2019 has been a quite a year for readers. From long-awaited sequels we couldn’t wait to get our hands on to family dramas that broke our hearts, this year has been packed with standout bestsellers and must-reads from notable authors. It’s hard to pick our favorites, but we pared it down to ten books that really blew us away this year. Some bestsellers, some under-the-radar treasures—these were the books that stayed with us long after the last page was turned.
In the highly anticipated sequel to “The Handmaid’s Tale,” readers are once again transported into Margaret Atwood’s terrifying, dystopian world. With over a decade of power, Gilead’s ruthless control is still holding strong. The story is told from the perspective and insight of three different women, each one living in the harsh realities of this new world. Through their experiences and difficult decisions, Atwood reveals further details, frightening secrets, and, finally, the fate of the Handmaid.
Find it at: The Book Stall, 811 Elm St., Winnetka
Alicia Berenson is an accomplished artist, married to a popular fashion photographer; by all accounts, she seems to lead a charmed life. One evening, Alicia’s husband returns to their enviable London home and Alicia promptly shoots her husband. Five times. When authorities seek answers from Alicia, she remains absolutely silent. She does not speak a single word about her actions and remains speechless. Already a high-profile case, the mystery surrounding her silence draws a frenzy of media attention. To escape the public eye, Alicia is sent to a secure facility where criminal psychotherapist, Theo Faber, is fiercely determined to discover the truth behind her silence. With a long list of stellar reviews, this debut novel is a psychological thriller with a detailed plot to keep readers captivated to the very last page.
Find it at: Unabridged Bookstore, 3251 N. Broadway, Chicago
In 1946, Cyril Conroy’s career finally takes off and he impulsively purchases a mansion as a surprise for his wife, Elna, and their two young children, Maeve and Danny. Built in the 1920s, the opulent estate is intricately furnished with artwork, books, and furniture chosen by the original Dutch owners. Soon after, Elna makes a drastic decision to leave both her husband and young children, changing the course of her family’s future. Years later, the siblings find themselves parked in a car outside of their childhood home, reflecting on the significant influence the house had on their lives. Focused on engaging characters, descriptive details, and an intriguing plot, bestselling author Ann Patchett returns with a novel highlighting the complex, layered dynamics that exist within families.
Find it at: RoscoeBooks, 2142 W. Roscoe St., Chicago
Does BRB need to be punctuated? Should LOL be in all caps? Wait, what about Lolz? If those questions sound familiar, you are not alone. Online communication has taken on a major role in the everyday lives of millions of individuals. If you have ever found yourself second-guessing punctuation in your status update, you will appreciate author and linguist Gretchen McCulloch’s exploration into online communication. With each generation, new slang, phrases, and technical terms are created that are crucial to successful online communication. McCulloch breaks down the positive impact the internet has had on helping language to evolve and explains the reasons why a new phrase, meme, emoji, or word seems to catch on so quickly. Language is constantly changing and even more so in the fast-paced online environment. This book helps get you caught up.
Find it at: Anderson’s Bookshop, 123 W. Jefferson Ave., Naperville (multiple locations)
Taylor Jenkins Reid
Daisy, a young girl living in Los Angeles, spends late nights with musicians, frequenting clubs along the Sunset Strip and dreaming of a chance to be in the rock ‘n’ roll spotlight. Rising star Billy Dunne is at the front of The Six. Both poised for success in the 1970s music scene, it isn’t long before Daisy and Billy meet and fate throws them together to create rock ‘n’ roll history. The audiobook is narrated by a full cast of actors, enhancing the atmospheric novel. Narrators include Jennifer Beals, Benjamin Bratt, Judy Greer, and Pablo Schreiber.
Amy Byler is a single, working mother who is feeling the stress of her daily life. When an opportunity for her to get away for the summer to New York City presents itself, Amy dives into big city living. In stark contrast to her normal life, Amy fills her days and nights with sophisticated events in the city with her friends. Stepping outside her comfort zone, she takes a risk and goes out on a couple of dates. When a date turns into something more, she has an unexpected decision to make about her life and which version of herself she wants to be. Funny and relatable, Midwestern author Kelly Harms will have readers connecting and rooting for Amy Byler.
Find it at: City Lit Books, 2523 N. Kedzie Blvd., Chicago
Beginning her second year in a competitive graduate program, Samantha both hates and adores a group of popular girls that seemingly rule the prestigious university. When she is invited into the clique’s inner circle, she can’t resist accepting the invitation. Soon, Samantha discovers that the clique’s weekly get-togethers are unlike anything she could have ever imagined. Not in her wildest dreams would she think girls’ night would include ritual sacrifice, magical boyfriends, and potions. Darkly humorous, playful, and sarcastic, readers will be swept up with Samantha as she struggles to get back to reality amidst the bizarre, gory antics of the clique and finally discovers the truth.
Find it at: The Book Cellar, 4736 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago
Mary Beth Keane
The lives of Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope seem to be connected from the start. Both men are just starting out as police officers in New York City and live next door to each other with their wives and children. Through the years, the families face inevitable highs and lows of life, experiencing complicated and emotional dynamics. Faced with impossible decisions and consequences, the characters grow alongside each other, deciding to forgive and move forward. Readers will connect to the strong sense of hope in Keane’s character-driven tale about the strength of relationships.
Find it at: Sandmeyer’s Bookstore, 714 S. Dearborn St., Chicago
In a series of essays, author Leslie Jamison sets out to discover answers about her own life, others, and the world around her by learning about the intricate details of 14 topics. From the unknown world of 52 Blue, the “loneliest whale in the world,” to online gamers, a museum of break-ups, and supernatural memories, readers will be glued to each page. Adding in personal stories from her life, readers will connect with Jamison’s relatable, smart voice and insight throughout her book.
Joe Reynolds is drawn to Nora Lansing as soon as he spots her in the crowd. Standing near the famous Grand Station gold clock, Nora’s appearance sets her apart from other early morning commuters. Dressed in a flapper, 1920s outfit, it is a stark contrast from the standard 1930s New York City clothing. When Joe offers to walk Nora home, she disappears, leaving Joe with an aching loss and determination to find her again. Set against the bustling backdrop of Grand Central Terminal, the author weaves magic, history, and romance together with a captivating story of two people separated by time.
Find it at: After-Words, 23 E. Illinois St., Chicago
Meghan Odegard is a librarian living in Wisconsin. She proudly supports Barn Sanctuary, a nonprofit dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating, and caring for farm animals in need.