10 Best Books of 2019 So Far

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10 Best Books of 2019 So Far

We know your to-read list is still growing thanks to all of the great books that came out in 2018, but it’s never too early to look ahead and find new titles to add to the queue. The next year sees the release of great debut novels, some new books by beloved authors, and plenty of non-fiction that will help you digest the crazy world around us. Here are the books we’re reading in 2019.

Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob

When Mira Jacob’s half-Jewish, half-Indian son Z is asked by a stranger what he is, he says “Jewish in the summer and Indian in the winter.” Z is also so obsessed with the Jackson Five that he’s decided to change his name to The Sixth Jackson. He’s sure that people will understand why he’s The Sixth Jackson once they’ve witnessed his moves, which he is happy to demonstrate pretty much anywhere—like on the subway, for example. Z’s bewitching take on the world is the crux of Jacob’s moving and very funny graphic novel that explores identity, race, sexuality and love. And through Z’s astute questioning of the way things are, Jacob is forced to reckon with what’s shaped her own world view.

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

“I had absolutely no interest in being somebody else’s muse. I am not a muse. I am the somebody. End of fucking story,” says Daisy Jones, singer of the renowned 1970s rock band Daisy Jones & The Six, in the opening pages of the novel based on her rise to fame and the band’s infamous split. The page-turner has already been picked up by Amazon for a series deal with Reese Witherspoon producing. And no wonder—it reads like a he-says-she-says oral history, searching for truth while revealing the lies between.

Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family by Mitchell S. Jackson

Jackson grew up in one of the whitest cities in America, and his memoir explores the forces that have shaped his life. Inside you’ll find photographs, short narrative interviews, and poems composed of historical documents—all stories that speak to the expression of masculinity in Jackson’s community. He grapples with ideas about fatherhood, of how gangs and guns warp people’s lives, and so much more—always echoing just how complex the intersection of race and class is in America.

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

This is the sixth novel from renowned British writer Helen Oyeyemi, who is celebrated for her magical realist tales. In Gingerbread, she casts her imagination toward the mysterious place gingerbread holds in classic children’s stories. Mother and daughter Harriet Lee and Perdita Lee have inherited a gingerbread recipe that isn’t so popular in London circles—like with the parents and students at Perdita’s posh school—but their golden biscuits are apparently very popular in Druhástrana, the far-away (or, according to many sources, non-existent) land of Harriet Lee’s early youth. Perdita sets out to find this mythical place and discovers who her mother really is along the way.

Sing to It by Amy Hempel

Fans of Hempel’s visceral storytelling have been waiting over ten years for this masterful collection of stories set across the globe from Lisbon, Portugal, to Spanish Harlem in New York, and the many places in between. In one story, a woman receives a phone call from the wife of the stranger who attacked her in her home, bizarrely asking for advice about their marriage. In another, a volunteer at a dog shelter cares for dogs on a list to be euthanized by placing treats on their pillows on the assigned d-day. Whether Hempel’s unusual stories are a paragraph or many pages long, they are so specifically rendered that the peculiar scenes and situations lodge in your mind and return long after reading.

Hollywood’s Eve: Eve Babitz and the Secret History of L.A. by Lili Anolik

From playing naked chess with Marcel Duchamp to dalliances with Jim Morrison and Ed Ruscha (to name a few)—not to mention designing album covers for Buffalo Springfield and the Byrds—Eve Babitz was the It Girl of 1970s Los Angeles. Her popularity wasn’t exclusively from male courters; Joan Didion fostered her talent for writing, and Babitz went on to produce seven autobiographical and confessional books before a freak fire in the ’90s turned her into a recluse. That is until Lili Anolik tracked her down in 2012 and started to tell her story. This gripping and glamorous biography is the riveting page-turner you’ve been looking for.

Figuring by Maria Popova

What’s a measure of a good life? And what’s the relationship between achievement and happiness? Maria Popova has explored these big questions on her beloved platform Brain Pickings since launching in 2006. In Figuring, she furthers this investigation into the human search for truth and meaning (and the complexities of love) through the lives of her favorite artists, writers, and scientists. Throughout, Popover addresses what it means to leave a lasting mark of betterment on an imperfect world.

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

James describes his new fantasy trilogy Dark Star as an epic “African Game of Thrones.” We have little doubt that the final product will be epic and just as riveting as his Man Booker Prize-winning A Brief History of Seven Killings, about the attempted assassination of Bob Marley and the bloody conflicts in ’70s Jamaica. This time, James draws on vivid African history and mythology to tell the story of Tracker, a hunter who is forced to join a group of eight mercenaries to find a disappeared child.

You Know You Want This by Kristen Roupenian

Undoubtedly one of the most anticipated books of 2019. If you missed the literary phenomenon “Cat Person”, Roupenian’s short story published in The New Yorker in December 2018, you’ll swiftly get a sense of how accurately she depicts the alienation of modern courtship and sexual dynamics in her new collection of stories that incidentally earned her a hefty $1.2 million advance. Her tales will likely make you cringe and wish you could steer her characters away from bad situations in which they find themselves. If you have a strong reaction to these stories, you’ve been warned. But remember it may well be because you see yourself in them.

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

What does it take to be a good spy, a good lover, and a good American? When Marie Mitchell, an intelligence officer with the FBI, is given a dangerous Cold War mission to seduce Thomas Sankara, the charismatic revolutionary president of Burkina Faso known as “Africa’s Che Guevara,” she’s drawn into an unexpectedly seductive world. She even begins to admire the man’s Communist ideology which has made him a target for American intervention. Inspired by real events, this espionage thriller ticks all the right boxes, delivering a sexually-charged interrogation of both politics and race.

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