When we reflect on the books that resonated most this past year, usually a trend emerges. But 2019 bucked the trend, turning out a wide variety of gems to satisfy readers of all stripes. One of the stand-out literary stories of the year, however, was the highly-anticipated sequel to a modern dystopian classic. Would Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, the follow-up to 1985’s The Handmaid’s Tale, live up to the hype? It absolutely does, topping our list, and besting stiff competition from the likes of Colson Whitehead, Salman Rushdie, Erin Morgenstern, and many more. Atwood has said that this “tale of hope and courage narrated by three strong female voices appears to have connected to this crucial 2019 moment.” We couldn’t agree more.
Crowning our list in the kids’ category is Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy, her middle-grade debut about Patricia “Sweet Pea” DiMarco, a seventh grader grappling with a myriad of emotions and change, including recently divorced parents and friendships in transition. Dear Sweet Pea is a warmhearted read that is at once reassuring, wise, and utterly relatable.
Below you’ll find our top five picks for the best books of 2019. To see the rest of the best--covering genres ranging from biography, history, mystery, literary fiction, science fiction and more--click right here.
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
Praise be! After almost 35 years, Margaret Atwood released the sequel to her pioneering work of speculative fiction, The Handmaid’s Tale, and it is well worth the wait. While The Handmaid’s Tale explored how totalitarian regimes come to power, The Testaments delves into how they begin to fracture. At 80 years young, Atwood is at the top of her game. —Erin Kodicek
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Having earned a Pulitzer and a National Book Award with his last novel, The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead follows up with a story about two young black men sent to the infamous Nickel Academy in Florida. Set during the 1960s Jim Crow era, the story follows Elwood and Turner who, despite different backgrounds and world views, learn to lean on one another to survive. —Chris Schluep
Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur
The subtitle seems to say it all: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me. And yet there is so much more to the story. Adrienne Brodeur was fourteen when her mother started secretly dating Ben Souther. What developed after that was a strange, uncomfortable, impossible-to-look-away-from triangle in which young Adrienne became cover for the trysts between her mother and Ben. This is an engaging and at times breathless memoir that builds with anticipation and continues to unfold with observations and revelations. —Chris Schluep
Quichotte by Salman Rushdie
An exquisite satire on the world we live in, Rushdie’s latest novel pays Cervantes a great, clever compliment with this deliciously funny Don Quixote for modern times. An unusual romantic quest kicks off a road trip across America in an age that would be utterly surreal if we weren’t actually living it. An antidote to fear, bursting with intelligence and wit—Quichotte is exactly what so many of us need right now. —Seira Wilson
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Almost ten years after she wrote The Night Circus, Morgenstern offers readers a shape-shifting, time-bending, otherworldly adventure of storytelling, where pirates lurk and doors lead forward and backward in time, where crowded ballrooms collapse into oceans, and where a young man must piece together the clues to uncover and protect his own life’s story. This magnificent tribute to tales of the imagination is absolutely magical. —Seira Wilson
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