reviews to highlight our favorites—the books we loved and those we really liked. These four-star and three-star titles represent a variety of subjects, from architecture to photography, from travel to regional interest, from history to memoir. Fiction, too, is represented—literature, poetry, short stories. These are Chicago Book Review’s Best Books of 2014.

During the past year, we’ve reviewed dozens of books, new titles from local publishers like Agate Publishing, Chicago Review Press, Lake Claremont Press, University of Chicago Press, and University of Illinois Press. We’ve also reviewed books from local writers including Kathryn Atwood, Tricia Crisafulli, Rebecca Makkai, Ian Morris, and Kathleen Rooney. Our reviewers also have tackled books set in or written about or featuring Chicago and the Midwest, titles like Good in a Crisis, Capital Culture, and Death Stalks Door County.

Chicago Book Review reviews Chicago’s books, and we’re so happy to be able to bring to our readers reviews of so many titles from local authors and local publishers. We hope we’ve been able to help you discover some new titles you might otherwise never have heard of, and that we’ve provided some critical insight that has prompted you to add at least a few interesting books to your reading wish lists.

As we continue to build the Chicago Book Review community, we remain ever so grateful to the authors, bookstores, publishers, readers, and reviewers who have helped us spread the word and grow our audience. We encourage you to continue to support the many local publishers and local booksellers who add so much to Chicago’s literary culture (check out the lists of local resources to the left of your screen). And remember to #ReadLocal and #ShopLocal when looking to buy some of CBR’s Best Books of 2014.


Four-Star Review

Above All Men by Eric Shonkweiler: “revelatory”Godwin 9781620405512

Animals in Peril by Ryan Kenealy: “a delightful experience”

Bird by Crystal Chan: “evocative and moving”

Butterfly Stitching by Shermin Naheed Kruse: “exquisitely penned”

Confessions of Frances Godwin by Robert Hellenga: “a masterful effort”

Death Stalks Door County by Patricia Skalka: “well wrought”Finch 9781250018717

The End of the Book by Porter Shreve: “a winning combination”

The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai: “witty, inventive, nuanced”

The Last Enchantments by Charles Finch: “achingly beautiful”


Three-Star Review9780778316558_RHC_SMP.indd

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica: “an addictive page-turner”

Inspired Every Day by Patricia Crisafulli: “thoughtful and thought-provoking”

The Man Who Built Boxes by Frank Tavares: “a meaty sampling of stories”quality snacks cover

O, Democracy! by Kathleen Rooney: “a winning tale”

Quality Snacks by Andy Mozina: “plenty of food for thought”

Ruler of Demons by Scott A. Lerner: “creepy and fast-paced”

Titanic by Cecilia Corrigan: “wild, engaging, mysterious, and bold”

Undressing Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos: “a charming, funny, lively, breezy novel”9780425261392_UndressingMr_CV.indd

Upload by Mark McClelland: “a truly memorable story”

When Bad Things Happen to Rich People by Ian Morris: “darkly comic”

A Winged Thing, and Holy by Mary Gray Kaye: “a drama-filled romance”


Four-Star Review

999: A History of Chicago in Nine Stories by Richard B. Fizdale: “beautifully designed, highly informative, and wittingly penned”GoodInACrisis_PB_Cvr_cat

AIA Guide to Chicago by American Institute of Architects: “packed with hundreds of visit-worthy architectural sites”

Bigger, Brighter, Louder by Chris Jones: “a treat for avid theatergoers … like an extra helping of ice cream”

Exploring Nature in Illinois by Michael Jeffords and Susan Post: “the authors hit their target audience exactly”

Gardening with Perennials by Noel Kingsbury: “superb photographs … a handy, portable reference guide”signs youre in chicago

Good in a Crisis by Margaret Overton: “rewarding and uplifting … perfectly balanced”

Good Old Neon by Nick Freeman: “delightfully charming”

Graveyards of Chicago by Matt Hucke and Ursula Bielski: “a broad study of the area’s burial grounds”

Illinois Wines & Wineries by Clara Orban: “an easily digestible history of Illinois’s wine-producing roots in this handy guide”image

The Most Beautiful Girl by Tamara Saviano: “achingly grim and courageously inspirational”

Poisoned by Steve Shukis: “meticulously researched,” “finely written,” “riveting”

Victura: The Kennedys, a Sailboat, and the Sea by James W. Graham: “a first-rate effort well worth the read”


Three-Star Review9780226067704

Along the Streets of Bronzeville by Elizabeth Schroeder Schlabach: “a rich, artistically oriented micro-history”

Ashes Under Water by Michael McCarthy: “page-turning material”

Capital Culture by Neil Harris: “a remarkably researched piece of history … interesting and enjoyable”famous ski hills cover

Chicago River Bridges by Patrick T. McBriarty: “a lovingly told and thoroughly researched history”

Chicagoscapes by Larry Kanfer and Alaina Kanfer: “atmospheric and moody”

Exploring Chicago Blues by Rosalind Cummings-Yeates: “a quick, interesting read filled with colorful details”

Famous Ski Hills in Wisconsin by Scott Jacobs: “wonderfully engaging, wickedly funny writing”

The Green City Market Cookbook by The Green City Market: “little slices of inspiration”locally brewed cover 1

Locally Brewed by Anna Blessing: “an interesting tour through some fascinating breweries”

The Negro in Illinois by Brian Dolinar (Editor): “a rare, inside glimpse of” the Depression-era Federal Writers’ Project

Pedestrianism by Matthew Algeo: “comprehensive,” “amusing,” “approachable”

Sitting on Top of the World by Steven L. Richards: an “earnest, meticulous presentation”cover_wisconsinsdoorcounty1e

Terminal Town by Joseph P. Schwieterman: “a unique take on Chicago’s history”

Wisconsin’s Door County by Thomas Huhti: “reliable” and “on target”

Women Heroes of World War I by Kathryn J. Atwood: “an inspiration, particularly to younger girls”




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4 responses to “CBR’s Best Books of 2014

  1. Pingback: Best Books of 2014 – Chicago Book Review | Upload

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  3. Pingback: THYH named a best book of 2014 by BookPage and others | Rebecca Makkai

  4. Pingback: 5 Questions for … Kathleen Rooney | Chicago Book Review

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