As Thanksgiving vacation poses to kick off the cozy holiday season, there’s no better time to curl up with a new book. With only a handful of days left in 2019, it’s the perfect time to look back on the plethora of innovative, thought-provoking stories released this year that can either transport a reader to a new world or point out insightful paradigms of the world we live in now. It has been a year of boundary pushing in both fiction and nonfiction, exploring themes of human empathy and curiosity. Here are some of the most well-received books of 2019 that will be sure to provide a good read for the holiday season or a wonderful gift for your favorite bookworm.
Arias by Sharon Olds
Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Sharon Olds uses radical prose to delve into socio-political issues in her simplistic and haunting book, “Arias.” The book, which is comprised entirely of original poetic prose meant for musical-solo performance, is constructed with an intriguing cadence and ethical ruminations. Olds stands at the center of her works to captivate readers about pleasure, chance, wisdom, and her perception of the tragedies that take place in the United States and the world. With a mature cadence and a forlorn tone, Olds approaches difficult societal issues with grace, fortitude and honesty. If you are looking for a book to help open your mind and change your perception of the world around you, “Arias” by Sharon Olds will not disappoint.
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
A New York Times’ best-seller and an Oprah's Book Club pick, “The Water Dancer” by Ta-Nehisi Coates garnered a hefty amount of praise after its publication in September. The novel tells the enduring story of a boy, Hiram Walker, who was born into slavery in the U.S. After being robbed of everything and everyone he once held dear, all that is left is a mysterious gift that saves him from drowning and spurs an intense need to flee the life of slavery.
Written by one of today’s most exciting writers, “The Water Dancer” tells the story of a time in which generational suffering and cruelty were inflicted upon men, women and children all for the sake of plantation profits and disgraceful, dehumanizing indoctrination. “The Water Dancer,” while dark and confrontational, serves as a transcendent work that restores the humanity of those ravaged by the darkest time in U.S. history.
A Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill
Horror takes on a new light in this exciting novel that encapsulates grand mythos in a contemporary storyline of a family under siege by supernatural forces only they can see. The book is centered around Noah Turner, who, like the rest of his family, sees monsters. His father builds a shrine to ghouls, his mother avoids them for the sake of temporary stability and his sister pretends not to see anything supernatural at all. The biggest difference between Noah and the rest of his family is that he is the only one willing to let the monsters into his life.
Though the spooky season of all things monsters and mayhem is long past, Shaun Hamill’s “A Cosmology of Monsters” provides an intriguing look into family dynamics and the mesmerizing quality of a true horror story.
Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang
What better way to enjoy the nostalgic atmosphere of Thanksgiving than by reading stories about time travel, extraterrestrials and the time space continuum. Ted Chiang, author of “Stories of Your Life and Others,” compiles nine compelling stories in “Exhalation: Stories” — each exploring humanity’s oldest moral dilemmas and new inquiries about our own future. In one of the stories in the book, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” a portal through time forces an ancient merchant from Baghdad to confront past mistakes and the idea of second chances. In “Exhalation,” an extraterrestrial scientist makes a discovery with universal consequences. In “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom,” the freedom to glimpse into alternate universes sparks a question on the validity of free will.
These tales from “Exhalation: Stories” will give a stark perspective on what makes humans human, and how we, as a species, must grapple with the fast technological evolution that has been brewing over recent decades.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
For romance enthusiasts with an existential sweet tooth, “Normal People” will provide a starkly honest exploration of young love.
Set in modern-day Ireland, the story centers around a popular high school jock, Connell, and a social loner, Marianne. After an electrifying conversation between the two, they are set to play a game of cat and mouse with each other throughout their high school and college years. “Normal People” is an adept and compelling story of mutual fascination and young love. The plot carries the reader, in the company of two people who try to remain apart from each other but find they cannot, from their initial conversation all the way into their adulthood.