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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
The 15 most anticipated books of 2019

The 15 most anticipated books of 2019

On New Year’s Eve, we received a tarot reading, and we were told the coming year would bring a great abundance. An abundance of what? Judging from our ever-growing to-read pile, we can only assume the cards meant “books,” because there are quite a few coming our way in 2019. On the fiction front, we’re looking forward to new work from reliable favorites like Marlon James, Colson Whitehead, Miriam Toews, and Margaret Atwood—in the latter’s sequel to her dystopian classic The Handmaid’s Tale—and debut novels from a number of up-and-coming authors. The nonfiction spread is just as rich, with a biography of L.A.’s original “It Girl,” a joint memoir from our favorite Canadian twin sister pop stars, and New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino’s first full-length book. As publishers finalize their calendars for later in the year, the list is bound to lengthen. From a manifesto by one of the country’s leading socialists to Atwood’s return, 2019 is shaping up to be another stellar year for powerful, timely literature.


Hollywood’s Eve: Eve Babitz And The Secret History Of L.A. by Lili Anolik (January 8, Scribner)

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NYRB Classics recently reissued two collections of writing from Eve Babitz, one of ’70s L.A.’s cultural mainstays and a terrific writer and observer of human behavior. Hollywood’s Eve makes the argument that Babitz’s life and times deserve to be immortalized every bit as much as her fiction. Lili Anolik, expanding to book length her 2014 Vanity Fair profile that helped reawaken public interest in Babitz’s work, delivers all the aspects of Babitz that made an iconoclastic It Girl before that was a thing. She knew everyone who was anyone, slept with a good percentage of them, and used the raw materials of her life for the thinly veiled biographical (and autobiographical) confessionals of Los Angeles and the damaged artistic folks who populated it. From Joan Didion to Harrison Ford to Steve Martin, the book is chockablock with stories both salacious and soulful, exactly the kind of poetically enticing account (with just the right amount of tawdry) Babitz herself delivered so sharply.

More in January: Sugar Run by Mesha Maren (January 8, Algonquin), Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss (January 8, Farrar, Straus & Giroux), The Banished Immortal: A Life Of Li Bai (Li Po) by Ha Jin (January 8, Pantheon), You Know You Want This: “Cat Person” And Other Stories by Kristen Roupenian (January 15, Gallery/Scout Press), Hark by Sam Lipsyte (January 15, Simon & Schuster), Adèle by Leila Slimani (January 15, Penguin), We Cast A Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin (January 29, One World).


Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James (February 5, Riverhead)

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Marlon James, the Man Booker Prize-winning author of A Brief History Of Seven Killings, turns to the world of fantasy with his fourth novel, Black Leopard, Red Wolf. Unlike his previous work, which rooted itself in the history of Jamaica’s turbulent past to deal with raw topics like slave revolts and religious violence, James fuses mythology and African history to invent an alternate reality in which a famed mercenary breaks with his own solitary habits to join the search for a lost boy, only to begin questioning the very nature of his mission as the danger grows with each step. James’ work has always had a magical, otherworldly air, even as he dealt with all-too-real incidents of tragedy and trauma. This new book, the first in a planned trilogy, will allow his potent imagination the freedom to create a new world and open the door for some exceptional and unusual storytelling.

Figuring by Maria Popova (February 5, Pantheon)

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On her Brain Pickings blog, Maria Popova writes across topics with ease, hopping among philosophy, art, cultural criticism, science, literature, and her own spirituality. She’s written for The Atlantic and The New York Times, and her first book, Figuring, is Popova’s various interests collected into one thick, 600-page tome. She tells stories you probably haven’t heard before of famous figures like Emily Dickinson and Rachel Carson, all the while making elegant narrative connections between what drives people to create. Expect a lot of ground to be covered in Figuring—poetry and astronomy seem to feature prominently.

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli (February 12, Knopf)

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Valeria Luiselli’s nonfiction has been as well-received as her fiction, so she could really have gone in any direction after 2017’s Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay In Forty Questions. Her latest, Lost Children Archive, is an ambitious road-trip novel that traverses geography, ideology, and time, while exploring the dissolution of a marriage. Luiselli has a gift for layering on the themes—as you might guess from the title, Lost Children Archive is heartbreakingly relevant to the humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border—while also homing in on what makes the political so personal.

More in February: The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Wang (February 5, Graywolf), Nothing But The Night by John Williams (February 12, New York Review Books), The Source Of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison (February 12, Knopf), The City In The Middle Of The Night by Charlie Jane Anders (February 21, Tor/Forge), Birthday by César Aira (February 28, New Directions), Go Ahead In The Rain: Notes To A Tribe Called Quest by Hanif Abdurraqib (University Of Texas Press).


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Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi (March 5, Riverhead), Long Live The Tribe Of Fatherless Girls: A Memoir by T Kira Madden (March 5, Bloomsbury), Sissy: A Coming-Of-Gender Story by Jacob Tobia (March 5, Putnam), The Parade by Dave Eggers (March 19, Knopf), Lot by Bryan Washington (March 19, Riverhead), What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir Of Witness And Resistance by Carolyn Forché (March 19, Penguin), On Cussing: Bad Words And Creative Cursing by Katherine Dunn (March 26, Tin House), Sing To It by Amy Hempel (March 26, Scribner), Guestbook: Ghost Stories by Leanne Shapton (March 26, Riverhead).


Women Talking by Miriam Toews (April 2, Bloomsbury)

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From 2005 to 2009, more than 130 Mennonite women in Bolivia were drugged and raped by a group of men in their community. Anesthetized with animal tranquilizers sprayed into their homes at night, the women would wake in the morning bloodied and in pain. When they spoke up, the acts were explained as the work of the devil or “wild female imagination.” Women Talking is Miriam Toews’ imagined response to these real crimes, the novel taking place over the course of two days as the women debate among themselves on how to respond: do nothing, leave, or stay and fight. The book was published in Canada and the U.K. last year, and has already earned a great deal of praise, including from Toews’ fellow Canadian Margaret Atwood.

The Socialist Manifesto by Bhaskar Sunkara (April 30, Basic Books)

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Bhaskar Sunkara, founder of the popular, accessible socialist magazine Jacobin, is a leading voice on the political left, which has seen renewed energy and support since Bernie Sanders’ enlivening 2016 presidential campaign and Trump’s disgraceful time in office. Sunkara’s Socialist Manifesto sounds like a clean collecting, condensing, and reifying of the ideas that have run in Jacobin and throughout the contemporary socialist movement. Sunkara has also written for other outlets, publishing frequently in The Guardian, and it’s his broadly appealing way of translating modern problems like economic inequities—under which falls enormous price tags for health insurance, education, and housing—that have resulted in many millennials saying they prefer socialism to capitalism. Here’s hoping The Socialist Manifesto is as visionary as its namesake.

More in April: Stay Up With Hugo Best by Erin Somers (April 2, Scribner), How To Do Nothing: Resisting The Attention Economy by Jenny Odell (April 9, Melville House), Normal People by Sally Rooney (April 16, Hogarth), The Besieged City by Clarice Lispector (April 30, New Directions), Walking On The Ceiling by Ayşegül Savaş (April 30, Riverhead).


Juliet The Maniac by Juliet Escoria (May 7, Melville House)

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A coming-of-age novel told from the point of view of the “bad friend,” Juliet The Maniac follows its 14-year-old protagonist over the course of two years in the late ’90s as her life begins to deteriorate due to mental illness, substance abuse, and self-harm. Writing about emotional turmoil and addiction with a sharp, charged eloquence, Juliet Escoria has been called a “gutter punk Grace Paley” and a “combination of Denis Johnson and Joan Didion.” With her previous works—a book of poetry and a collection of short stories—both having been released by small independent presses, Juliet will hopefully introduce this up-and-coming author to an even wider audience.

Stay Sexy And Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark (May 28, Forge Books)

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If a Twitter account can become a book, then why not a podcast? Stay Sexy And Don’t Get Murdered, the “joint memoir” from best friends/true-crime obsessives Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, asks this question, channeling the breezy, conversational style of the duo’s hit podcast, My Favorite Murder, into a book that’s part autobiography and part advice column. Touching on their personal experiences with addiction, mental illness, and eating disorders with the same irreverence and compassion with which they discuss famous murder cases, SSADGM could become a holy book for Kilgariff and Hardstark’s rapidly growing cult.

More in May: Orange World And Other Stories by Karen Russell (May 14, Knopf), Biloxi by Mary Miller (May 21, Liveright).


Aug 9—Fog by Kathryn Scanlan (June 4, MCD x FSG)

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Fifteen years ago, writer Kathryn Scanlan acquired a stranger’s diary at an estate auction in a small town in Illinois. The stranger, an 86-year-old woman, began the diary in 1968, and wrote in it for the next five years of her life. On and off over the course of a decade, Scanlan read and re-read and typed out and edited and arranged the diary’s short passages into what would eventually become Aug 9—Fog, a wholly original project that blurs the lines between nonfiction and fiction, meditating on the passage of time through the life of one woman.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (June 4, Penguin)

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Ocean Vuong’s first full-length collection, 2016’s Night Sky With Exit Wounds—only the second debut to win the T.S. Eliot Prize—formally announced the Vietnamese American writer as a significant voice in poetry, with precise, lyric lines tracing the ripple effects of war through three generations. Follow-up On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Vuong’s first novel, will cover different but similarly autobiographical ground, taking the form of a letter written from a son to a mother who cannot read—a perspective the author knows well as the first literate person in his immediate family. As it unearths its family histories and personal revelations, expect On Earth to be equally tender and brutal.

More in June: Time Is The Thing A Body Moves Through by T. Fleischmann (June 4, Coffee House Press), Someone Who Will Love You In All Your Damaged Glory by Raphael Bob-Waksberg (June 11, Knopf), Song For The Unraveling World by Brian Evenson (June 11, Coffee House Press), My Parents: An Introduction / This Does Not Belong To You by Aleksandar Hemon (June 11, MCD x FSG), The Vexations by Caitlin Horrocks (June 18, Little, Brown).


The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (July 16, Doubleday)

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It can’t be easy, psychologically speaking, to write a follow-up to the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, but Colson Whitehead has never seemed to have much trouble shaking off the trappings of his previous work. Just as 2016’s The Underground Railroad broke from the zombie-genre experiment of 2011’s Zone One, his new novel again delves back into America’s past to explore wounds far from healed in the present. The Nickel Boys takes as its basis the real-life account of a sadistic reform school in Florida during the Jim Crow era, and fashions it into a labyrinthine tale of two boys intent on retaining their spirits against grotesque odds (and even more grotesque treatment in a sinister environment). Whitehead’s writing has remained vibrant and compelling across six novels and two works of nonfiction, engaging even when going astray, and there’s little reason to believe his latest will deviate from that stellar track record.

More in July: Maggie Brown & Others by Peter Orner (July 2, Little, Brown).


Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino (August 6, Random House)

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New Yorker staff writer and former Jezebel editor Jia Tolentino climbs off of the merry-go-round of the internet and pauses for some self-reflection in Trick Mirror, her first book. Loosely based around the theme of self-delusion and informed by Tolentino’s experiences in the digital media trenches, the nine essays in Trick Mirror cover topics like the writer’s regrettable stint on a reality show, the American obsession with self-improvement, and the millennial grifter phenomenon, all viewed through the prism of identity and its significance in a post-social media world. It’s trenchant, frequently uncomfortable stuff, but as Tolentino told the Columbia Journal, “I think I find discomfort fun.”

More in August: Doxology by Nell Zink (August 27, Ecco).

September, October, and beyond

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (September 10, Nan A. Talese)

Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian classic, The Handmaid’s Tale, ends with a punch to the gut: Readers never find out what happens to its narrator. Were Offred’s diary recordings made while on the run, stashed while in hiding or in between races for her life? Were they made when she was safe and sound? This sequel we didn’t know we were waiting for picks up 15 years after the handmaid (possibly) broke free from the oppressive Gilead regime, stepping into an escape van and the unknown. What’s also unknown: Atwood has said the testaments of the title come from three female narrators from Gilead, though we don’t know if Offred is one of them. In a press release, the author said, “Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.”

High School by Tegan And Sara (September 24, MCD x FSG)

It could be the name of one of their albums: High School. The memoir by Juno Award-winning indie-pop musicians Tegan And Sara will drop in late September, just after students have returned to the classroom. Alternating chapters, the identical twin sisters will detail their formative years growing up in Calgary, Alberta—from their school troubles to their parents’ divorce to grappling with their sexual identities. “Writing High School gives us the opportunity to tell the intricate stories that shaped our relationship as sisters, musicians, and queer girls,” the Quin sisters said upon the book’s announcement. (No word yet on possible musical accompaniment.)

Make It Scream, Make It Burn by Leslie Jamison (October, Little, Brown)

The full details of this have not yet been released, but we know it’s a collection of essays that shares a title with a piece Leslie Jamison first published in 2013. “Make It Scream, Make It Burn,” originally appearing in The Oxford American, is an examination of 1941’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, the epic nonfiction work written by James Agee, with photographs by Walker Evans, that chronicles the lives of three sharecropper families in Alabama during the Great Depression. As shown in 2014’s The Empathy Exams and last year’s The Recovering, Jamison is at her best when closely examining such texts—bringing literature, television, and film into conversation with each other in insightful, enlivening ways.

More in the fall: Agent Running In The Field by John le Carré (October, Viking), In The Dream House: A Memoir by Carmen Maria Machado (October, Graywolf Press), Some Of Us Are Very Hungry Now by Andre Perry (November, Two Dollar Radio), The Complete Gary Lutz (Fall, Tyrant Books).