Published on January 10, 2019

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It’s a truth universally acknowledged that any person, in possession of a moderately high to-be-read pile, must be in want of some additional new releases. But really, Austen-isms aside, a new year brings a trove of highly anticipated reads—it can almost feel intimidating to decide which one to pick first.

In my annual quest to read at least 60 books a year (you might remember my secrets for reading a lot), I tend toward new releases for a few reasons:

  1. Sometimes they end up becoming a part of a larger cultural conversation—a conversation that I always want to be a part of.
  2. Every time I walk into a bookstore (typically New York’s iconic Strand), I simply cannot resist the new arrivals table.
  3. I love supporting debut authors, and every time I read a brand-new book that I love, I feel all the more compelled to recommend it to others—more than I would readily recommend a classic novel that I just happen to read recently.

All those factors considered, there are 13 books coming out in 2019 that I’m especially excited to read. With a diverse array of storylines, characters, and writing styles, each feels distinctive and enticing—you might just be compelled to add them to your pile too.

The Water Cure

I’ll be honest: This book had me at “dystopic feminist revenge fantasy.” Its storyline seems vaguely reminiscent of Shakespeare’s The Tempest: Three sisters live on an island, and the only man they’ve ever met is their father. When he disappears and two men and a boy come ashore, serious tension and drama of varying sorts ensue.

The Bottom Line: Many reviews have dubbed this book both creepy and beautiful—the combination of which feels compelling in itself.

Guestbook: Ghost Stories

Short stories make up a big collection of my to-be-read pile since they offer all the thrill of a novel in more digestible tidbits that can be devoured in short sittings. This collection promises depictions of varied hauntings by, yes, ghosts. This is proof that tales of specters aren’t always totally gothic.

The Bottom Line: This collection is ultimately a surreal look at everyday happenings, which is sure to leave you feeling uneasy in a good way.

Gingerbread

Inspired by fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel, this novel unravels the story of a mother and daughter duo that seems almost normal… except for their gold-painted walk-up apartment and their constantly baking gingerbread. Reimagined fairy tales are always a delight, and this one strikes its own pace, crafting an imaginative world of its own.

The Bottom Line: This isn’t your average fairy tale–turned–contemporary novel: Helen Oyeyemi’s voice is distinctive and vibrant and makes for a compelling read.

Figuring

Maria Popova’s newsletter, Brain Pickings, is constantly full of underappreciated histories and fascinating real stories—and her book, likewise. With the stories of historical figures (many of them women and queer individuals), Figuring explores the complexities and richness of being human and what makes a good life.

The Bottom Line: You are guaranteed to learn many, many new things in this book about people as widely known as Charles Darwin and those as niche as astronomer Maria Mitchell.

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion

New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino has a massive talent for examining the cultural dynamics of the modern age, and her first book looks at how contemporary forces (like the internet) affect self-perception.

The Bottom Line: In line with the writer’s inimitable wit and wisdom, this book promises plenty of aha moments that feel distinctly revelatory.

Mouthful of Birds

Admittedly, I read this book (now out) at the tail end of 2018, and its rich collection of stories left me mesmerized. I’m always drawn to stories that don’t entirely sit well with me, and the surrealist collection of dreamlike narratives was a creepy delight.

The Bottom Line: If you want to read something completely original, these stories (some of which wholly embrace magical realism) are sure to satisfy.

Sea Monsters

Novels about 17-year-old girls often involve some sort of self-exploration—and for Luisa, the protagonist of this book, this comes through in her own exploration of the lives of others in a beach community in Oaxaca. After running away from home in Mexico City (along with a mysterious boy), she tries to find herself in the complexities around her.

The Bottom Line: This coming-of-age novel is deeply imaginative and detailed and promises readers a chance to dive into the unexpected.

The Collected Schizophrenias

In a time when conversations about mental illness are finally becoming more open in public discourse, Esmé Weijun Wang provides an essential voice about her own experience with schizoaffective disorder. This collection of essays walks through the science as well as personal experiences, providing an insightful look at an often misunderstood disorder.

The Bottom Line: This personal essay collection finds strong grounding in the author’s experience as a former Stanford law researcher, in addition to illuminating personal narratives.

Miracle Creek

You’ve never seen—or read—a courtroom drama like this. After an experimental medical device explodes, resulting in two fatalities, the couple that runs it are tried for murder. But everything—you guessed it—is not as it seems. As the community goes against them, they must decide how far they’d go to protect one another.

The Bottom Line: This is a thriller that finds its strength in its depiction of relationships, identity, and fleshed-out court proceedings—the author, after all, is a former trial lawyer.

Mostly Dead Things

With a shocking, offbeat premise and a quirky setting, this debut novel paints an unlikely portrait of life after a sudden death in the family. Consider this a must-read if your sense of humor teeters toward the morbid end of the spectrum.

The Bottom Line: When taxidermy, Florida, and tragedy combine into one narrative, pretty much anything can happen.

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls

The gutting family story of this novel makes for a moving read: When two women must take care of their sister’s teenage daughters in the wake of a shocking arrest, they find themselves confronted with shifting relationships, secrets, and emotional hardships. Generational secrets complicate a story that’s not so simple to begin with.

The Bottom Line: A rich, complex story of siblings and daughters makes for a thought-provoking read.

Trust Exercise

In the months that span from September to May, nothing feels more gratifying to me than a campus novel, and this one, which takes place in a suburban, competitive arts high school in the 1980s, feels especially innovative. It’s filled with narrative shifts that challenge concepts of memory and truth.

The Bottom Line: If you’re up for an untraditional narrative structure, some experimental shifts, and a twist that rolls out subtly, this book is for you.

On the Come Up

Angie Thomas made her major literary debut with the release of her deeply impactful The Hate U Give. Her upcoming novel—also a YA book, though certainly enjoyable for readers of all ages—focuses on a teenage girl who wants to become the next greatest rapper. When she goes viral for the wrong reasons, though, she meets a tough problem that’s embedded in class struggle and identity.

The Bottom Line: Thomas’s storytelling is masterful, and in her sophomore release, she’s sure to deliver a novel that’s just as empathetic, riveting, and meaningful as her first.

More reads:

I Read 60-Plus Books a Year. Here’s How I Do It

The Books Our Favorite Girl Bosses Have on Their Nightstands

1,000-Plus Amazon Users Agree: This Is the Best Way to Store Your Books

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