The Best Literary Novels of 2019


About This Reading List

Titles in this bibliography were selected from the following sources: Library Journal: Best Books 2019The Globe 100: Books that Shaped 2019, and Publishers Weekly: Best Books 2019.

All titles can be borrowed from the library—prefer refer to the call number of each title to determine its location in the stacks and availability.


Akin: A Novel
Donoghue, Emma

AkinNoah is only days away from his first trip back to Nice since he was a child when a social worker calls looking for a temporary home for Michael, his eleven-year-old great-nephew. Though he has never met the boy, he gets talked into taking him along to France in hopes of uncovering his own mother's wartime secrets. As Michael's ease with tech and sharp eye help Noah unearth troubling details about their family's past, both come to grasp the risks that people in all eras have run for their loved ones, and find they are more akin than they knew.

Days by Moonlight
Alexis, André

Days by MoonlightBotanist Alfred Homer, ever hopeful and constantly surprised, is invited on a road trip through Southwestern Ontario by his parents' friend, Professor Morgan Bruno, who wants company as he tries to unearth the story of the mysterious poet John Skennen. But this is no ordinary road trip. As Alfred and the Professor encounter towns with familiar names but where Black residents speak only in sign language or where there are Indigenous Parades, house burnings, werewolves, and witches, we realize that this is a journey through the psyche of Alfred and, indeed, though the psyche of Canada..

Dual Citizens
Ohlin, Alix

Dual CitizensAll her life, Lark Brossard has felt invisible, overshadowed by the people around her: first by her temperamental mother, Marianne; then by her sister, Robin, a brilliantly talented pianist as wild as the animals she loves; and finally by Lawrence Wheelock, a renowned filmmaker who is both Lark’s employer and her occasional lover. When Wheelock denies her what she longs for most—a child—Lark is forced to re-examine a life marked by unrealized ambitions and thwarted desires. As she takes charge of her destiny, Lark comes to rely on Robin in ways she never could have imagined.

The Innocents: A Novel
Crummey, Michael

The InnocentsA brother and sister are orphaned in an isolated cove on Newfoundland's northern coastline. Their home is a stretch of rocky shore governed by the feral ocean, by a relentless pendulum of abundance and murderous scarcity. Still children with only the barest notion of the outside world, they have nothing but the family's boat and the little knowledge passed on haphazardly by their mother and father to keep them. As they fight for their own survival through years of meagre catches and storms and ravaging illness, it is their fierce loyalty to each other that motivates and sustains them. But as seasons pass and they wade deeper into the mystery of their own natures, even that loyalty will be tested. .

The Nickel Boys: A Novel
Whitehead, Colson

The Nickel BoysAs the Civil Rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King to heart: He is "as good as anyone." Abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grandmother, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South of the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future.

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous: A Novel
Vuong, Ocean

On Earth We're Briefly GorgeousWritten in a form of a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born—a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam—and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation.

The Testaments
Atwood, Margaret

The TestamentsIn this sequel to The Handmaid's Tale, acclaimed Canadian author Margaret Atwood picks up the story more than fifteen years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with testaments of three female narrators from Gilead.

The Water Dancer: A Novel
Coates, Ta-Nehisi

The Water DancerYoung Hiram Walker was born into bondage—and lost his mother and all memory of her when he was a child—but he is also gifted with a mysterious power. Hiram almost drowns when he crashes a carriage into a river, but is saved from the depths by a force he doesn’t understand, a blue light that lifts him up and lands him a mile away. This strange brush with death forces a new urgency on Hiram’s private rebellion. Spurred on by his improvised plantation family, Thena, his chosen mother, a woman of few words and many secrets, and Sophia, a young woman fighting her own war even as she and Hiram fall in love, he becomes determined to escape the only home he’s ever known.


Locating Other Novels

Please consult one of our reference librarians or schedule a research consultation if you have questions about the resources listed in the guide or if you would like to find additional literary novels to read.

compiled by: Agatha Barc, 13 February 2020