The Best Books Of The Last Year (And What To Read Next)

By Colin Groundwater
11 February 2020
Books, Best Books of 2019, Marlon James, Valeria Luiselli, Hanif Abdurraqib, Patrick Radden Keefe, Jia Tolentino, Ocean Vuong, David Wallace-wells, Taffy Brodesser-akner, Ben Lerner
We asked the authors of our favorite books of 2019 to share their top reads for 2020

Black Leopard, Red Wolf, By Marlon James

Stick with us here: A hunter with a supernatural sense of smell must battle demons on his quest to find a missing boy, all while navigating his romantic feelings for a shape-shifting leopard. Such is the stuff of the first entry in Marlon James’s ambitious new Dark Star Trilogy. Inspired by the world of African mythology, Black Leopard, Red Wolf is an exciting new classic in the fantasy canon.

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Author recommends: The Memory Police, By Yoko Ogawa

“What starts out as an elliptical take on loss becomes a darkly sinister warning that just because you can’t remember having something doesn’t mean it wasn’t taken from you.”

Lost Children Archive, By Valeria Luiselli

No matter your background, Valeria Luiselli will make the refugee crisis feel personal in this smart, poignant novel about a blended family that’s falling apart on a road trip to the Mexican-American border.

Author recommends: When Death Takes Something From You Give It Back, By Naja Marie Aidt

“A brutal but also beautiful meditation on death that combines family archives and a chorus of literary voices, and with them composes an indelible
ode to life.”

Go Ahead in the Rain, By Hanif Abdurraqib

Poet and essayist Hanif Abdurraqib combines his lyrical gifts with his bottomless musical knowledge in this book about the legendary rap group A Tribe Called Quest. Part history and part love letter, it’s a unique kind of music book that will have you revisiting Midnight Marauders ASAP.

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Author recommends: Hard Damage, By Aria Aber

“This book has a real generosity and warmth extended, balancing not only accountability to the always shifting world but also forgiveness.”

Say Nothing, By Patrick Radden Keefe

In 1972 a widowed mother of 10 was murdered in Northern Ireland. No one knew who killed her – until now. Deftly fusing the breakneck pace of true crime with crazily in-depth reporting, this account of The Troubles and its ongoing legacy is the most gripping non-fiction read of the year.

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Author recommends: A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves, By Jason DeParle

“The reporting is astonishing. Jason DeParle followed his characters for three decades.”

Trick Mirror, By Jia Tolentino

The youth whisperer speaks. These nine new essays from 30-year-old New Yorker staff writer Jia Tolentino cover everything from her time on a reality-TV show to her other experiences, both religious and psychoactive. The collection further establishes her as a witty, incisive, and essential voice.

Author recommends: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, By Ocean Vuong

“Read this and you’ll understand what it means for a book to be a miracle.”

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, By Ocean Vuong

Written as a letter to the protagonist’s illiterate mother, the debut novel from this award-winning poet is an intimate account of a young Vietnamese immigrant’s struggles. Shining at the intersections of class, race, and life itself, it’s guaranteed to move you.

Author recommends: Lot, By Bryan Washington

“Washington has such an incredible skill at texturising people and their histories. Anything he writes next will be a game changer for me.”

The Uninhabitable Earth, By David Wallace-wells

The scariest book of the year, bar none. David Wallace-Wells maps out our shockingly short road to ecological apocalypse, paved with floods and pestilence and other assorted disasters so gruesome it’ll keep you awake at night.

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Author recommends: No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference, By Greta Thunberg

“Greta Thunberg’s book of speeches made me realise that political cynicism is just another form of naiveté.”

Fleishman Is in Trouble, By Taffy Brodesser-akner

The New York Times staff writer (and former GQ correspondent) updates the marriage novel for our dating-app era, transforming the dark – and darkly hilarious –stuff of a modern separation into the book of summer 2019.

Author recommends: The Mastermind, By Evan Ratlif

The Mastermind made me jealous as a journalist (how’d he find that out?) and, though it is a true story, as a novelist.”

The Topeka School, By Ben Lerner

Taking aim at toxic masculinity, Ben Lerner’s latest novel explores, in part, how American culture has twisted young men and created our contemporary political moment.

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Author recommends: Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming, By László Krasznahorkai

“No received idea is safe from Krasznahorkai’s ruthless prose.”

How to Do Nothing, By Jenny Odell

As the pace of modern life accelerates and social media herds and monetises our attention, artist Jenny Odell makes a compelling argument for opting out. A cultural critique in the trappings of self-help, How to Do Nothing will persuade you to take some much needed time for yourself.

Author recommends: Trick Mirror, By Jia Tolentino

“This book made me feel less alone in the Upside Down – and gave me a model for thinking through the seemingly unthinkable.”