The 21 Best Novels of 2019. Fan-pleaser, literary curio, a fascinating example of the interplay between written fiction and TV: the book is all three, with Atwood’s musings on power and the patterns of history as incisive as ever. By Chloe Scham a. December 31, 2019 . National Book Award winner Susan Choi crafts a visceral adolescent world rife with tension, sexual and otherwise, and renders the insecurity that accompanies it with excruciating realism. James, who won a Booker Prize for A Brief History of Seven Killings, his novel featuring Jamaican patois, writes in dense, inventive language—challenging at first, then wholly absorbing. The 10 Best Fiction Books of 2019 The 10 Best Fiction Books of 2019 . The timelines of history are similarly unstable in Sandra Newman’s high-concept The Heavens (Granta), in which a woman leads a double existence, waking up sometimes as Shakespeare’s Dark Lady in Renaissance England and sometimes in a 21st-century New York that is getting progressively worse. She uses it in Spring (Hamish Hamilton) as a bedrock for a typically agile story about narrowing horizons and widening inequality, which is also a furious indictment of the UK’s detention of refugees. In Deborah Eisenberg’s wryly subversive Your Duck Is My Duck (Europa), we had the first collection in 12 years from a US master of the form. It’s 1468, and a young priest is investigating ancient artefacts: Harris reveals his setup to be ingeniously, chillingly topical. Daisy is a vibrant teenager living in Canada, protesting against the maligned society that looms just south of her hometown. Trump's Debt Is a Threat, Ex Intel Officials Warn, Sign up to receive the top stories you need to know now on politics, health and more, © 2020 TIME USA, LLC. Phillips taps into the overwhelming anxiety that comes with love in its deepest, truest form, a sense of fierce protectiveness one need not be a parent to understand. Tove Ditlevsen’s Copenhagen Trilogy (Penguin Modern Classics), translated by Tiina Nunnally and Michael Favala Goldman, was a welcome rediscovery: the fearless reconstruction of a difficult creative and romantic life as a woman in 20th-century Denmark. Chinese-American writer Yiyun Li’s Where Reasons End (Hamish Hamilton), a dialogue between a mother and the teenage son she has lost to suicide, is spare, profound and devastating. Marlon James invents ghoulish and glittering new worlds in perhaps the most ambitious novel of the year, the fantasy epic Black Leopard, Red Wolf. When the town is hit with a string of murders, Janina is certain there must be a connection to the killings of animals. Who should be TIME’s Person of the Year for 2019? Whitehead’s rich prose leaves behind the magical realism elements of The Underground Railroad, which won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award—and instead conjures the brutally realistic hopes, shattered dreams and resilience of his characters. We have had to wait a quarter of a century for Yōko Ogawa’s The Memory Police (Harvill Secker), translated by Stephen Snyder, the story of an island where both objects and memories are “disappeared” by shadowy totalitarian forces and islanders must submit to enforced ignorance and diminished horizons. The power of myth-making drives Mark Haddon’s best novel yet. Navigating these verdant and treacherous worlds is Tracker, a mercenary known for his unmatched sense of smell, as he joins a crew assembled to find a missing child. In her first novel written in English, the Mexican author sends a blended family of four—a daughter and her once-single mother, married to a once-single father with a son—on a road trip across the U.S. from New York to Arizona. The 2019 Goodreads Choice Awards have three rounds of voting open to all registered Goodreads members. The Nickel Boys follows Elwood and Turner, teen boys sentenced to an inhumane Florida reformatory (based on the shocking true stories of abuses at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys). Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s Fleishman Is in Trouble (Wildfire), a dissection of sexual politics in contemporary New York, was a deliciously biting summer hit. Breakout poet Ocean Vuong made a dazzling entrance into fiction this year with his semi-autobiographical novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. Write-in votes may be cast for eligible books with any average rating, and write-in votes will be weighted by the book's Goodreads statistics to determine the top five books to be added as official nominees in the Semifinal Round. Other standouts included Khaled Khalifa’s Death Is Hard Work (Faber), translated by Leri Price, a road trip set against the backdrop of the Syrian civil war, and Pajtim Statovci’s Crossing (Pushkin), translated by David Hackston, which explores migration, gender and self-invention through the shifting character of a young Albanian. It was an exceptional year for US fiction, with Tayari Jones winning the Women’s prize for An American Marriage (Oneworld), about black middle-class lives undone by structural racism, and Anglo-American Lucy Ellmann taking the Goldsmiths for her 1,000-page denunciation of Trump’s America and the world’s devaluing of motherhood, Ducks, Newburyport (Galley Beggar). Can her actions really be influencing world events hundreds of years later? Olga Tokarczuk, who was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature, trains her imaginative mind on the story of Janina, a 60-something Polish woman with an otherworldly appreciation for animals. Written in gleeful approximations of priestly, courtly and peasant medieval English, To Calais, in Ordinary Time (Canongate) follows a motley group of travellers in the shadow of the Black Death. In the late 80s, Saul goes to East Berlin to study; in the recent past, he faces up to the rest of his life. Ali Smith reached book three of her quickfire Seasonal Quartet, which interprets news headlines through the filters of art and story. In a year marked by charged debates surrounding identity and belonging—and continuously breaking news of violence and division—the best of fiction helped us to process. Voting opens to 15 official nominees, and write-in votes can be placed for any eligible book (see eligibility below). The top five write-in votes in each of the categories become official nominees. He renders a terrifying world in disarming terms, lovingly guiding his reader to recognize the lasting impact of a cruel era. Guardian fiction editor Justine Jordan on the celebrated and overlooked books of the year, Sat 30 Nov 2019 03.00 EST Adam’s winning approach to competition—subjecting his challengers to “the spread,” where they’re forced to respond to a blast of ideas at the pace of drinking from a firehose—deftly reflects the demise of civil discourse. But the true power of Helen Phillips’ brilliantly paced thriller emerges when Molly, a paleobotanist, comes face to face with the only person in the world who can shake her identity as a mother—a person who brings her to question her very reality. Write to Lucy Feldman at lucy.feldman@time.com. All rights reserved. Evaristo shared the prize with the year’s biggest book by far: Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale sequel The Testaments (Chatto), which combines Aunt Lydia’s sly perspective on the theocratic regime – its brutal birth and her ambiguous role at the heart of it – with more action-adventure strands about the two young women seeking to bring it down. But on the trip—designed in part to take the husband to his next project in Apacheria, in part to allow the mother to search for a friend’s daughters who have been detained at the border—the family’s own bonds are tested. Kim Bubello for TIME. We analyze statistics from the millions of books added, rated, and reviewed on Goodreads to nominate 15 books in each category. As the misunderstood protagonist intrudes on the police case, Tokarczuk raises essential questions about whose voices are privileged above others. Vuong brings his mastery of evocative, lyric language to his story of Little Dog, a Vietnamese-American boy growing up in Connecticut with his mother and grandmother—survivors of the Vietnam War—and bearing the weight of inherited trauma. Get great book recommendations! James Meek wound the clock back to 14th-century England for a feat of scholarship and storytelling combined. Whitehead builds on his award-winning story of American slavery in The Underground Railroad with another tour through painful history, this time revisiting the Jim Crow era. Jokha Alharthi’s Celestial Bodies (Sandstone), translated by Marilyn Booth, is a generation-spanning family saga exposing the legacy of slavery in Oman. In an era beset by fears over news manipulation and Anthropocene extinction, this timeless fable of control and loss feels more timely than ever. The novelist, essayist and poet blends the perspectives of a quick and ruthless high school debate champion, his psychologist parents and a misfit peer in The Topeka School, a poignant examination of “toxic masculinity” and its manifestations in speech. The book picks up the story 15 years after handmaid Offred’s ambiguous fate in the theocratic nation of Gilead and continues the saga’s dark contemporary resonance. It’s a classic opening: a woman hears an intruder in her home while her husband is away, grabs her two young kids and hides in terror. The result is a thrilling and worthy continuation of Atwood’s indelible dystopia—another warning that totalitarianism is always lurking just around the corner. Debuts stood out in the world of short stories, too, notably Wendy Erskine’s clear-eyed tales of Belfast life in Sweet Home and Julia Armfield’s haunting Salt Slow (both Picador). Agnes Jemima is growing up in Gilead, preparing to learn the duties she will inherit as a privileged but severely restricted wife. That is, until she introduces a shift in perspective midway through the novel that undermines the veracity of the story. A devastating story born of real-life heartbreak, Yiyun Li’s Where Reasons End places a mother in conversation with her son after losing him to suicide. • Save up to 30% on the books of the year at guardianbookshop.com, Available for everyone, funded by readers. This is a dazzling exploration of creativity and madness in the poignant, panic-tinged end times. Skewering different forms of totalitarianism – from the state, to the family, to the strictures of the male gaze – Levy explodes conventional narrative to explore the individual’s place and culpability within history. Author and activist Margaret Atwood wins this year’s Best Fiction award for her long-anticipated sequel to the dystopian classic. Books published in the United States in English, including works in translation and other significant rereleases, between November 16, 2018, and November 15, 2019, are eligible for the 2019 Goodreads Choice Awards.

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