With two Booker winners and two Nobel Laureates, as well as huge publishing phenomena, 2019 has proved to be a prolific year for books of all kinds. In particular it has been a stellar year for female writers, taking some of the top prizes. Without further ado, here are the top 10 books of the year.
Girl Woman Other by Bernadine Evaristo
Evaristo captures the multitude of female experience in modern Britain in a unique, innovative and moving story with an extraordinary structure. The stories are interconnected vignettes, spanning over 100 years and ranging across generations and different sexualities and identities. This astonishing novel made history as the first novel by a black woman to win the Booker prize and it was utterly deserved.
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
In what is possibly the biggest moment in publishing of the decade, the long awaited sequel to The Handmaid's Tale saw a midnight release across the country to huge fanfare. It was a novel which was well worth the hype, expertly combining a very clever exploration of Aunt Lydia's character with an espionage-thriller plotline to keep you hooked.
Queenie by Candice Carty Williams
A wonderful debut which has taken booksellers, critics and readers by storm. Queenie is on a break with her boyfriend, in a rut at work and her family don't seem to listen to her. Carty Williams gives us a long overdue look into the experiences of a young black woman in work, life and love in modern Britain. This funny, relatable book is also incredibly moving and will warm your heart.
Spring by Ali Smith
The third of Ali Smith's Seasonal Quartet is the best by far, which is high praise. Smith has a knack for not only reflecting and reacting to society and politics, but foreseeing the state we will be in in the future. This novel is full of the acerbic wit and literary Easter eggs you expect from these novels, as well as an utterly readable and compelling cast of characters. Where other books carried a sense of anger and despondency, this one is filled with the hope of younger generations.
Lanny by Max Porter
Combining traditional myths with modern Britain, this bewitching work of contemporary folklore works as a state-of-the-nation commentary which also carries a timelessness, which makes it feel very much a modern classic. Dead Papa Toothwort, a mythic figure young children draw, is listening, and he is listening for one child in particular - Lanny. This book has been raved about by readers and critics alike and is sure to be under many Christmas trees this year.
The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman
The wait for Lyra's story was finally over this year as fans got the next instalment in The Book of Dust series, which is also a sequel to His Dark Materials. We follow adult Lyra as she stumbles into another conspiracy and another adventure. The book has grown up with Lyra, with a more dark and serious tone for an older audience, but returning to Lyra's world was surely a delight for fans.
The Five by Hallie Rubenhold
Mary Ann “Polly” Nicholls, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, Mary Jane Kelly. Everyone knows who Jack the Ripper is, but how many of us give any thought to his victims. Rubenhold dedicates her whole book to telling the story of their lives, reframing the narrative and painting a fascinating picture of the era and society which left these women, and many like them behind.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
Drawing from ancient African folklore, history and traditions of the fantasy epic, this genre defying book from Marlon James challenges every convention, combining myth with history and magic, and a cast of fantastical creatures. The Booker winning author is bringing fantasy to the mainstream with this book which is the first instalment in a series, The Dark Star Trilogy which is sure to have you hooked.
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Set during the Civil Rights Movement Whitehead's latest novel is based on the real story of a Florida 'reform' school for black children. This rich novel explores the tensions between hope and positivity for a better future and the cynicism and anger that oppression fosters. As with his prior books, Whitehead has a knack for using history as a mirror to our modern times.
No-one is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg
This collection of climate change activist and Time Person of the Year Greta Thunberg's speeches are essential reading - these speeches are heartfelt, full of passion and determination. Whether you are an Extinction Rebellion protester, or someone who doesn't know much about the climate crisis, this is an absolute must read this year.