The time of year has come where critics, authors, bloggers, librarians, and readers world-wide are compiling their “Best of 2019” book lists. Below I’ve put together a few of the favorites I’ve read and come across this year. I’ve kept my list to only books published in 2019, so even though I (and my coworkers) read some absolutely amazing works of fiction beyond these, I’ve stuck with the best-of-the-best 2019 editions (minus one re-release). Also keep in mind that everyone’s taste in books is different. What I love, others might absolutely hate (sorry!). If you don’t like it, don’t worry, you won’t hurt my feelings. I’ve rated all of the below books on a 1-5 scale, five stars being the best. If you love something from this list, be sure to share with your librarian and fellow readers. Happy reading!
Under Currents by Nora Roberts
I would personally say that, while Nora is known for her swoon-worthy romances, her recent publications have taken a departure from “pure” romance, and ventured more into the fiction realm. Last year’s story, Shelter In Place, featured a traumatic school shooting as the opening scene. Under Currents , similarly, has not skimped on the shock and awe factor. In 1998, Zane and his sister are taken from the house they grew up in when their mother and father are accused of child abuse and neglect. Fast forward to the present, and Zane has returned home, where he runs across Darby, an on-the-run landscape artist. Together they learn about roots and settling down, and conquering the demons of your past. I became incredibly emotionally invested in this story from the first couple of chapters, where the abuse reaped upon Zane, both physical and emotional, are heavily detailed. Then Darby’s story comes to light, and you can’t help but root for these two to have their HEA (happily ever after).
Olive Again by Elizabeth Strout
The second book featuring Olive Kitteridge, the inhabitants of Crosby, Maine again astound and shock and move us through Olive’s eyes. Olive is older in this book, in her seventies/eighties, and her wonderful character shines through as sometimes cranky, sometimes a grump, but still wonderfully outspoken, indomitable, and absolutely wonderful. She tells the stories of those around her with a unique sort of clarity and insight that is refreshing in its entirety.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
Connell and Marianne know each other…sort of. They went to high school together; they’re both overachievers; they both attend Trinity School in Dublin. They sometimes attend the same parties. Connell’s mother cleans Marianne’s house. And somehow they keep drawing closer to each other as the years go on. When Marianne starts spiraling, and Connell begins to question the meaning of anything, they learn what they truly mean to each other. It’s a shorter novel, inconspicuous with its green and blue cover, and you might actually hate Marianne and Connell when you first meet them (they are teenagers at the beginning who read Marx for fun). But they grow on you, and you become heavily invested in their future.
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Two boys are sentenced to a reform school, “The Nickel Academy,” in Jim Crow-era Florida. Elwood Curtis is a good kid, raised by his grandmother and getting ready to attend a local black college. One little mistake, however, and he’s shipped off to the academy. There he meets Turner, a born skeptic who thinks Elwood is just too naive for this world. The Academy turns out far worse than anyone could have imagined, a hell house with vicious staff and deplorable living conditions. This is based on a true story, and I warn you, you will finish this book feeling shocked.
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
Besides having a beautiful cover (who doesn’t like pretty pink feathers?), this book gives you the pre-war, Manhattan glitz, showgirl feels. Told by present-day Vivian Morris, this tale looks back to 1940’s New York, after Vivian has flunked out of freshman year at Vassar and been sent to live with her glamorous Aunt Peg, the owner of a rundown theatre called Lily’s Playhouse. There she meets a whole slew of characters, culminating in a scandal that turns Vivian’s whole world upside down. Glamorous and enchanting, this is a gorgeous read.
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH! It’s odd, it’s dense, and it’s a lot of reading…but it’s so well-written and such a beautiful story. Zachary Rawlins is a PhD student when he comes across a strange book in the library. It’s a book of fairy tales…only he’s in one of the stories. So begins his journey to a strange and fantastical world that everyone who’s ever waited for their Hogwarts letter, or checked closets for a doorway to Narnia, has been searching for. It’s a world of paper and honey, or romance and destruction, and the world which will take Zachary to places he’s never even dreamt of going before. Told in alternating viewpoints, this book flips back and forth between Zachary, the fairy tales he’s reading, a mysterious woman with pink hair who can create magical doorways, a very handsome silver fox, and a few other interesting characters. Perfect for those snowy days when you don’t want to leave the house.
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Yale has magical societies. At least, in this book it does. Galaxy “Alex” Stern is an incoming freshman at Yale, selected for her magical abilities to see the shades of those who’ve passed. Raised in LA, she’s the sole survivor of a horrific homicide that saw her best friend murdered and herself on the run. She’s offered a chance to escape to New England and take up a position as a guardian-in-training, a policing force that oversees the use of magic in New Hartford. Only, something immediately starts going wrong, and soon her trainer has gone missing, and magic is running amok at the hands of frat boys and drug dealers. Now Alex has to turn the tides and save the day…only she has no idea what she’s doing. Part crime thriller and part breathtaking commentary of elitism, this book will grab you and take you on a wild ride. -Trigger warnings: rape, consensus, substance abuse, addiction, violence against women, and murder.
The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
I laughed aloud at so many parts during this book, that I actually startled those who were sitting next to me. This is a rom-com set in Nashville and seeks to answer the question, what happens after the HEA? Pro baseball player Gavin’s wife Thea has kicked him out of the house and is asking for a divorce…because she’s been faking it their entire marriage. Gavin doesn’t want a divorce though, he wants his wife and his family back. Thankfully his teammates take pity on him, and induct him into a romance book club for men looking to improve their relationships. For feminist discussions of expectations and giggle-inducing bromance, look no further.
The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare
They call him the Duke of Ruin…and he needs her. To help sell his house, that is. Lady Penelope Campion is a highly prized neighbor for her title, and any house next to hers in regency London is bound to fetch a pretty penny. The only problem? Her menagerie of pets. Unwanted rescue pets. There’s a suspiciously overweight goat, a parrot who has a rather colorful background and vocabulary, a highland steer, a dog in a wheelchair, a pocket hedgehog and more. So many more. Even worse, Penny’s family has given her an ultimatum that may lose her house in Town. So when Gabriel Duke says he can help find her animals homes in exchange for staying until he sells the house, what can go wrong. Spoiler, a lot.
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
I’m breaking my streak and nominating three books for best romance selection. Yell at me, I won’t mind. This book though…oh man. I give this one 5,000 stars (not a typo). It won two categories in the Goodreads Best of 2019 awards, and is top rated in Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and New York Times. It’s an AMAZING book. Alex is the son of the first woman POTUS. Henry is the grandson of the current Queen of england. And they absolutely hate each other. Or do they? When an international incident arises thanks to too many glasses of champagne and a really expensive wedding cake, these two are forced to play nice with each other. A few international visits turns into late night texts, which turns into calls, which soon turns into…something more. Together they have to navigate coming out to their families, what it means to be gay in the political world, both British and American, and what it means to them to be in a serious relationship when the whole world is watching. I alternatively cried, lol’ed, gasped in shock and awe, and blushed. Don’t let the pink cover fool y’all. This is NOT a Young Adult romance. It is an amazingly written, beautifully insightful, and excellent piece of literature.
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
So good. Like, so very good. A too-smart house in the Highlands of Scotland. A nanny position which has seen multiple nannies leave for no reason, some without a single trace. There’s a garden kept under lock and key, oh, and a creepy attic which has been boarded up. And the twist, oh the twist! It will leave you gasping.
The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek by Rhett McLaughin
1992, Bleak Creek North Carolina; a small sleepy town is the setting for a horrible reformatory for unruly teenagers. The mysterious deaths that happen there? Don’t worry about it, the school does what it’s supposed to.What are a few deaths? But when a project goes horribly wrong, and their friend is sent to the reformatory, friends Lex and Reif join forces an NYU film school graduate and a few other oddballs to find out what’s really going on. If you’re on a Stranger Things hiatus and desperately craving more, look no further.
The Whisper Man by Alex North
Twenty years ago a serial killer would lure his victims out at night by whispering at their windows. He was caught and imprisoned, but now people are starting to disappear again, including a young boy. And when another boy reports he’s been hearing whispers at his window at night, detectives start questioning whether the “Whisper Man” has made a return, or if it’s a dedicated copycat. This is an excellent read if Silence of the Lambs is one of your ultimate fave movies, or if Criminal Minds is totally your jam. A quick, creepy read.
The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup
This is for all my Scandinavian crime lovers out there. His calling card is a “chestnut man,” a doll made out of matchsticks and two chestnuts. In examining these dolls, the police make a startling discovery, the fingerprints of a girl who went missing a year ago. Is it a tragic coincidence? Or something else? Police on opposite sides of the issue must come together to solve the mystery and stop the psychopath before anyone else disappears.
The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling
If you’re like me, and you’re creeped out by spelunking (cave-diving), then this book is excellent for those days you just want to be weirded out. Set in the future, exploration has stretched beyond earth to the far out planets. And more importantly, it has stretched *into* those planets’ cores. Our main character, Gyre, is trapped in a suit, all by herself, while she completes her exploratory mission of a new cave system on an alien caver. Her only companion? The voice of Em in her ear, her handler, and the woman who can override her suit systems. The problem? Gyre is lying. Em is lying. And there might be someone else in the cavern. Because things keep going wrong.
Delta-V by Daniel Suarez
Billionaire Nathan Joyce wants in on the asteroid mining business, and he’ll go to any length to get there. To that end, he starts a training camp for possible asteroid miners made up of individuals who are the risk-takers and adventurers, those with nothing left to lose and the personal drive to go anywhere in the galaxy. Expertly combining politics, space travel, romance, loss, economic theory, and risk management, this book will take you on an amazing adventure. Bonus points for listening to the audio version, that narrator is awesome!
Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
Another book about books. Are we surprised? Nope. Set in a fantastical world of magic and books, all sorcerers are evil. And their grimoires must be highly protected. Enter Elisabeth, a butt-kicking heroine who takes no names and seeks to protect the realm from evils come to life. When an act of sabotage releases one of the library’s most dangerous grimoires, however, Elisabeth is implicated and must turn to a sworn enemy for help. Read for adventure, magic, and a dash of comedy.
Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi
We return to the magical world of the Orisha on the heels of Zelie and Amari’s triumph in returning magic to the land. Things, however, are not happy-ending-approved. Magical nobles, leading the monarchy and military, fight to take the throne. With civil war blooming, Zelie must fight not only to keep Amari, but also to bring her kingdom together.
Although these books weren’t published in 2019, they nevertheless deserve to be listed as some of the best books we’ve read this year.
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens- has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 65 weeks…that’s one of the longest running best sellers in the history of modern publication!
- The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang-We have a heroine on the spectrum, a male escort, and Korean traditions left right and everywhere. I cried. I laughed, I hugged the book when I was done.
- Warlight by Michael Ondaatje- for some classic London noir, look no further.
- A Dark Lure by Loreth Anne White- Kidnappings in the Canadian backcountry, fly fishing, gorgeous scenery, and a truly creepy villain. Perfect for those long, cold winter nights.