reading + entertainment banner

Favourite Fiction of 2019

Share

Our staff pick their favourite fiction titles from 2019. Sink into a chair and revel in some of the best fiction we've come across so far. For nonfiction staff picks, award winners and more, head over to our Recommended Reads page.

Blum, Yoav.
The coincidence makers

Meet Emily, Guy, and Eric. They are coincidence makers, people who engineer coincidences to influence the lives of everyday people. Whether it’s organizing a certain song to play on the radio at a specific moment, or having a coffee cup fall in just the right way, they fulfill their missions by setting up events to nudge people into changing their own lives. Maybe their mission involves getting an accountant to become the world-renowned poet he is meant to be, or having two people meet and fall in love. Every coincidence is a little puzzle as you try to figure out how it’s going to create the change the characters need. Sometimes you need a book that is unlike anything else and I loved this one! It will leave you in a good mood and looking differently at the coincidences in your own life! The author makes you believe in this world where people work behind-the-scenes and practice coincidence making to help other people. All the random bits in the book connect and the ending has a sweet, yet unexpected twist. Take a chance on this one! (Previously published in The Waterloo Region Record, June 8, 2019) Jessica (Staff) (Hespeler Library)

Winters, Ben H.
Golden State

Lazlo Ratesic is a long time detective, trained in the science of detecting lies and ruptures in a place that values truth telling above all.Told in the time-honoured hard-boiled style detective fiction, Ratesic is called to investigate the death of a man, assigned a new partner he doesn't want, and is inevitably drawn into a vast conspiracy. Golden State is neither pure detective nor science fiction novel, rather it's a mostly sharp critique of contemporary society. Phil (Queen's Square)

Alexis, André
Days by moonlight

Come for a journey through an Ontario you never knew. Botanist Alfred Homer joins literary sleuth Professor Bruno searching for the lost poet John Skennen, in what may be the funniest novel of the year. Alexis has a keen eye for characters and his satiric wit is unmatched. Phil (Queens Square)

Luiselli, Valeria
Lost children archive

How you respond to this book will depend on how you feel about novels that blur the line between fiction, memoir, biography and history. If you're a fan of W.G. Sebald, you're in for a treat. The novel follows the trip of two archivists traveling across the country. It is a novel of relationships (told from a variety of viewpoints), a document of how we attempt to understand the world and ourselves, and an attempt to make sense of identity in the current political climate. Phil, Queen's Sqaure

Orange, Tommy
There there

Orange's writing is biting, profane and at times brilliant. There there refers initially to a Gertrude Stein quote about her childhood home of Oakland, and the way in which this quote has been remembered incorrectly. Orange creates the there, there by telling a story of an upcoming Pow Wow in Oakland, in a variety of different characters and voices. Central to this novel is the idea of "never stop telling our story", and Orange does not disappoint. (Phil, Queen's Square)

Jalaluddin, Uzma.
Ayesha at last

Pride and prejudice with a multicultural Canadian twist! I loved this book! Whether you love Jane Austen or not, this is a fascinating, sparkling romance of two opposites with wonderful characters that you'll root for. Teacher Ayesha is the sensible one in her family although she secretly yearns to be a poet. Misunderstandings abound as conservative Khalid at first thinks she's a loose woman and Ayesha thinks he's a rigid jerk who wants to keep women down. Their journey towards love while trying to deal with their families and community is highly entertaining. I couldn't put it down! Leah (Queen's Square Library)

Kingsolver, Barbara.
Unsheltered

This prescient novel features a multi-generational family live together in a heritage house that's falling apart – much like their economic stability. At the same time, it tells the story of the house’s previous occupants, a family living in a 19th century utopian community called Vineland, who struggle to reconcile interest in Darwinian evolution with the religious beliefs of their neighbours. This is literature that isn’t afraid to be divisive and delves unabashedly into contemporary politics in a way that’s reminiscent of the crusading Victorian novelists such as Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy. Some readers may find this social consciousness a mite preachy, while others may find it refreshing and a case of literature speaking truth to power. In other words, this novel is perfect for book clubs that enjoy a spirited debate! Personally, I couldn’t put it down and I’m still rolling the novel’s ideas through my mind. Meghan Casey (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)

Holiday, Jenny
One and only

If you love witty banter and romantic comedies, then this book is for you! I couldn’t stop reading! I loved the characters so much! In order to escape her bridezilla friend, responsible Jane takes on the duty of keeping the groom’s brother out of mischief. Troublemaker Cameron has just finished his tour of duty and is ready to let loose. But soon all he wants to do is get under the skin of prim, pretty Jane. Can he convince her to take a walk on the wild side? Leah (Staff) (Queen's Square Library) 25/04/19

Markley, Stephen.
Ohio

I think it was David Letterman who asked Neil Armstrong why so many people who were born in Ohio felt the need to become astronauts and try to leave the planet. Markley will provide several reasons in this tightly wound book set in the epicentre of the opioid epidemic; a meth ground zero that tracks the lives of several high schoolers who have arrived back in town after the death of one of their friends. I’d call it an early novel of the year contender. It's sweaty, parched, and buzzing on lack of sleep. Phil (Staff) (Queen's Square Library) 02/05/19

Askew, Claire
All the hidden truths

Though found in the Mystery section Askew's novel is more thinker than page-turner. Its violence feels real and shocking instead of glorifying and distancing. A psychologically compelling novel that both captures the glibness of current media, yet slides beneath the surface to expose a deeper sense of purpose. Phil (Staff) (Queen's Square Library) 02/05/19

Leckie, Ann.
The Raven tower

Since the publication of Ancillary Justice, her 2013 Hugo, Nebula and Arthur C. Clarke award-winning science fiction epic, Ann Leckie has stood out as an author who takes chances. Based on that reputation, it should probably come as no surprise that Leckie’s first foray into fantasy is similarly unconventional. Believe it or not, this is a story written from the perspective of a rock containing the consciousness of a god! The tale veers between philosophical chats between minor deities and intense political intrigue in the court of a mysterious power taking the shape of a Raven. For those who like rule-breaking, cerebral fantasy narratives that make you think about history, culture and the origins of magic, this is a story that will challenge your expectations. Meghan Casey (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)

Turton, Stuart.
The seven deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

What a novel! Every day, Aiden Bishop wakes up in a different person, a key witness or suspect in the unsolved murder of Evelyn Hardcastle. He has eight days, in eight different “hosts” to solve the murder or he’ll lose all his memories and be forced to repeat the whole thing again and again. The only way to escape is to solve the murder. In the hands of a lesser author an intricate plot like this would fall apart, but Stuart Turton keeps everything connected and all the seemingly random moments come together beautifully. Not only the mystery of the murder, but the mystery of why Aiden Bishop is in this situation will give you something to talk about and make you tell every one you know to read this book. Great for book clubs. I look forward to more from Turton! Jessica (Staff) (Hespeler Library)

Chŏng, Yu-jŏng
The good son

This compelling novel of psychological suspense was a runaway hit in South Korea and now it’s making waves in English translation. One morning, Ju-jin wakes up to find his mother dead. His clothes are covered in her blood and he’s suffering some gaping holes in his memory of the night before. He races to hide the evidence of her murder and uncover what happened, but his other family members keep prying, when they’re not reminding him to take his medication. This is a slim volume but it packs a punch. Prepare yourself for a complex and disturbing thriller with an unreliable narrator, much in the spirit of twisted, page-turning bestsellers like Gone Girl. Meghan Casey (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)

Shriver, Lionel.
Property

Shriver's collection of two novellas and several short stories are unafraid to take on the cultural norms of the times. In Property, the stories revolve around the theme of ownership and the effect things have on our lives. In some ways she takes some easy shots: In "Domestic Terrorism", the "terrorist" is a young millennial who refuses to move out of his parents home. It is sharp and funny though, in its satire. The two novellas are sharply drawn, full of wit and sarcasm. And as Shriver has made clear in several interviews, she rejects much of what we call "identity" politics, and her politics are all over these stories. She is then, an author who answers to no one but herself. Joyce Carol Oates should be proud. Phil (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)

Barker, Pat
The silence of the girls

Briseis, the story teller in this mythological re-telling, tells her story of her life as a woman, wife and spoil of war. She bluntly sums up her existence: “I do what countless women before me have been forced to do. I spread my legs for the man who killed my husband and my brothers.” Barker's re-examination of the lives of women, is both unflinching in its portrayal of war, and as true today as it was more than two thousand years ago. Phil (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)

Clement, Jennifer.
Gun love

Pearl isn’t your ordinary kid – for one thing, she lives in a broken-down car by a Florida trailer park. This unforgettable novel will guide into Pearl’s strange world, populated by born-again preachers, veterans with PTSD, two-headed alligators and lots of people who love their guns. You’ll either love or hate the distinctively poetic writing style and oddball characters but I found that I fell on the “love” side with this one. On a crowded bookshelf, it will stand out from anything else you’ve read. Meghan Casey (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)

Shannon, Samantha
The priory of the orange tree

This book is magnificent, a gorgeously written fantasy epic that manages to build a memorable story in a single (albeit, very large and brick-like) installment. In the western hemisphere, a dragon-slaying warrior-priestess guards the queen of a foreign realm, whose heir may be able to prevent the re-emergence of a terrible evil. However, she finds it hard to keep her growing feelings for the people of the court from intervening in her assignment. In the eastern hemisphere, an ambitious young woman training to be a dragon rider decides to spare the life of an unwelcome stranger and finds that her life is forever changed. These two plot-lines come together in surprising ways, uniting east and west in a battle to stop a world-ending threat. Prepare yourself for a binge read! Meghan Casey (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)

Greengrass, Jessie
Sight

A beautifully written novel about a woman coming to terms with her dying mother and motherhood. Greengrass artfully winds together the historical (Freud's psychoanalysis; Williams Rontgen's discovery of X-Rays) into a meditation on the ways we look at the world. This is Greengrass's debut novel. Phil (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)