Favorite fiction of 2019

Linn Ullmann, Unquiet: A Novel.

Guzel Yakhina, Zuleikha.

Aladdin, a new translation by Yasmine Seale.

Broken Stars: Contemporary Science Fiction in Translation, edited and translated by Ken Liu.

Sally Rooney, Normal People: A Novel.

I did try many of the more famous recommended novels of the year, and mostly didn’t like them.  Still, I don’t feel this list is coming very close to capturing the year’s best fiction — I think I’ll have a better sense in two or three years and then I will report back.  In the meantime, what do you recommend?


The best fiction released this year was Vasily Grossman's "Stalingrad," which probably isn't exactly what you intended.

Zuleikha makes a nice companion piece on a personal scale.

I'm not sure if the list could be any more perfect, but Linn Ullman's Unquiet: A Novel secretes instead of conjuring, for the first time, I wasn't asked to put my down pen. Instead she fosters another cadence without provoking a harmonic device. It's spun like a wheel that can't seem to spin.

Which of these did you finish?

It'd be better if you specified how much of each book you actually read, or only mentioned books you read in their entirety.

Exactly! Otherwise it looks a bit like a list of books one wants to be seen as having read, for some intellectual status.

But if you evaluate posts on their usefulness rather than honesty I suppose this one is as useful as any.

The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal

again not what you intended, and it dates from the fall of 2018, not the late winter months of early 2019, which might have fully qualified it for this comment thread, but what seems (to me, at least) like a not bad new translation of Pan Tadeusz (a novel in verse by a Polish writer whom Pushkin admired, with good reason) - the first 700 lines or so are available free on the look inside feature on the Kindle version on the amazon website.

How would you like to update the list from two or three years ago?


Richard Powers continues to demonstrate that he is one of the top novelists in America with "The Overstory."

I enjoyed Older Brother by Mahir Guven, especially since it's the author's first novel, and Exhalation by Ted Chiang.

Life is too short to be reading books just because they are new. Reviewers might find it profitable and don’t have to pay for them anyway, but if you are Harold Bloom and you are shelling out cash, your best bet on good books is likely to be something published previously. In that spirit the best book new to me this year was The Sad End of Policarpo Quaresma by Lima Barrett, runner up Ancient Tillage by Radian Nassar.

Dragons Are Real! By Holly Hatam
Its a children’s book. The illustration is great. It’s fiction.

I read it. Very disappointed. It had illustrations, and it was fiction, but I was expecting more.

> Still, I don’t feel this list is coming very close to capturing the year’s best fiction — I think I’ll have a better sense in two or three years and then I will report back

It follows that you should soon be blogging, "Best Fiction of 2016 (as of 2019)." I look forward to it!

Didn’t like Normal People at all.

Really enjoyed Five Wives by Joan Thomas. Could have been longer. I think when you wish it was longer is when you know it’s good.

“Night Boat to Tangier” by Kevin Barry is the best thing I’ve read written this year.

I read “Normal People” and enjoyed it but didn’t think it was special by any means.

I'd second Night Boat to Tangier.

As far as fiction goes, I’d third.

We kids these days do not read paper books.
Why will I pay for a book when the free online fiction is much better ?

Suggested online reading:

"Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality"
HPMOR Has plenty of discussion on Gold Silver price arbitrage between muggle and Wizard economies.

"A Practical Guide to Evil"

PGTE is all about characters who are aware of tropes in heroic fiction and actively exploit them.

"Meta world chronicles"

"Metaworld" is about a Modern Business consultant applying her practises to a magic based economy. There was some discussion of De Beers and Singapore port economics.

The interesting trend here is that two of the five titles feel compelled to point out that they are indeed "a Novel." Is it just a case of colon envy?

Thank you for this list. The fiction and nonfiction best books lists are my favorite MR posts every year, and I regularly return to them when looking for something new to read. If you started a mid-year "best books from 3 (or more) years ago" tradition, I for one would love it. Happy reading.

Night Boat to Tangier is mind blowing. Sentence jewels every other page.

Thanks for these suggestions Tyler. I'm keen to try some Chinese sci-fi on for size, so will definitely look at Broken Stars.

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