Genres

Genres

Show All Comics Fiction Nonfiction Science Fiction Romance Mystery/Thriller Fantasy Young Adult Poetry

Welcome to Book Riot’s guide to the best books of 2019! We’ve got something for lovers of every genre and readers of all ages, and best-sellers along with hidden gems. Enjoy!

Ninth House

Ninth House

Leigh Bardugo

Fantasy

Months later and I’m still thinking about Ninth House‘s dark mystery and fierce heroine. Alex Stern only got her spot at Yale because of an ability to see ghosts called Grays. Now she’s tasked with supervising Yale’s secret societies and their extracurricular explorations of the occult. When a town girl is murdered, Alex is convinced one of the societies is responsible, but finds that she might be the only one willing to take on Yale’s rich and powerful (and magical) to find her killer. Bardugo’s Yale is tantalizing and terrifying, and by the end you’ll both want to enroll and burn it down.

Normal People

Normal People

Sally Rooney

Fiction

This novel follows two high school teens who forge a connection during senior year, despite running in different social circles. They continue to be inexplicably drawn to each other at Trinity College Dublin, despite their new surroundings. This premise isn’t new, but Rooney makes it stand out with her astute observations of the complex and heartbreaking dynamics of modern, young love. Marianne and Connell’s entanglement is as engrossing and thrilling as it is painful and frustrating. And just as any truly intimate relationship, it’ll make you laugh, cry, and feel like you’ve been punched in the gut—in both the best and worst way possible.

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead: A Novel

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead: A Novel

Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones

Fiction

Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Reclusive Janina is a passionate astrologer and advocate for animals, happy to keep to her quiet life until her neighbor turns up dead and things take a strange turn in her community. She involves herself in the investigation and believes she’s discovered the truth. But who would listen to an eccentric older woman? A genre-defying novel, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is part investigative thriller and part fairytale, with biting social critique and a wicked sense of humor.

The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics

The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics is certainly not the first historical romance to highlight the scientific work women have been doing for centuries, but it’s a worthy addition to that canon. As Jess Pryde pointed out on When In Romance, Waite takes world-building seriously despite writing in a setting many readers will presume to know. The result is the emotionally rich story of Lucy and Catherine finding each other tied to their story of finding a larger community of marginalized scientists and artists. A reminder that these communities existed in Regency England is important for the book’s heroines but also for its readers.

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

Ocean Vuong

Fiction

Vuong’s debut novel is an emotionally absorbing story of family, love, and grief. Little Dog is writing a letter to his mother, though she cannot read. In it, he recounts the often heartbreaking trauma and hardships his family has experienced, from the war in Vietnam to being immigrants in a mostly white city, as well as his own personal conflicts. As a queer teen of color, it is difficult for Little Dog to find love in his town. The language in this book is pure poetry, and Vuong uses it to form a thousand little necessary gut-punches. Life is ugly and hard and painful and wondrous. How lucky we are to have a book such as this to remind us.

I Wish You All the Best

I Wish You All the Best

Mason Deaver

RomanceYoung Adult

I can’t think of a more beautifully written YA novel published this year than I Wish You All the Best. The way it handles the aftermath of coming out and nonbinary identity feels so thoughtful and real, perhaps because it comes from a nonbinary author. Although it deals with heavy topics such as emotional abuse and anxiety, it also explores the freedom that comes from being loved unconditionally and as your authentic self.

Ducks, Newburyport

Ducks, Newburyport

Lucy Ellmann

Fiction

Ducks, Newburyport is 1,000+ pages of one woman’s thoughts, all in one sentence with no paragraph breaks. Interspersed throughout is a story about a mountain lion. This might sound difficult and intimidating, but it’s the most enjoyable unconventional novel I have ever read. The narrator, an Ohio baker and mother of four, thinks about books, movies, pies, gun control, Trump, climate change, her children, her social anxieties, the everyday objects that fill her life, and so much more. She is funny, reflective, worried, angry, and above all endlessly entertaining. I’m in awe of the ambition of this novel, its range, depth, and inventiveness.

Natalie Tan's Book Of Luck And Fortune

After the unexpected death of her mother who she hasn’t spoken to in a year, Natalie Tan has to go back to her neighbourhood in Chinatown and deal with her past, along with the future of her neighbours and neighbourhood. When you read this book, you can feel the love of culture and food within its pages. More importantly, you can see how entangled food, culture, and family can become. It’s a book about how food can bring people together, but also drive them apart. Filled with lush, lyrical writing, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is the kind of book that’ll fill you with warmth, and make you extremely hungry.

If It Makes You Happy

If It Makes You Happy

Claire Kann

Young Adult

This book was my favorite summer read, hands down, by far. First of all, the cover grabbed me. Then the first line of the blurb described Winnie as “living her best fat-girl life.” I love when fat girls get to live good lives in books, so I was sold. But it got better from there. Winnie is so real—angry at fatphobic doctors, firm with discriminatory patrons at her grandmother’s diner, sweet and gentle with her (un)girlfriend, a protective older sibling, an incredible communicator, an overachiever, and in the midst of all of that, ready to accept new admirers. Small town sweet summer romance with modern characters—it made me happy.

The Collected Schizophrenias

The Collected Schizophrenias

Esmé Weijun Wang

Nonfiction

In The Collected Schizophrenias, Esmé Weijun Wang illuminates the experience of living on the schizophrenia spectrum. The Collected Schizophrenias is an urgent contribution to literature on mental illness, shot through with grace, candor, and courage. Wang’s book is a new classic of narrative medicine and an invaluable resource, giving patients, advocates, and mental health practitioners alike a vocabulary to describe the indescribable contours of psychosis. Most of all, Wang’s The Collected Schizophrenias offers a balm of hope for those seeking answers and a light of witness to all who struggle with this paralyzing, dazzling darkness.

Space Struck

Space Struck

Paige Lewis

Poetry

The poems in Space Struck capture an alternating sense of gravitas and whimsy, with lines like “I’m // the vice president of panic, and the president is / missing” and “We believe tides are caused by millions of oysters / gasping in unison.” Lewis plays with point of view, turning their speakers into characters acting out stories in the space of a few stanzas. They explore outer space, religion, science, and love through the eyes of God’s overworked secretary and Ann Hodges, the first person on record to be struck by a meteorite. The result is a dazzling debut whose title is a promise for how the book will leave you feeling.

Soft Science

Soft Science

Franny Choi

Poetry

In this sophomore full-length collection, Choi, a Korean American writer, muddles the line between machines performing humanity and humans being treated inhumanely, feeling robotic: “One night, I drank until my body was a claw machine—clumsy, animatronic.” A Turing Test poem foregrounds each section, measuring the speaker’s consciousness, empathy. Through inventive forms and technological language (“o pixelated song” and “LCD force field”), these stunning poems of various shapes interrogate the complexities of being Asian American, femme, queer in a destructive world, exploring cyborgs, identity, survival, violence, and vulnerability.

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators

While it could be a straightforward retelling of breaking the Pulitzer Prize-winning New Yorker story, this book is one of the most compelling, emotional reads of the year. First and foremost, the descriptions of sexual assault are frank and devastating. At the same time, an insidious plot of spies mounts against him. Ronan Farrow is truly a fantastic, engaging, and deeply thoughtful writer. It’s not that he broke the story: it’s that he handled it with the care and attention it needed.

Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls: A Memoir

Reading T Kira Madden’s coming-of-age memoir is like stepping back in time to younger world sparkling with possibility. But instead of viewing her childhood with rose-colored glasses, Madden tells her story with frankness, laying out each scene like a snapshot from her memory. She writes Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls as a series of essays, which run the spectrum from prose poetry to long meditative essays, leading the reader from moment to moment, taking in all of the fine-point details that make up a life. Fierce, queer, and nostalgic, Madden’s debut more than earns its place as one of the best memoirs of the year.

Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass

Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass

Mariko Tamaki and Steve Pugh

ComicsYoung Adult

I didn’t expect Harley Quinn to be a character who could be effectively adapted for young audiences, but boy did Tamaki and Pugh prove me wrong. Breaking Glass is joyful and wrung-out at the same time, with a heroine whose scattered goofiness hides a sharp mind and white-hot ruthlessness—so, Harley to a T, basically, but without any of the exploitative or deeply upsetting elements that are usually present in her stories. This book has a lot of smart things to say about diversity and gentrification—oh, and did I mention that every panel is breathtakingly gorgeous? Because every panel is breathtakingly gorgeous. Pick this one up!

The Dutch House

The Dutch House

Ann Patchett

Fiction

Ann Patchett exceeded already high expectations with this book. The story is told from the POV of Danny Conroy as he’s looking back on his life. His mother left the family when he was young, his father was distant, and his sister was his one partner, even though their relationship wasn’t perfect. As he grows up, he realizes where his blindspots have been and the impact that has had. Like many of Patchett’s novels, the story explores a complicated family relationship, but this one has a sense of nostalgia and loss running through it all that will draw you in and pull at your heartstrings.

Bunny

Bunny

Mona Awad

Fiction

This is one of the most original works of fiction I’ve read in ages and I knew within the first ten pages that it would be a new all-time favorite of mine, in addition to being my favorite release of 2019. Set at a prestigious MFA program, it follows Samantha as she relates to the other people in her cohort, a group of women who all refer to each other as “Bunny.” It’s a brilliant horror-comedy with notes of Alice in Wonderland and Heathers that plays with themes like artistic creation, the formation of cliques, and terrifying mini cupcakes. You’ll have to suspend your disbelief quite a bit, but I promise it’s absolutely worth it.

Hollow Kingdom

Hollow Kingdom

Kira Jane Buxton

FictionScience Fiction

This heartwarming, laugh-out-loud zombie novel was the surprise hit of my reading year. Depressing literary fiction is generally more my thing, but a friend recommended this book with such high praise I couldn’t resist giving it a try. The book is delightfully creative, setting up a clever premise: A domesticated, foul-mouthed crow and a sensitive, big-hearted bloodhound venture beyond their backyard to find out what’s happening to all the humans. They discover that humankind is indeed in serious trouble. As it turns out, when the apocalypse comes, it is the animals that save the world.

An Unconditional Freedom

An Unconditional Freedom

Alyssa Cole

Romance

As far as romances go, this definitely qualifies as a Hard Book. Any book featuring Black characters set during the American Civil War is going to be hard, but this one was particularly difficult. In fact, it took me three attempts to get through it, when I finally settled on the audiobook. Daniel, familiar to a reader who has read the previous Loyal League books but not impossible to grasp for a new reader, was based in part on Solomon Northup, and the PTSD he endures while spying for the Union is rough. But his slow burn relationship with Janeta and each of their own personal journeys is worth the ride for readers in the end.

Realm of Ash

Realm of Ash

Tasha Suri

Fantasy

The second book in Tasha Suri’s The Books of Ambha series, Realm of Ash is a shining example of what epic fantasy should be. It follows Arwa, a young widow who survived a terrible massacre and must now navigate the world seemingly at the sidelines. Yet the reason for Arwa’s survival is due her blood, a secret she tried to keep hidden her whole life but can no longer. Realm of Ash explores the *after* of Arwa and other characters who have been cast aside by a world of magic and tyrants. It’s a story about leaps of faith (!!!), and learning not only accept anger and yearning, but to feel them completely, and use them to make a better world.

The Infinite Noise

The Infinite Noise

Lauren Shippen

Young Adult

The Infinite Noise is, on its surface, a love story between two teenage boys, Caleb and Adam. It can certainly be enjoyed as such, but it is also so much more. It is an expansion of Shippen’s audio drama The Bright Sessions, which revolves around people with various enhanced abilities (known as Atypicals) and their therapist. Like the podcast, the novel is a deep and meaningful exploration of mental health through a science fiction lens. Shippen’s writing brims with empathy and honesty, and gives validation to the real experiences of young people that can often be dismissed. It is a beautiful book that I hope everyone picks up.

Fleishman Is In Trouble

Fleishman Is In Trouble

Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Fiction

I’m not exaggerating when I say that this novel blew me away—I tore through its 384 pages like a woman possessed. Toby Fleishman is a hepatologist, newly divorced and beginning to explore the world of online dating in New York. He’s sharing custody of his kids with his ex Rachel when she suddenly drops the kids off at his apartment and disappears. The rest of the novel is a mix of things—mystery, domestic drama, character profiles, musings on the roles of women in society. Brodesser-Akner’s writing can be cutting and gorgeous, every word she writes brings you in deep. Get ready for some well-earned twists and turns.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton

The Confessions of Frannie Langton

Sara Collins

FictionMystery/Thriller

You meet Frannie in jail, awaiting her trial of her English masters to whom she was gifted. She doesn’t remember that night. But she shares her entire life, including the horror she experienced on the plantation where she was born and enslaved in Jamaica, and a forbidden affair. Frannie is an exceptional lead character. She is educated, stubborn, and at times arrogant. But she is resilient, and captivating. I couldn’t put down this gothic, brutal, beautiful book, and Frannie still haunts me months later. But she haunts me in the best way, and I am thankful that Sarah Collins wrote this character and gave a woman like her a much needed voice.

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle

Emily Nagoski, PhD & Amelia Nagoski, DMA

Nonfiction

I read a lot of nonfiction and rarely do I feel so passionately about books in this genre. Emily Nagoski, author of Come As You Are, and her sister Amelia Nagoski bless us all with Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle. Targeted at all women, this book offers tips and support on alleviating the burnout so many of us women feel. What I love is that the book neither patronizes nor panders. The authors base their information in research and are honest about the limitations of science, especially when it comes to diversity. This book is phenomenal in ways I never anticipated a book on this subject could be and I wholly recommend it.

Furious Hours

Furious Hours

Casey Cep

Nonfiction

Furious Hours is a work of nonfiction that reads like fiction, drawing you in with almost a magnetic pull. The book is split into three parts: the life of Willie Maxwell and the family he murdered, the story of a lawyer who defended both Maxwell and the man who later killed him, and Harper Lee’s obsession with the story. While the story of the crime is fascinating, the book truly shines when talking about Harper Lee. While Cep isn’t able to draw a definitive conclusion on why Lee never finished the true crime novel she had started, she paints a picture of the life Lee lived that is compassionate and vivid. I’m thankful her story was told.

Broken Places & Outer Spaces: Finding Creativity in the Unexpected

I don’t talk a lot about my disability. I don’t think about it much, beyond the basic healthcare and day to day adjustments that must be made to accommodate it, and I’m lucky that it doesn’t take up more space in my daily life (at least, not currently). Nnedi Okorafor’s disability memoir struck me in unexpected ways. It made me analyze all the ways that living with a disability has shifted my understanding of the world, and especially how it’s affected my reading and writing choices. But it’s a powerful memoir regardless of a reader’s disability status. It shows how Okorafor transformed her pain into a journey to other worlds.

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?

Caitlin Doughty

Nonfiction

Caitlin Doughty rules. She takes a scary topic like death and makes it feel normal—because it is normal. We’re all gonna die, y’all, and there’s nothing we can do about it. This book is influenced by questions—some smart, some goofy—from children, with very scientific, historical, truthful answers. Sample questions: “If I die making a funny face, will it stay like that?” and “Can I be buried with my dog?” and “Can I save my dad’s skull and put it on my bookshelf?” It’s a pure delight to read. And educational to boot.

They Called Us Enemy

They Called Us Enemy

George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, illustrated by Harmony Becker

ComicsNonfictionYoung Adult

It was tough choosing They Called Us Enemy as the best graphic novel over Pumpkinheads for Goodreads Best Books of 2019. I also love Rainbow Rowell. But the memory of Mr. Takei personally reassuring me that America would never let something like that happen to its citizens again was too special to overlook. Becker’s captivating illustrations define the term ‘graphic’ novel, her lifelike depictions of Mr. Takei as a young boy are etched in my mind. Further, I am uplifted by her drawings of his rise to recognition and activism: being awarded by the White House, meeting icons like Eleanor Roosevelt, etc.

Pet

Pet

Akwaeke Emezi

Young Adult

I took my time with this book; let the language linger on my tongue. A YA novel, sure—but this is also fantasy, a modern-day fable/fairytale of sorts. In this story, there are no monsters anymore in a city called Lucille—but as Jam’s mother says, “Monsters don’t look like anything…That’s the whole point. That’s the whole problem.” This is a story about good and evil, truth and lies, and what we will do to protect the ones we love. It is about the families we create and the things that bind us together. Ultimately, it is about love, in the face of things that would destroy you if they could.

The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick

Biography meets memoir in this incredible story of the artist behind The Creature from the Black Lagoon, erased from history by a jealous male coworker, and author Mallory O’Meara’s search to uncover the truth. I overlooked this book at first because of my utter lack of horror film history knowledge, but I’m so glad I was convinced it was worth my while. Whether you’re a horror novice like me or a fan of the genre, you’ll be completely immersed in the story of Milicent Patrick, from one of the first female animators at Disney to creating the Creature. It’s one of those unforgettable gems that stays with you long after you’ve finished reading.

Queenie

Queenie

Candice Carty-Williams

Fiction

I was sucked into Queenie’s world from the first page. A 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, Queenie struggles with self-acceptance in the form of her physical appearance, her identification with two cultures, being a woman of color, and her relationship with men. To say this is a relatable book for a twentysomething woman is an understatement. Candice Carty-Williams poses the most relevant questions today: What does it mean to be a woman in modern society? How can I love myself in the face of discrimination and objectification? By the end of Queenie’s journey to self discovery, I felt like her close friend.

Daisy Jones & The Six

Daisy Jones & The Six

Taylor Jenkins Reid

Fiction

This book is the fictional oral history of a successful 1970s rock band “The Six” from its formation until its inevitable split. It focuses largely on Daisy Jones and Billy Dunne, musical geniuses at the core of the band who are trying to create astonishing music while dealing with their demons. It’s an ode to the creative process and messiness of creating art together. As an oral historian, I was quickly captivated by the strength of the individual voices. Also it’s been optioned for a TV series produced by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine and Circle of Confusion and Amazon Studios.

Mama's Boy: A Story From Our Americas

Mama’s Boy: A Story From Our Americas

Dustin Lance Black

Nonfiction

In this poignant memoir that is equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming, Academy Award–winning screenwriter and LGBTQ activist Dustin Lance Black shares the story of his family and upbringing. Growing up gay, closeted, and Mormon in Texas, Black worried how the world would perceive his differences, but that was nothing in comparison to the worry of how his mother would perceive him, a woman who overcame mountains of adversity and challenges. This moving coming-of-age story serves not only as a compelling LGBTQ narrative, but as a tribute to the woman he loved most, and the women we should all love most: our mothers.

Know My Name

Know My Name

Chanel Miller

Nonfiction

This book is one of the best memoirs I’ve read. One of the best true crime books. One of the best books. Chanel Miller is an important voice in the fight against our rape culture (choosing to come forward with her story after only having been referred to as Brock Turner’s victim, Emily Doe, The Stanford Rape Case and defined by the media, rape apologists, her rapist, and her victim impact statement posted on BuzzFeed) but she’s also just a fantastic writer. Introspective. Thoughtful. Fiercely loves her sister. Funny. She narrates the audiobook—which I can not recommend enough—and I hope to read more from her on any topic in any format.

Once More We Saw Stars

Once More We Saw Stars

Jayson Greene

Nonfiction

This memoir—about the loss of a child and the all-consuming grief that results—is difficult to get through. But make it through this gorgeously written book and you’ll be rewarded with an account of how one moves forward in the face of senseless tragedy. Be warned, though. As a parent, I wept my way through this entire book, and you’ll likely find yourself doing the same.

Gods of Jade and Shadow

Gods of Jade and Shadow

Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Fantasy

Silvia Moreno-Garcia never writes the same book twice. Her latest is a quest novel that feels timeless with its Mayan mythology-infused plot. Set in a 1920s-era Mexico, the novel follows Casiopea Tun, the Cinderella of her grandfather’s rural estate. Everything changes when she unlocks a mysterious chest and unleashes the imprisoned Mayan god of death, Kamé. From there, she’s bound to his quest to retake the underworld throne. Theirs is a story based on folklore and one that feels like it could be told and retold for generations to come. Moreno-Garcia doesn’t write the same book twice because she gets it right the first time.

In the Dream House

In the Dream House

Carmen Maria Machado

Nonfiction

Emotional and physical abuse in queer relationships is a taboo subject. In this earth-shattering memoir, Carmen Maria Machado breaks the silence. In the Dream House is a primal scream. Poetic, surprising, heartbreaking, and in every way, unexpected, it’s like nothing I’ve read before. By drawing parallels between her past relationship and classic horror and fairytale tropes, Machado paints a grim and powerful picture of domestic abuse. This is a devastating, upending, absorbing, stay-up-all-night-reading-it kind of book. Machado’s talent, bravery, and genius is unparalleled.

We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir

In this amazing and unique memoir, Habib starts by recounting her childhood as an Ahmadi Muslim in Pakistan, where her family had to hide to stay safe in the face of Islamic extremists. She moves on to how this pattern, combined with sexism and homophobia, followed her to Canada, where she felt forced to hide her body, femininity, and queerness. Throughout she shares beautiful thoughts about art, activism, and spirituality. The most striking and tear-jerking passages are about finding her people: other queer Muslims. Habib writes sparingly with occasional flashes of figurative writing that are all the more impactful because of their rarity.

Brazen and the Beast

Brazen and the Beast

Sarah MacLean

Romance

Hattie is a big girl with big dreams. She’s decided her 30th year is the one to take action and planning her own ruination is the place to start. When there’s a large man gagged and tied in her carriage, she won’t let him stop her plans. So, of course, she kisses him and pushes him out. Whit, the King of Covent Garden, can’t get Hattie out of his head after their kiss and continues to disrupt her plans. Soon they become rivals in business, adding to the sexual tension between the two. Hattie won’t budge on her plans and Whit won’t give up his kingdom. If they won’t bend, they might miss out on the love that could change both their lives.

Gideon the Ninth

Gideon the Ninth

Tamsyn Muir

Science Fiction

All year, I have been hyping this space fantasy about a lesbian knight and her grumpy necromancer to everyone who will listen. In this stunning debut, bone witch Harrowhark is determined to become an immortal servant of the Resurrection…but her success depends on her cavalier, sarcastic, grating Gideon. This novel is simultaneously a cut-throat political thriller, a murder mystery, a horror story full of skeletons, and a hate-to-trust relationship tale. And as if a complex world, a rapid plot full of twists, and cast of characters wasn’t enough, Muir executes flawlessly one of the most daring endings I’ve seen in SFF.

Trust Exercise

Trust Exercise

Susan Choi

Fiction

In an unnamed American city in the 1980s, teenagers David and Sarah are theater students at a performing arts high school, a bubble of creativity protected from the outside world. Their intense, passionate connection is noticed—and exploited—by their acting teacher, Mr. Kingsley, who has a powerful hold over his students. Years later, in a shocking twist, we learn that hardly anything we’ve read about David, Sarah, and their classmates was true. But was it entirely false? Whose version of the story is right? Choi keeps readers guessing in this twisting, shifting, ambitious novel that questions the very ideas of truth and trust.

The Bride Test

The Bride Test

Helen Hoang

Romance

The Bride Test is the story of Khai, who believes his emotions are defective because of his autism, and therefore avoids romance. Khai’s mother worries for him, so she hires Esme, a cleaning lady from Vietnam, to come to America for one summer and seduce Khai. They fall for each other, but there’s a hitch: Esme can recognize the feeling, but Khai can’t. This book is an amazing testament to the different ways we feel, and express, and respond to love in our lives. Helen Hoang has an amazing ability to zoom in on the fractured, frayed parts of the human heart and provide a quiet lesson on how it can be mended again: through love.

Trick Mirror: Reflections On Self-Delusion

Tolentino’s debut essay collection sinks its teeth deep into what it means to be a Millennial in today’s capitalist, hustle-focused culture. Whether it’s Twitter, athleisure, $12 salad lunches consumed at one’s work desk, weddings, or reality TV, each piece shines a feminist lens on what they mean on both the micro and the macro level. Meticulous and critical, Tolentino’s essays challenge readers to think deeply and broadly. This collection is humorous and erudite and offers a sense of relief to fellow Millennials feeling over and under whelmed with the current state of the world.

Recursion

Recursion

Blake Crouch

Science Fiction

Blake Crouch is a masterful storyteller who uses sci-fi as a vehicle for compelling characters—really, though, they’re more people than they are fictional beings. Recursion, like Dark Matter, is another mind-blowing narrative from Crouch filled with complicated concepts about memory and reality, but at its core, it’s also brimming with emotion and heart.

Steph Cha

Your House Will Pay

Steph Cha

Fiction

Though plenty of pop culture has been set in California’s San Fernando Valley, I’d never read a book set, even in part, in my exact Valley hometown…until Your House Will Pay. But the twinges and thrills of recognition aren’t the only reasons this book was so compelling to me. It excavates a painful moment of Los Angeles’s past—the 1992 riots—and weaves a story around the continuing legacy of that racism and violence. It centers on two families, based on real people and events. In a convenience store, the mother of the Korean American family fatally shoots the daughter of the African American family. Loyalty fractures across generations.

Red at the Bone

Red at the Bone

Jacqueline Woodson

Fiction

Red at the Bone is a multigenerational family saga of how community, sexuality, and history influenced the path of one family. We open at Melody’s coming-of-age ceremony, a joyous occasion and a melancholic one. Her mother had the same ceremony 16 years ago, but it never happened…because of Melody, a decision that yanked two different families together. Traveling across time and the stories of Melody, her mother, father, grandfather, and grandmother, we see how one ceremony is the result of hundreds of decisions. In 200 pages, Woodson shows us that while some decisions have been made for us, there are plenty we can still make for ourselves.

Commute: An Illustrated Memoir Of Female Shame

Commute: An Illustrated Memoir Of Female Shame

Erin Williams

ComicsNonfiction

This graphic memoir follows Erin Williams on a nightmarish journey through her alcohol addiction and the men who were happy to exploit it. The result: control issues. Her elaborate makeup routine and body image anxiety are the wreckage of interactions she should never have had to endure. Her drinking, her obsessive recall of her sexual encounters, and even her daily commute become attempts to mitigate undesired male attention. After all, no matter what she does, she can’t stop it. This is an upsetting book that leaves the reader still trapped in a sexist world, but freshly aware that the only options are adaptation and maladaptation.

Wonder

Wonder

Christina C. Jones

Romance

Wonder by Christina C. Jones includes a lot of my favorite things. As a huge fan of post-apocalyptic stories, this romance novel with its dystopian Alice In Wonderland–esque theme is a book I knew I would love. And love it, I did. Aly lives in a post-apocalypse world where she’s made herself content living by the strict rules and doing her best to stay under the radar. When her sister goes missing, she must travel to the other side of town that strikes fear in most. While there, her eyes are opened to truths she didn’t realize she needed to know, a love she never thought she would experience, and a strength she didn’t realize she had.

Gingerbread

Gingerbread

Helen Oyeyemi

FictionFantasy

Gingerbread is a novel for adults who were obsessed with fairytales as children. Though Oyeyemi follows the motif of gingerbread throughout, the reader gets to travel to a “nightmare country” and experience everything from changelings to love to immigration and entrepreneurship. This novel gives the reader room to imagine—the best part of a fairytale—even with the grit and whimsy of this narrative. It’s an adventure, just in time for the holidays, when the mythical gingerbread abounds…

Chilling Effect

Chilling Effect

Valerie Valdes

Science Fiction

Captain Eva Innocent thought she left her life of crime behind. In space, though, no one can ever really go home again. Especially when the interstellar mafia has her sister, an alien emperor is bombing the hell out of any place Eva goes because she turned him down in a bar, and, to make matters completely unbearable, she’s in love with her engineer. Plus, there are psychic cats in her hold. The perfect combination of action, adventure, and awkward romance with a butt-kicking heroine who just can’t get rid of those pesky emotions, I can’t recommend Chilling Effect highly enough. Also, you will learn a bunch of new Spanish curse words.

The Right Swipe

The Right Swipe

Alisha Rai

Romance

Some people say there’s no way to write good romance about dating apps. Alisha Rai thoroughly proves them wrong. Rhiannon made a dating app to empower women, but she doesn’t believe in finding love herself. However after matching with ex football star, Samson, she wants more than her usual one night stand. Then he disappears, only to resurface months later as the spokesperson for a rival app. Now, he’s not just some guy who ghosted, but her competition. Modern dating, CTE, sexual harassment in the tech world—this book takes on a lot of serious topics. But the connection between Rhiannon and Samson made this my favorite romance of the year!

The Ten Thousand Doors of January

The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Alix E. Harrow

Fantasy

January Scaller once found a Door in the middle of a field, beyond it the sea. That Door was closed before she could go through. Years later she finds a book that describes the existence of Doors and the worlds beyond them. And January discovers something else: she can open Doors. But someone is trying to close them, and keep her from opening more. At once a portal fantasy, historical fiction, and a book-within-a-book, The Ten Thousand Doors of January is a stunning debut novel from Hugo Award–winner Alix E. Harrow.