You’ve still got almost a month to hammer away at your reading goal for 2019. Here’s a list of short works (around 200 or fewer pages) that I’ve collected. And below my list you’ll find a list of other lists.
Good luck. Read on!
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Can You Ever Forgive Me? by Lee Israel
The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman
The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker
Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
Sweet Days of Discipline by Fleur Jaeggy
An Untouched House by Willem Frederick Hermans
The Hole by José Revueltas
The Dry Heart by Natalia Ginzburg
A Week at the Airport by Alain De Botton
I Am Sovereign by Nicola Barker
The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
Sweet Days of Discipline by Fleur Jaeggy, translated by Tim Parks
Lamenting that her reading time is often confined to weekends, Lorraine Berry here offers a list of books that can be finished over a weekend, which “means a book that clocks in with fewer than 300 pages — and sometimes, even fewer than 200.” An added bonus is the wide variety of titles here.
This list will help me tick off two categories on my reading plan for this year: (1) total number of books read and (2) translated works. Pierce Alquist says she has included here books of “less than ~200 pages.”
From The Washington Post. At the bottom of the page you’ll find links to the Post’s list of best books in the following categories: thrillers & mysteries, romance, science fiction & fantasy, children’s books, poetry, nonfiction, audiobooks, graphic novels, memoirs, and story collections.
“In our efforts to increase and diffuse knowledge, we highly recommend these 45 titles released this year,” declare the editors and writers of Smithsonian Magazine. Their subject matter includes “science, history, art, world cultures, travel and innovation.”
Because 2019 is the final year of the decade, there’s also an emphasis on “best books of the decade” among the lists.
Editors at BookBub present one book from each year, 2010-2019, “that resonates deeply — the book that caused a sensation, revolutionized a genre, established a cultural touchstone, or launched itself into the zeitgeist.”
Psychologist J.L. Doucette also writes mystery novels. When a body was found buried in the back yard of a house formerly owned by her grandmother, Doucette began to “question my choice of genre as if by writing about murder I was somehow complicit in bringing violence into the world.”
The great power of fiction originates in the universality of the particular stories it tells. Since growing up is something we all must do sooner or later, coming-of-age novels are among the most prevalent and most affecting of all.
Here Emily Temple offers her list. I agree with some of her choices: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, Cider House Rules by John Irving.
But there are a lot more I would add: The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, A Crime in the Neighborhood by Suzanne Berne, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens, My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni.
While The Goldfinch was a bestseller and won the Pulitzer prize for fiction, it divided critics. One challenge to film-makers is its length (864 pages in the current paperback edition; well over 300,000 words). It was called “Dickensian” by some admiring reviewers, but the largest Dickens novels rely on highly elaborate plotting and a large cast of characters. The Goldfinch offers neither of these.
I loved Donna Tartt’s novel The Goldfinch, but a lot of people did not. The film version will be hitting theaters soon, and I’m eager to see it. But, as this article discusses, many are wondering whether this novel can be made into a satisfactory movie.
The Edgar Awards Revisited, a series in Criminal Element, looks back at award winners not only in their own right, as outstanding novels, but as representative of the their time.
In fact, looking back on 1986, The Suspect may have been the least progressive choice, thematically or structurally, for the Edgar that year, its whydunnit format notwithstanding. Simon Brett’s A Shock To The System features a similar format but, as the British precursor to Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho, was perhaps considered as outre as its fellow nominee, Paul Auster’s metaphysical detective story, City Of Glass.
Rob Hart, author of the recently released novel The Warehouse, writes:
Recently I heard a pretty good explanation of the difference between a mystery and a thriller. A mystery is about what happened, and a thriller is about what’s going to happen.
But beyond that distinction, how do librarians and publishing professionals decide into which of many, many inter-related categories a given novel should be slotted? Readers of literary criticism know that the distinction between “literary fiction”—the high-brow, highfalutin stuff—and “mere genre fiction”—the low-brow, inferior stuff most of us love—is a perennial topic of discussion. But Hart here proclaims, “I really am a fan of mixing genres.” He offers a list of books that do just that: “I don’t know exactly what to call, other than very good books.”
While we may not be seeing an Obama book club any time soon, the former president provides a rare male voice in a largely female-dominated literary space helmed by the likes of Oprah [Winfrey] and Reese Witherspoon. Covering a wide range of genres, topics and authors, Obama’s recommendations certainly aren’t aimed specifically at male readers, but his voice has helped redefine a literary space often associated — however problematically — with a stereotypically “feminine” vision perhaps best embodied by Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine book club.
Says Kayla Kibbe, “Obama’s book recommendations read less like an endorsement from a former world leader than a conversation with a close friend who would gladly lend you their own paperback.”
Biographer, poet, critic, and novelist Jay Parini addresses the rise of historical fiction over “the last few decades.”
A student of mine recently said to me in frustration: “I just can’t get interested in ‘made-up’ lives.” And I must admit, my own tastes have shifted over the decades away from invented lives. I think I speak for many when I say that it’s biographical novels—which are centered on actual lives and circumstances—that have found a more secure place in my reading (and writing) life.
And here’s why:
Fiction offers the one and only way we have to get into the head of somebody not ourselves. If this person is someone of interest for one reason or another, there is all the more reason to want to know them and their world more deeply.
And there is a truthfulness in fiction that is simply unavailable to the academic biographer.
Jennifer Szalai discusses What We Talk About When We Talk About Books by Leah Price, an English professor at Rutgers University. The book is not so much about literary history or literary criticism as about the book as physical object and the experience of reading.
The knot of ambivalence contained in this book is appropriate, considering that her subject — “the history and future of reading” — is too enormous and various to speak with a single voice. Recalling an injury that a number of years ago made it hard for Price to read, she says her story “has that most bookish of structures, a happy ending.” This is Price the Book Historian talking; Price the Literary Critic seems to have a different and darker take. Later, reflecting on the desire to see fiction as therapeutic, she wonders how we might prepare for “that most literary of endings, an unhappy one.”
The editorial team at Read it Forward provide a list of the best fiction and nonfiction books for your reading pleasure this summer. They boldly proclaim, “we know something on this list will appeal to everyone.”
Only two cities in the U.S. have earned the UNESCO City of Literature designation, and one of them is Iowa City. (The other is Seattle.) To earn this designation, a city must have “a diverse publishing industry, exceptional educational programming and literary events, spaces which preserve and promote literature, and media outlets that supports readers and reading.”
One thing that contributed to Iowa City’s designation is the University of Iowa Writers Workshop, a famous writing workshop that has produced many well known authors. All 50 entries on this list were written by writers who spent time in Iowa City, including Raymond Carver, T.C. Boyle, and Alexander Chee.
Here, finally, is something especially for lovers of nonfiction. The “you can read online for free” part is particularly appealing. Authors represented here include James Baldwin, Joan Didion, and Roxane Gay.
June is World Refugee Awareness Month. To bring insight into the diverse experiences of refugees, we’ve rounded up some of the best books by and about refugees. Whether you’re interested in reading a memoir, a reported work of nonfiction, a novel, or sharing a story with a young reader, there’s a book here for everyone. Read on, and enjoy some deep conversations inspired by these thought-provoking books.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, translated by Berliani M. Nugrahani
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
My Brilliant Friend (and 3 companion novels) by by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein
The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, translated by Ken Liu
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Gone to Soldiers by Marge Piercy
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
Transcription by Kate Atkinson
A Column of Fire by Ken Follett
About a year ago, when I was setting up my reading plan for the upcoming year, I came across one challenge that included this entry: “Read a book to learn something.”
My immediate reaction to this directive was, “Every book I read, I read to learn something.” Nevertheless, within the context of that particular reading challenge I interpreted this entry as a directive to read a nonfiction book.
But every time I finish a novel I remember anew that I do learn something from every book I read, not just from nonfiction. I’ve learned a lot from novels explicitly categorized as historical fiction, but I’ve also learned from novels in various genres such as science fiction, mysteries, and thrillers.
Here are 15 novels that have contributed to my general knowledge of several topics.
Many novels have served as fictional introductions to other cultures. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, translated by Berliani M. Nugrahani, taught me about the ethnic, religious, and political turmoil in present-day Afghanistan. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman introduced me to what life was like for lighthouse keepers on isolated islands along the coast of Australia in the years after the first world war. I learned what life was like for working-class people in Naples, Italy, after World War II from My Brilliant Friend and its three companion novels by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein. And I got a first-hand picture of life during China’s Cultural Revolution from The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, translated by Ken Liu.
I’ve learned from novels more about war than I ever wanted to know. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier made me understand how the Civil War devastated both the land and the people who lived on it. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows both made me realize the magical power books can have for people experiencing horrors such as World War II. Gone to Soldiers by Marge Piercy made me marvel at how resilient and brave people can be in the face of those same horrors. Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars taught me how unfair and long-lived political and ethnic suspicion and hatred can be. From A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra I learned the basis for the Russian war with Chechnya.
Spies are a big part of war, and I’ve learned just about everything I know about espionage from novels. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein taught me about courage and the power of friendship in the face of unspeakable fear. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn showed me bravery under threat of death in the first world war, as did Transcription by Kate Atkinson in the second. From A Column of Fire by Ken Follett I learned about the origin of spying during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
But I don’t just learn historical facts by reading fiction. I learn about human nature, about human desires and aspirations, about the desire to love and be loved, the search for one’s identity, and the courage to act in extraordinary circumstances. And also, yes, about the dark parts of the human heart and our capacity to inflict pain and suffering on others throughout time.
I’ve had a lot of formal schooling. But much of what I know about life I learned from reading fiction.
As with all my annual reading lists, this one comprises books I read in 2018, regardless of when they were published.
In past years I’ve limited my list to 15 books, broken down into the best (10) and honorable mention (5). This year I found it particularly hard to distinguish between those two divisions. I was tempted to present just a single list of 15 items, but, because of that hobgoblin of little minds—consistency—I did subdivide it. However, I won’t mind if you think of this presentation as a single list of 15 items.
Listed alphabetically by author’s last name:
Connelly,Michael. Dark Sacred Night
Ferrante, Elena. My Brilliant Friend
Galbraith,Robert. Lethal White
Grann, David. Killers of the Flower Moon
Mandel, Emily St. John. Station Eleven
Marra, Anthony. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
Ng, Celeste. Little Fires Everywhere
Piercy, Marge. Gone to Soldiers
Stein, Garth. The Art of Racing in the Rain
Thomas, Angie. The Hate U Give
Benjamin,Chloe. The immortalists
Follett, Ken. A Column of Fire
Ford, Jamie. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
French, Tana. The Witch Elm
Harper, Jane. Force of Nature
How about you?
Did you read any of the same books I did in 2018? If yes, what did you think of them?
And what’s on your list of the best books you read in 2018?
The year’s best young adult books aren’t just for teen readers. Read on for our favorite immersive historicals, sweeping fantasies, stories that tackle some of today’s most headline-grabbing social issues and more.
Although the year has been a challenging one, the effervescent world of children’s literature has been filled with diverse voices, messages of hope and plenty of silliness. Here are our editors’ picks for the 30 best children’s books of 2018.
Most “best books of the year” lists prepared by the publishing profession include only books published during the year in question. But this list uses the same approach I use every year for my own list of “best books read”: It includes the best books people read during the year, no matter when the books were published.
Because I like mystery/thriller/crime novels, I can’t resist offering you this list by Marilyn Stasio, mystery reviewer for The New York Times:
Ho-Ho-Ho, kiddies. Here comes Bad Santa with another gift sack filled with mysteries, crime stories and body parts. Ugh, what’s that gooey red stuff dripping out of Santa’s bag? Not to worry, just some melted candy canes. Now, on to this year’s rundown of the best Good Books for Bad Grown-Ups.
See who wins her awards in categories like “most original murder method” and “most unprintable dialogue.”
Here’s another list similar to Marilyn Stasio’s. The categories here also vary widely: “best title,” “most studious,” “best conspiracy,” “best use of new media,” “Rotary Club Award for new small business owners.”
Again, because I like crime fiction, here’s a list from Books in the Media:
Our team have collated the best of the year selections from the following publications: The Sunday Times, The Observer, The Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The New York Times, Evening Standard, The Spectator, Daily Mail, Financial Times and Slate.
There are some titles here that I haven’t seen elsewhere.
Trends in this year’s noir releases include a revival of PI stories and classic hard-boiled tales of the “starts bad, gets worse” type; rural noir continued to make a strong showing, while procedurals featured a wide variety of protagonists, arrayed along a vast scale of crooked to incorruptible. Noir tends to be the crime world’s voice of conscience, fully on display in many of the works below, and the prominent presence of 1970s settings harkens back to the last great era of conspiracy fiction. To make our selection process more reader-friendly, we divided our selections into three categories: Private Eyes, Police / Procedural, and that most ineffable, expansive, and existential of labels: straight-up Noir.
It was a banner year for psychological thrillers, with Trump-induced anxieties and #metoo stories entering into prominence in a genre already concerned with dangers at home. It’s no surprise that two years after the election, a mess of crime novels newly focused on the psychology of betrayal and the effects of toxic masculinity, but it did come as a bit of a surprise to see several novels that fit in perfectly with the #metoo era, and we’re sure to see many more over the coming years. As has been the trend for the past few years, psychological thrillers have shifted towards exploring relationships between women as much, if not more, than the domestic interactions that were once the subgenre’s bread and butter (so much so that for a few years, the crime world was inundated by the aptly named sub-sub-genre of domestic suspense).
Adam Woog, crime and mystery fiction reviewer for The Seattle Times, lists some of his favorites of 2018. He promises part 2 of his list in his first column of 2019, which should show up on the second Sunday of January.
From me, Woog gets bonus points for describing Tana French, author of the recent hit The Witch Elm, as “ a ridiculously talented Irish writer.” That she is.
To mark the end of the year, we’re looking back at the books that BookBub members enjoyed the most in 2018. With an average of over 4.5 stars each, these books are tried and true reader favorites across all genres.
OK, this is not a list of the year’s best books, but it may lead you to some new books from this year. Epigraphs are those little quotations from earlier writers that are often featured on one of the opening pages of a newer work. Epigraphs are easy to overlook, but they often lead to new insights about the work. And they’re often more meaningful if we look back at them after we’ve finished the book. Imagine the possibilities.
This page presents a whole lot of book covers with a sidebar in which you can choose to filter (e.g., “for art lovers,” “historical fiction”) what type of books you want to see. If you hover your mouse over a particular cover, a pop-up box will appear with a link to more information about the book.
If you find this approach overwhelming, as I did, you can check out BookBub’s report on the NPR choices here.
After complaining of being woefully behind on her reading, The New Yorker staff writer Katy Walkman offers a list of nine best books of 2018:
To me, each of the titles below represents an energizing alternative to the ripped-apart illogic of our contemporary reality. Even the most disorienting novel is a reminder that you are more than a frayed nerve ending flailing across the Internet—that you, a somewhat coherent person, exist. Each one of these books does what Alexander Pope said wit can do: it “gives us back the image of our mind.”
This isn’t your typical end-of-the-year best books list, but not including it here would seem like a sin. “There are times in life when we need a spark of inspiration, hope, or encouragement,” and these books provide just that, according to BookBub readers.
And here’s another not-so-straightforward list of some of the year’s best books, this one with a cultural emphasis:
there has been a grassroots pushback against hot-take nonfiction — one led, of course, by women. They didn’t launch any franchises — no “girl”-titled blockbusters and probably no future Jennifer Lawrence vehicles — but collectively, they dominated a shrunken literary ecosystem.
Our favorite books draw on politics and the news, whether via wrongful incarceration, #MeToo, or the divide between generations. But they also totally captivate us with gorgeously-crafted sentences, their singular take on modern stories, and their insouciance.