Every year, Goodreads readers get to choose what books they believe were the best of the year in various categories ( see here), and this year, all of the winners in the various fiction categories are available for you to read right here at The Field Library.
The overall winner in fiction should come as no surprise, as it’s one of the most anticipated books of the last two decades and has also won the Man Booker prize for 2019 and will probably win more awards before the year is through. Margaret Atwood’s sort-of sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, entitled The Testaments, is one of those books that’s so popular we can’t keep it on the shelves, even with an express copy and a regular copy. While The Handmaid’s Tale dropped readers into the midst of the Republic of Gilead and left us, along with the protagonist Offred, trying to figure out how that horrible world worked, The Testaments takes the story much later and shows readers how the Republic of Gilead eventually fell (this is not a spoiler, since the end of Handmaid made it clear the Republic was something in the past, studied by historians), by taking three different characters, one of whom we will all recognize from Handmaid, and following their interactions with the system. Put it on hold (your best chance of getting your hands on it in the near future) and settle in to read the next phase of Gilead.
The top Mystery and Thriller is The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. It starts with Alicia Berenson, a woman who seems to have it all: a booming career as an artist, a loving husband who’s a noted photographer, a gorgeous house in a great location in London. But apparently things aren’t as perfect as they seem, because one night her husband comes home from a photo shoot and Alicia shoots him five times in the face. Which would be awful enough and cause enough notoriety, but then Alicia refuses to speak another word, to anyone, about anything. Now it’s not just a celebrity murder, it’s a mystery, and one that catches the attention of the whole world. Alicia is locked away from the press and the curious in a forensic hospital, until one day Theo Faber, a famous criminal psychotherapist, shows up, determined to get Alicia to talk. But even if he succeeds, and that’s by no means assured no matter how skilled he is and how determined he is, he may find that he’s not just investigating her truth, but his own, which could be more dangerous to his sanity than anything Alicia might tell him.
The winner in the historical fiction category is Daisy Jones and the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid, which I’ve already written about here, a book set in the very recent past and the wild world of rock music.
The winner in fantasy is an interesting choice: Ninth House, by Leigh Bardugo. The protagonist, Alex Stern, is, apparently, a loser, a young woman who’s thrown her life away. Raised by hippie parents in the Los Angeles area, she dropped out of high school, got involved with criminal boyfriends and dead end jobs, she finds herself the only survivor of a horrific and unsolved multiple homicide. Her life then changes in a dramatic way when she’s offered a free ride to Yale University by mysterious benefactors. The only thing she has to do in return is keep an eye on the secret societies at Yale, where the offspring of the rich and powerful gather for some pretty disturbing occult activities which should horrify the university and their parents if any of them knew what the young people were doing. Alex digs deeper into the groups’ forbidden magic, their raising of the dead, and their preying on the living, putting her own life and soul in danger.
On a lighter note, the winner in the romance category is also one I’ve already written about Red, White and Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston, here , in which the son of the United States President finds himself involved in a romantic relationship with a prince of the royal family of England.
The readers at Goodreads apparently like twisted science fiction, because the winner in the science fiction category is Recursion, by Blake Crouch, a book I wrote about here, in which people’s memories are being changed and reality is changing along with them, and two people have to try to find out what’s happening and stop it while there’s still a consensual reality to save.
And it practically goes without saying that in a year when Stephen King publishes a horror novel, that’s going to be voted the best horror novel of the year, and so The Institute takes top honors. Of course we’ve already talked about it here , and of course we have some great Stephen King themes: children with psychic powers, evil adults trying to control those powers, horrible things happening all around. If you’re a Stephen King fan, you’ve already read this, but if you were on the fence, well, now you have justification for checking it out.
If you’re a person who doesn’t want to follow the crowd, by all means ignore these recommendations and go your own way (I’ll help!), but if you’re interested in what your peers think are the best books of the year, you could hardly find a better place to start than here, at the Field Library.