Mid-Continent Public Library’s Collection Development Department (the people who purchase books for all 29 of its Kansas City area branches) have compiled a list of what it believes were the most notable titles for 2014.

The following selections are categorized in adult fiction and adult non-fiction. Each of the diverse titles has a brief synopsis and range from historical suspense to an autobiographical account of working at a crematory to even Christian-themed science fiction.


Adult Fiction

- “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr. A blind French girl and a skillful German boy cross paths during World War II.

- “Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover: The Fourth Rule of Scoundrels” by Sarah MacLean. The conclusion in the historical romance Rules of Scoundrels series where Lady Georgiana lives a dual identity and meets a cunning man who vows to reveal her secrets.

- “I am Pilgrim” by Terry Hayes. An American intelligence operative stumbles upon the biggest case of his career that begins in a seedy New York City hotel room and escalates to a matter of national security.

- “The Witch with No Name (Hollows)” by Kim Harrison. The conclusion to the Hollows series where bounty hunter and witch Rachel Morgan risks everything to save the world from demons.

- “The Weight of Blood” by Laura McHugh. Lucy Dane is haunted by her deceased mother and friend in Missouri’s Ozark Mountains.

- “The Long Way Home” by Louise Penny. Book 10 in the Chief Inspector Gamache series where homicide inspector Armand Gamache and his wife seek retreat in Quebec, Canada, but find themselves helping an artist neighbor who is searching for her missing husband.

- “The Paying Guests” by Sarah Waters. Set in 1920s London, England, a widow and her daughter have tenants stay at their home where everything turns upside down.

- “Boy, Snow, Bird” by Helen Oyeyemi. This 1950s period piece involves a young girl who escapes her abusive father and seeks a fresh start in life where she meets light-skinned African Americans passing as white.

- “The Girls at the Kingfisher Club: A Novel” by Genevieve Valentine. A reimagining of the “Twelve Dancing Princesses” fairy tale as flappers during the Roaring Twenties in Manhattan, New York.

- “The Book of Strange New Things: A Novel” by Michel Faber. A devoted man of faith embarks on an interstellar quest and meets a friendly population on a newly discovered planet that is experiencing an onslaught of catastrophies. 

Adult Non-fiction

- “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant: A Memoir” by Roz Chast. Told through cartoons, family photos and documents, Chast reflects on the loss of her elderly parents.

- “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons From the Crematory” by Caitlin Doughty. A 20-something college graduate turns her morbid curiosity into her life’s work by working at a crematory.

- “The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace” by Jeff Hobbs. The story involves a poverty-stricken black student who is accepted into an Ivy League school.

- “Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time” by Brigid Schulte. In this modern, busy world, can today’s working parents find leisure time?

- “The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames” by Kai Bird. A biography on one of the arguably most important operatives in CIA history.

- “The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution” by Walter Isaacson. The title speaks for itself.

- “Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of the Great Gatsby” by Sarah Churchwell. A literary investigation and quest for the roots of America’s classic novel, “The Great Gatsby.”

- “The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky and Death” by Colson Whitehead. A memoir of an undercover journalist who is assigned to see how well he fares in the World Series of Poker tournament in Las Vegas. 

- “What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions” by Randall Munroe. A collection of stick-figure comics about science, technology, language and love.

- “Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family” by Kathleen Flinn. This memoir spans three generations of a family who share the history of their unique food recipes.

Mid-Continent President and CEO Steven Potter’s personal favorite book of 2014 was “All in Startup: Launching a New Idea When Everything is on the Line” by Missouri businesswoman Diana Kander, who is also the wife of Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander.

“Her contention is that entrepreneur ventures frequently fail, as many know,” he said about the how-to book. “But the problem is that many people approach their venture like a game of chance instead of methodically placing educated ‘safe bets.’”

Potter said “All In Startup” has made him rethink how he approaches opportunities at the library and the various non-profits where he volunteers.

The year 2014 was also a milestone for Mid-Continent. The public library system published its first book through its own Woodneath Press last month entitled, “Cowtown: Cattle Trails and West Bottom Tales” by Ed Matheny, who collaborated with the Jackson County Historical Society on the historical non-fiction. “Cowtown” chronicles the history of the livestock industry, which helped make Kansas City a Midwestern trade and agricultural center. The book can be purchased by visiting: https://squareup.com/market/jackson-county-historial-society/cowtown-cattle-trails-and-west-bottom-tails .