Start the year off right with Book Riot’s Most Anticipated Books of 2019, our round-up of the most exciting new releases of the year. Pre-order, add ’em to your TBR, and shout these titles from the rooftops:
Poet, activist, and scholar Eve L. Ewing has been a storm over Chicago for the last several years—the kind that takes you by surprise; makes you look up into the rain and think. Since I first read Electric Arches in 2017, I have heard Ewing read several times, and her poems that blur the line between past and present—such as “I saw Emmett Till this week at the grocery store”—hit hardest. So I am incredibly excited for 1919, which will explore the Chicago Race Riot of 1919 (which lasted eight days and resulted in 38 deaths and 500 injuries) through stories of everyday people of the city told with an Afrofuturist and speculative lens.
What happens when you ask 25 of the most creative voices in sci-fi/fantasy (including N. K. Jemisin, Malka Older, Tananarive Due, and Charles Yu) to imagine the future? The answer: A People’s Future of the United States. The volume’s editors, themselves accomplished in the field, invited the authors to tell new stories that challenge and reimagine old histories. As should be expected from such a motley and imaginative crew, the results are incredibly varied and incredibly exciting. Some are more fantastical, some more grounded. Some have dragons, some don’t. But every one of them is thrilling, inspiring, and delightful.
I know there are series that make readers wait far longer than the fifteen months that I had to wait between A Hope Divided and An Unconditional Freedom, but even that was extensively too long. I have loved watching the characters in the Loyal League build a universe set in the American Civil War, and look forward to Daniel’s story. Daniel, of whom most of us have been vaguely fond but also somewhat wary. The story of how he and Jacinta, his new partner in crime and espionage, come to love each other sounds exciting and intriguing, and also very stressful. I can’t wait to see what happens in the conclusion of the Loyal League trilogy!
I’ve been waiting for this book since 2015, when Penny Reid first started telling the stories of the Winston brothers of Green Valley, TN. As she’s led 6 of the 7 Winston siblings to lasting love, Reid has poked at the edges of the history between Billy, the steadfast center of the family, and Claire, the one-time outcast and family friend, to cause both of them to be irreparably heartbroken. Reid has built affection for these two over the course of the series, and in doing so, she’s also built the expectations of her readers. I can’t wait to see how she fixes a relationship that’s so broken and finally gets these two to an HEA of their own.
Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s
Back when Hunkpapa Sioux poet/essayist Tiffany Midge wrote a humor column for Indian Country Today, I had to make sure I read it alone because I so often found myself laughing hysterically and shouting, “I can’t believe you said that!!” This collection of essays is sure to be hilarious and wise, and I can hardly wait for it to come out in fall 2019 from University of Nebraska Press.
I’ve been following Faith Erin Hicks’s comics for a few years; this book covers comic copyright issues, understandable hate-to-love, and creators’ legacy. As one creator’s heiress with nothing plans for college, another with everything stumbles into her life with an awkward history, and the hope they can put the comics behind them. Easier said than done when money is involved. It’s about time we had a story featuring unjust copyright issues and exploitation.
Told via interviews, this novel about the titular 70s band reads like a gossipy Rolling Stone profile in all the best ways. The novel could easily have rested on its atmospheric laurels, relying on our collective love of that musical era; rather the story is uniquely unveiled with truly great results. Every character contributes to the narrative and the collective whole is greater than its individual parts. If you love Almost Famous or adore Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors, you will love this. Even if you don’t, you’ll love its beautiful language, immersive plot, and genuine characters. Taylor Jenkins Reid is so good you don’t even miss the music.
I was introduced to Ebony Elizabeth Thomas as a guest speaker in one of my children’s literature classes. Even two years later I remember her great energy and her intellect. When I heard about this book, examining the way that blackness is depicted in children’s and young adult fantasy, or rather how it isn’t depicted, I couldn’t wait. Thomas digs into black representation offered by several recent books, including Angelina Johnson in Harry Potter and Rue from the Hunger Games. She takes on the broader social response, such as the backlash at Rue’s blackness when she was played by Amandla Stenberg in the movie. Buckle up!
After a whirlwind romance resulting in an engagement after five months, journalist Abby Ellin discovered that her dashing, world-traveling fiancé had been lying about… basically everything. She also realized this happens to more people than we might think, prompting her to turn her reporting skills at the world of double lives. In the book, she explores the art and science of lying, analyzes deception and secret lives in pop culture, and shares the stories of other women who have had their lives upended by dishonesty in romantic partners. In a world where gaslighting is the new normal, this book seems particularly relevant.
Tommy Pico is a queer, indigenous poet who cites both Beyoncé and A.R. Ammons as influences on his work. In April, I read his 2018 book Junk, an epic break-up poem in couplets, and I loved it so much I’ve mentioned it on this site at least four times. Pico uses what he calls a “Trojan horse” approach to poetry–jokes about Grindr and Chinese take-out segue into discussions of diaspora and cultural erasure. Equally brilliant are his books IRL and Nature Poem. A few weeks ago, I heard a sneak preview from his next book, Feed (coming fall 2019), when he read at a Poets With Attitude event in New York. Friends, it’s gonna be his best yet.
A serial killer reverend never found guilty in court. That same man, murdered at the public funeral of one of his victims. One lawyer in the middle of it all. All of this taking place in Alabama in the 1970s. Harper Lee came for the trial of the man who shot the accused serial killer and followed the case for years. Cep explores murder, race relations in the Deep South, and explores why Lee never wrote about the trial she so closely investigated. There’s nothing about this true crime book that doesn’t make me want to pick it up and start turning pages.
Helen Oyeyemi takes on the fairy-tale subject of gingerbread in her much-anticipated new novel. Mother and daughter Perdita and Harriet Lee live a fairly normal life, or so it seems from the outside. But they have an elaborate gold-painted apartment, and they make gingerbread that’s popular in a far-away place called Druhástrana. It’s also very popular with Harriet’s childhood friend Gretel, a constant presence. And years later, when Perdita sets out to find this mysterious friend of her mother’s, she reaches a new understanding of her mother’s past. So begins an inventive story of ambition, family grudges, wealth—and gingerbread.
We’ve been hip to the fact that we need diverse books for a while now, but we also need a diverse selection of stories by diverse authors. That’s why I’m so excited for I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest. This Black ballerina, road trip rom com is pure YA joy. Chloe never breaks the rules… until her mom forbids her to try out for her dream dance conservatory. Now, she’s sneaking two hundred miles away to audition, but that means driving with her annoying (and annoyingly cute) neighbor Eli. And the ride will be full of frustratingly charming banter and so many swoons. Also there’s a dog… basically all the good things.
This book was the first-ever winner of the Almultaqa Prize for the Arabic Short Story, and well-deserved. Mazen Maarouf started his career as a poet and a sharp-eyed critic, and he brings both of those skills to this collection, his first book of short stories. Jonathan Wright–who has previously translated the award-winning short stories of Hassan Blasim–brings them into a resonant English.
I met one of my dearest friends in the comment section of Sarah McColl’s now defunct blog, The Pink of Perfection. Sarah’s warm, witty, and inviting posts encompassed nearly all of my interests, from cooking and creating, to books and talking with other creatives. While I know her memoir focuses on the death of her mother and dissolving marriage, I feel I know Sarah’s writing enough to know that it will encompass so much more. I’m eager to read about Sarah’s life these past blog-less years. I imagine it will be like catching up with an old friend you lost touch with, but have held near in your heart because of the role they played in your life.
Lucy Knisley’s latest graphic memoir details her journey to pregnancy, her pregnancy itself, and the birth of her son–and the medical complications it entailed. This is all juxtaposed with an examination of the history of childbirth, basic science of pregnancy, and societal/cultural assumptions and mores of pregnancy and motherhood. Knisley has mastered the art of saying a lot in few words, along with her vibrant and detailed illustrations. She brings her story to life with humor and determination, along with insightful commentary about pregnancy and birth, and about women’s health more generally, as well. If you’ve read her other books, you’ll love this; if you’ve never read her before, you’re in for a treat.
Picking up after the Shadow and Bone trilogy and Six of Crows duology, King of Scars reunites us with Ravka’s new king, Nikolai Lantsov. Though he survived Ravka’s Civil War, he still bears wounds (and scars), ones that transform him into a bloodthirsty monster. As the transformations become more frequent, and the risk of his enemies, and his subjects, learning his secret grows greater, Nikolai sets off to find a cure. Though I’m always ready for more of Nikolai’s loudmouthed confidence, I’m especially excited to see more of Squaller Zoya and Heartrender Nina, both favorites from Bardugo’s previous forays into the Grishaverse.
Nima Kumara-Clark is bored with her life. She’s in love with her straight friend, her mother has recently left, but at a local festival, Nima stumbles into a world she’s never before encountered: drag. From queens to kings, Nima finds a new world of inspiration, love, and friendship that she never could have expected. But she’ll have to cope with lost love in order to accept this new world being offered to her. Drag kings, check. Drag queens, check. Coming of age, check. Queer girl finds love, check, check, check. This book sounds like a rainbow parade of awesomeness, and I can’t wait to read Nima’s story and see this cast of characters.
City of Saints and Thieves author Natalie C. Anderson is back with another YA suspense novel that will leave readers on the edge of their seats. After his family is kidnapped, Abdi is forced to become a child soldier to a ruthless group known as Al Shabaab. Abdi trains with them, witnessing countless monstrous acts, and eventually becomes a monster himself.
Nora McInerny is the host of one of my favorite podcasts, Terrible, Thanks for Asking, in which she talks with people who have experienced various tragedies and traumas. Nora herself lost her unborn second baby, her father, and her husband all within weeks of each other. She knows firsthand that it’s okay to not be okay (and talk about it!) and that it’s also okay to experience moments of joy in the wake of tragedy. She is thoughtful and compassionate, as well as hilarious and down-to-earth. In her second memoir, Nora explores the tension between her newfound happiness with her second husband and four kids and the losses that shaped her.
Poet Ocean Vuong’s first novel is the hottest ARC in town right now and it’s easy to understand why. His award-winning poetry collection, Night Sky With Exit Wounds, was incredibly well-received when it debuted in 2016. His novel, the title of which is taken from a poem by the same name, is the story of a mother-son relationship, which weaves through issues of identity, race, and sexuality. Knowing the power of Vuong’s writing, there’s no doubt that this will be an intense and emotional journey, with moving observations on humanity and relationships. I can’t wait to read his novel, even knowing how heart-wrenching it will be.
Angie Thomas’s debut novel, The Hate U Give, made a big splash in the book world and was adapted into a highly acclaimed movie. Her next novel is set for release on February 5 and early reviews suggest that it will hit just as hard as THUG. On the Come Up tells the story of Bri, a sixteen-year-old aspiring rapper with talent and drive. But when her mom loses her job and the family is threatened with homelessness, she has to make big moves to protect her dreams and her loved ones. Exploring themes of poverty, racial discrimination, addiction, and police surveillance, it’s a realistic and engaging story that fans of THUG are sure to love.
This is a selection of essays by 19 of the Arab world’s greatest female journalists. This edited collection will break the mould of coverage of the Middle East, often the province of white, male foreign correspondents. Instead, it will feature pieces by women who are from, and reported on, the region with great professionalism and humanity. The authors are a who’s who of excellent women writers who have done some of the best journalism in the Arab world, and tell us in their own words what it’s like to cover war and societies in revolution.
Place of Gold: Coming of Age with South Africa
Picking up where his first memoir, Born a Crime, leaves off, this book tells the story of Trevor Noah’s young adulthood and his journey from working odd jobs in South Africa to becoming a comedian and ultimately the host of the Daily Show. Born a Crime was without a doubt one of the best books I read last year. It was witty and honest and almost impossible to put down. I can’t wait to get even more of the story of Noah’s life in Place of Gold, and if it’s even half as good then I fully expect it to be one of my favorite books of 2019.
It’s a new historical romance by the illustrious Beverly Jenkins. That is reason alone for Rebel to be a must-read in 2019. In this first book in a new series, Women Who Dare, we will meet Valinda Lacey–a Northern woman in the south in the aftermath of the Civil War. Set in New Orleans, Valinda is keen on helping her community survive but she’ll learn that freedom, during this time, is dangerous and does not come without significant cost. After she is targeted, she runs for her life and into Captain Drake LeVeq. This novel promises to be one of irresistible love, rebellion, and the fight to getting what one deserves.
Rom-com? A female POTUS? A fake friendship-turned-secret romance between the First Son and the Prince of Wales? Check, check, and check! Casey McQuiston’s debut novel already hits all the right notes for me with its political nuances, a steamy romance, and high stakes that force its characters to reflect and make the right choice… all the while trying to avoid facing political scandal and wreaking international havoc. The British Royal-American crossover relationship is just the icing on top of an already edible cake, and I can’t wait to dig in!
It’s been twenty years since Speak came into the world. Now, Laurie Halse Anderson is shifting the perspective to herself, shouting her story (and rage and calls to action and love letters to those who speak up) in free verse. She shares parts of her own story that she’s never written about before, with grace and poignancy. This one will be a gut punch, but a necessary one.
Twenty years is a long time, and oh, how we wish Speak weren’t still relevant. Maybe Shout will be the one to change the world for good.
Maurene Goo’s YA romcom, The Way You Make Me Feel, was delightfully amusing and one of my favorite reads of 2018. Goo has a knack for creating flawed yet lovable characters that make me laugh out loud. So, when I heard her new novel Somewhere Only We Know is a modern retelling set in Hong Kong of the classic film Roman Holiday, I couldn’t help but squeal with excitement. In Goo’s version of the story, K-pop star Lucky’s post-concert hankering for a hamburger leads to a fateful run-in with tabloid reporter Jack Lim. Love and hijinks ensue! Can’t wait until May 7th to get my paws on this one.
The third book in Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet series is likely to be another eccentric, pun-filled marvel. The books (Autumn, Winter and now Spring) exist in a post-Brexit, post-Trumpian reality, and Smith never shrinks away from political references. Her way of capturing the seasons is immersive, like the reader is right there with the characters. Smith loves to play with language in all her work, and that joy in writing always shines through. ‘It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times’ is how she teasingly begins Autumn, but despite that nihilistic streak her writing remains bright, funny and profoundly hopeful. I don’t have plot details about Spring, but I know that I’m in for a literary treat.
Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient was an explosive, runaway hit in 2018—featuring mirror-steaming romance, and a neurodiverse female and Asian-American male lead, Book Rioters collectively fell in love with the well-written characters and their chemistry. Saying that we’re highly anticipating this second installment that I recently found out about is an understatement. The Bride Test will follow Khai Diep, whose autism means that he’s convinced he is incapable of feeling or returning affection, and Esme Tran, a girl Khai’s mother brings from Vietnam as a potential bride for him.
There’s this planet, you see, and half is eternally day and half is eternally night. Humankind has made a place in the sliver of dusk in between and very few go into the night; even fewer go by choice. The night has its dangers, but the city is not necessarily safe either. I’m practically climbing the walls with excitement for this book. Charlie Jane Anders has been described as the Le Guin of this generation and after reading her amazing debut novel, All the Birds in the Sky, I’m not one to argue. Word on the street is The City in the Middle of the Night is even better and I am ready to thrust it into the hands of every reader I know.
I was drawn to this book because it won the 2019 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize and Graywolf has a history of putting out excellent nonfiction. The book’s description is intriguing too: it’s a collection of essays on mental and chronic illness. This is a subject that I, and many others, are affected by and need to learn more about. Wang combines research with personal narrative to explore disagreements in the medical community about definitions and treatments, misconceptions about schizophrenia, and the personal experience of living with mental illness. It’s sure to be one of the most important essay collections of 2019.
As soon as I saw this cover I knew I needed to know more about the book, and one sentence into the summary I had already downloaded the egalley and started reading it because WOW. Frannie Langton is on trial for the murder of her boss and his wife, and in the hopes of saving herself she must tell the story of what actually happened. So she starts to tell her story, beginning in Jamaica as a slave and ending with the murders in London as a servant, but will that be enough for her to remember what happened or to save her, a black woman accused of murdering two white people in the 1800s? An impactful historical mystery with a hell of a voice.
I love books that interweave technology and magic, but when Victoria Lee tweeted that every character in The Fever King is queer, my ears perked all the way up. In a future version of the United States, Noam is the son of undocumented immigrants and fights for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks. He wakes up after surviving a viral magic that killed his family with the ability to control technology. He finds himself ushered into the magical elite and government he’s fought against for so long. Complicated politics, antiheroes, and timely parallels all wrapped up in a gay science-based fantasy? I simply cannot wait until March.
The second book in Chakraborty’s Daevabad trilogy, The Kingdom of Copper has, if possible, even more adventure, intrigue, triumph, and tragedy than its predecessor, City of Brass. Death proves impermanent, eternal life unreliable, and power unpredictable as Nari tries to navigate her new home, responsibilities, and a husband taken from desperation, Ali is in exile, and Muntadhir must contend with a marriage forced upon him by circumstances and his father’s rigid insistence that Dihu prove himself worth of the crown. With all of this comes the threat of ifreet and old rage from outside of Daevabad, threatening the entirety of the djinn empire.
Amanda Lovelace is one of my absolute favourite poets. The Princess Saves Herself in this One came to me at just the right time and gave me some much needed reassurance. I read it twice in one sitting. The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One was an excellent follow up. I can’t wait to get my hands on the next one! This series is beautiful and empowering and I keep coming back to it. Princess is about finding your strength, Witch is about taking back your control, and Mermaid is going to be about finding your voice. I can’t wait to read it.
You read that right: a new Colson Whitehead novel is on its way. *waits for applause to die down* It’s about two teen boys who are thrown into a brutal reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida. Each boy has a different approach to how they face the world, but neither of them is prepared for what is coming. This fantastic novel is only 240 pages, and while I would read a Whitehead novel that is ten times as long, it’s the perfect length for what he is trying to convey. Whitehead has taken another dark spot in American history and transformed it into a compelling, powerful gut-punch of a novel. I can’t wait to read it again.
The Rose was an easy pick for my most anticipated read of 2019. I never miss a new Tiffany Reisz book, let alone one set in the same universe as her tantalizing erotic novel The Red. When Lia graduates from college, her art collector parents give her a beautiful cup as a congratulatory gift. But it turns out to be more than just a cup. August Bowman – a friend of her parents with a personal interest in the cup – identifies it as the Rose kylix, a religious artifact dedicated to Eros that can bring to life a person’s most intimate sexual fantasies. Reisz’s work is always as beautiful as it is sensual, so I anticipate a highly enjoyable read!
25 years after the disappearance of his sister, Joe Thorne is forced to reconnect with his old friends – all of whom were there on that fateful night. He’s a desperate man, drowning in debt and bad life choices; what he proceeds to discover will shatter everything he thought he knew. This is Tudor’s second novel, and it looks to have the trademark combination of slow, chilling mystery and subtle twists which made her 2018 debut (The Chalk Man) such a hit. After all, as her books keep showing us, the devil you know may be even scarier than the devil you don’t.
Not much is known yet about the recently-announced sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale but I am looking forward to learning more about Gilead fifteen years later. The book will have three female narrators. The end of the first book made it clear that Offred’s story was a story of “early Gilead” and that things got worse before they got better, if they ever did get better. Atwood says this book was inspired by all of the questions she has received about Gilead as well as by “the world we’ve been living in.” Right now, it could be anything, and I find that very exciting.
Esha is the legendary assassin known to her enemies only as the Viper. Kunal is a dreamer trying to mold himself into a soldier–and his uncle, the ruthless General Hotha, is Esha’s new target. A delightful cat-and-mouse chase complete with scorching chemistry unfolds over a brilliantly realized fantasy world inspired by Indian history and Hindu mythology. Full disclosure: I’ve already read this, so what I’m actually anticipating is shoving it into the hands of all my friends and watching them tear through it with as much feverish delight as I did. If you love epic, diverse YA fantasy plus swoonworthy romance, add this to your wishlist now.
I absolutely loved Sorcerer to the Crown, an enchanting post-colonial take on fantasy set in Regency England. Now its sequel, The True Queen, is almost here, and you know I’m reading it the second the book comes out. The True Queen follows sisters Muna and Sakti, who wake up cursed and with no memory of anything except their sisterhood. To save her sister, Muna journeys to Britain, the home of the powerful Sorceress Royal… If you love Jane Austen, or powerful witches, or fantasy that breaks the mold, then this series is a must-read.
Kamala Harris is the outspoken, progressive junior senator from California. Her second book is focused on her trademark holistic approach to complex issues – a.k.a. finding the truth. Harris built her career on untangling complex problems, such as crime, using data-driven methods. She may run in the 2020 U.S. presidential election (*fingers crossed*). As a Californian, scientist involved in policy, and woman of color, I can’t wait to learn about how Harris is able to balance what the data says with the competing viewpoints of constituents and stakeholders. Luckily, I won’t have to wait too long into 2019 as her book is released January 8!
Maureen Johnson is a master of cliffhangers, and the first book of her Truly Devious series was no exception. The first book of the series intertwines a murder mystery, high school drama, true crime obsession, and jumping between timelines. However, Johnson’s deft touch helps us keep up with her and her brilliant main character. After solving the murder of her famous actor classmate at Ellingham Academy, Stevie Bell still has a host of cases following her—David, Albert Ellingham’s riddle, and of course, the original murder. When the only clue is a letter signed by the mysterious Truly Devious, and Stevie’s parents have decided to pull her out of school, we’re set up for one of the most compulsively readable series in the YA mystery genre.
Theo and Maddie, Alexa’s best friends from Guillory’s The Wedding Date, hate each other almost as much as they love Alexa. Picking up at Theo’s birthday party from the end of The Wedding Date, this book will follow the two enemies as they have an “oops” hookup and then have to deal with each other while being the bridal party for Alexa and Drew’s wedding. And by deal with each other, I mean deal with how much they wanna bone. And then start secretly boning. I can’t wait!
And so the Winternight Trilogy ends. *sob* Katherine Arden’s historical fantasy series improves with each book, as the main character Vasya grows into adulthood, becomes fully grounded in her abilities, and refuses to bow to societal norms. If you’re a completest, this is the perfect time to start the series. Set in a pseudo medieval Russia, where Vasya can see and communicate with chyerti and domovoi — guardian spirits and creatures from Russian folklore—it’s the perfect winter reading: snow-laden landscape, feminist heroine fighting evil, a slow-burn romance, and page-turning action. And it’s rich in subtext and magic.
Sandhya Menon already has our heart because of When Dimple Met Rishi and From Twinkle, With Love. Her latest novel promises to be just as sweet. It features Ashish Patel, Rishi’s younger playboy brother, and Sweetie Nair, a plus-sized Indian track athlete! Neither of them meet the expectations that their parents have set for them, and when they begin to date under some unusual circumstances, they don’t expect to start falling for each other! Sweetie is probably the first plus-sized South Asian protagonist in YA, and I couldn’t be more excited to see her in an adorable romance.
It has been almost three years since the release of the second book in Megan Morrison’s Tyme series, and I cannot WAIT to be immersed once again in the Tyme universe. I’ve loved Morrison’s writing since the days she was writing as Arabella in the Harry Potter fandom. Her first two books, Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel and Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella, are wonderful, complex, utterly captivating re-tellings of familiar fairytales. Transformed is about a prince from another area in Tyme, the Olive Isles, who has been turned into a frog and I am looking forward to seeing where Morrison goes with the story.
Zafira and Nasir are both hiding secrets that could be the difference between life and death. Zafira is masquerading as a boy in order to be recognized as a hero, while Nasir works behind the scenes to assassinate those who defy his father but also holds a deep compassion for others. We Hunt the Flame is inspired by ancient Arabia and written by a Muslim-American creative powerhouse, and I cannot wait to get this book in my hands.
2018’s The Poet X was an absolute stunner. Thank god we don’t have to wait long for Acevedo’s next book, which is out in May. With the Fire on High is about a high schooler with a gift for whipping up magic in the kitchen, who feels pulled asunder by her responsibility to her daughter and her dreams of one day becoming a professional chef. This latest has all the lyricism of Acevedo’s previous YA novel, and is made up of short scenes that propel you headlong through the book, all the way to its satisfying end.