One should not ask an author to recommend just a single book. But I did. I asked seven authors, in fact. It was purely selfish, really, because I was having trouble knowing where to start in choosing what to read this year. So, in order to build my own 2019 TBR list, I reached out to some authors I admire (some of whom have new books coming out this year!) and each was gracious enough to tell me one book she is excited about in 2019.
I had no idea what to expect in their responses, but am tickled by the eclectic mix, which fits right in with how I like to read. From riveting drama to filterless memoir to brutal humor, I know this list will ensure the year is full of great reads. Without further ado...
From Crystal King, author of Feast of Sorrow and the forthcoming The Chef's Secret
"I can't wait to see Katrin Schumann's THE FORGOTTEN HOURS hitting bookshelves at the end of January. I've known Katrin for many years as a fellow GrubStreet member, and have seen her launch non-fiction books, but this is her first novel. I read an early copy, and simply could not put the book down, finishing it in just two nights of reading. The main character, Katie, is readying for her father to be released from prison where he has been serving time after Katie's best friend accused him of sexual abuse. Katie has always stood by her father, but now she's beginning to wonder if he is as innocent as she wants to believe. It's a tricky topic, but one that Katrin handles with aplomb, taking the reader through this story in a way that's absolutely riveting. THE FORGOTTEN HOURS is truly a brilliant fiction debut. I'm so excited to see this book out in the world and in the hands of readers!"
Note from Jen: Crystal King's The Chef's Secret releases February 12, 2019. I loved her debut (Feast of Sorrow) about the decadence and politics of ancient Rome, as told through the eyes of an enslaved chef. I can't wait to read this new feast of a book, which takes the reader forward in time to the kitchens of Renaissance Italy. A book-themed dinner party is in the works...
From Amy Mason Doan, author of The Summer List and the forthcoming Summer Hours
"NANAVILLE, by Anna Quindlen.
I've been a diehard Anna Quindlen fan for decades. I love both her novels and her essays. Her writing is always sharp and moving and unpretentious, and she has a journalist's ability to make the most complex topic vivid and relatable. NANAVILLE is about being a grandmother so I've already preordered a copy for myself and one for my mom (surprise, mom!)."
Note from Jen: I devoured Amy's debut The Summer List and had the pleasure of reading an early copy of her forthcoming Summer Hours, which I could easily see as a nostalgic and thought-provoking Netflix series. I love Amy's ability to conjure the sun-washed days of youth and contrast them with the sometimes jaded adults we become, all in flawless prose that keeps you turning the pages.
From Erin Duffy, author of Regrets Only and Bond Girl.
"There are a few authors whose books I can devour in a single sitting, and Jennifer Weiner is at the top of that list. I can’t wait to get my hands on her next novel, MRS. EVERYTHING, set to publish this summer. I love (and admire) writers who seem to effortlessly develop smart, witty, vulnerable characters, and Weiner’s novels deliver them every single time. This one deals with two sisters and their relationship as it evolves over time. If anyone is looking for me this June, I’ll be hiding from my kids somewhere with my face buried in this book!"
Note from Jen: I'm a sucker for an author who rocks a big-time job and then spins out a great novel, like Erin Duffy did with Bond Girl after her 10 years of working on Wall Street. I just started Erin's latest, Regrets Only, and am already in love with this funny, insightful look at marriage, family, and friendship.
From Kimmery Martin, author of The Queen of Hearts
"THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM is one of the most exquisite memoirs I’ve read in recent years. Tomlinson, a Pulitzer Prize finalist in commentary, is a journalist who has covered everything from newspaper columns to sportswriting. His book, which details his lifelong struggle with his weight, manages to be both funny and wrenching. He’s an incredible writer: filterless and brave and vivid. There’s not a single boring page. Tomlinson not only makes you feel like you’re him as you read his words, but he’s so likable and clever he makes you wish you were him, despite the often brutal things he describes."
Note from Jen: I will read anything Kimmery writes, whether it's one of her witty blog posts that sometimes make me think of David Foster Wallace, her well-researched and thoughtful opinion pieces, or her smartly written novels. The Queen of Hearts was a favorite read of mine in 2018 and I cannot wait until 2020 when her next book releases. (But why do I have to wait so looooooong?)
From Amy Poeppel, author of Small Admissions and Limelight
"2019 will be a great year for fiction! I’m eagerly awaiting the latest novels by favorite authors, like Crystal King, Grant Ginder, Lynda Cohen Loigman, and Elinor Lipman. Marcia Butler’s debut novel is coming this April, and it’s wonderful! PICKLE'S PROGRESS is a wild trip into the heart of Manhattan, with complicated, highly functioning alcoholics as your tour guides. Butler has written a brutal, funny story about family, regret, and belonging. Richard Russo says that Butler’s characters 'seem more alive than most of the people we know in real life because their fears and desires are so nakedly exposed.'"
Note from Jen: I had the pleasure of seeing Amy talk at the Annapolis Book Festival, where I discovered that not only is Amy a comedic writing genius, she's both charming and hilarious in person. Small Admissions and Limelight are must-reads for their wit and their unvarnished, entertaining treatment of private school admissions and celebrity culture.
From Eldonna Edwards, author of This I Know and the forthcoming Clover Blue
"In THE FORGIVING KIND, Donna Everhart achieves the difficult task of expertly weaving light into a dark story, this one rooted in a 1950s cotton farm. Readers will identify with the self-centric Sonny Creech who wants what she wants, and feel empathy for a mother who so badly wants to make the best choice for her children that she handicaps her own intuition. The book perfectly captures the hardscrabble farming life, the cancerous growth of power cultivated in evil hands, and the indiscriminate nature of bounty vs lack. Everhart tenderly midwifes the debilitating weight of regret into the liberating fullness of forgiveness. You don’t want to miss this one!"
Note from Jen: With her debut novel, This I Know, Eldonna established herself as a force in coming of age, character-driven stories. The overwhelming reception among readers could make an author jealous if it weren't so well-deserved! I'm looking forward to her forthcoming Clover Blue, set on a 1970s era commune in California.
From Angie Kim, author of Miracle Creek (date)
"With my own debut coming out this year, I’ve become close friends with many other debut authors, and I’ve fallen in love with so many of their books that I can’t just choose one. So, on the established-authors side, I’m really excited for the latest from Adam Mitzner, E.A. Aymar, and Louis Bayard, who are not only fantastic writers but also generous and supportive friends who have helped me in my own journey. But since you’re making me choose just one, I have to pick Lynda Cohen Loigman’s THE WARTIME SISTERS, because I loved her first novel (another fantastic historical fiction novel, THE TWO-FAMILY HOUSE), because she helped me to figure out and survive the whole agent-query and publisher-submission processes, and because her novel is coming out in just a few weeks and I CANNOT WAIT to read it!"
Note from Jen: I can't think of a book this year that has garnered more impressive advanced praise than Angie's forthcoming debut, Miracle Creek. Considering that the author of this courtroom thriller was a Harvard Law Review editor, trial attorney (it's no secret I love lawyer-authors), and award-winning writer, I suppose it's no surprise. This one is at the top of my TBR this year.