From America’s Deep South to a dystopian world only Margaret Atwood could conjure, our collection of the best fiction books of 2019 sends readers on a long and meandering journey. Whether you’re looking for a gift for your most bookish friend, or you’re the one who loves nothing more than staying home and reading, these novels published in 2019 are not to be missed.
“The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls,” by Anissa Gray
The debut of author Anissa Gray takes readers into the lives of the Butler family. Sisters Viola and Lillian must look after the daughters of their older sister Althea, who has been unexpectedly arrested. As the sisters reckon with what has happened, old family quarrels bubble to the surface, making an already tender wound all the more painful to touch. While the narrative focuses on the arrested Althea, the stories of the other sisters are equally juicy. Their family drama will make readers reflect on their own family dynamics. As well as on what it means to forgive.
“Lost Children Archive,” by Valeria Luiselli
Longlisted for the Booker Prize, Valeria Luiselli’s novel follows a family whose cross-country road trip collides with an immigration crisis at the southwestern border of Arizona. The situation at the border seems to mimic a more personal crisis in the family. Prompting the two children in the backseat to examine the divides that exist all around them — familial, cultural, and beyond. It’s a twist on the classic American road trip. This was strongly influenced by Luiselli’s work as an interpreter for undocumented detained children.
“The Water Dancer: A Novel,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Ta-Nehisi Coates may be best known for his essay “Between the World and Me,” a letter to his adolescent son about being black in America. His debut novel is just as raw, eloquent, and evocative. “The Water Dancer” centers on the life of Hiram Walker, born into bondage on a Virginia plantation owned by his white father. A close brush with death empowers Walker with the ability to transport himself and other people across great distances by meditating on the memory of his mother. Through his memories and meditations, the book offers what NPR calls an “alternate history” for black Americans.
“The Testaments: The Sequel to the Handmaid’s Tale,” by Margaret Atwood
Two decades after the publication of her seminal dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Margaret Atwood has finally released a follow-up with “The Testaments,” shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Taking place 15 years after the events of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to deteriorate. Follow the paths of three profoundly different women as their lives collide in this dramatic conclusion.
“Rules for Visiting,” by Jessica Francis Kane
At first glance, “Rules for Visiting” seems like a light little novel about a lonely gardener looking to reconnect with some old friends. Its protagonist, May Attaway, is a fan of the Greek classics, and she sees her journey as an odyssey. The book is an exploration of friendship (or the lack thereof) in the digital age. What lost beauty may be salvaged by stepping outside of our comfort zones.
“Imaginary Friend,” by Stephen Chbosky
If you’ve been hanging for a new book from Stephen Chbosky, author of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” the wait is finally over. After vanishing in the woods, the book’s protagonist, Christopher, returns with a voice in his head only he can hear. The voice urges him to complete a mission of building a tree house in the woods by Christmas. If he fails, it tells him, his mother and neighbors will never be the same again. The book makes a great gift for all your horror-loving friends and is a perfect Halloween read.
“Ask Again, Yes,” by Mary Beth Keane
Featured on “The Tonight Show,” this summer, “Ask Again, Yes” tells the story of two neighboring families in a suburban town and the friendship between their children, Kate Gleeson and Peter Stanhope, born six months apart. When a tragedy rips both families apart, Kate and Peter must learn to grow and heal in the aftermath. The love story spans 40 years.
“Daisy Jones & The Six,” by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll, need we say more? This fast-paced novel about the wild rise and fall of an iconic 1970s rock group and its famous lead singer will have you breaking out all your old vinyl (or buying a record player and some vinyl), and wishing Daisy Jones were a real person. Inspired by Fleetwood Mac, The New York Times bestseller divinely captures a time and a place in a distinct voice. You’ll feel like you just stepped out of Whisky a Go Go.
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Erica Garza is an author and essayist from Los Angeles. Her writing has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Health, and VICE.