What are the best books of 2019? From The New York Times bestsellers to the most popular new releases, I have you covered with all of this year’s must-read books.
With the end of the year upon us, it’s time to talk about the best books of 2019.
Last year when I wrote my best books of 2018 post, I had only been a book blogger for a few months. Consequently, I had to rely heavily on reviews and bestseller lists to decide the best books of the year.
Let’s just say, I was determined not to do that again.
This year, I went all out in my drive to read every 2019 release I could get my hands on. I emailed publishers for Advance Review Copies, I joined NetGalley to get more Advance Review Copies and put library holds on every 2019 new release I could. In all, I read 74 different new releases!
Thus, I can definitively say that these are the best books of 2019.
While I still relied on reviews and bestseller lists for the books on my list, I feel much more confident in my selections.
Without further ado, here are my picks for the best books of 2019.
My Top 10 Best Books of 2019
Too busy to scroll through the full list? Here are my top 10 picks for the best books of 2019.
- Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
- Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
- The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth
- The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
- 100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons
- The Lost Man by Jane Harper
- The Grace Year by Kim Liggett
- Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris
- The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
- Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
Best Books 2019 – Adult Fiction
Mary Beth Keane
Just listen to this premise: NYPD cops Francis and Brian happen to move next door to each other in the suburbs. Though their children Kate and Peter become the best of friends, Francis and his wife have learned to keep their distance from Brian’s wife due to her precarious mental health. When tragedy strikes between the two families, Brian’s family moves away in shame. But when Kate and Peter fall in love, the two families must learn to confront the tragedy that ties them together. A story of love and forgiveness, Ask Again, Yes serves up the perfect blend of family drama and character study to win it all the stars and a place at the head of the best books of 2019.
Following three generations of Palestinian women, Rum’s powerful story highlights the dangers of beliefs that view women as inferior. The tale begins with the arranged marriage of Isra, forced to move to America where she knows no one. Years later, Isra’s daughter Deya herself faces an arranged marriage in Brooklyn. This raw account of the oppression of women in an extremely strict family is depressing and at the same time beautifully written. Certainly worth a read, and easily one of the best debut novels of the year.
Yara Zgheib hits the emotions hard in her debut novel. Professional dancer Anna Roux is plagued with uncertainties. In an attempt to take control, she starts controlling her eating and eventually weighs only 88 pounds. Admitted to a treatment facility for her anorexia, Anna meets other brave women fighting their own battles with eating disorders. Once you get past the formatting (short disjointed paragraphs and heavy use of italics indicating thoughts and dialogue), the raw emotion of the story draws you in as you see into Anna’s thoughts throughout her struggle with her disease. A great reminder of the power of mental illness and the awful toll anorexia takes on the body.
When asked what inspired her famous work, The Love Poem, renowned poet Fiona Skinner tells the story of her family. After her father’s sudden death, Fiona’s mother goes into a deep depression for three years, basically leaving the young children to fend for themselves. The four Skinner siblings’ lives forever changed during this period which they refer to as “The Pause.” They emerge closer than ever, but that time changes each one of them, with consequences following them throughout the rest of their lives. A solid piece of literary fiction, I felt just missed the mark of being great, though The New York Times bestseller list seems to disagree.
In this hit romantic comedy, the ever unlucky Olive seems to have finally stumbled into some good luck. At her twin sister’s wedding, all the guests end up with severe food poisoning, that is except for Olive and the best man Ethan. Since there’s an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii just waiting to be used, Olive decided to swallow her extreme dislike for Ethan and go with him. When they run into Olive’s future boss, Olive’s plan to avoid Ethan runs amok as she is forced to pretend they are newlyweds. An enemies-turned-lovers romance that Amazon, as well as much of the book world, has declared one of the best books of 2019.
Irish millennial Sally Rooney is back with certainly one of the most anticipated 2019 books among critics with her second novel in the new adult genre. Exploring the relationship between two people – Marianne, whose family has taught her she doesn’t deserve love, and Connell, who is too concerned with what other people think – Rooney gives an insightful look at the connection between two people, sometimes positive and sometimes negative. A solid entry into the new adult genre, it delivers plenty of food for thought. Be warned, the romance gets a tad graphic. Also, I spent a chunk of the book wanting to smack the characters in the back of the head for the choices they continued to make.
Best Historical Fiction of 2019
Taylor Jenkins Reid
Already snapped up by Reese Witherspoon’s company to become an Amazon miniseries, Daisy Jones and the Six is making waves this year. After her highly successful novel The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid is back with an addictingly fun read about the rise and fall of a fictional 70s band. With sex, drugs, and plenty of drama, you’ll feel like you are watching a biopic on VH1 – but an extremely well-written one. Daisy Jones and the Six is my pick for the best book of the entire year.
Eleven-year-old Ren is given one final task when his master dies: to find his master’s severed finger and return it, in the next 49 days, or his master’s soul will be doomed to wander the earth. From there, his story will mingle with that of dance hall girl Ji Lin who has found the finger, all while a tiger stalks the town. Mixing Chinese folklore and superstition with historical fiction, Choo brings the time period to life in this beautifully written and imaginative story. You’ll feel completely swept away into the slight mysticism of the story, and I agree with Amazon that this is one of the best books of 2019.
From the author of Me Before You, one of my top sob-worthy books, comes a new novel that will charm you. Set during the Great Depression, Englishwoman Alice Wright marries a handsome American and finds herself transplanted to rural Kentucky. To escape her unhappy home life with her withdrawn husband and overbearing father-in-law, Alice agrees to become a traveling librarian, riding around the countryside bringing books to local residents. In her new job, she meets other fierce women and gains lasting friendships. Add in plenty of drama, love stories, corrupt businessmen, and even murder, and you have the perfect light historical fiction for anyone who wants a Hallmark Channel style novel to read.
In the sequel to her highly successful novel The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Heather Morris takes on another remarkable true story. After surviving Auschwitz, sixteen-year-old Cilka finds herself convicted for collaborating with the enemy. Consequently, she is sentenced to a Siberian gulag where the horrors start all over again. Yet, there she meets a doctor who helps her find a purpose in her suffering by caring for the injured of the camp. A tale of love and hope even in the most desperate circumstances, Cilka’s Journey is an inspiring fictional work based on a true story.
On the island of Jeju just off the Korean peninsula lives a society where women are the breadwinners – sea divers risking untold hazards to provide for their families from the ocean. Among them are best friends Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls just entering their village’s diving collective. Telling the account of their lives from the Japanese occupation in the 1930s, through World War II and the tumultuous aftermath up to the present, Lisa See’s latest historical fiction novel is a beautifully written account. If you love reading historical fiction about different cultures, this is one of the best books of 2019 that you don’t want to miss.
Jennifer Robson’s latest book release got rave reviews from almost all my blogger friends. In The Gown, Robson takes a peek behind the scenes at the women involved in making Queen Elizabeth’s famous wedding dress. I love historical fiction novels because I always have so much fun researching fact from fiction. If you are a fan of royal weddings, be sure to try out this one.
Best Books 2019 – Mystery and Thriller
Sally Hepworth’s new book release deserves all the stars and easily won its place in the best books of 2019. The first time Lucy met Diana, she is disappointed to find her future mother-in-law is cold and distant. Not at all the best friend and replacement mother Lucy was hoping to find. Now ten years later, Diana is dead, and all eyes automatically turn to Lucy. Much more of a character study than a murder mystery, The Mother-in-Law shines by highlighting how two different people can view the same event differently and by navigating the history of a complicated relationship.
Shortly after her 25th birthday, Libby Jones learns that she has inherited an abandoned London mansion from her biological parents. Adopted as a baby, Libby is excited to learn about her birth family. But her family history is much more than she anticipates when she finds out her parents committed suicide as part of a cult, and her siblings vanished. As scary as that is, the truth is even darker. A dark and disturbing tale, you can’t look away as the truth of what happened so long ago gets more and more twisted. Lisa Jewell keeps you guessing and the surprises continue to the very last page.
In a small Virginia town, Korean immigrants Young and Pak Yoo run a medical center with a hyperbaric chamber called the Miracle Submarine – a pressurized oxygen chamber patients can use to treat illnesses like decompression sickness, but that many use in an attempt to treat such conditions as autism and MS. When a fire causes the chamber explodes, killing two, an intense murder trial begins revealing secrets and lies from all involved. Compared to Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng, Angie Kim’s debut novel will keep you guessing at who started the fire, but more importantly, it will draw you into the moral decisions the flawed characters have to make.
If you’ve heard great things about Jane Harper’s novel The Dry, you want to check out her newest novel, an excellent addition to the best books of 2019. Way out in the Australia outback, brothers Nathan and Bub Bright find the body of their brother Cameron on the edge of their ranch. Did Cam end his own life walking out into the desert or did someone end it for him? More a character study than a murder mystery, The Lost Man looks at the secrets a family keeps combined with a fascinating portrayal of life in the outback.
Among the February 2019 book releases was Alex Michaelides’ debut psychological thriller. One night, famous painter Alicia Berenson shoots her husband in the face 5 times, and then never utters another word again. Now criminal psychotherapist Theo Faber is determined to get the truth from this silent patient while his own life is falling apart. I was hoping this thriller would be one of those gripping books that keep you up all night. Overall, I struggled to connect with this thriller, maybe because I disliked Theo’s character. Despite that, the twist at the end was extremely well done, and I can see why this book was a New York Times bestseller.
Best known for his Natchez Burning trilogy, Greg Iles is back with a standalone thriller that spent 5 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. At 18, Marshall McEwan left his small Mississippi hometown vowing never to return. Yet, since his father is dying, he forced to come home once more, now as a well-known DC journalist. Back in Mississippi, he finds the town run by the old boys’ network of the Bienville Poker Club. When two murders shock the locals, Marshall can’t stop himself from digging out a secret that will reverberate back to Washington, D.C. We’ve been burned by New York Times bestsellers before, but we have high hopes that Cemetery Road could be one of the best books of 2019.
Best Nonfiction Books of 2019
It’s been six years since Malcolm Gladwell last published a book, and while his podcasts are interesting, you’ll want to dive into his take on a new topic. In Talking to Strangers, Gladwell focuses on what happens when we encounter new people and why those encounters so often turn out poorly. With his mix of statistics, scientific research, and interesting anecdotes, Gladwell is the ultimate storyteller.
After covering such historical figures as Truman, John Adams, and The Wright Brothers, David McCullough chronicles the lives of rarely heard of settlers in the Ohio Valley. Among the pioneers willing to brave the newly opened Northwest Territory spanning from present-day Ohio to Wisconsin, Manasseh Cutter and General Rufus Putnam feel lured forth by the promise of freedom of religion, universal free education and the prohibition of slavery. Spending time on the New York Times bestseller list, The Pioneers is one of the best nonfiction books of 2019.
Probably one of the best-known movie stars of all time, Audrey Hepburn captivated audiences in such hits as Roman Holiday. But lurking behind those beautiful eyes was a soul haunted by her childhood. Robert Matzen does an excellent job researching Hepburn’s early life – her parents’ divorce, her years at an English boarding school and her teenage years living in German-occupied Holland. Throughout the book, Matzen doesn’t paint Hepburn as a grand hero; she was more or less a typical Dutch girl dreaming of being a ballerina. While the story is about Hepburn, it’s also the history of the war she lived through and serves as an important reminder of what WWII was like in Holland for many Dutch girls and boys.
Among the best books in 2019 would have to be The Mermaid’s Voice Returns in this One. Two-time Goodreads Choice Awards winner in poetry Amanda Lovelace is back with the 3rd entry into her Women Are Some Kind of Magic series. I rarely read poetry, so I struggled at first with the eccentric format of this collection. Nevertheless, I came to love her unconventional method. Considering how few words she uses, I’m amazed at the depth of feeling Lovelace conveys about the highs and lows, doubts, and fears of sexual assault. I hope her collection does indeed help other women find their voices.
Following her 2018 bestseller Girl, Wash Your Face, Rachel Hollis returns with a followup Girl, Stop Apologizing. While Girl, Wash Your Face was aimed at reminding women not to hold themselves back, her latest book release is more geared toward achieving goals. The weakest part of the book is the beginning where Hollis lists excuses that hold you back – I don’t have time, good girls don’t hustle, etc. This section feels like a lesser copy of her previous book. The book finds its stride in the second half when Hollis describes the specific behaviors and skills you need to achieve your goals. If you approach the book with a specific goal in mind, you have a much better chance of enjoying this one.
Best Books of 2019 – Memoirs
If you have an insane amount of money (say from creating Microsoft) how do you use it to change the world? Over a lifetime, Melinda Gates, co-founder of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has discovered that the key to alleviating poverty, decreasing childhood death and even increasing food production all comes back to empowering women. The statistics throughout the book are staggering, and Gates makes a strong argument for how empowering women affects so much more than you would think. Luckily Gates focuses on the numbers and less on the memoir aspect because, while Gates is an admirable woman, her own story is … shall I say … kinda dull.
I almost feel like the subtitle says it all: “Southern lady code – a technique by which, if you don’t have something nice to say, you say something not so nice in a nice way.” In her hilarious collection of essays, Helen Ellis takes you from Alabama to New York with her witty look at her life, all from a Southern girl’s perspective. If you have any connection to the South, you’ll find her humor brilliant.
One ordinary day, 2-year-old Greta Greene is sitting with her grandma on a park bench when the unimaginable happens. A loose brick falls from the windowsill above her head, striking her unconscious and leading to her death. Jayson Greene’s emotional memoir tells of the anguish he and his wife experienced during this horrible tragedy. Yet, even amid such agony, Greene recognizes that this will not be the end. A story of finding hope and the power of love, Greene’s memoir was named among the best books of 2019 by Amazon.
Well-known restaurant critic and food writer Ruth Reichl’s latest memoir tells of her years as editor in chief of the magazine Gourmet. When first offered the position, Reichl had declined, worried about lacking the ability to manage and losing herself into a corporate world. Instead, Reichl reinvented a struggling magazine into a trendsetter, extending its life span – though not able to save it in the era of online media. Sarah from Sarah’s Bookshelves gave it a glowing review, and that’s all I need to know to list it among the best books of 2019.
Mary Laura Philpott
Among the best memoirs of 2019 is this intriguing take on a memoir; a collection essays from the acclaimed essayist Mary Laura Philpott. What do you do when you’ve successfully go it all – marriage, children, house and career – and still don’t feel happy? No, you don’t necessarily have to make a dramatic change in your circumstances. With her keen observations on modern adult life, Philpott decides to re-imagine what happiness means to her.
Best Books 2019 – Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror
Taking a break from my typical women’s fiction picks, among the best books of 2019 is Black Crouch’s new science fiction thriller which is getting plenty of buzz this year. America has fallen victim to False Memory Syndrome – where victims are driven mad by memories of a life they never lived … or did they? It’s up to NYPD cop Barry Sutton and neuroscientist Helena Smith to figure out how to stop this epidemic, even as reality is shifting all around them. You’ll have a hard time putting this one down, so you’ll certainly want to pick up a copy before the film adaptation hits Netflix.
Shana wakes up one morning to find her sister sleepwalking. She cannot be woken or stopped. She seems to be on a mission and is slowly joined by others. As society starts collapsing around the spreading epidemic, Chuck Wendig paints a tantalizing picture of the end of the world. If you are not intimidated by the whopping 800-page count, Wanderers is an epic science fiction novel that certainly rates among the best books of 2019.
Morgenstern’s first book, The Night Circus, has been a book club favorite since its release. Now, prep your book club for her newest release – a love story set in a secret world of magic. Graduate student Zachary Rawlins stumbles upon a mysterious book full of fantastical tales, only to find himself in the narrative. From there, he follows hints to a secret library, preserved by guardians intent on protecting it. After that, he is swept into a magical mystical world, and, hopefully, you will be, too.
Can you have the best books of the year list without Stephen King? From the king of horror comes another masterful story. In the middle of the night, Luke Ellis’s parents are murdered, and he is kidnapped only to awaken in The Institute. Here live children with the special abilities of telekinesis and telepathy who are tested and used at the hands of the ruthless director Mrs. Sigsby. Children who cooperate are given tokens for the vending machines. Those that don’t are brutally punished. As other children start to disappear to never be seen, Luke realizes his only hope is to escape. Reviews are mixed for Stephen King’s latest, and it’s said to appeal both to his avid fans and his new readers.
After escaping her abusive husband, Kate Reese settles in out-of-the-way Mill Grove, Pennsylvania, with her 7-year-old son Christopher. Just as they are starting to get settled, Christopher vanishes without a trace, only to appear six days later in the woods. Now Christopher has an imaginary friend and a mission – to build a treehouse in the woods before something horrible happens. If you love horror, Chbosky’s new book release is for you.
Best Young Adult Fiction of 2019
Just when I feel like I’m ready to completely give up YA fiction, a book like 100 Days of Sunlight comes along to remind me of the beauty of the genre. After a car accident, Tessa is left blind, though her doctors think it’s only temporary. Into her life strolls Weston, a double amputee determined to lift Tessa out of her depression and help her see the joy in life. The catch, he won’t let anyone tell Tessa that he has lost his legs. A brilliantly sweet and endearing story that I read in one sitting, bawling my eyes out at times. The story is really about Weston – not only how he lost his legs and how he put his life back together but also about his eternal optimism and inner fears. A poignant read, this darling love story is perfect for teens and adults and certainly one of the best books of 2019.
Already snagged by Universal to become a major motion picture, The Grace Year is this year’s hottest new young adult novel. This The Handmaid’s Tale meets Lord of the Flies story is set in the male-dominated oppressive Garner county. Every year, all 16-year-old girls are shipped off to spend their “grace year” in seclusion so that their magic will be burned out of them. Before they go, brides are selected by eligible bachelors. Tierney James knows she will never be chosen as a wife, nor does she want to be, and dreams of someday changing this dystopian society. Yet in her grace year, Tierney begins to wonder: Do women even have magic? I loved how thought-provoking Tierney is as she contemplates her society. With plenty of action that moves the plot along quickly, I devoured this novel in a night and can’t wait to see the movie!
The sequel to last year’s hit The Cruel Prince picks up with Jude behind the scenes running the Faerie Kingdom. The plot-driven writing style just begs to be devoured in one sitting, and I have to say, I enjoyed it even more than the first book. And that ending! If you love YA fantasy, be sure to pick up this hottest of new book releases. It has earned its place at the top of the best books in 2019 for young adults.
After hitting it big with her debut novel, The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas returns to the best books of the year list with a homage to hip hop. In On the Come Up, 16-year-old Bri wants to become a famous rapper – more so now than ever as she watches her mom struggle to pay the bills. Although not quite as strong as The Hate U Give, Thomas pens another bestseller speaking about what it’s like to be a black teenager in America.
In her stunning first book, Tomi Adeyemi brilliantly blended Nigerian mythology and symbols of the Yoruba religion into a gorgeous young adult fantasy. After Zélie Adebola fights to bring magic back to Orïsha, she must now struggle to unite the Maji against the monarchy, hoping to place Amari on the throne. If you haven’t read Children of Blood and Bone yet, then you are completely missing out. If you have, be prepared for an exciting new entry into the series.
What do you think are the best books of 2019?