A quick scroll of Amazon’s Best Books of the Month page tells you all you need to know about how many books come out every month—let alone all year. While some are briefly added to our “to read” list before falling by the wayside, others rise above the pack, becoming the books we won’t shut up about to all of our friends. Without further ado, here are 25 of the absolute best titles we picked up this year, from classic novels in the making to raw memoirs you won’t soon forget.
1. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
This year, Bernardine Evaristo became the first black woman to win the Booker Prize, for her multi-voiced novel about an interconnected group of Black British women—including a newly acclaimed playwright whose work often explores her Black lesbian identity, a jaded teacher and a successful investment banker. Girl, Woman, Other paints a vivid portrait of the state of contemporary Britain and looks back to the legacy of Britain’s colonial history in Africa and the Caribbean.
2. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
Poet Ocean Vuong’s debut novel is written as a letter from a son, Little Dog, to his mother, who can’t read. The letter unearths the family’s history, and is simultaneously a story about the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son and a broader exploration of race, class, and masculinity.
3. Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips
One afternoon, on the shoreline of the Kamchatka peninsula at the northeastern edge of Russia, two sisters go missing. In the ensuing weeks and months, as the police investigation goes cold, the disappearance reverberates across the tightly woven community, with its women being most deeply affected. Taking readers through a year in Kamchatka, Philipp’s debut is a suspenseful and moving story about grief, violence and secrets.
4. Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
In this timely novel, a family embarks on a road trip from New York City to Arizona, to the territory the Apaches once called home. Simultaneously, a modern-day immigration crisis rages on America’s southwestern border. As the drive progresses, tensions between the parents rise, as the family confronts drama in the desert landscape and within their own relationships.
5. Normal People by Sally Rooney
Rooney's second novel (after 2017’s Conversations with Friends) is about Connell and Marianne, classmates in a small Irish town, where Connell is popular and Marianne is essentially friendless. Despite their differences, they form an unlikely couple. They eventually enroll at the same college, where their roles are flipped and suddenly Marianne's the cool one. They date, break up and make up—a few times over—in a will-they-won’t-they relationship that will keep you hooked to the last page.
6. The Topeka School by Ben Lerner
Adam is a senior at Topeka High School in the late ‘90s. A renowned debater and popular among his peers, he's a classic golden child of two parents who work at a famed psychiatric clinic. The Topeka School is the story of a family, its strengths and its struggles: the legacy of an abusive father, marital transgressions and the challenge of raising a good son in a culture of toxic masculinity.
7. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
Set over the course of five decades, the latest from Ann Patchett (Commonwealth) is a dark fairy tale about Danny and Maeve, siblings who are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. When the two wealthy siblings are thrown back into poverty, they find that all they have to count on is each other.
8. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
After winning a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award for The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead is back with the story of two boys sentenced to a horrific juvenile reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida. It’s based on the true story of a school in Florida that, over the course of 111 years, warped the lives of thousands of children.
9. The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
In pre-Civil War Virginia, Hiram Walker is barely out of his teens when he’s recruited to help guide escaped slaves to freedom in the North. Coates's (Between the World and Me) debut novel traverses Virginia’s proud plantations, guerrilla cells in the wilderness and dangerously idealistic movements in the North—and takes on the themes of inequality and grit he's known for in his non-fiction.
10. Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
The first novel in Marlon James’s Dark Star trilogy has been called “an African Game of Thrones.” It tells the story of a mercenary attempting to find a missing child, drawing from African history and mythology, as well as the author’s own rich imagination. Expect an exploration of the fundamentals of truth and power in this ambitious series opener.
11. The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
After freeing herself from slavery as a child, Josephine is the proud owner of a thriving farm in 1924. But when her neighbor, a white woman named Charlotte, seeks her company, an uneasy friendship forms—until Charlotte’s relationship with the Ku Klux Klan jeopardizes Josephine’s family. After her National Book Award–nominated debut, A Kind of Freedom, Wilkerson Sexton’s latest is a historically-inspired story about female friendship and impossible survival in the American South.
12. Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino
In nine incisive essays, New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino breaks down—broadly—what it means to live in the 21st century, in the process asserting herself as a kind of Joan Didion of the internet age. She weaves cultural criticism with personal stories as she reflects on reality TV, our society’s collective internet addiction, the rise of think pieces celebrating “difficult women” like Kim Kardashian, Lena Dunham and Hillary Clinton and more.
13. That’s Mental by Amanda Rosenberg
In her debut—subtitled Painfully Funny Things That Drive Me Crazy About Being Mentally Ill—British comedy writer Rosenberg sets out to dispel myths and misconceptions about what it means to live with bipolar II. In a darkly funny way, she covers reaching out for help (specifically, how much it sucks), dealing with people who suggest “cures” for your depression and making up excuses to miss work for a mental health day.
14. Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom
This writer, sociologist and professor’s debut collection of eight essays combines rigorous research with candid first-person narrative to explore the politics of black womanhood in the 21st century, from the staggering stats about maternal mortality to the hesitation among black women and girls to speak out about sexual assault for fear of implicating black men and boys. (There’s also a timely-to-this-year section that discusses the ongoing allegations against R. Kelly.)
History and True Crime
15. Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham
In this years-in-the-making account of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster in 1986, journalist Adam Higginbotham examines how propaganda and secrecy not only made the accident worse, but also played a major role in causing it. It’s haunting and essential reading for anyone who blew through HBO’s Chernobyl this year.
16. Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe
In December 1972, Jean McConville, a 38-year-old mother of ten, was abducted from her Belfast home by masked intruders, in one of the most notorious episodes of the vicious conflict known as The Troubles. Everyone knew the I.R.A. was responsible, but no one would speak of it. In 2003, her remains were discovered on a beach. Patrick Radden Keefe uses her story as a jumping-off point to investigate the bitter and violent conflict in Northern Ireland and its aftermath.
17. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
This highly anticipated second novel from the author of 2017’s best-selling The Hate U Give focuses on Bri, a 16-year-old longing to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. As the daughter of an underground hip-hop legend who died before he hit big, Bri is forced to fight, against all odds, to honor his legacy and achieve her dreams. It’s a powerful coming-of-age tale and love letter to hip hop in one.
18. Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
After coming out to her Puerto Rican family as a lesbian, 19-year-old Juliet flies from the Bronx to Portland, Oregon, for a summer internship with a famous a feminist author. There, Juliet finds a world where people ask your preferred gender pronouns and attend union rights rallies. The transition isn’t totally seamless, though: As a Latina in a majority white city, Juliet struggles to find her place. Her journey is as poignant as it is funny.
19. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
After getting pregnant her freshman year of high school, all of Emoni Santiago’s decisions have revolved around the best interests of her family. The only place she can temporarily forget all of her worries is in the kitchen. That’s why, on the eve of graduation, she reconsiders whether her dreams of becoming a chef are as far-fetched as she thinks they are.
Identity and Politics
20. Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
In suburban Indiana, Lina is a homemaker and mother of two whose marriage, after a decade, has lost its passion. In North Dakota, Maggie is a seventeen-year-old high school student who allegedly has a clandestine physical relationship with her handsome, married English teacher. In an exclusive enclave of the Northeast, Sloane is a successful woman who is happily married to a man who likes to watch her have sex with other people. Based on years of in-depth reporting, Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women is an unforgettable study of female desire.
21. She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey
In 2017, when Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey began their investigation into Harvey Weinstein’s then-rumored sexual harassment and abuse of women for the New York Times, his name was still synonymous with power. The two have since won a Pulitzer Prize for their work on the subject. In She Said, the two reveal the consequences of their reporting on the #MeToo movement, as well as the inspiring journeys of the women who have spoken up for the sake of other women, future generations and themselves.
22. Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow
In another Weinstein-adjacent investigation, New Yorker contributing writer Ronan Farrow draws on interviews, contracts, emails, and texts, audio and his own experience with Hollywood allegations of sexual assault (as the child or Woody Allen and Mia Farrow) to expose the powerful men—including Weinstein, Matt Lauer and Donald Trump—who have victimized countless women, as well as their scare tactics in desperately trying to keep their transgressions secret.
23. The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom
In 1961, Sarah M. Broom’s mother bought a shotgun house in the then-promising neighborhood of New Orleans East and made a home for herself and her 12 children inside of it. In this winner of the 2019 National Book Award for Nonfiction, Brown tells the story of 100 years of her family and their relationship to home in one of America’s most mythologized cities—including how the Yellow House continues to exert its influence on the lives of her loved ones even after it was wiped off the map during Hurricane Katrina.
24. Know My Name by Chanel Miller
Chanel Miller was known as Emily Doe when, after Brock Turner was sentenced to six months in county jail after sexually assaulting her at Stanford University, her victim impact statement went viral on BuzzFeed. It has since been read on the floor of Congress, inspired changes in California law and contributed to the recall of the judge in the case. In Know My Name, Miller reclaims her identity to tell her story, which illuminates a criminal justice system designed to fail the most vulnerable while protecting perpetrators and reveals the courage required to move through suffering.
25. How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones
In this raw and heartfelt memoir, award-winning poet Saeed Jones writes about being a young, black, gay man from the South fighting to make a place for himself in his family and in the world. From his childhood in Lewisville, Texas, to the MFA program at Rutgers University, it’s about the struggle to find and redefine his identity, as well as a meditation on blackness and queerness, and the ways those identities are continuously discriminated against.