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Books we can’t wait to read in 2019


This year is shaping up to be a big one for fiction, with new books from the likes of Elizabeth McCracken, Marlon James, Karen Russell, and Colson Whitehead and long-awaited second novels by Nicole Dennis-Benn, Téa Obreht, and Erin Morgenstern. There are also striking works of nonfiction queued up. Take a look.

FEB. 5

Bowlaway,’’ Elizabeth McCracken (Ecco)

Loss and love revolve around a bowling alley established at the turn of the 20th century in a Massachusetts village by a woman who seems to have fallen from the sky in this quirky epic about family and fate, McCracken’s first novel since 2001’s “Niagara Falls All Over Again.’’


Where Reasons End,’’ Yiyun Li (Random House)

The award-winning writer and MacArthur fellow presents a wrenching meditation on grief, memory, and the limits of language in the form of an imagined conversation between a grieving mother and the 16-year-old son she lost to suicide.

The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays,’’ Esmé Weijun Wang (Graywolf)

Part affecting memoir, part probing analysis from a former Stanford researcher with a schizoaffective disorder on what it is like to live with mental illness, how patients are viewed by the culture, and the surprising vagaries of diagnosis and treatment.

Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts,’’ Jill Abramson (Simon & Schuster)

The former executive editor of The New York Times follows two legacy organizations, the Times and the Washington Post, and two upstarts, BuzzFeed and Vice Media, in her look at news-media disruption and adjustment over the last decade, a particularly timely report in the current moment of fake news and alternative facts.

FEB. 12

Black Leopard, Red Wolf,’’ Marlon James (Riverhead)

This first installment in a planned Dark Star Trilogy by the Man Booker Prize winner mixes African history, legend, and folklore in a sprawling saga of mercenaries with supernatural powers who are trying to find a missing boy.


Lost Children Archive,’’ Valeria Luiselli (Knopf)

A young blended family on the verge of breakup drives from New York to Arizona. Their goals? The father’s is to record the dying echoes of the Chiricahua Apache people in their ancestral homeland; the mother’s is to find a Mexican friend’s two little girls last seen at a border detention center.

The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations,’’
Toni Morrison (Knopf)

This gathering of 40 works by the Nobel laureate wanders the worlds of art, culture, race, history, and identity, and given the source it’s a pretty safe bet the pieces will be smart and insightful, relevant and urgent.

FEB. 19

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls,’’
Anissa Gray (Berkley)

Three African-American adult sisters, with painfully complicated lives and histories of their own, rally around their twin nieces after their once-respected parents are arrested in their small Michigan town in this debut fiction by an award-winning journalist.

Nobody’s Looking at You: Essays,’’ Janet Malcolm (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

This eclectic collection explores the master essayist’s fascination (and sometimes frustration) with fashion designer Eileen Fisher, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, the cable show “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,’’ the generational divide among women over harassment, and Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency mystery series.



Gingerbread,’’ Helen Oyeyemi (Riverhead)

A fairy-tale-infused saga (circling, as it does, around the baking of a gingerbread peculiar to a faraway land called Druhástrana) that focuses on a mother and daughter who live in a gold-painted London apartment with talking plants.

Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family,’’ Mitchell Jackson (Scribner)

The Whiting Award winner presents a vivid and unflinching look at what it’s like growing up black and poor in Portland, Ore. Mitchell’s memoir in essays chronicles the struggles of friends and family with drugs, racism, violence, and hopelessness and puts a face on the cyclical nature of poverty.

“Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland,’’ Jonathan M. Metzl (Basic)

Much has been already written about how segments of the American electorate support candidates and political ideas that run contrary to their own self-interest. But Metzl, a sociologist and psychiatrist, examines the ways policies of right-wing backlash (pro-gun laws, cuts to education, social services, and health care) affect the lives and life expectancies of these people.


The Trial of Lizzie Borden: A True Story,’’ Cara Robertson (Simon and Schuster)

Behind-the-scenes history by a lawyer who is a former Supreme Court clerk and adviser at The Hague weaves newspaper accounts, trial transcripts, and newly discovered letters from Borden into a narrative that promises to be a must-read for true-crime aficionados.


The Parade,” Dave Eggers (Knopf)


Eggers’s latest follows two western contractors, with very different temperaments, sent to build a road connecting two halves of a foreign nation still recovering after a decade of war.

MARCH 26,’’ Nathan Englander (Knopf)

An irreverent satire about the atheist son of an orthodox Memphis Jewish family who hatches a cynical scheme to hire an online company to assume his duty to recite the Kaddish, the prayer for the dead, each day for 11 months in honor of his late father.

Sing to It: New Stories,’’ Amy Hempel (Scribner)

The 15 works by the short-story specialist (whose last book was 2006’s “The Collected Stories’’) include one about an animal-shelter volunteer who cares for those set to be euthanized, another about a wife who trails the older woman with whom her husband is having an affair, and still another about a woman haunted by thoughts of the baby she gave up for adoption while a teenager.

The Other Americans,’’ Laila Lalami (Pantheon)

The aftermath of the hit-and-run death of a Moroccan immigrant in the Mojave Desert unfurls through the kaleidoscopic narration of the man’s daughter, an undocumented worker who witnesses the crime, a police detective with a troubled home life, and others.


A Wonderful Stroke of Luck,’’ Ann Beattie (Viking)

A restless and unhappy prep-school and Cornell grad aimlessly meanders through jobs and relationships. Then one day an influential former teacher reappears, offering more and less clarity.


Women Talking,’’ Miriam Toews (Bloomsbury)

In this novel based on actual events, a group of Mennonite men are arrested for drugging and raping women in the colony. Now the women must decide what to do as the remaining men move to bail their friends out, and the bishop is threatening them with exile if they do not forgive their transgressors.

Women’s Work: A Reckoning With Work and Home,’’ Megan Stack (Doubleday)

A former foreign correspondent raises her children abroad with the help of poor Chinese and Indian women who are themselves also working mothers in this striking memoir and examination of marriage, motherhood, and feminism.


Outside Looking In,’’ T.C. Boyle (Ecco)

Boyle’s latest follows a Harvard grad student, his wife, and teen son who are pulled into the inner circle of LSD guru and psychology professor Timothy Leary and what they do after academic careers implode, leaving behind a group of devotees gathered in a kind of commune.


Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee,’’ Casey Cep (Knopf)

Cep recounts the story of how Lee spent years after the publication of “To Kill a Mockingbird’’ obsessed with the case of the murder of five family members in rural Alabama and why her plan to write a true-crime book like her friend Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood’’ didn’t pan out.

MAY 15

Orange World and Other Stories,’’ Karen Russell (Knopf)

The MacArthur winner has a thing for short fiction. Besides this collection, Russell has written two others, and “Swamplandia,’’ her Pulitzer finalist novel, started its life as a story. She also has a thing for the comic, offbeat, surreal, and just plain weird. But then again she is a native of Florida.


Mostly Dead Things,’’ Kristen Arnett (Tin House)

A daughter decides to take over the family taxidermy business after her father commits suicide. The rest of her kin, however, become comically unmoored in this dark and eccentric debut.

Patsy,’’ Nicole Dennis-Benn (Liveright)

The main character of Dennis-Benn’s sophomore effort after “Here Comes the Sun’’ is a Jamaican woman who flees her homeland, as well as her religious mother and young daughter, to join her secret love, Cicely, in Brooklyn — which turns out to be less than a land of opportunity.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,’’ Ocean Vuong (Penguin Press)

This debut novel by a prize-winning poet takes the form of a letter by a son in his 20s to his beloved but illiterate Vietnamese mother on family history, war and displacement, love and trauma, history and the power of stories.


The Nickel Boys,’’ Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)

The Internet swooned in October when news broke that Whitehead would publish a follow-up to his Pulitzer- and National Book Award-winning “The Underground Railroad.’’ The new novel trails a young, college-bound black man in the 1960s Jim Crow South who is sent to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy after an innocent mistake.

AUG 13

Inland,’’ Téa Obreht (Random House)

Obreht’s sophomore effort after “The Tiger’s Wife,’’ which won the Orange Prize and was a National Book Award finalist, twines the tales of a lone frontierswoman and a former outlaw in the Arizona Territory in the late 19th century.

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead,’’ Olga Tokarczuk, translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Riverhead)

Reclusive, cranky Janina spends her days translating Blake’s poems and taking care of the summer homes of the wealthy in her Polish village. And then the bodies begin to hit the floor in this darkly comic fable and thriller by the 2017 Man Booker-winning author of “Flights.’’


The Testaments,’’ Margaret Atwood (Nan A. Talese)

The election of Trump and Hulu’s timely series sent a sizable segment of the electorate to libraries and bookstores in search of “The Handmaid’s Tale.’’ Enter then, this sequel answering the question: What happened to Offred after her escape attempt? That it picks up 15 years in the future suggests the darkest options were avoided.

SEPT. 24

Make It Scream, Make It Burn: Essays,’’ Leslie Jamison (Little, Brown)

Little has been revealed about this new book, beyond that it includes the namesake Oxford American essay. But fans of Jamison’s first collection, 2014’s “The Empathy Exams,’’ and last years’s work of memoir/cultural criticism, “The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath,’’ have every reason to expect they won’t be disappointed.

NOV. 5

The Starless Sea,’’ Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday)

The hotly-awaited second novel from the author of the 2011 hit literary fantasy, “The Night Circus,’’ follows a Vermont graduate student into a subterranean world of mystery and magic, literature and love.

Paul S. Makishima can be reached at