40 Books from 2019 You Need to Read in 2020

Posted by Bijal Shah on


 best books 2019, best business books 2019, best fiction 2019, best nonfiction 2019

Best Literature and Fiction Books of 2019 

  1. City of Girls (Fiction) by Elizabeth Gilbert
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

From the Eat, Pray, Love lady, comes this enticing book aptly titled City of Girls. A nostalgic tale of an older woman reminiscing her past, specifically her youthful time at the Lily Playhouse, a revue theatre owned by a her eccentric Aunt Peg.

Dial back to the summer of 1940. A barely-adult Vivian Morris springs up in the Big Apple with nothing but a sewing machine and suitcase. She becomes a seamstress for the showgirls. When the talented English actress Edna Watson arrives to take centre stage in the theatre’s most aspiring show ever, Vivian is mesmerised with the excitement, glamour and heady moments of theatre life and a unique love story of her own. However with the highs come the crashing lows — regrets and failures. A story about what it means to be a woman — about transforming your life and living it many times over before coming to terms with shame and living your true authentic self.

A sex-in-the-city tale about theatre life in 1940s New York.

My favourite quote: “…at some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time. After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is.”

Grab a copy here.

2. The Stationery Shop (Fiction) by Marian Kamali

The Stationery Shop by Marian Kamali

A literary treat, this wonderfully powerful story on the surprising nature of fate, is about two teenagers, Roya and Bahman who’s love for each other blossoms over their mutual love for literature in a warm and humble little stationery shop in Tehran.

On the day before they are due to marry, political violence takes centre stage with the disappearance of Bahman, the handsome young man that Roya falls head over heels in love with. As each day passes, Roya realises she may never see him again, until hope and fate lead to a final meeting and reconciliation in old-age.

A hauntingly timely exploration of unbearable loss and gracious love.

My favourite quote: “The past was always there, lurking in the corners, winking at you when you thought you’d moved on, hanging on to your organs from the inside.”

Grab a copy here.

3. A Pure Heart (Fiction) by Rajia Hassib

A Pure Heart by Rajia Hassib

A striking story of two sisters whose lives are literally worlds apart. Rose and Gameela Gubran grew up in Egypt, both religiously and culturally Muslim. The choices that they make in work and in love result in them inheriting completely different fates.

Rose becomes an Egyptologist, marries an American and moves to New York, finding a prestigious job at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Gameela devotes her life to Islam, whilst still a teenager, residing in Cairo. Post the Egyptian revolution, Gameela dies in a suicide bombing. Seeking answers to her sister’s death, Rose comes home determined to understand why Gameela had kept so many secrets from the family and who was influencing her.

Emotional and courageous, A Pure Heart examines the lives of two sisters who could not be more different despite having grown up in the same family. One is desperately trying to blend her identity as both an Egyptian and American whilst trying to understand Gameela’s loyalty to her country and religion.

An intimate, deep exploration of the power of faith and love to divide families and how we must look beyond this division so that we can unite, accept and forgive.

My favourite quote: Rose thinks of the different versions of her that her pieces would build: Rose the Egyptian and the American; the one who cared so little about tradition that she married a foreigner but cared so much that she made him wear a silver wedding band; the one who could not believe her sister had a secret life yet found it easy to keep secrets of her own. She looks at her wedding band, examining the tiny scratches that it has incurred over the years, its original, dazzling sheen swapped for a calm subdued luster.”

Grab a copy here.

4. The Memory Police (Fiction) by Yoko Ogawa

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

If you loved The Handmaid’s Tale and Nineteen Eighty-Four, here comes another dystopian novel by one of Japan’s most remarkable contemporary writers, Yoko Ogawa.

On a secret island with no name, things are slowly disappearing — hats, ribbons , roses, birds. Residents discard these items and have no recollection of them — they tend to forget them entirely. However if you are a resident who cannot get rid and forget about your missing items, a secret police — the memory police will come and find you to uphold their mission to ensure that the disappeared remains forgotten. They are determined to ensure that all memories and identities vanish in order to prevent them from disturbing the resident’s peace of mind.

Amongst the residents is a novelist. Concerned that her editor who is struggling to forget and hide his memories will be taken away by the memory police, she attempts to hide him under the floorboards of her home, and preserve whatever they can as a way to keep the past alive.

A fable and metaphor about the significance of memory and what it means to us, it brings home the trauma of loss and gives us space to reflect and contemplate. Poignant, poetic and nostalgic, it will make you appreciate the small things in life.

Grab a copy here.

5. Everything Inside (Fiction) by Edwidge Danticat

Everything Inside (Fiction) by Edwidge Danticat

Edwidge Danticat is an internationally hailed author best known for her memoir Brother, I’m Dying. This summer she brings a stunning collection of fiction in the form of eight colourful stories contemplating community, family, and love.

A master of the affairs of the heart, each story, intimate in its own way invites us to meditate life and the relationships we hold so dear to our heart. In love, we also find pain and how we learn to open our arms to the bittersweetness of life. A marriage that was meant to end well brings with it permanent ramifications. An unexpected romance, a woman fighting to survive upholds her dream and ambition, a reunion after a traumatic tragedy, the power of a newborn baby to stir up emotions between younger and older generations, and the story of a man who watches his death before his eyes in what feels like a lifetime of seconds as flashes of the most memorable moments of his life present themselves.

Plus the stories take the reader on a literary journey from Miami to Port-au-Prince to the Caribbean.

A masterpiece fit for the soul.

Grab a copy here.

6. The Beekeeper of Aleppo (Fiction) by Christy Lefteri

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

A timely novel that is haunting and perhaps urges us to not forget the outrageous consequences of the Syrian war. Yet war brings out the best of the human spirit — love, courage and hope.

When war hits the serene Syrian city of Aleppo, Nuri and his wife Asra are shell-shocked, quite literally. Their homely life in the city with wonderful family and friends is turned upside down. Nuri is a beekeeper. Him and his wife Asra are forced to escape, letting themselves into a dangerous world, where they suffer a multitude of losses. Having to smuggle themselves into the UK they encounter heart-breaking suffering, pain and hardship — yet they are more than determined to find safety again and rebuild their lives.

A refugee story that we have all recently encountered. Gripping and persuasive, it will keep you hooked.

My favourite quote: “But in Syria there is a saying: inside the person you know, there is a person you do not know.”

Grab a copy here.

7. Girl (A Novel) by Edna O’Brien

Girl (A Novel) by Edna O’Brien

A novel that imagines the lives of Boko Haram Girls in the extreme circumstances of violence and terror that they found themselves in. 

The starting sentence of the book sets the scene of what’s to come “I was a girl once, but not anymore.” Edna O’Brien superbly portrays the plight of the young women abducted by the Boko Haram, the extremist terrorist organisation, that horrified the world with vile acts of terror and violence as the international community sat and watched. 

O’Brien met the girls who had survived to understand their experience and to tell their stories to the world. Told in the form of fiction based on accumulative accounts, the narrative bears witness to the harrowing and soul destroying acts they had to bear and live through, haunting their lives forever.

276 girls were abducted and 112 girls still remain missing. This book pays tribute to both those who have been found and those who we pray will be found still alive. This book gives us access to the lives of ordinary women, turned upside down, tortured, terrorised and raped mentally, physically and emotional —reminding us how easily one of those lives could have been ours.

Grab a copy here.

8. Girl, Woman, Other (A Novel) by Bernadine Evaristo

Girl, Woman, Other (A Novel) by Bernadine Evaristo

A tribute to British black womanhood in a novelistic style through the voices of 12 characters, each different and remarkable in their own ways, weaving together a tapestry of the almost invisible lives of black woman through the years — a tapestry that is still being woven as their stories continue to evolve in an age where more and more light is being shone on womanhood in general.

The twelve narratives range from a lesbian theatre playwright to a farmer, a banker, and a haughty schoolteacher with supporting characters who aim to challenge the public assumptions of black woman in a delightful and thought-provoking way. How different each and every one of these women are, too different to be herded under the simplistic description of the one size-fits all ‘black woman’. Their dreams and ambitions resonate with those of the British community far and wide. At the same time, the characters etched are exceptionally different that you’ll never find them in any other fictional novel and that is the beauty of Evaristo’s characterisation.

Engrossing and dazzling, the women are linked in many ways, through love, work, chance, some wanting more from life, some stuck in family expectations, some struggling to navigate womanhood. This provides for a supremely human form to each of the characters through non-linear storytelling that leaves you wanting more. You feel ever connected to these women, through Evaristo’s magical writing.

Grab a copy here.

9. Disappearing Earth (A Novel) by Julia Phillips

Disappearing Earth (A Novel) by Julia Phillips

Two sisters, Alyona and Sophia Golosovskaya, aged 11 and 8 disappear into the car of a stranger in Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. Their absence, completely dislodges the community, particularly the women. 

A refreshing novel, with an innovative structure, the novel essentially weaves the stories of different women in Russia’s isolated Kamchatka Peninsula, who were somehow deeply affected by the tragic disappearance of these two sisters. Rather than focusing on the mystery, the book focuses on the lives of these women and how they all relate to each other. Some are filled with shame. Others are trying to fit into what society imposes on them, striking a balance between where they find themselves and where they desperately would rather be. Complex characters with themes that are universal throughout the history of women, not just the Kamchatka Peninsula.

A feminist writer, Phillips, perfectly captures the trials and tribulations of women in Kamchatka in a way that we can all relate to. A complex novel, with an audacious message for women all over the world.

Grab a copy here.

10. The Topeka School (A Novel) by Ben Lerner

The Topeka School (A Novel) by Ben Lerner

The Topeka School by Ben Lerner is a modern day masterpiece. It’s his magnus opus — a supremely important read in today’s exceptional political environment. The book extends a lens all the way back to the twentieth century, essentially illuminating the dots on how we actually got to this point how everything that’s wrong with modern-day America came to be this way. 

Blending poetry and prose, Lerner uses language artistically to offer refreshing insight into assumptions that we may never have known we had made. Throwing originality of thought in every paragraph the novel narrates the tale of Adam, a high school senior and debate champion in the running for the national debate championship and his two psychotherapist parents — his mother, a feminist and his father who comes to terms with his own fidelity and faults as a parent. Their is a second narrative which sets the tone for the book, of Darren Eberheart whose act of violence, have huge ramifications for all the characters in the book. The book explores the themes of toxic masculinity, infidelity and race, the very themes that continue to resonate in the lives of so many Americans today, with the most notable of all themes being the power of language and how one person’s voice can infiltrate the heads of millions — the hallmark of today’s political era.

My favourite quote: “Think about how often — before cell phones, before any kind of caller ID — you answered the landline as a child and had to have an exchange, however brief, with aunts or uncles or family friends. Even if it was that five-second check-in, How are you doing, how is school, is your mom around — it meant periodic real-time vocal contact with an extended community, which, through repetition, it reinforced.”

Grab a copy here.

Best True Crime of 2019

11. She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey

She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey

From the women who broke the story themselves, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, two Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters for the New York Times, expose Harvey Weinstein’s years of sexual harassment and abuse in this tell-all, thrilling narrative, one of the major stories giving birth to the #MeToo movement.

Rumours of the abuse had been doing the rounds for years, but continued to be wrapped up, thanks to Harvey Weinstein’s web of power and deceit. Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, 2017 investigation into the Hollywood producer for the New York Times, kickstarted the whole process as the lies and maltreatment of women came to light. 

The investigation involved confidential interviews with prominent actresses, former employees, and other sources, revealing disturbing and long-buried truths, secret payouts and the practice of threatening non disclosure to silence his victims. 

How Kantor and Twohey persuaded many of the victims to come forth is a journalistic achievement in itself and what followed after several high profile celebrities came forth was a pandora’s box of women all over the world voicing their truths.

How one man could have so much power is bewildering and something that the New York Times were by no means prepared for. What is even more shocking is the lawyers who were prepared to protect Weinstein at whatever cost, with no regard for morals whatsoever: David Boies, Gloria Allred and Lisa Bloom, in their defence of Weinstein, shamed and blamed his victims and intimidated Kantor and Twohey.

The book might make you angry but it will make you believe in the power of truth and investigative journalism again, leaving women everywhere hopeful on the treacherous path to gender equality and respect.

My favourite quote: “Jodi cut to the point: The United States had a system for muting sexual harassment claims, which often enabled the harassers instead of stopping them. Women routinely signed away the right to talk about their own experiences. Harassers often continued onward, finding fresh ground on which to commit the same offenses. The settlements and confidentiality agreements were almost never examined in law school classrooms or open court. This was why the public had never really understood that this was happening. Even those in the room with long histories of covering gender issues had never fully registered what was going on.”

Grab your copy here.

12. Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

Harper Lee spent years researching this true-crime story, working on it obsessively long after the publication of To Kill A Mocking Bird. Casey Cep now finishes the story with dazzling grace.

Furious Hours is a true-crime story of an Alabama serial killer in the 1970s: Reverend Willie Maxwell. A Christian preacher who had been accused of murdering five of his family members to reap the proceeds on life insurance policies. Thanks to a prolific lawyer, he was never convicted. Instead a relative shot him dead at the funeral of his last victim. Ironically the same lawyer who represented Maxwell defended Maxwell’s murderer (also a relative) and managed to get him acquitted despite dozens of witnesses who said otherwise.

Alabama was gripped by this murder mystery and being Harper Lee’s birthplace, Lee was obsessed with story and returned to write her own true-crime book following the lead of her friend Truman Capote’s book In Cold Blood, whom she had helped research. She called the book The Reverend.

Casey Cep perfectly captures the story Harper Lee spent years writing but never published revealing the horrific murders blended with the complexities of the Deep South’s racial politics. The book also serves as an intimate portrait of the world’s most beloved writers documenting her challenges with fame and success.

My favourite quote: “Self-pity is a sin,” she told a reporter in 1963, already frustrated, only three years after Mockingbird. “It is a form of living suicide.”

Grab your copy here.

13. Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

A book that reads like a real-life spy thriller, Catch and Kill is the other Harvey Weinstein book — less so about the victims, but more about how he managed to get away operating a web of power and deceit preventing anyone from getting close to the truth. Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Ronan Farrow (also the son of Hollywood stars, Woody Allen and Mia Farrow) spellbindingly investigates Hollywood’s most prominent power-broker, including the dramatic risk to his own life in pursuing this story. 

Weinstein pressurised NBC, Farrow’s employer at the time, to silence the story. Farrow bravely took the story to the New Yorker, where it broke. Farrow describes the exceptional strategies and power networks Weinstein employed to spy on Farrow and his victims who dared reveal or make allegations against him, including details of the Black Cube organisation that was set up for this very purpose. 

Thrilling and often times chilling, Catch and Kill is a masterpiece on how the abuse of power is so common amongst the rich and famous desperate to protect their deepest, darkest desires, fears and bad behaviour.

My favourite quote: “I think that it doesn’t matter if you’re a well-known actress, it doesn’t matter if you’re twenty or if you’re forty, it doesn’t matter if you report or if you don’t, because we are not believed. We are more than not believed — we are berated and criticized and blamed.”

Grab your copy here


Best Business and Leadership Books of 2019 

14. Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas that Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries by Safi Bahcall

Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas that Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries by Safi Bahcall

Loonshots are essentially the crazy, rejected ideas whose campaigners and drivers are written off as insane. Using his gifted, storytelling powers, Bahcall engages his readers with powerful stories, explaining how loonshots (such as the Internet and Pixar) are born — and how best to stop them from being completely killed off as these are the very world-changing ideas that changes humanity for the better. 

He tells the story of the geniuses such as Akira Endo, the Japanese chemist whose work on screening fungi led him to discover statins, the life-changing medicine for heart disease, Judah Folkman’s discovery of angiogenesis and Steve Jobs innovative Apple products..

To be able to give birth to loonshots, you need small teams and effectively artists within the teams, rather than academics or scientists. However in order for these loonshots to come alive, you need executors (the non-creative types who’ll make the product happen). Bahcall calls these the soldiers. He then goes on to make the case that you need both the soldiers and artists within your organisation, each equally motivated to generate and produce the loonshot (the crazy innovation) that is going to propel that organisation to the forefront of technology, culture or innovation.

An engaging, enlightening and entertaining read.

My favourite quote: “People may think of Endo and Folkman as great inventors, but arguably their greatest skill was investigating failure. They learned to separate False Fails from true fails.”

Grab your copy here.

15. Anxious Times: Medicine and Modernity in Nineteenth-Century Britain by Amelia Bonea, Melissa Dickson, Sally Shuttleworth and Jennifer Wallis

Anxious Times: Medicine and Modernity in Nineteenth-Century Britain by Amelia Bonea, Melissa Dickson, Sally Shuttleworth and Jennifer Wallis

History often repeats itself. Our current, present day era is remarkably similar to the age of the Victorians, where the industrial revolution, a period of significant social changes due to urbanisation, travel innovation and global communications, brought life-changing innovations to people around the globe, transforming their quality of life. However with it, it also brought the diseases of modernity, with huge changes in the physical and social environments that people were not ready for. This had a significant harmful impact on bodily and mental health, hence the title ‘Anxious Times’, drawing parallels with the world today and that of Victorian times. It was mainly the change that was extremely difficult for people to manage — the changing nature of work, leisure, cultural practices and societal expectations. 

In a way, the book presents lessons as to how a society coped with a revolution that posed huge changes to every aspect of their life, no different to the one we are currently in the midst of.

Grab your copy here.

16. Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez

Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez

British feminist, activist and journalist Caroline Criado Perez researches one of the main root causes of gender inequality, investigating women’s domestic lives, their working lives, the public sphere, medical structures and many more. Diving into hundreds of studies across the world, the book reveals how much data does not account for gender — instead both genders are treated as default male, resulting in discrimination and gender bias built across systems and products. This means that women bear the costs of these — their time, their money, their life and every other resource — women sacrifice the most. The book might leave you feeling angry but enlightened and more aware so that we can do more to help both genders, as inevitably costs to women do eventually filter down to the male gender too. 

If you read some of the reviews of the book, it is eye-opening to here that male reviewers themselves, were shocked at how so much data is not collected, leading to women’s needs not being met in so many aspects of daily life. The author was a finalist for the FT/McKinsey Business Book of the Year.

My favourite quotes: Women have always worked. They have worked unpaid, underpaid, underappreciated, and invisibly, but they have always worked. But the modern workplace does not work for women. From its location, to its hours, to its regulatory standards, it has been designed around the lives of men and it is no longer fit for purpose. The world of work needs a wholesale redesign — of its regulations, of its equipment, of its culture — and this redesign must be led by data on female bodies and female lives. We have to start recognising that the work women do is not an added extra, a bonus that we could do without: women’s work, paid and unpaid, is the backbone of our society and our economy. It’s about time we started valuing it.”

“It’s not always easy to convince someone a need exists, if they don’t have that need themselves.”

“The fact is that worth is a matter of opinion, and opinion is informed by culture. And if that culture is as male-biased as ours is, it can’t help but be biased against women. By default.”

“Analysis of how gender affected support for Trump revealed that ‘the more hostile voters were toward women, the more likely they were to support Trump’.93 In fact, hostile sexism was nearly as good at predicting support for Trump as party identification.”

Grab your copy here.

17. Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America by Christopher Leonard

Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America by Christopher Leonard

Another finalist for the FT/McKinsey Business Book of the Year, the book is a huge exposé on the Koch Industries, the largest private organisation in the world and how it came to be that way. It’s revenue dwarfs Google’s and Goldman Sachs’s combined. You might never have heard of it, but it controls the majority of fertilisers, the synthetics that make our diapers and fabrics, chemicals that make our bottles and pipes, building materials and given that many of the resources used are commodities, they pretty much control the Wall Street’s commodities trading , profiting on every deal. The organisation lurks everywhere.

Owned by the billionaire Koch brothers, the book maps out their journey, drawing parallels with the growth of Corporate America. CEO, Charles Koch, is the real mastermind behind the company taking it to its heights over a period of fifty years. He is the ultimate epitome of capitalist America. He pursues long-term profit and growth, disrupting every single industry it touches for huge gains.

However this singular profit-driven focus has wider implications for the market and the country in general — the power the Koch industries have consolidated over half a century is remarkable. They have single-handedly killed unions, made the gap between rich and poor bewildering, and been the major perpetrators of global warming. 

The book took seven years to write, literally ripping of the mask of the American dream and capitalism. 

Grab your copy here.

18. The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes The World by Melinda Gates

The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes The World by Melinda Gates

From the woman who has kept perhaps the lowest public profile of all despite her very visible humanitarian work come some important truths that need to be addressed if we are to create equality for everyone, and particularly for women. For the majority of women true equality is still a dream and the consequences for society are underrated.

Key issues rooted in cultures that hold women back are passed on by one generation to the next, resulting in women often being stuck in narratives that no longer serve them. Although the world has become a better place for women compared to two generations ago, more needs to be done. Listening to the poor, holding people accountable for both the donations they receive and the donations they give are crucial and whilst the book’s focus is on women, the underlying message is about equality: equality for both men and women and overcoming our need to create outsiders — to punish those who stir up our most feared emotions and feelings. We need to stop participating in creating privilege and contributing to division and elitism. Addressing this leads to greater changes for society as a whole. A call for action for all of us.

My favourite quote: “Every society says its outsiders are the problem. But the outsiders are not the problem; the urge to create outsiders is the problem. Overcoming that urge is our greatest challenge and our greatest promise. It will take courage and insight, because the people we push to the margins are the ones who trigger in us the feelings we’re afraid of.”

Grab your copy here.

Best Memoir of 2019

19. Long Live The Tribe of Fatherless Girls: A Memoir by T Kira Madden

Long Live The Tribe of Fatherless Girls: A Memoir by T Kira Madden

After a fabulous career as a literary essayist comes this wonderful debut memoir from T Kira Madden about growing up in Florida as a young girl with a mother who was involved with another man. Madden grew up in extreme privilege, attending an elite private school and competing successfully in equestrian sports. However beneath this seemingly desirable life, was a volatile reckoning. A biracial teenager, coming to terms with her homosexuality and parents drug and alcohol addictions, Madden felt increasing alone, only meeting solace and comfort in the friendships of other fatherless girls.

Honest, raw, this account starts in the 1960s and tells the story of a young woman who grieves for the loss of her father whilst trying to make sense of her life. The book itself works as a tribute to her father, whilst Madden comes to terms with those who brought her trauma and grief, who gave her no alternative but to live with shame and secrets, and reconciles the pains of life with hope and forgiveness. A deeply moving read for memoir-lovers.

My favourite quote: “Here is a Hawaiian legend once told to me: Sometimes the dead don’t want to be dead. Sometimes souls go flitting around in the air, particles of light, drifting, until a mortal crams the soul back inside its bod. The kino wailua, or spirits, can be spotted anywhere, the face of a rock, a mountainside — a Hawaiian should always look for facial features. It is the mortal’s job to perform the kapuku, or resuscitation process. It is our duty to sneak the soul beneath the toenail of a body, let the body rise up like a newly watered plant.”

Grab your copy here.

20. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

If you’re considering therapy and need something to convince you of its power then I would highly, highly, highly recommend Lori Gottlieb’s book “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone” — engaging with real life case studies, it reaffirms our belief in the power of psychoanalysis and conventional therapy to release us from our own suffering, opening the gate to truly understanding ourselves better, self-acceptance and being kinder to ourselves.

My favourite quotes: “We can’t have change without loss, which is why so often people say they want change but nonetheless stay exactly the same.”

“Relationships in life don’t really end, even if you never see the person again. Every person you’ve been close to lives on somewhere inside you. Your past lovers, your parents, your friends, people both alive and dead (symbolically or literally) — all of them evoke memories, conscious or not.”

“Follow your envy — it shows you what you want.”

“Above all, I didn’t want to fall into the trap that Buddhists call ‘idiot compassion’ — an apt phrase, given John’s worldview. In idiot compassion, you avoid rocking the boat to spare people’s feelings, even though the boat needs rocking and your compassion ends up being more harmful than your honesty. People do this with teenagers, spouses, addicts, even themselves. Its opposite is wise compassion, which means caring about the person but also giving him or her a loving truth bomb when needed.”

Grab your copy here.

21. Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family by Mitchell S Jackson

Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family by Mitchell S Jackson

A powerful contribution to the heated debate about race in America. Survival Math takes its name from the calculations Jackson made to ensure he could survive life in his black community in Portland.

Uniquely written prose, the book delves into what it means to be born into a black culture of gangs and drugs. The book demonstrates the stark effects of a community that cannot navigate themselves out of the black hole of despair that they find themselves in.

Poetry, prose and narrative, this is a wonderfully refreshing style to memoir in which Jackson complements poems with historical national pieces and survivor files, featuring many of Jackson’s male relatives across three generations.

He calls it notes an all-American family to challenge the term African American — three generations of the Jackson family were all born in America — so why not call themselves all-American. Highly recommended, if only for its incredible writing.

Grab a copy here.

22. What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break The Silence by Michele Filgate

What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break The Silence by Michele Filgate

Hotly anticipated, this dynamic book explores what we don’t discuss within our most intimate of relationships — the relationship with our mother.

Michele Filgate, whilst still an undergraduate at university, began an essay about her stepfather’s abuse but only finished it a decade later — needing the time to work out what she actually wanted to talk about — the effect of the abuse on the relationship with her mother. Upon publication it went viral and was shared by notable authors including Rebecca Solnit. There was a clear need for this type of conversation to be had — and the appetite of writers to share their stories was not exactly limited. An anthology was born showcasing a collection of essays and stories that looked at a starkly exposed view of our relationships with our mothers.

A portrayal of both super close and irreparably estranged relationships with our mothers, André Aciman writes about having a deaf mother, whilst Cathi Hanauer talks about trying to have a conversation with her mother in the presence of her dominating and controlling father. Then there are the mothers on the opposite end of the spectrum — ones who need to share everything with their daughters to those that are seemingly perfect.

Beautifully written Filgate writes, “Our mothers are our first homes, and that’s why we’re always trying to return to them.” Our relationships with our mothers are often the relationships that we replicate with others, particularly close ones and in working this relationship out do we work out the other ones, bringing hope, relief and healing.

Contributors include Cathi Hanauer, Melissa Febos, Alexander Chee, Dylan Landis, Bernice L. McFadden, Julianna Baggott, Lynn Steger Strong, Kiese Laymon, Carmen Maria Machado, André Aciman, Sari Botton, Nayomi Munaweera, Brandon Taylor, and Leslie Jamison

My favourite quote: “Our mothers are our first homes, and that’s why we’re always trying to return to them. To know what it was like to have one place where we belonged. Where we fit.”

Grab a copy here.


Best Parenting of 2019

23. The Books You Wish Your Parents Had Read by Philippa Perry

The Books You Wish Your Parents Had Read by Philippa Perry

A wonderful book that was a long-time coming! Written by a well-known British psychotherapist, it’s a to-the-point parenting guide about how your relationship with your child sets them up for future relationships. This can surmount to huge pressure in getting the relationship right but with the madness and unpredictability of life how do you ensure that these relationships don’t go wrong?

Strong, loving bonds are key to building secure attachments with your children that give them the best chance to positive mental health that will serve them for life.

She alerts us to how our upbringing influences our own parenting style and how to rectify it, even if it wasn’t the most ideal. How validating our children’s feelings rather than batting them down or introducing distraction is one of the best ways to raise their self-esteem and allow them to feel understood and heard. Best of all, she shows us to forgive ourselves for the parenting mistakes we make and shows how these too can be resolved.

A refreshingly reassuring and eye-opening book, that makes you feel confident about being a parent, no matter what your upbringing or experiences.

Grab a copy here.

24. The Danish Way of Parenting by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl

The Danish Way of Parenting by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl

From the happiest country in this world, comes this strikingly honest, authentic and comforting book on parenting. With to-the-point anecdotes and lessons, Danish parenting teaches us that the goal of parenting is to teach children emotional honesty not perfection — to practise empathy and be role model parents who make empathy a practice. Children mirror the behaviour of their caregivers, often adopting these for life. The Danes also coach their children to skillfully manage and overcome stress rather than avoiding it. This sort of resilience-building coupled with effectively regulating emotions means that your children are set for life. The book also drives home the importance of community and togetherness. After all life’s not about money, social status or a job title — it’s about connection, character and how we treat other human beings.

My favourite quotes: “Being aware of yourself and choosing your behavior is the first step towards powerful life change. This is how we become better people. This is how we become better parents.”

“Emotional honesty, not perfection, is what children truly need from their parents.”

“Learning to act on intrinsic goals, such as improving relationships or engaging in hobbies you love, rather than on extrinsic goals, such as buying a new car, is what is proven to create true well-being.”

“Surround yourself with friends and family who want to practice empathy and kindness. New mothers and parents are the ones who can benefit enormously from this support — we all can.”

“I really do believe stories about the struggles of life do help foster resilient and happy children. They make children understand the whole spectrum of life.”

Grab your copy here.


Best Political Books of 2019

25. Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography, Volume Three: Herself Alone by Charles Moore

Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography, Volume Three: Herself Alone by Charles Moore

This is the last book in a three-part series on the official biography of Margaret Thatcher. This book starts in 1987, following a third re-election as Prime Minister, and showcases both her achievements (including her pivotal role in ending the cold war) and her fall (including the conversations that led to her political assassination). However what truly resonates is that the events that are currently haunting us (including Brexit) were rooted during the Thatcher era. A remarkable story of female power in a male-dominated, political arena.

Grab your copy here.

26. A Short History of Brexit: From Brentry to Backstop by Kevin O’Rourke

A Short History of Brexit: From Brentry to Backstop by Kevin O’Rourke

Published by Pelican Books, A Short History of Brexit provides a rational account of how the UK landed in this mess in the first place — and it's not something that was elected overnight. It’s been brewing in the background for decades (including during the Thatcher era as documented in the biography above) — it’s a political discussion about how British attitudes to Europe have evolved but also how European values and beliefs around trade deals, VAT and customs have influenced how the UK and Ireland have integrated within the EU. A beautiful portrait of British ambivalence towards Europe which has been ongoing for decades if not centuries.

Grab your copy here.

27. Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America by James Poniewozik

Part biography, part pop-culture essay, Audience of One is an unusual and striking analysis of TV history and the rise of Donald Trump as TV president — essentially the media has become the omnipresent power that integrates American society and politics and it is this power that Trump leverages to perfectly position himself as the 45th president of the United States with a round-the-clock appearance on broadcast media.

Grab your copy here.


Best Mysteries and Thrillers of 2019

28. A Nearly Normal Family by M. T. Edvardsson

A legal thriller and page-turner, A Nearly Normal Family is a psychologically gripping murder mystery — gripping because to some degree, it resonates with all of us — what are the compromises we would make to protect our loved ones. A story of a young girl from a well-regarded family, the daughter of a pastor father and a criminal defence attorney mother, who’s caught up in the murder of a businessman and lover. What the motive would be is unclear and at first her parents are determined to fight for her innocence.

The structure is interesting with three separate narratives told from different perspectives — one by the father, one by the daughter and one by the mother. However each perspective questions the reality, understanding and assumption of the other two perspectives, building up a blended picture of how each person’s sense of reality is hauntingly different.

A Nearly Normal Family is more about the fascinating characters and their shifting perceptions of reality than it is about the murder mystery itself. It’s a brilliantly, provocative read, asking daring questions about family and love that most people would avoid, in true Scandinavian style.

My favourite quote: “Is there any sort of situation where you can say with certainty that a single person is responsible for what happens? Everything in life is dependent on so many different factors that interact in so many different ways.”

Grab your copy here.

29. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

The protagonist is a talented painter, happily married to her fashion photographer husband. However when she shoots him 5 times, the motive is unclear — why would she want to murder him? 

Narrated through her psychotherapist, Theo Faber, The Silent Patient, is a gripping account, where we’re desperate to understand the murder motive, and as a result can’t put the book down until we know.

My favourite quote: “…we often mistake love for fireworks — for drama and dysfunction. But real love is very quiet, very still. It’s boring, if seen from the perspective of high drama. Love is deep and calm — and constant.”

Grab your copy here.

30. My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Two sisters, one a serial killer, the other a dutiful nurse. Based in Nigeria, the book is centred around a serial dater, Ayoola, whose love interests all wind up dead (in the act of self-defence of course). Her sister, Korede, always comes to her rescue. Ayoola’s never been caught by the police before. However when the next man Ayoola dates is also someone Korede is fond of and in love with, things take a different turn.

Dark satire and humour, a brilliant debut novel from Nigerian-based author Oyinkan Braithwaite with sharp, witty writing. Braithwaite was a finalist for the Commonwealth short story prize.

My favourite quote: “The most loving parents and relatives commit murder with smiles on their faces. They force us to destroy the person we really are: a subtle kind of murder.”

Grab your copy here.


Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of 2019

31. Machines Like Me (A Novel) by Ian McEwan

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

The perfect book for our era as we enter the age of artificial intelligent machines. Ian McEwan’s seventeenth novel is set in 1980s England — however it’s a fictional version of the 80s where Alan Turing is still alive, a celebrity in this story, with technology as far advanced as it is now (2010s). Margaret Thatcher is still in power and we have lost the Falklands war. A very different 1982 from the one with which most readers are familiar with.

Enter Charlie Friend, a 32 year-old, unemployed self-delusionist living in Clapham, infatuated with his twenty-two-year-old neighbour Miranda. A currency trader, he’s spent a lump sum inheritance amount of £86,000 on an artificial human, called Adam.

Scarily human, Adam warns Charlie about Miranda. However things change when Charlie encourages Miranda to update Adam’s personal preferences, making Adam their “child”, in the hope that this will bring them even closer.

Adam becomes conflicted and ambivalent. By the time Charlie see’s Miranda’s true colours, it’s too late. The artificial intelligent man, Adam, the one who was meant to be perfect, isn’t immune from the flaws of human nature — especially if the goal is to humanise it — becoming imperfect too. 

The whole concept raises fascinating questions — such as where do we draw the line between human and robot, can we be unfaithful to a machine, can machines feel what humans feel and the perceptions of artificial intelligence versus those of natural humans on everything from people to politics (for example, the multiple views on the Falkland Wars are debated by all the characters throughout the book.) 

Thought-provoking and insightful, it’s a book of our times and one that needs to be read if we are going to consider the moral and ethical implications of having such machines live amongst us.

My favourite quotes: “We create a machine with intelligence and self-awareness and push it out into our imperfect world. Devised along generally rational lines, well disposed to others, such a mind soon finds itself in a hurricane of contradictions. We’ve lived with them and the list wearies us. Millions dying of diseases we know how to cure. Millions living in poverty when there’s enough to go around. We degrade the biosphere when we know it’s our only home. We threaten each other with nuclear weapons when we know where it could lead. We love living things but we permit a mass extinction of species. And all the rest — genocide, torture, enslavement, domestic murder, child abuse, school shootings, rape and scores of daily outrages.”

“What people queued the entire weekend for became, six months later, as interesting as the socks on their feet. What happened to the cognition-enhancing helmets, the speaking fridges with a sense of smell? Gone the way of the mouse pad, the Filofax, the electric carving knife, the fondue set. The future kept arriving. Our bright new toys began to rust before we could get them home, and life went on much as before.”

“An old friend of mine, a journalist, once said that paradise on earth was to work all day alone in anticipation of an evening in interesting company.”

Grab a copy here.

32. Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Black Leopard, Red Wolf, the first book in the Dark Star Trilogy series is an epic fantasy set in Ancient Africa — a fictional world that you’ve never known before, drawing on the mythology of Western and Central African folklore. Fabulous characters, story lines, there is something Tolkien-esque about the book yet completely original in every way. Though ancient historical fiction, it explores the current themes of gender equality, political corruption and queer identity in a novel way, keeping us entertained every step of the way.

From the winner of the Man Booker prize, this is a mighty piece of literary magic. Can’t wait for the next installment.

Grab your copy here.

33. Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

A book that’s enjoyed cross-genre acclaim, Magic for Liars, is about protagonist investigator Ivy Gamble who’s landed an assignment at her estranged twin sister’s school, The Osthorne Academy of Young Mages, where her gifted sister is a professor in Theoretical Magic. 

A gruesome murder investigation leads her into unspeakable danger as she unravels frightening secrets, in a desperate hunt for the murderer whilst reconciling her relationship with her sister.

Thrilling, sharp and a treat for Harry Potter fans, this delightful, debut fantasy novel by Sarah Galley does not disappoint.

Grab your copy here.


Best Humour and Entertainment Book of 2019 

34. Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, and Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong

Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, and Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong

Netflix star of Baby Cobra, this book is structured as Ali Wong’s witty and straight-from-the-heart two letters to her daughters in a bid to tell them everything they need to know about life including navigating personal and professional relationships and motherhood. 

Hilarious, personal and original, she breathes comedy and wisdom from her immigrant experiences, including growing up in San Francisco, paying tribute to her cultural Vietnamese roots and surviving singledom in New York.

A great gift for daughters and women everywhere for the letters reveal universal truths for us all.

My favourite quotes: “My dream of having four children was replaced by utter gratitude that I was able to get pregnant three times, and give birth to two beautiful girls, who exhaust me spiritually, financially, and emotionally.”

“You have suffered enough.” That became my mantra for motherhood from there on out. You have suffered enough. If you can make it easier, make it easier, and don’t feel guilty about it.”

“A reporter once asked me why I think progressive men who earn significantly less than their breadwinning wives still won’t quit their jobs to take care of their children. Why do they still hold on to their careers, even if taking care of the children would make more financial sense because the cost of childcare is higher than their net salary? I think I know the answer to that now, and it sucks. Women are not expected to live a life for themselves. When women dedicate their lives to children, it is deemed a worthy and respectable choice. When women dedicate themselves to a passion outside of the family that doesn’t involve worshipping their husbands or thanking care of their kids, they’re seen as selfish, cold, or unfit mothers. But when a man spends hours grueling over a craft, profession, or project, he’s admired and seen as a genius. And when a man finds a woman who worships him, who dedicates her life to serving him, he’s lucky. But when a man dedicates himself to taking care of his children it’s seen as a last resort. That it must be because he ran out of other options. That it’s plan Z. That it’s an indicator of his inability to provide for his family. Basically, that he’s a fucking loser. I think it’s one of the most important falsehoods we need to shatter when talking about women’s rights.”

Grab your copy here.


Best Young Adult Books of 2019

35. American Royals by Katharine McGee

A novel that contemplates an American Royal family — the Washingtons. Upon the victory of the American revolution, one of the founding fathers, George Washington is offered a crown. 250 years later, this crown still stands and his family continue to govern as the first and only American Royal family. First in line, Princess Beatrice is dreading becoming queen, with all freedom of choice removed, including who she will marry. Her siblings, Princess Samantha and Prince Jefferson (both twins) have issues of their own — the latter being America’s favourite heartthrob, with many ladies vying for his heart. 

Gossipy and glamorous where royalty meets celebrity, it’s an instant hook and charmer — a cross between Crazy Rich Asians and The Crown.

Grab your copy here.

36. The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante

The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante

Villasante’s YA debut novel is simply gorgeous. Illegal El Salvadoran immigrant, seventeen-year-old Marisol, finds herself desperately seeking refuge in America under the threat of death, after falling head over heels in love with Liliani, only to result in the death of her brother, her mother going in hiding and her and her sister escaping to the US.

Caught at the US border, her asylum request is doomed to be denied. There is however an opportunity to redeem herself, by partaking in an experiment that provides an opportunity to stay in the United States. 

A ‘grief’ experiment, she’s required to take on a grief of another into her own body to save a life, essentially to become a ‘grief keeper’. Marisol, desperate to keep her sister safe will do anything — however she never fully understands what she’s being asked to do — she takes on an emotional roller coaster, falling in love, which might just help her heal her own choking grief.

A touching tale of heartbreak, love, family, faith and healing in the midst of man-made boundaries for love and for belonging.

Grab your copy here.


37. I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn

I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn

Japanese romance in a glorius, artistic setting. Kimi Nakamura is a passionate fashionista, crafting sell-out, bold outfits for her friends who are delighted by her creations. Her mother perceives this as a distraction that will sway her away from attending a place at the prestigious fine art academy where she’s been accepted for college. 

A surprise letter arrives from Kimi’s estranged grandparents in Kyoto, inviting her over for the Spring holidays, which she graciously accepts, hoping it to be the perfect escape from the inevitable.

On arrival, Kimi falls in love with the Kyoto art and culture scene including the cherry blossom festival — and of course meets a romantic interest, Akira, a medical student spotlighting as a ‘mochi’ mascot. As she develops feelings for Akira, she also discovers a lot more about her mother, gaining a new awareness, allowing her to work out what she truly wants from life and love. 

Grab your copy here.


Best Cooking, Food and Wine Books of 2019

38. From the Oven to the Table by Mitchell Beazley

From the Oven to the Table by Mitchell Beazley

Casual, easy cooking at its most glorious — all you need is a great set of roasters and baking pans and voilà, you’ll have a mouthwatering, healthy meal to comfort you after a hectic day at work. A bit of prepping before sticking into the oven is all that’s needed.

From Simple Suppers (fish fillets and chops) to My Favourite Ingredients to Seasonal Vegetables (asparagus, zucchini, beets & bitter greens), Grains & Legumes, Weekends & Holidays (roasts, poultry, & whole fish) and Something Sweet (desserts, with heavy use of healthy fruits often overlooked by other recipe books). All the ingredients are easy to find in the grocery stores and supermarkets and there’s something for everyone from meat to vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan meals.

You can even get your little ones involved, it’s that simple and fun. Plus the gorgeous photography will leave you dribbling for more.

Grab your copy here.

39. The Way We Eat Now: Strategies for Eating in a World of Change by Bee Wilson

The Way We Eat Now: Strategies for Eating in a World of Change by Bee Wilson

With super easy access to food, food culture has radically transformed — we can enjoy international cuisine in almost any country now. No longer do we have to go out and be hunter gatherers — we can get anything we want, whenever we want, wherever we want. 

Rather than a recipe book or memoir, The Way We Eat Now examines the cost at which we have this unprecedented access to food in a way we have never known before — from climate change, to the loss of communal eating, to valuing our time more than what we eat. He also addresses potential solutions for re-establishing a better way of connecting with our food and with others through food, plus being kinder to our environment, including stories of countries and communities that are focused on bettering their relationship with food. He does this by examining what they eat and how they eat.

My favourite quote: “The story of modern cooking is not a simple tale of decline but a more complex and hopeful one. When we say that ‘no one cooks any more’ we often have in mind a particular version of home cooking that depended on women being confined to a life of unpaid labour. By contrast, the new cooking of our times is done by a wider range of people in a wider range of ways.”

Grab your copy here.

40. Save Me the Plums (A Memoir/Novel) by Ruth Reichl

Save Me the Plums (A Memoir/Novel) by Ruth Reichl

A memoir about Ruth Reichl’s career as editor-in-chief of Gourmet, America’s oldest fine food and drink magazine owned by Condé Nast. An innovative food writer and brilliant restaurant critic, she literally transformed the way people thought about food showcasing genius chefs and food writers at their best, in the golden age of magazine publication. Under her leadership she literally inspired restaurant culture, with more and more people eating out and gave birth to the farm-to-table movement as we know it today.

The memoir is laced with colourful recipes too, in true Reichl style. Her descriptions of food will mesmerise you. Her other books include Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table and Delicious!: A Novel 

My favourite quote: “Luxury is best appreciated in small portions. When it becomes routine it loses its allure.

Grab a copy here.


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A big hello and thank you for reading! Passionate about literature, psychology, and life I launched Book Therapy as an alternative form of therapy using the power of literature. I create reading lists/personalised book prescriptions based on your individual needs, this is my signature personalised reading service. My book recommendations have featured in The Guardian, NBC News and Marie Claire. You can also check out Book Therapy’s free reading lists and A- Z of book prescriptions (covering both fiction and non-fiction). These suggest books based on your existing life situation (e.g. anxiety, job change, relationship heartache) as well as interests (e.g memoir, historical fiction, non-fiction, crime etc). There’s also a Children’s A — Z of Book Prescriptions. Feel free to check out the blog for more literary gems. There’s also a post on my personal story of how I entered the world of bibliotherapy and book curation. And if you’d like to connect, email me at bijal@booktherapy.io or www.booktherapy.io.

Book Therapy is a participant in the Amazon EU, US and Canada Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com and Amazon.ca




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