From bold debuts and edge-of-your-seat thrillers to new books by Ali Smith and Ian McEwan, here are 12 novels you won't want to miss in 2019
12 novels to read in 2019 – Ali Smith, Ian McEwan, Leila Slimani and more
Hard as this might seem to believe, reading a good novel is more nourishing than looking at your phone. It can take a bit of effort to get going sometimes but becoming immersed in a new world is a reward worth persevering for. So make 2019 the year you put your phone to one side, find a quiet spot every evening and start reading. Instagram will soon be forgotten.
With this in mind, here are 12 novels published next year that we can't wait to get started on.
1. Adele by Leila Slimani
Faber & Faber, Published: January 15
Leila Slimani’s 2017 novel, Lullaby, was a beautifully controlled, disturbing thriller about the murder of two children by their nanny. It demanded to be read in one sitting and sold by the lorry-load. This follow-up promises to be every bit as compulsive. A successful female journalist, living in Paris with her husband and young son, sees her seemingly perfect world collapse as she is consumed by an insatiable desire for extramarital affairs. Lies, deceit and guilt: Slimani once again pokes around in the darkest corners of the mind.
2. Black Leopard, Red Wolf: Dark Star Trilogy Book 1 by Marlon James
Penguin, Published: February 7
The Booker Prize-winning author of A Brief History of Seven Killings returns with an epic supernatural story about an African hunter called Tracker. When Tracker is asked to find a missing boy, he joins a group of mysterious hunters, each of whom seems to be harbouring dark secrets. As the search becomes increasingly knotty, Tracker starts to wonder why so many people want to keep this child from being found. Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods, has described Black Leopard, Red Wolf as, “a fantasy world as well-realised as anything Tolkien made, with language as powerful as Angela Carter’s. It’s as deep and crafty as Gene Wolfe, bloodier than Robert E. Howard, and all Marlon James.” Probably worth a read, then.
3. The Plotters by Un-su Kim
Fourth Estate, Published: February 12
Un-su Kim is a celebrated South Korean novelist whose jet-black 2010 thriller, The Plotters, has now been translated into English. The novel follows Reseng, a top hit-man in Seoul who carries out orders from a shady, Kafkaesque bureau of people he never meets. When his cold façade slips during one job, though, paranoia descends and his life begins to unravel as it becomes clear that he is involved in something much bigger than he ever imagined. By turns brutal and funny, The Plotters should establish Un-su Kim as a major literary talent outside of South Korea.
4. The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
Quercus, Published: February 12
Set in 1930s colonial Malaya, Yangsze Choo’s novel splices together the lives of an 11-year-old Chinese boy on a gruesome mission and an apprentice dressmaker forced to work as a dancer to pay off her mother’s debts. If that sounds like an all-too-conventional “star-crossed-lovers” tale, Choo mixes things up with a series of unexplained deaths and rumours of roaming tigers who turn into men. Choo’s prose has a dreamy quality to it and The Night Tiger, steeped in magic, superstition and Chinese folklore, should be a slice of glorious escapism.
5. Landfall by Thomas Mallon
Pantheon Books, Published: February 19
For lovers of American politics, a new novel by Thomas Mallon is always a mouth-watering prospect. The author of Watergate and Finale now brings us Landfill, a caustic look at the George W Bush years, particularly the former US president’s handling of the invasion of Iraq and Hurricane Katrina. Many of the characters from that era – Condoleeza Rice; Donald Rumsfeld; Tony Blair – will be brought to life on the page with Mallon’s trademark wit and, crucially, no little sympathy. How he deals with Bush, though, remains to be seen.
6. Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce
Wildfire, Published: February 21
Lust, lies, lawyers – and murder, of course – all come together in Harriet Tyce’s debut novel, a thriller which is already being tipped as one of the must-reads of 2019. Ambitious lawyer Alison should be focussing on her first murder case – as well as her family at home – but is distracted by an affair and the feeling that somebody knows all of her secrets and wants to make her pay. Blood Orange looks sure to be a proper page-turner, so don’t be left out of the watercooler chat.
7. Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Cornerstone, Published: March 7
This is the story of a fictional band, Daisy Jones and The Six, and how they made it in the 70s, enjoyed arena tours and the excess of success, before unexpectedly splitting up in 1979. It’s written as a hyper-realistic oral history, a clever conceit that allows Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, to explore what happens when we wake up from our youth, all the while taking a bold, inventive leap away from the constraints of the conventional novel form.
8. The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick
HQ, Published: March 26
Librarian Martha Storm’s sedate life is flipped upside down when she discovers in an old book what appears to be a clue hinting that her grandmother may still be alive. Martha decides to step away from the library and take up the chase, which – inevitably, the cynic might say – leads her on a journey of self-discovery. But Phaedra Patrick has a rare ability to turn a cosy, orthodox yarn into something altogether more humbling. The Library of Lost and Found might well turn out to be this year’s novel in blanket form.
9. Spring by Ali Smith
Penguin, Published: March 28
Spring is the third instalment of Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet, in which the acclaimed novelist seeks to discover “what time is [and] how we discover it”. Autumn, set in post-Brexit Britain, and Winter, a slippery selection of disparate, almost anti-festive ideas (“Pinter by way of Annie Baker,” wrote The New York Times), have already had near-universal praise heaped upon them. It’s unclear what Smith has planned for Spring but there are few novelists currently writing with such depth and vim – and none so prolifically, either.
10. The Affairs of the Falcons by Melissa Rivero
Ecco Press, Published: April 2
There has been lots of chatter about this debut novel from Melissa Rivero, which tells the story of Ana Falcon and her husband, Lucho, who have fled Peru with their two young children to make a new life in New York City in the 1990s. A fresh and timely look at the struggles faced by immigrants in America.
11. Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan
Vintage, Published: April 18
The author of Atonement and On Chesil Beach examines artificial intelligence in his latest novel, which is set in an alternative 1980s era London. A fascinating, destructive love-triangle is formed when a young drifter called Charlie buys a “synthetic human” and designs its personality with the help of Miranda, the girl he loves. McEwan, who won the Booker Prize in 1998, explores what it means to be human and asks whether we can ever have a meaningful relationship with a machine. McEwan’s publishers have described Machines Like Me as “one of the most morally layered books McEwan has written”.
12. Delta-v by Daniel Suarez
Dutton, Published: April 23
A shot of pure adrenaline from Daniel Suarez, author of bestselling thriller Daemon. Set in the near-future, Delta-v follows a billionaire who hires a squad of experts – mavericks, no doubt – to mine an asteroid orbiting the earth. It sounds pretty silly and Suarez’s prose can be grizzled and raw. Nevertheless, it’s sure to be a rollicking, high-stakes journey through space.