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Trident's Top Books of 2019
Our Staff has done a lot of reading this year, and we've put together a list of our favorite books we've read this year! Some of these are new 2019 releases, and some are old classics we've just gotten around to, but they're all our new favorites!
This book was everything I wanted in a sci-fi book and an absolute wonder in the genre; it's no wonder it won a Hugo, as did the next two books in the trilogy. N.K Jemisin has complete control over language and it shines in her narration and the effortless way in which she blends the 2nd and 3rd person. But her characters were what stood out most--this book was the most canonically diverse sci-fi book I've read, filled with characters of color and of different gender orientations and sexualities, all lovingly written and realistic rather than as props for side characters for any white, straight, cis character. The plot, too, was filled with amazing twists that consistently surprised me even as they made perfect sense. I devoured this book and can't wait to do the same with the next two; N.K Jemisin has certainly written herself into favorite author territory.
--Ciera B, Bookseller
This fresh take on fantasy will sweep you off your feet and into the dangerous worlds of London. V.E. Schwab's first novel in the Shades of Magic series will take you on the journeys of Kell, who is an Antari, which means blood magician, who is the one of the only people who can cross between parallel Londons. We also follow Lila Bard, who lives as a thief on the streets, just trying to survive. One day Kell and Lila's lives collide when Kell brings an forbidden artifact from a London that was eaten away by magic into his own London. Kell becomes public enemy #1 and they all must fight if they are to survive what is to come. If you are looking to get swept into a brand new world and a book that you won't be able to put down then this one is for you!
--Anthony R, Bookseller
I devoured this book in one day, and it has rocketed to the top of my All Time Favorite Books list. Red and Blue are agents on opposite sides of the Time War, trying to nudge the arc of the universe into curving one way or the other, and braiding together different strands of time until the other side can't get in. They are both good and loyal soldiers, until one of them leaves a letter for the other to find. Told through vignettes and letters, this book is beautiful, and funny, and heartbreaking. An instant classic.
--Katherine N, Bookseller
This book was nominated for this list by FOUR of our staff members!
Min Jin Lee's heart-rending masterpiece is a gripping tale of grief that explores how tragedy and suffering build and shape our futures. The story follows Sunja--a quiet, determined Korean woman--over 73 years, from her quotidian life with her mother on a small fishing island in Korea, to the bustling, taxing worlds of urban Japan, where she establishes the foundations of her own family. The familial drama is set against a backdrop of political upheaval that gives texture to an otherwise universal tale of human experiences. Though Sunja is subjected to loss after loss, defeat after defeat, the book avoids a depressing overtone, favoring instead one of internal defiance and unwavering willpower. Her story highlights the impressive strength of women, especially through the lens of the resilient and persistent love of mothers.
--Mckenna G, Manager
This book was also nominated by our bookseller, Dierdre!
Reading 'Normal People' is like being a fly on the wall observing the intense relationship between two people, peaking behind the closed doors that usually separate us from knowing how a couple really works. I was immediately captivated by the story of Marianne and Connell--schoolmates who find themselves inexplicably and perpetually drawn to one another. The writing is delicate and full of detail. Wonderful.
From the very first sentence, I was sucked into this wonderfully creepy book. Nature is no longer looking or behaving normally in Area X, but every time research teams enter the quarantined zone to look for answers, the results are very bad. To get the most out of this novel's utterly unique, mind-bending strangeness, I highly recommend savoring it by yourself, late at night, to be followed immediately by the other two books in the trilogy.
Smith continues to be one of the most distinct and impressive voices in middle-grade speculative fiction right now. Twelve-year-old Simon’s longtime obsession with aliens comes to a head when his parents take him camping over the summer. After a terrifying encounter with an owl leaves him with memory loss and a small, mysterious wound on his stomach, Simon worries that he’s been abducted and implanted with an alien tracking device. Peppered with moments of reflection and insight, Simon’s piercing narration strikes a delightfully conspiratorial tone as he confides in, and at times speaks directly to, the reader. Smith plants a seed of dread and suspense early on that grows and grows, right up until the very last page. The unexpected ending simultaneously wraps up the story line, leaves the reader satisfied, and furthers the book’s propensity to blur genre lines. This is an unassuming, stand-alone story that sneaks up when least expected, and it will be hard to forget.
This sweeping tale breathes new life into the familiar myths and legends of ancient Greece--the heroes and the monsters; the gods and the mortals--all through the eyes of the precocious, endearing Circe. Her deftly crafted character is engaging from page one and will hold your attention throughout the book. At the same time, it's expansive narrative allows you to pause and return to it time and time again. Prior knowledge of the myths and legends will add a layer of suspense for those already in the know, but for those who may not remember that one epic poem they had to read in high school, the story stands on its own as a thrilling introduction to the dramatic world of ancient Greece. Overall, this is an enchanting, easy read perfect for a cozy night in.
Start this book on a day off and be prepared to get lost for hours. The Future of Another Timeline is a Handmaid's Tale for 2019: a perfect blend of historical, contemporary, and speculative future politics, set across several periods of history. I could not put down this story, which felt both wholly original and wholly plausible. Read this book to be inspired by gender rebels and revolutionaries from the Chicago World's Fair to Riot Grrl concerts to future academia. Most importantly, this book reminded me that it is the choices we make every day--each radical act--that creates our future.
Added to this list by two different staff members!
Red at the Bone was everything I've ever wanted to read written so gorgeously that I didn't want to put it down. It was about family and histories and the ways in which stories are intrinsic to history and to families. It's about how we exist in the remembering of events and people, the ancestors who came before us, certainly, but especially our parents and grandparents and everything that led to the sheer improbability of our own births. This book was short but there was a such richness to it that was inseparable from its brevity, as is the case with so much of Woodson's work. Absolutely a new classic for me.
This book does so many things well, and I didn't want it to end. It's hard to describe such an unusual book. It takes place in a small village outside London and is told through the perspectives of the parents of young Lanny, a semi-retired famous artist named Pete, and the utterly original village ghoul Dead Papa Toothwort, who loves to listen in on villagers' conversations and create mischief. Lanny is a primary focus for all of these characters, and the brief flashes into his dreamy and adventurous existence are wonderful--I could have used more of them. Without revealing any spoilers, the second half of the book becomes a real page-turner, and the ending has an unexpected sweetness. A creative, innovative, and deeply emotional book filled with unexpected, delightful dialogue and descriptions.
I don't think I have the words to properly describe how much I adored this novel. The was the first book I read in January, and I'm going to read it again when it comes out in six months, and probably I will have to read it again and again every six months for the rest of my life. Vying' roots in poetry are abundantly clear in this novel, and I wanted to highlight every line and keep them for later. If you read any book this year, make it this one.
This interstellar epic follows the young Paul Atreides and his Bene Gesserit mother as they move to a new planet and enter a world of turmoil, the full extent of which they can only begin to grasp. Don't let the size of the book scare you: this is a face-paced adventure that quickly evolves from violent political sabotage into warfare between the religiously-fanatic Fremen and the power-hungry, spice-crazed Harkonnens. Covering everything from spirituality to tribalism, this book will certainly keep you on your toes!
Red, White, and Royal Blue was the cutest, smartest, most laugh-out-loud funny book I’ve read in quite some time. It had positive bisexual representation, international politics, adorable princes, a main character of color, and brilliant secondary characters who I loved just as much as the main characters! This book is more than just brilliant snappy dialogue and adorable email exchanges and passionate romance. It made commentary on things—on traditions and whether they hold weight, on the damage of a heteronormative culture on the exploration of sexuality, on politics and the state of the American political system, on grief, and so much more. It’s a book I never thought would exist or that I’d get to read and a book that the world absolutely needs. Definitely one of my faves of the year.
This was such a quietly lovely contemporary story encompassing all of the confused emotion of teenagedom and just how deeply we feel everything when we're young. The themes of toxicity in relationships, discovering and realizing one's self-worth and self-acceptance, being a better friend, and the balance of relationships in life were all so present and affirming somehow. Mariko Tamaki managed to capture the vulnerability and fragility of youth and the knowledge we learn in it and paired with Rosemary Valero-O'Connell's brilliant art, with the use of pink and white and the little nuances in every character's expression that were so perfect and unique for the characters, from Laura Dean's carefree smirks to Doodle's serious expression to Vi's bright, cheerful openness. It added so much to the narrative, especially when people weren't speaking, and it's those little details, paired with the hard-hitting simplicity of the text that makes me love graphic novels in a different way than I love book.
I want to start off by saying that this book made me cry harder than any other book I've ever read. "The Song of Achilles" tells the story not just of the Trojan War, but also of what came before that. It's the story of Achilles from the point of view of the person who loved him the most (Patroclus, another Greek at Troy but the soft-hearted foil to Achilles) and because of that, it portrays him in a different light. This is one of the first books since Ancient times that portrays the two as being in a romantic relationship, adding to the emotional upheaval of the novel. Madeline Miller's writing is beautiful and poetic, and her use of foreshadowing is heartbreaking. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, in fact, if you've already read it you should go back and read it again.
GODS OF JADE AND SHADOW is breathtaking. From the first page, Moreno-Garcia drags you into the story she's weaving and doesn't let you go until you finish it. Casiopea Tun is a young woman from the Yucatan in the 1920's, whose life is changed forever when she frees the Mayan God of Death from a box her grandfather has always kept locked. Along the journey, she learns about magic, forgiveness, and Mayan myths -and becomes something of a myth herself.
I don't think I can emphasize enough how wonderful this book is. Moreno-Garcia brings together both the historic and mythic setting in a truly beautiful way, reminiscent of the work of Madeline Miller. The story itself was captivating, and the ending was both satisfying and unexpected. Truly, a must read!
Added to this list by two different staff members!
This reads as a juxtaposition of hard metals and mossy organics. As you read each poem you'll be gently nestled into the soft science of this compilation in a way that demands your attention to the subtle mechanics of their composition. I am known to be impatient with poetry that leans too heavily into feelings alone and becomes cloying as result (my opinion). Choi is masterful in managing the fine balance between head and heartstrings: This isn't poetry you fly through with feelings alone; it'll make you pause and think, looking deeper into the layers of the language for meaning. For fans of sci-fi(esque) content --for all the techy sensitive nerds out there searching for prose peeling into reflections of identity and self, this is your collection. Go forth.
Victoria Schwab weaves together a world of monsters that will keep you up at night, characters that will stay in your heart, and a story unlike any other. Victoria Schwab launches readers into the world of Verity, a city overrun with monsters and a city on the brink of war between the Harker and Flynn families. The story follows the heirs to these families, Kate Harker, who kills the monsters and August Flynn, who is a monster. Their stories intertwine as they discover a horrible accident and they must learn to trust each other as enemies. As they plunge deeper into the secrets and history of Verity, they uncover something much darker. Victoria Schwab's rich writing is at its best in her return to Young-Adult and Kate and August are so vivid and real that you will instantly love them. Definitely a more underrated novel of Schwab's but it truly was a thrill ride of a novel with twists and turns everywhere, and the unexpectedness of this novel truly make it what it is, a hidden gem.
This. Book. It took over my life in the best way and is epic in every sense of the word. I'm generally wary of any book described as horror, but this book was so much more than creepy moments (though it definitely had those, too). It's the characters and their relationships with each other that really raise the stakes and keep the pages turning.
I am so grateful this was translated into English. I knew vaguely about "ethnic bloodshed" in Myanmar, but had no idea it included decades of genocide. Habib writes about his family with such love and beautifully rendered details, and he made his life and the tragic past and present of the Rohingya people come alive in wonderful and heartbreaking ways.
I'm not sure what exactly I was expecting when I started this, but I most definitely was unprepared for the masterpiece of human experience inside it. This moving drama relates the lives of four very different siblings haunted by the knowledge of the dates of their deaths, revealed to them by a fortune teller when they were children. Divided into four parts, each focusing on a different sibling, "The Immortalists" explores the depths of the human psyche with a gravitas that is balanced by the whimsical effects of magical realism. Endearing, heartbreaking, and, at times, shocking, the story will feel utterly familiar in a way that will linger long past the final page.
If science books aren't typically your thing, start here. Resurrecting the personalities, rivalries, and intrigues of the renaissance-era scientific community, Brooks humanizes the world of science and expertly blurs the line between fact and faction. Complex theories of quantum mechanics are broken down into familiar analogies, making one of science’s most complicated fields feel accessible, all while reminiscing on its origins and history through casual discourse with the imprisoned 16th century Italian doctor, astrologer, and mathematician, Jerome Cardano. In between personal anecdotes and historic theories, the author throws in mind-bending thought experiments that bring into question the reality we take for granted, entirely engaging the reader in the deepest scientific debates. I can't say enough how much I enjoyed this book.
Wow. This book was incredible. Haben Girma's life so far is a story worth telling, and it is beautifully told. She has the rare ability to explain key moments in her life so clearly and vividly that one experiences them with her. (It is one thing to tell someone a story, and another thing entirely to help them feel it.) Girma's big heart and wonderful sense of humor as she describes the joys and frustrations of her life made this memoir a genuine pleasure to read. With kindness and patience, she illustrates again and again how the greatest barriers to individuals with disabilities can be the limited thinking of others rather than the disability itself. Includes a valuable guide in the back with easy steps to make digital resources more accessible for all.
This book is a long, winding road of a fairy tale more than it is a book, one that makes you want to think and to cry and to create and to find a Starless Sea of your own, or any sea, and just watch the waves until the moon breaks through the clouds and tells you a story. There was something about the shifting, honey-slow aimlessness of time in this book that bordered on confusion and fascination. The Starless Sea is a book that makes you think in poetic language and believe in Magic in the real world a little more. And it’s the kind of book you reread when you need that Magic back in your life.