The Most Brilliant Books of 2019
The year is out, but the results are in! After much deliberation, our booksellers have compiled a selection of titles that we consider the Most Brilliant Books of 2019. They are ranked alphabetically by author, and not by merit, as all are equally Brilliant. Each one brought something unique to the literary landscape of 2019. Which ones have you read?
First in a new Space Opera trilogy from Elizabeth Bear. A search for lost relics among a galaxy of stars. —Jodie
This was my sleeper hit of the year - I don't really read post-apocalyptic fiction or even much sci-fi, but I was delighted by this book's fresh take and hilarious narrative voice. —Lindsey
Hugo- and Nebula-winner Ted Chiang's second collection of short stories is filled with experiments. He presents new worlds, new technologies, and even new physical laws to push the boundaries of not only sci-fi, but fiction itself. —Anthony
Set in 1930s Malaysia, the story switches back & forth between two intertwined narratives that center around a missing finger, a string of suspicious deaths, and the ancient local legend of spirit tigers. Part mystery, part romance, with a satisfyingly open ending. —Lindsey
This was one of my staff picks this year, and I had to include it here as well. It's the first time travel book I've read that doesn't just ignore paradoxes or mention them in passing—it's about them. It's also got one of my favorite time-travel premises. Expertly handled near-future sci-fi, and just fun to read. —Caitlin M.
Bestselling author Haddix launches a fun new series full of adventure, mystery and a little science fiction. I was hooked after the first chapter. The sequel is just as good, and out in April! —Sam
My sleeper hit of the year! First in a new trilogy. A traditional tale of dragon slaying in a fantasy based medieval world. Comfort food for fantasy lovers. —Jodie
I'd read one of Joe Hill's short stories in an anthology, but wasn't an avid follower of his work before this. The stories here range from conventionally horrifying to supernatural creeping dread to unexpectedly wicked. It was like a chocolate box of horror—you don't know what you're going to get with each of these stories, but it's going to be good. Bonus points for having a truly spectacular audiobook cast! —Caitlin M.
A dark, bizarre, and gritty literary fantasy drawing from African myth. Violent, but ultimately awesome! —Jodie
I mean, it's Jory John, whats not to like? It's funny, it's charming and it has a wonderful message about the importance of self care and accepting others. —Sam
This is weird YA at its best. I still can't tell you what this book is about but I loved every second of it. —Kendall
MacFarlane's journey through the underworld is fascinating—looking at ancient burials, our search for dark matter, the things we fear and seek. I was awed by the graceful way he tied stories of the past with current stories, asking big questions about our path and the future we are carving out. —Rachel
A young boxer in training, grieving the loss of a friend, Tristan stumbles into a parallel world where characters from African American folktales are gods. Action packed and exciting, this was an excellent addition to the "Rick Riordan Presents" series of mythology-based fantasy books. —Rachel
To avoid an international incident the son of the American president and the Prince of England must pretend to be best friends, despite the fact that they loathe each other. But does their loathing really mask deeper feelings? Spoiler alert: yes. —Anthony
I quite enjoyed The Night Circus, but I loved this book. Morgenstern's writing has matured beautifully without losing any of her ability to capture almost child-like wonder and fantastical (im)possibilities. Its style will be familiar to existing fans, but also something new and different. —Caitlin M.
I can't remember how I originally heard about this one, but I was intrigued by a description that called it "The Alienist set in 18th century Sweden." It's similar in that the only clues to a gruesome crime are those left by the killer's temperament, but the detective in this case is working with a field in it's absolute infancy. He's in a race against a killer he can beat, but also one he can't. A historical Scandinavian mystery with characters that intrigue and repulse. —Caitlin M.
This one flew so far under the radar, but was one of my favorite celebrations of the LGBTQ+ community I read all year. And I read a lot of those, so that's saying something. —Kendall
This one was an unexpected delight. I hadn't heard of it when I started in on the audiobook, but I was hooked from the start. The New Zealand setting was refreshing, and provided a fun contrast for the Dickensian characters set loose on its streets. A book for every reader who's ever wished a book could be just a bit more real. —Caitlin M.
Music, romance, and morally-gray characters. Everything I love all wrapped up in one book. —Kendall
Truman the tortoise starts to worry when his girl, Sarah, leaves with a backpack one day and boards a bus. Summoning all his braveness, Truman attempts to follow her, and discovers all the things he is capable of. This one is so sweet and gently encourages braveness. —Rachel
Compelling historical fiction (with a light romantic subplot) with a tremendous finale. I think I learned more about labor unions from this book than I ever did in school. —Lindsey
Epic dragon fantasy all in one volume and not strung across several books. Amazing detail and world building. —Jodie
A perfect continuation to a perfect series. It's simultaneously a great introduction for new Maggie Steifvater readers and a satisfying addition for old fans. —Kendall
Bri wants to be a rapper, just like her late father. When she pens an angry rap after an incident at school involving a black teen and a white security guard, she finds herself unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight as activists on both sides seek to use her words for their own ends. —Anthony
Written as a letter from a son to his mother who cannot read, Ocean Vuong explores trauma, sexuality, and race all centered around the aftermath of the Vietnam war and the toll it has taken on his family. —Anthony