Amazon picks the 100 best books of 2014

Story highlights

  • Celeste Ng's "Everything I Never Told You" tops Amazon's 2014 best books list
  • Other titles include Stephen King's "Revival," David Mitchell's "Bone Clocks"
  • Amazon's Sara Nelson: We try to keep business out of it
Celeste Ng may want to prepare for a deluge of attention from the literary set. Her debut novel, "Everything I Never Told You," just topped Amazon's list of the 100 best books of the year.
"We loved it," said Amazon editorial director Sara Nelson. "This book is a gem. It's beautifully written, it's pitch-perfect. ... It's a bit of a sleeper, but a beautiful one."
"Everything I Never Told You," which was released in late June, concerns an Asian-American family in Ohio. Their star student daughter Lydia has just died, found in the bottom of a nearby lake, and the family is torn apart trying to figure out what happened.
In a rave review, The New York Times Book Review praised the book's freshness.
"If we know this story, we haven't seen it yet in American fiction, not until now," wrote Alexander Chee.
There are a number of well-known authors on Amazon's list -- Stephen King's newest, "Revival," came in at No. 6, and David Mitchell's long-awaited "The Bone Clocks" was No. 14 -- but Nelson recognizes that singling out Ng could make her book a best-seller as well.
"It's thrilling to see that picking a book like this can actually make a difference, that people now will know about it who did not know about it before," Nelson said.
The selection was made by six people on Amazon's editorial team who lobbied one another furiously but tried not to let outside forces -- including reviews from major literary publications -- influence their choices, Nelson said. The site picks best books monthly, so with those winners, as well as others on their radar, the group started with about 150 choices.
Nelson added that business politics are also kept away from the process. Amazon has been involved in a months-long dispute with Hachette, a major publishing firm that owns such imprints as Little, Brown and Grand Central Publishing.
"No one has said anything to me, ever, about choosing by publisher, even amidst this Hachette business," Nelson said. "Nobody called me up and said, 'You're in trouble, you put Hachette's books on this list.'"
She added that she keeps an open mind. There are a number of titles on the list, including "The Bone Clocks," Jodi Picoult's "Leaving Time" and Lena Dunham's "Not That Kind of Girl," that have earned their share of brickbats from critics. Some choices are unanimous, Nelson said, and others benefit from some strong votes.
"A lot of this job is being able to evangelize for the books that you love. I've had people on my team that love something that I'm so-so on, and sometimes they speak about it so passionately that it makes me go back and read the book," she says. "And sometimes I agree with them and sometimes I still don't agree with them.
"It's a democracy," she chuckles, "but I sort of guide a little bit."