Read in the New Year
10 books to pick up in 2019
New year, new you, new resolutions? Even if self-improvement promises aren’t your thing (let’s be honest, most of us will ditch them by February anyway), reading is one resolution we can enthusiastically get behind. Books (hard copy, e-books, audiobooks, whatever) work on so many levels, including education, enlightenment and entertainment. Whether you prefer fiction over non-fiction, or serious topics over escapism, SN&R compiled a list of some of 2019’s most anticipated titles. Read on, in order of release date, to discover some of the year’s most promising picks for practical politics and social anthropology, dystopian horrors and demons, comics and cultural commentary.
Handbook for a Post-Roe America—Robin Marty
This isn’t The Handmaid’s Tale, this is real life. In Handbook for a Post-Roe America ($14.95, Seven Stories Press, January 22), Robin Marty outlines the grim possibilities of President Trump’s conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court, positing, “When we say abortion will be illegal in half the states in the nation, we are no longer talking about some hypothetical future—we are talking about just years down the road.” In chapters such as “Planning For Your Own Emergencies” and “So, You Want to be the Next ‘Jane',” Handbook is a clear-eyed guide to protecting access and providing support—with or without the government’s consent.
“I’d become a nameless ghost"—so writes Stephanie Land of her experiences in Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive (Hachette Books, January 22). Land’s book is categorized on Amazon in its “survival biographies” memoir sub-genre, and the placement fits. She chronicles how an unplanned pregnancy unmoored her university plans and set her adrift, putting her on a quest to make ends meet as she juggled online classes with a series of grueling domestic jobs. Land’s book is an unflinching examination of class, poverty and what it means to work among people who hardly realize you’re even there.
Deep Creek—Pam Houston
UC Davis English professor Pam Houston’s new book Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country ($25.95, W.W. Norton & Co., January 29) has the writer exploring life on her Colorado mountain homestead—and beyond. Though much of the book is grounded in the care for Houston’s century-old barn, she also documents her travels between the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, connecting every mile with meditations on nature versus nurture. There are dogs, horses, elk, birds and, as always, Houston’s clear, unsentimental writing.
King of Scars—Leigh Bardugo
It’s not a reading list without some good old-fashioned escapism. Young adult fantasy author Leigh Bardugo is sure to deliver in King of Scars ($19.99, Imprint, January 29), which places Bardugo’s popular Nikolai Lantsov (from the Grisha trilogy) in his own series of adventures. The first of a new duology, there are secrets and lies, alliances and warfare, demons and dark magic. For fans of the Grishaverse—but new readers can easily immerse themselves as well.
Reclaiming Our Space—Feminista Jones
Feminista Jones (aka Michelle Taylor) is an unparalleled voice of Black Twitter—the social media platform’s virtual community of politically and culturally minded activists. In Reclaiming Our Space: How Black Feminists Are Changing the World from the Tweets to the Streets ($14.95, Beacon Press, January 29), Jones writes about the ways black women build digital communities to both protect one another and dismantle white patriarchal oppression. Jones, perhaps mostly widely known for her #YouOKSis campaign to call out street harassment, lifts up other prolific “movement-building” hashtags including #BlackLivesMatter, #SayHerName, and #BlackGirlMagic, then connects them to the history of modern activism.
The Nickel Boys—Colson Whitehead
Colson Whitehead follows up his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Underground Railroad with this story of two boys sentenced to a horrifically abusive reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida. The Nickel Boys ($24.95, Doubleday, July 16) traces the lives of these friends—one naive, the other cynical—and is based on the true story of a Southern reform school that operated for more than 100 years.
The World Doesn’t Require You—Rion Amilcar Scott
Rion Amilcar Scott’s first collection of stories, Insurrection, received the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for debut fiction. In The World Doesn’t Require You ($27.95, Liveright, August 20), Scott uses linked short stories to craft the fictional Cross River, Maryland, and tell the story of this country’s only successful slave revolt. There’s a struggling musician, an academic and a … robot. Scott uses wit, magical realism and skilled storytelling to measure out weighty themes of religion and oppression.
Bottle Grove—Daniel Handler
Daniel Handler’s latest novel, Bottle Grove ($26, Bloomsbury Publishing, August 27), is a darkly comic commentary on modern mores and manners. Set in San Francisco at the dawn of the tech era, it examines two marriages and the impact that wealth—or the lack of it—has upon them. Best-known for his Lemony Snicket children’s series, Handler is also adept at writing about adult fears and anxieties.
The Testaments—Margaret Atwood
Thirty-four years after its release, Canadian author Margaret Atwood will finally publish a sequel to her enduringly—and frighteningly—relevant novel The Handmaid’s Tale. The story continues to build in Atwood’s patriarch-centered society where women possess few rights and zero bodily autonomy. The Testaments (Nan A. Talese, September 10) tells its story through three female narrators, and it picks up 15 years after Offred got into that mysterious van. There were, seemingly, hints to all this in the epilogue to Atwood’s original book; super-fans will be intrigued to see how those align with this new offering.
The Banks—Roxane Gay
Later this year, novelist, essayist and fiercely astute cultural surveyor Roxane Gay will unveil her much-anticipated six-part comic series. The Banks ($17.99, TKO Studios, date TBA). Gay has teased the series on Instagram, describing it as “three generations of Black women, all master thieves living in Chicago. ‘Their mantra: steal smart, right a wrong.'” Gay, revered for her “Bad Feminist” essay collection and the starkly honest memoir Hunger, has done comics before; she’s penned several World of Wakanda stories for the Black Panther series. This one, with art by Ming Doyle, promises to be as smart, funny and thrilling as its author.”