19 Books You Should Have Read In 2019

19 Books You Should Have Read In 2019

Last year had its fair share of literary hits. The good news is there’s still some time left before the end of the year in case you didn’t get around to reading all of them. So, if you plan to spend the holidays curled up with a book or two, here are 19 of our favourite reads from 2019…

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood 

More than 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 rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results. Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third voice: a woman who wields power through the ruthless accumulation and deployment of secrets. As Atwood unfolds The Testaments, she opens up the innermost workings of Gilead, with each woman forced to come to terms with who she is, and how far she will go for what she believes. A deserving joint winner of the Booker Prize.

“One of the literary events of the year.” – Vogue

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The Dutch House by Ann Patchett 

Danny Conroy grows up in the Dutch House, a lavish mansion. Though his father is distant and his mother absent, Danny has his beloved sister Maeve. Then their father brings Andrea home. Though they cannot know it, her arrival at the Dutch House sows the seed of the defining loss of Danny’s and Maeve’s lives. Now grown up, the siblings are drawn back time and again to a place they can never enter, knocking in vain on the locked door of the past. For behind the mystery of their own exile is the exile of their mother, who is an absence more powerful than any presence they have known. 

“The book of the autumn. The American author of Commonwealth (brilliant) and Bel Canto (even better) releases perhaps her finest novel yet.” – Sunday Times

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Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Daisy is coming of age in LA in the late 60s, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars and dreaming of singing at Whisky A Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock ’n’ roll she loves most. By the time she’s 20, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things. Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. When Daisy and Billy cross paths, what happens next becomes the stuff of legend. Written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the 70s, this gripping novel brilliantly captures a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice

“I devoured Daisy Jones & The Six in a day, falling head over heels for it. Daisy and the band captured my heart.” – Reese Witherspoon


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Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Joint winner of the Booker Prize, Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of 12 very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years. Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times that is celebratory, dynamic and utterly irresistible. Lauded by all of Candice Carty-Williams (Queenie) Diana Evans (Ordinary People) and Ali Smith (How to be Both), this is essential reading.

“Bernardine Evaristo can take any story from any time and turn it into something vibrating with life.” – Ali Smith, author of How To Be Both

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Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

Three Women is a riveting true story about the sex lives of three American women, based on nearly a decade of reporting by journalist Lisa Taddeo. The result is a deep non-fiction portrait of desire and one of the most anticipated books of the year. We begin in suburban Indiana with Lina, a homemaker and mother of two, whose decade-long marriage has lost its passion. In North Dakota we meet Maggie, a 17-year-old high-school student who finds a confidant in her handsome, married English teacher. Finally, in an enclave of the north-east, we meet Sloane – a gorgeous, successful restaurant owner – who is happily married to a man who likes to watch her have sex with other men and women. Told with astonishing frankness and immediacy, this is a ground-breaking portrait of erotic longing in today’s America, exposing the fragility, complexity and inequality of female desire with depth and emotional power.

“Extraordinary. A non-fiction literary masterpiece. I can’t remember the last time a book affected me as profoundly as Three Women.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love

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Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann

Latticing one cherry pie after another, an Ohio housewife tries to bridge the gaps between reality and the torrent of meaningless information that is the United States of America. She worries about her children, her dead parents, African elephants, the bedroom rituals of ‘happy couples’, weapons of mass destruction, and how to hatch an abandoned wood-pigeon egg. Is there some trick to surviving survivalists? School shootings? Medical debts? A scorching indictment of America’s barbarity, past and present, and a lament for the way we are sleepwalking into environmental disaster, Ducks, Newburyport is a revolutionary novel. 

“The time and care [Ellmann] lavishes on her narrator seem like their own form of political speculation – that every individual is owed an unending devotion, and that such devotion, applied universally, might change the fate of the world.” – New Yorker

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Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

This is the latest novel by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge and My Name is Lucy Barton. Olive, Again follows the blunt, contradictory yet deeply loveable Olive Kitteridge as she grows older, navigating the second half of her life and coming to terms with changes – some welcome, some not – to her own existence and in those around her. Olive adjusts to a new life with her second husband, challenging her estranged son and his family to accept him, experiencing loss and loneliness, witnessing the triumphs and heartbreaks of her friends and neighbours in the small coastal town of Crosby, Maine – and, finally, opening herself up to new life lessons.

“A superbly gifted storyteller and a craftswoman in a league of her own.” – Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall

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Find Me by André Aciman

No novel in recent memory has spoken more movingly to readers about the nature of love than André Aciman’s haunting Call Me by Your Name. Nearly 750,000 copies have been sold, and the book became an Academy Award-winning film starring Timothée Chalamet as the young Elio and Armie Hammer as Oliver, the graduate student with whom he falls in love. In Find Me, Aciman shows us Elio’s father, Samuel, on a trip from Florence to Rome to visit Elio, who has become a gifted classical pianist. A chance encounter on the train with a beautiful young woman upends Sami’s plans and changes his life forever. Elio soon moves to Paris, where he too has a consequential affair; while Oliver, now a New England college professor with a family, finds himself contemplating a return trip across the Atlantic.

“A sensual delight. An aching sense of vulnerability and fearlessness drives this book past any question of whether or not a sequel was warranted.” – Observer

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The Secret Commonwealth: The Book of Dust Volume Two by Philip Pullman

It is two decades since the events of La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One unfolded and saw baby Lyra Belacqua begin her life’s journey. It is almost ten years since readers left Lyra and the love of her young life, Will Parry, on a park bench in Oxford’s Botanic Gardens at the end of the ground-breaking, bestselling His Dark Materials series. In The Secret Commonwealth, we catch up with Lyra Silvertongue. Now 20 years old, she and her dæmon Pantalaimon must navigate their relationship in a way they could never have imagined, as they are drawn into the complex and dangerous factions of a world they had no idea existed.

“A rich, imaginative, vividly characterised rite-of-passage tale.” – Sunday Times

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The Confession by Jessie Burton

One winter’s afternoon on Hampstead Heath in 1980, Elise Morceau meets Constance Holden and quickly falls under her spell. Connie is bold and alluring, a successful writer whose novel is being turned into a major Hollywood film. Elise follows Connie to LA, a city of swimming pools and late-night gatherings of glamorous people. But while Connie thrives on the heat and electricity of a new world where everyone is reaching for the stars and no one is telling the truth, Elise finds herself floundering. When she overhears a conversation at a party that turns everything on its head, Elise makes an impulsive decision that will change her life forever. From the bestselling author of The Miniaturist and The MuseThe Confession is a powerful and deeply moving novel about secrets and storytelling, motherhood and friendship, and how we lose and find ourselves.

“Dazzlingly good, utterly engrossing… Without doubt one of the best novels of recent years.” – Elizabeth Day, author of How To Fail

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Royals by Emma Forrest

July, 1981. Shy, working-class Steven dreams of being a fashion designer. He's also gay, maybe – he hasn’t decided yet. There’s a lot else 18-year-old Steven isn't sure about, like whether he hates himself or thinks he’s amazing. When he ends up in hospital after a brutal attack by his father, he meets Jasmine, an heiress. Fuelled by their shared love of fashion, a friendship blossoms and Steven finds himself swept into her hedonistic world. But underneath the glitter and the frivolity, darkness lies. Royals is a tale of giddy happiness, crushing lows and, ultimately, the fragility of lives lived too fast.

“Charming, witty and touching, an 80s Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” – David Nicholls, author of One Day

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The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

In a large house in fashionable Chelsea, a baby is awake in her cot. Well fed and cared for, she is happily waiting for someone to pick her up. In the kitchen lie three decomposing corpses. Close to them is a hastily scrawled note. They’ve been dead for several days. So who has been looking after the baby? And where did they go? Featuring two entangled families and a house with the darkest of secrets, this is a compulsive new thriller from Lisa Jewell that became one of summer 2019’s most popular beach reads.

“A twisty and engrossing story of betrayal and redemption.” – Ian Rankin, author of the Inspector Rebus novels

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Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams

We loved both LJW’s memoirs – Becoming and Ice Cream For Breakfast – so we were thrilled when she published her first novel earlier this year. In Our Stop, Nadia gets the 7.30am train every day without fail. Well, except if she oversleeps or wakes up at her friend Emma’s after too much wine. Daniel really does get the 7.30am train every morning, which is easy because he hasn’t been able to sleep properly since his dad died. One morning, Nadia’s eye catches sight of a post in the daily paper: ‘To the cute girl with the coffee stains on her dress. I’m the guy who’s always standing near the doors… Drink sometime?’ And so begins a not-quite-romance of near-misses and the search for true love. A refreshingly romantic and relatable read, devoid of all the genre’s clichés.

“Laura Jane Williams combines sharp, relatable wit and bold, joyful sincerity.” – Dolly Alderton, author of Everything I Know About Love.

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Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls

In 1997, Charlie Lewis is the kind of boy you don’t remember in the school photograph. His exams have not gone well. At home he is looking after his father, when surely it should be the other way round, and if he thinks about the future at all, it is with a kind of dread. Then Fran Fisher bursts into his life and, despite himself, Charlie begins to hope. But if Charlie wants to be with Fran, he must take on a challenge that could lose him the respect of his friends and require him to become a different person. He must join the drama department. Poignant, funny, enchanting and devastating, Sweet Sorrow is a tragicomedy about the rocky path to adulthood and the confusion of family life. It’s a celebration of the reviving power of friendship and that brief, searing explosion of first love that can only be looked at directly after it has burned out.

“Such a beautiful book. Captures perfectly a moment in time we’ve all experienced.” – Graham Norton

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City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

This new tome from Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert pulls focus on the summer of 1940. Nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris arrives in New York with her suitcase and sewing machine, exiled by her despairing parents. She soon finds gainful employment as the self-appointed seamstress at the Lily Playhouse. There, Vivian quickly becomes the toast of the showgirls, transforming trash and tinsel only fit for the cheap seats into creations for goddesses. Exile in New York is no exile at all: here in this strange wartime city of girls, Vivian and her girlfriends mean to drink the heady highball of life itself to the last drop. But there are hard lessons to be learned as Vivian realises that to live the life she wants, she must live many lives, ceaselessly and ingeniously making them new.

“Glamorous, sexy, compelling, addictive. Radical and refreshing to read.” – Dolly Alderton, author of Everything I Know About Love

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Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Toby Fleishman thought he knew what to expect when he and his wife of almost 15 years separated: weekends and every other holiday with the kids, some residual bitterness, the occasional moment of tension in their co-parenting negotiations. He could not have predicted that one day, in the middle of his summer of sexual emancipation, Rachel would just drop their two children off at his place and simply not return. As Toby tries to figure out where Rachel went – all while juggling his patients at the hospital, his never-ending parental duties, and his new app-assisted sexual popularity – his tidy narrative of the spurned husband with the too-ambitious wife is his sole consolation. But if Toby ever wants to truly understand what happened to Rachel and what happened to his marriage, he’s going to have to consider that he might not have seen things all that clearly in the first place.

“Just the sort of thing that Philip Roth or John Updike might have produced in their prime (except, of course, that the author understands women).” – Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love 

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The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

This deeply poignant novel follows the journey of a Syrian refugee couple, Nuri and Afra, as they are smuggled from their war-ravaged home to Europe. In their home city of Aleppo, Nuri had been a beekeeper, Afra an artist. Now that is all gone, and their lives are barely recognisable, loss permeates the pages of this novel, but what’s remarkable is that hope does to. Many of the headlines we encounter daily contribute to the dehumanisation of Syrian refugees; it is fiction like The Beekeeper of Aleppo that can counter this, encouraging empathy and reminding us that they are people, not statistics, and not a ‘swarm’, to borrow the language of a former prime minister. They are people, just like you and me.

“Courageous and provocative, The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a beautifully crafted novel of international significance that has the capacity to have us open our eyes and see.” – Heather Morris, author of The Tattooist of Auschwitz

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Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

If you’re a fan of Sally Rooney, Phoebe Waller-Bridge or Justin Simien, you’ll love this book. Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican Brit living in London. The novel chronicles her struggles as a young woman – and there are many struggles. She works at a newspaper for a boss that doesn’t register her existence, and where she is made to feel out of place by her white middle-class colleagues. She goes on a break from her long-term boyfriend, Tom, and her family never really listen to her. As you see Queenie make bad decision after bad decision, you really root for her, and hope she will finally catch a break. A timely and hilarious debut novel.

“Candice Carty-Williams is a fantastic new writer who has written a deliciously funny, characterful, topical and thrilling novel for our times.”  – Bernardine Evaristo, author of Girl, Woman, Other 

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Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez

Imagine a world where your phone is too big for your hand, where your doctor prescribes a drug that is wrong for your body, where in a car accident you are 47% more likely to be seriously injured, where every week the countless hours of work you do are not recognised or valued. If any of this sounds familiar, chances are you're a woman. Award-winning campaigner and writer Caroline Criado Perez brings together for the first time an impressive range of case studies, stories and new research from across the world that illustrate the hidden ways in which women are forgotten, and the impact this has on their health and wellbeing. From government policy and medical research, to technology, workplaces, urban planning and the media, Invisible Women reveals the biased data that excludes women. In making the case for change, this provocative book will make you see the world in a new way.

“This book is a devastating indictment of institutionalised complacency and a rallying cry to fight back… Invisible Women should propel women into action. It should also be compulsory reading for men.” – Sunday Times

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