There is nothing more frustrating than accidentally reading a not so great book. Picture it: you've finally carved out time in your busy mom schedule to relax with a quality page turner; you've settled in with a glass of pinot and noise cancelling headphones while your partner handles the kids for a night; and then you discover the story you've already invested 100 pages in won't ever get more interesting *screams internally.* Romper gets you don't have time for that kind of disappointment in your life, which is why I'm hitting you with the most exciting book releases of 2019 to make this your best year of reading yet.
This obviously isn't an all-encompassing list of the good books that will come out this year, but it gives you the low down on 17 standouts that critics are already loving. Some are essay collections, others are gripping novels, and there are a couple of memoirs that will break your heart and renew your hope in mankind all at once (efficient!). So as you plan out your reading time for the year, you can relax knowing that a bad book won't spoil your fun thanks to these recommendations. (I make no promises about screaming toddlers or bath-time crises getting in your way.)
You Know You Want This: "Cat Person" and Other Stories by Kristen Roupenian
Kristen Roupenian made waves with her short story "Cat Person," published in The New Yorker in December 2017, and now she's back with You Know You Want This (Simon and Schuster), an entire collection focused on the relationship between sex, gender, and power. Roupenian explores and exposes the ways women are victims of and propagate the darker side of sexuality in her tales, forcing her readers to confront the ugly truths about intimacy and the roles they play in it. Available January 15.
Joy Enough: A Memoir by Sarah McColl
Already drawing comparisons to C.S. Lewis's A Grief Observed, Sarah McColl asks her readers to join her as she navigates both grief and the parentless world she faces following her mother's death in Joy Enough (Liveright). We meet McColl as she rushes to take care of her mom despite marital troubles of her own, watching her use food and quality time to try to ward off the impending death. The memoir results in a brilliant portrayal of two women: McColl's mother, a fierce protector who sprinkled joy wherever she went, and McColl herself, a woman full of love who must go on despite losing everything she thought to be a constant. Available January 15.
Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom
Praised by Rebecca Traister as one of “America’s most bracing thinkers on race, gender, and capitalism of our time," Tressie McMillan Cottom's newest collection of essays, Thick: And Other Essays (The New Press), takes a step away from Lower Ed, her debut which focused the relationship between education and social inequality, instead tackling subjects as varied as LinkedIn and Saturday Night Live to infant mortality rates and Trump rallies. The refreshing and biting voice of a modern Black American feminist emboldens and inspires through its candor, resulting in a series of essays that will keep you riveted until the very last page. Available January 8.
Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison—Solitary Confinement, a Sham Trial, High-Stakes Diplomacy, and the Extraordinary Efforts It Took to Get Me Out by Jason Rezaian
A story that proves the stakes of journalism have never been higher, Jason Rezaian paints a vivid and horrifying picture of his eighteen month imprisonment in Iran and his subsequent release as part of the Iran Nuclear Deal in Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison (Anthony Bourdain/Ecco) while he served as the Tehran Bureau Chief of The Washington Post. With moments of arresting terror and stunning humor, Rezaian's story encapsulates both the life of a prisoner and brings to life a mesmerizing culture, most compelling in all its complexity. Available January 22.
The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays by Esmé Weijun Wang
The Collected Schizophrenias (Graywolf) could be characterized as a remembrance of the author's own struggle with her disease, but Esmé Weijun Wang takes her breakout book to the next level through her careful explanation of the medical community's process of diagnosis and treatment, welcoming both those familiar with schizophrenia and those who aren't into her world. As she urges the reader to understand the complexities and nuances of mental illness on every page, Wang wrestles with her schizophrenia and its continual impact on her life, combining highly researched fact with her raw emotion. Available February 5.
On The Come Up by Angie Thomas
Angie Thomas solidified herself as a household name after her first novel The Hate U Give became a New York Times bestseller and was subsequently adapted into a film, so the release of her second book On The Come Up (HarperCollins) has been highly anticipated.
The story follows Bri, a teen trying to make it as a hip hop artist, following in the footsteps of her wildly successful, late father. Bri finally gets her wish after her first song goes viral, though the public reaction isn't what she wanted, with the media painting her as a public nuisance. Forced to embrace an identity she doesn't want because of her family's financial troubles, Bri embodies the struggle so many black teens face everyday — using your voice in a world that systemically silences you. Available February 5.
Age of Light: A Novel by Whitney Scharer
With all the grandeur and beauty of a World War II epic combined with the sharp honesty and sensuality of modern love stories, Whitney Scharer's Age of Light (Little Brown) is somehow romance, hero's journey, and engaging historical fiction all at once — no wonder it earned its author a million-dollar book deal.
The novel stars Lee Miller, a renowned model who moves to France to become a photographer instead of a subject. There, she meets surrealist Man Ray, becoming his apprentice despite his desire to relegate her to model status, with whom she eventually begins a tormented love affair against the backdrop of World War II, the discovery of new art forms, and the liberation of concentration camps. Soon, Miller is forced to negotiate her professional success and personal desire, and Scharer's novel comes to center on the struggle countless women have faced: choosing between the joys in her life. Available February 5.
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Variety reports that Amazon and Reese Witherspoon's production company Hello Sunshine have already ordered a series adaptation of this evocative tale about a budding singer and bonafide rockstar, set in L.A. in the seventies.Taylor Jenkins Reid's Daisy Jones & The Six (Ballantine Books) chronicles the forming of an iconic band, from their formation to their mysterious breakup, transporting readers to the height of rock and roll with brilliant prose and a keen eye for the seemingly meaningless encounters that end up defining your life. Available March 5.
Internment by Samira Ahmed
Combining the tone of a dystopian tale with the gripping reality of America's current political state, bestselling author Samira Ahmed storms in with Internment (Little Brown Books for Young Readers). Meet Layla, a 17-year-old living in a Muslim internment camp in the United States. With the help of fellow campmates, a boyfriend on the outside, and a surprising ally, Layla launches a rebellion against the camp director, fighting for her family and her freedom. Ahmed challenges the complacence that haunts so much of the political climate today in her text, warning against what could happen if the majority of America stays silent. Available March 19.
Women Talking: A Novel by Miriam Toews
"This amazing, sad, shocking, but touching novel, based on a real-life event, could be right out of The Handmaid's Tale," praised Margaret Atwood on Twitter after reading Miriam Toews' Women Talking (Bloomsbury), a gut-wrenching story about a group of women struggling towards for freedom and voice.
Based on real events, Toews's novel takes the reader into a secret meeting of eight mennonite women who have just discovered the "demons" that have been raping them for years to punish them for their "sins" are actually members of their community who have been using their power to hurt the girls for generations. The story slaps with surprising humor and painful vulnerability, asking the reader to wonder with these women if picking unknown freedom over known evil is the right choice. Available April 2.
Once More We Saw Stars: A Memoir by Jayson Greene
Jayson Greene finds words for the unimaginable in his memoir Once More We Saw Stars (Knopf), chronicling his two-year-old daughter's death and his and his wife's fumbling steps into the world after her loss. Beginning with the accident that kills his little girl, Greene exposes the depths of grief, the unshakable love of a parent, and the impossible hope that come to fill his life in his daughter's absence, writing with an honesty and courage that is not for the faint of heart. Available May 14.
Normal People: A Novel by Sally Rooney
The author of Conversations With Friends returns with Normal People (Hogarth), introducing her readers to Marianne and Connell, star-crossed lovers who are kept apart by the social structures containing us all. A secret spark forms between the pair in high school, and when they end up at college together, they do all they can to avoid one another, fighting against the irresistible connection keeping them tethered together.
Sally Rooney's reliable poignance and never indulgent words tell the story of first love in all its messiness and intensity, exposing the ties that bind us and the forces that try to pull us apart. Available April 16.
Recursion by Blake Crouch
This science fiction thriller from Blake Crouch uses memory itself as the backdrop for its suspenseful plot, showcasing the dangers of a world in which memories can be re-experienced, altered, or erased altogether. Recursion (Crown) follows Barry Sutton on his journey to uncover the truth behind the mysterious new problem of people waking up to lives they don't recognize. Enter neuroscientist Helena Smith, a genius who has developed a technology that allows people to relie their most intense memories. Barry uncovers the ominous applications of Helena's inventions, and the tale becomes one of tension and heart pounding anxiety as the reality of a world without the moments that define the human experience takes shape. Available June 11.
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Whitehead solidified himself as a force to be reckoned with in the literary world after The Underground Railroad won the Pulitzer Prize in 2017, and his hotly anticipated follow up The Nickel Boys (Doubleday) can finally fill that empty spot on your bookshelf this year. The story introduces Elwood Curtis, an ambitious black 18-year-old set to enroll in a local black college during the Civil Rights Movement, when an innocent mistake lands him in Nickel Academy, a juvenile reformatory center that tortures its inmates with physical and sexual abuse. Elwood's commitment to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s philosophy despite his imprisonment creates tension with his friend Turner, leading to a choice that changes both of their lives forever. Available July 16.
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
Since the debut of the Hulu adaptation, The Handmaid's Tale has experienced a consuming renaissance, unveiling readers' hunger for answers about Margaret Atwood's intoxicating novel.
Atwood is finally answering her readers' pleas with The Testaments (Penguin Random House), a searing sequel that spotlights three women's testaments about Gilead. The novel will finally give readers answers to their most pressing questions about the world Atwood created, most importantly: what happened to Offred? Available September 10.
Make It Scream, Make It Burn by Leslie Jamison
Bolstered by comparisons to Joan Didion and Susan Sontag, bestselling author Leslie Jamison reunites with the essay form in this new collection, Make It Scream, Make It Burn (Little Brown), tackling the painful nature of desire and obsession through subjects as varied as children's memories and the Sri Lankan Civil War. Riding the success of her 2018 memoir The Recovering, Jamison's essays punch with truth, journalistic precision, and a critical eye, creating a riveting body of work you won't want to put down. Available September 24.
Gingerbread: A Novel by Helen Oyeyemi
Although the central theme of this book is built on the tradition of gingerbread in children's lives, Gingerbread (Riverhead Books) is no traditional family drama, instead filled with meditations on wealth, a puzzling intergenerational mystery, and Helen Oyeyemi's knack for pacing and prose.
The novel follows mother and daughter Harriet and Perdita Lee, slowly unfolding and revealing how they acquired their conspicuous wealth, the encompassing nature of Harriet's childhood friendship with the charismatic Gretel Kercheval, and Perdita's subsequent journey to find Gretel in her own adulthood. Available March 5.
The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West
In this collection of essays, Lindy West exposes the prolific impact sexism and intolerance have had on American society through its ever present role in pop culture, tracing misogyny's path from South Park to Donald Trump's election. The Witches Are Coming (Hachette) breaks down the lie that feminism is the root of the United States's problems, rightly laying blame on the inherently patriarchal music, movies, and memes we consume instead.
With humor, rage, and insipid proof, The Witches Are Coming cries, "I'm a witch and I'm hunting you." Available September 17.