The Lists

What are the Best Books of the Year for 2019?

the best books of the year for 2019

What are the best new books of the year for 2019? In fiction, poetry, essays, memoirs and other non-fiction, here are our top picks for Book of the Year for 2019.

why create a list of the best books of the year?

So many publications and people compile Top 10 and Best of the Year lists for books, film, television shows, music, new eateries and all kinds of other cultural elements right about now. Why do they do that?

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When you think about it, the arrival of the new year is irrelevant when determining which books are worthy of spending time with. What difference does that make?

Plus, the passage of time proves to be a much better arbiter of what’s a truly great read — some books are just ahead of their time, and others really don’t wear well.

Still, we have an annual tradition of naming our picks for Best Books of the Year. Why do we do that?

Because as we started to compile the very first list, we realized that there was real power in reflecting on the books that moved us throughout the course of the year.

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For starters, making a list of “the best” forced us to define what “good” is — at least in our humble opinion. And to think about what we value most when we read.

Second, it made us newly grateful for the micro-luxury of reading a great book – the power of books to generate empathy, to increase our knowledge and understanding. And to provide moments of pure joy.

Like a birthday, anniversary or holiday, the end of the year may be an arbitrary date. But it’s an important forcing mechanism for taking stock, consolidating lessons learned, celebrating excellence, showing appreciation, setting goals and making plans. So here goes.

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It was extremely difficult to narrow our list down this year — and we’re sure that we’ve left some great books out. With that caveat, here are our picks for the best books of the year for 2019.

By the way, if you’re interested, have a look our list of the best new cookbooks and food-related books of 2019 (complied by our Food Editor, Nicole Douillet). And Julie’s list of the best new art and coffee table books of the year for 2019.

best books of 2019: fiction and poetry

1. Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli is our pick for Best Novel of the Year. In it, a typical American family in the midst of unraveling confronts the greater crisis of immigration at the country’s southwestern border. A family of four sets out on a summer road trip from New York to Arizona. Their destination: Apacheria, the place the Apaches once called home. Why Apaches? asks the ten-year-old son. Because they were the last of something, answers his father. As their journey progresses, we become fully immersed in a story of dislocation, personal loss, and courage – how we document our experiences, and how we struggle to accurately remember the things that matter the most. Luiselli is a brilliant writer and this novel is unlike anything we’ve read before.

2. Spring by Ali Smith

Spring by Ali Smith. From the Man Booker-short-listed author of Autumn and Winter comes the third novel in the acclaimed Seasonal Quartet. This series of stand-alone novels features books that are separate but interconnected (as are the four seasons). You would think that the third novel in a quartet might be the weakest – but Smith goes brilliantly from strength to strength. We read this one in nearly one sitting. Her themes in Spring are not dissimilar to Luiselli’s in Lost Children Archive – in fact, the two are perfect companion reads. She tackles Brexit, the detention of refugees and the toxic culture of social media with devastating clarity. We can’t wait for the final installment of the series – but man, will we be sorry to see this come to an end.

the best books of 2019 fiction and poetry

the best books of 2019 fiction and poetry

3. American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson is without question one of the best novels we read all year. It’s a fast-moving story about a young black woman working for the FBI in New York City. As black women ourselves, we found it extremely relatable. The protagonist is consistently passed over for advancement opportunities that go to less-qualified men. So when the opportunity comes for her to take a clandestine work assignment in Africa for the CIA, she takes it. Her work life and personal life quickly become inextricably intertwined. It’s smart, savvy and fresh – the characters are wonderfully alive and fun to hang around with. We’re really hoping for a sequel so we can spend some more time with these people. And someone needs to make this into a movie, too.

4. Bangkok Wakes to Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad

Bangkok Wakes to Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad. In this novel, a house in Bangkok is the site of a confluence of lives shaped by upheaval, memory, and the lure of home. The stories include those of a missionary doctor; a post-WWII society matron; a jazz pianist; and a political activist. Suffused with melancholy, outrage and loneliness, this is a beautiful book about a little-known land and its history – what gets remembered. And what gets washed away.

the best books of 2019 fiction and poetry

the best books of 2019 fiction and poetry

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5. Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi. The prize-winning, bestselling author of Boy, Snow, Bird and What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours returns with a novel that’s a rollicking fun time. Influenced by the mysterious place gingerbread holds in classic children’s stories—equal parts wholesome and uncanny—this is the tale of a surprising family legacy, in which the inheritance is a recipe. The imagery is dazzling and the romances are hot – like any great fairy tale, this one will linger in your memory and perhaps in your dreams.

6. Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. Here’s the set-up: high-achieving Manhattan ex-wife drops off the kids, and then promptly disappears. Somewhat hapless single dad is left to juggle his newfound status as a healthy single straight man in New York, the online dating technology that developed while he was cocooned his now-defunct marriage, and the aforementioned kids. In this satirical yet emotionally compelling take on modern relationships, the Fleishman family is in trouble. And it may be their oldest friends that can save them.

the best books of 2019 fiction and poetry

the best books of 2019 fiction and poetry

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7. Mostly Dead Things by Kirsten Arnett

Mostly Dead Things by Kirsten Arnett is a darkly funny, original and poignant novel about a family launched into tragicomic dissolution by the suicide of its patriarch. When grief threatens to send the family taxidermy business under, one daughter must rally her eccentric family members to keep it afloat. Relationships between parents, children, siblings and lovers are all on display in their raw, real and messy forms -like taxidermy, life is messy.

8. The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton. The author of A Kind of Freedom returns with a multi-generational saga about two precarious friendships. The relationships span both the racial divide and nearly a century.

the best books of 2019 fiction and poetry

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9. The Gone Dead by Chanelle Benz

The Gone Dead by Chanelle Benz. Billie James returns to her childhood home in the Mississippi Delta to claim her meager inheritance: a shack that belonged to her now-deceased father. A renowned black poet, he died unexpectedly when she was only 4 years old. Thirty years later, she returns for the first time and begins to uncover long-kept secrets about race, justice and memory. Benz is described as “a master storyteller” and this novel has been hailed as “extraordinary.”

10. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. The author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is back with an “oral history” of a fictional rock band, Daisy Jones and the Six. We thought we wouldn’t enjoy this, as we’re not aficionados of 1970’s rock and roll. But that didn’t turn out to matter at all. We were swept up in the romance and the tales of the road – and in the joy and agony of the art of song-writing. And now whenever we hear Fleetwood Mac, we kind of get it.

the best books of 2019 fiction and poetry

best books of 2019: essays, memoirs and non-fiction

1. Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino. In this debut essay collection, the New Yorker writer breaks down significant and complex cultural trends in bracing and forthright language, looking through the lens of her own experiences. The nine essays cover everything from the horrors of the Internet to Tolentino’s appearance on a reality television show as a teenager. She’s being hailed as “the voice of her generation.” If that’s the case, then the kids are alright.

2. Grace Will Lead Us Home by Jennifer Berry Hawes

Grace Will Lead Us Home: The Charleston Church Massacre and the Hard, Inspiring Journey to Forgiveness by Jennifer Berry Hawes. Dylann Roof’s massacre of nine innocents during their closing prayer at a weeknight Bible study at the Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina horrified the nation. Two days later, some relatives of the dead stood at Roof’s hearing and said, I forgive you. That grace offered the country a hopeful ending to an awful story. But for the survivors and victims’ families, the journey had just begun. With this book, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist provides an account of what happened next.

the best books of 2019 memoirs and non-fiction

the best books of 2019 essays, memoirs and other non-fiction

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3. Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem by Daniel R. Day

Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem by Daniel R. Day. With his legendary store on 125th Street in Harlem, Dapper Dan pioneered high-end streetwear in the 1980’s, remixing classic luxury-brand logos into his own innovative, glamorous designs. Now a global partner with luxury powerhouse Gucci, in this memoir, he tells his full story for the first time. We loved it for the fashion history and the cultural insights – but we mostly loved it because the man has hustle, and its infectious. You will finish this book with strengthened resolve to build the life of your dreams.

4. The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom

The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom.  It was 1961 when Sarah M. Broom’s mother Ivory Mae bought the shotgun house where she would raise her 12 children. Back then, the East New Orleans neighborhood where it was situated was imbued with post-war optimism. This memoir mines her family’s history and their relationship to the titular Yellow House — even after Hurricane Katrina destroys it.

the best books of 2019 memoirs and non-fiction

the best books of 2019 essays, memoirs and other non-fiction

5. How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi dissects why, in a society where so few people consider themselves to be racist, the divisions and inequalities of racism remain so prevalent.  In sharp and insightful prose, he examines what racism really is — and what we should do about it.

6. Beneath the Tamarind Tree by Isha Sesay

Beneath the Tamarind Tree: A Story of Courage, Family, and the Lost Schoolgirls of Boko Haram by Isha Sesay. In the early morning of April 14, 2014, the militant Islamic group Boko Haram violently burst into the small town of Chibok, Nigeria, and abducted 276 girls from their school dorm rooms. The simple act of pursuing an education had made them targets, resulting in one of the most high-profile abductions in modern history. The author, a CNN correspondent originally from Sierra Leone, follows three of the girls who escaped and returned home and tells their stories of sisterhood and survival.

the best books of 2019 memoirs and non-fiction

the best books of 2019 essays, memoirs and other non-fiction

7. The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison

The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations by Toni Morrison. A new nonfiction collection of essays, speeches, and meditations on society, culture, and art, spanning four decades. It’s divided into three parts: the first is introduced by a powerful prayer for the dead of 9/11; the second by a searching meditation on Martin Luther King Jr., and the last by a heart-wrenching eulogy for James Baldwin.

8. Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane

Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane. In this marvelous book, the award-winning author takes us along for an epic exploration of the Earth’s underworlds as they exist in myth, literature, memory, and the land itself. It’s a chance to reflect on darkness, burial, and what lies beneath the surface – literally and spiritually. From Norwegian sea caves to the catacombs beneath Paris to a subterranean “hiding place” where nuclear waste will be stored for 100,000 years, the unseen life below us comes into sharp relief. Which sheds new light on the most pressing question the author explores: “Are we being good ancestors to the future Earth?”

the best books of 2019 essays, memoirs and other non-fiction

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9. Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land includes a foreword by Ehrenreich. Published early in 2019, twenty years after Nickel and Dimed, Land’s book is a memoir of her lived experience – there’s no “undercover” here. She dreamed of college and a career as a writer. But an unplanned pregnancy left her as a single mother, working as a housekeeper to make ends meet. It’s a candid and piercing view of life near the bottom of the economic ladder, and what it actually means to be a “servant” worker in America.

10. The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir by Samantha Power

The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir by Samantha Power. In this memoir, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author offers an urgent response to the question “What can one person do?” It traces her incredible journey from immigrant to war correspondent to Cabinet official in the Obama Administration. In 2013, Power became US Ambassador to the United Nations, the youngest American ever to assume the role What can one person do? Quite a lot, actually.

the best books of 2019 memoirs and non-fiction

the best books of 2019 essays, memoirs and other non-fiction

the best books of the year for 2019

That’s it. Our list of the best books of 2019: fiction, essays and other non-fiction. To their authors, we say thank you for taking us on such transporting journeys.

And to you, dear reader, we suggest making your own Best of the Year list. It’s almost certain to reveal something about yourself that perhaps even you didn’t know. Happy New Year.

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For access to insider ideas and information on the world of luxury, sign up for our Dandelion Chandelier newsletter hereAnd see luxury in a new light.

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