UNESCO estimates that approximately 2.2 million new titles are published each year around the world. About 300,000 of those books are published in the USA, and Americans buy more than 800 million books annually. Those are staggering statistics, especially considering only a handful of books will end up on the New York Times Bestseller List. Even fewer will receive critical acclaim and end up on bookstore shelves (or e-reader bestseller lists).
Sorting through 2.2 million titles to pick the right book for you is nearly impossible. That’s why we’ve limited this year’s new titles to 12 of the best books of 2019. All the major genres are covered, and you’ll find amazing reads on our list, no matter whether you enjoy nonfiction, poetry or thrillers.
Buy a copy of these books for yourself or give them as a gift. After all, books make the ideal gift for friends, family and coworkers. Whether these books are bound for your e-reader, your bookshelf, or a close friend’s Christmas tree, pick out one of the best books of 2019 and get reading!
Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham
It’s been 33 years since the world’s largest nuclear disaster, yet the events that preceded and followed the explosion of reactor number four remain, for the most part, a mystery. In this New York Times Bestseller, Adam Higginbotham attempts to create a definitive, accurate account of the disaster. This book was more than ten years in the making and includes information sourced from hundreds of interviews as well as recently declassified archives. Altogether, this is a powerful, nonfiction thriller that will leave you both terrified and overwhelmed by human resilience.
Strange Planet by Nathan Pyle
BEST FUNNY BOOK
Strange Planet is a collection of short cartoons based on the incredibly popular Instagram account of the same name. You’ll discover our world interpreted through alien beings in a pastel color palette made up of purple, green, blue and pink. Each short adventure, which includes topics ranging from being a sibling to the day you were born, puts everyday life into an amusing perspective and gives you a new way to look at many of the things we do daily without thinking twice. Strange Planet is a fun read and a great choice to have as your pick up/put down book for the coffee table. It’s also one of the best books of 2019 to give as a gift.
Arias by Sharon Olds
Inside Arias, Sharon Olds, a Pulitzer Prize winning-poet, delivers a collection of beautifully crafted poems which will put you through a range of emotions. Whether it be passion, anguish or empathy, with each sentence you read, you’ll be excited for the next as you work through subject matter that’s familiar and relatable on one page yet foreign on another. One thing you can be sure of is that from cover to cover, this brilliant body of work will take you on an emotional journey.
Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann
At 1,020 pages long, Ducks, Newburyport is not an overnight read. What it is, though, is a strange and complex experience for your mind. By utilizing stream of consciousness, Lucy Ellmann will make you feel like you’re actually eavesdropping on the thoughts of the main character, an Ohio housewife. As you read, you’ll find this character has plenty to reveal as she deals with her daily life, her husband, her four children and her numerous animals.
The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa
Set on an unnamed island, The Memory Police is a haunting dystopian novel that will make you appreciate the freedoms you enjoy and your ability to remember. While the overall premise of the book may require you to suspend disbelief, imagining a reality where everyday items begin disappearing and only a “lucky” few can remember the lost items, is truly unnerving and sure to keep you engaged from cover to cover. This novel may be a little outrageous, but we’re sure you won’t be able to put it down until it’s finished.
The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom
As The Yellow House has already been named one of “The 10 Best Books of 2019” by The New York Times Book Review, you probably don’t need us to tell you it’s worth your time. Inside this memoir, you’ll enjoy a detailed account of everything Sarah M. Broom knows about the hundred-year history of her family. In telling the story, the author gives a fascinating insight into the lives of Americans living in New Orleans, a southern city with a fascinating history. This epic memoir deals with class, race, place and tragedy all in an engaging story.
Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips
If you’re on the hunt for a new thriller to get your teeth into, Disappearing Earth should definitely be calling your name. In addition to giving you a glimpse into life in one of eastern Russia’s most remote areas, this National Book Award finalist delivers a gripping story that will get your adrenaline pumping before delivering one almighty gut punch. Along the way, you’ll find out how the central plot, the kidnapping of two young sisters, affects each of the townsfolk and their tight-knit community.
The Topeka School by Ben Lerner
One of the things you’re sure to love about The Topeka School is Ben Lerner’s ability to allow readers to live out what’s on the page. This story follows a Midwestern family made up of a famous author mother, an unfaithful yet brilliant father, and their son, Adam. It deals with issues ranging from the New Right and toxic masculinity to the collapse of public speech and finding your own identity in the world. Provocative and illuminating, this is a story for your head and your heart to enjoy.
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
BEST MAGICAL REALISM
Included in Oprah’s Book Club in 2019, The Water Dancer tells the tale of Hiram Walker, an American slave gifted with an unusual power. This dramatic story is embroiled in the conflicts of the time, namely those between slave owners and slaves as well as the battling desires to fight against the system and save one’s family. While brilliant in its ability to richly portray such a dramatic history, this isn’t Ta-Nehisi Coates’s first time dabbling in the national conversation about race. His previous essays and personal memoir have made a critical impact on how Americans view the history of slavery and modern-day race relations. With The Water Dancers, Coates once again proves that he’s one of America’s most gifted and insightful contemporary authors.
Know My Name by Chanel Miller
In her debut novel, Chanel Miller gives a name, a face and a story to the victim of one of the most defining news stories of the 2010s. In 2016, Brock Turner, a Stanford University student, was sentenced to six months in county jail after being found guilty of sexual assault. The victim’s statement was published anonymously online and quickly went viral. It was read around the world and across the country, but in Know My Name, Chanel Miller puts an identity to that anonymous victim and relives the horrific events. This indictment of the criminal justice system is a must-read from a young, extraordinary author.
A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves by Jason DeParle
Few books offer a broader perspective on the modern controversy surrounding immigration. Jason DeParle is a journalist at heart, and he has spent decades following one Filipino family as they struggle to pull themselves up from the slums of Manila to middle-class America. This book, which could be classified as immersion journalism, explores both the micro (following just one family’s journey) and the macro (putting that journey into a global perspective) impact of migration. The two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist brings his considerable skills to a complex subject.
Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe
Many of the best books of 2019 deal with the atrocities that have defined the modern era. Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe is no exception. The book takes on the heartbreaking history of The Troubles in Northern Ireland. This true story is designed to inform those who may not be familiar with the details of this 400-year conflict, which culminated in several decades of violence beginning in the late 1960s. The book, which reads like a thriller, takes on some difficult questions about the uneasy peace mandated since 1998.