This year has been an incredible year for fiction, so good in fact that there was not one but two very worthy Booker Prize winners. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Macneal’s bestselling debut The Doll Factory immersed readers in Victorian London with a story which The Times called ‘genuinely Dickensian’, while master storyteller Jeffrey Archer returned with the first in a new series following the life of Detective William Warwick. Here, we look back at the best fiction of 2019, from bestsellers to the award-nominated debuts you may have missed. We also take a look at the year ahead, to the most highly anticipated fiction books of 2020.
Don’t miss our best non-fiction books of 2019, and what’s to come in 2020.
Discover the best crime and thriller books of 2019.
If you’re a fan of SFF, don’t miss the best fantasy books of 2019 and the best science fiction books of 2019.
Best fiction books 2019
The Order of the Day by Eric Vuillard
Winner of the 2017 Prix Goncourt, France’s most well-known and prestigious award, The Order of the Day is the gripping story of the pivotal meetings which took place between the European powers in the run-up to the Second World War. This darkly comic yet incredibly moving account shows how the actions of a few men brought the world to the brink of war.
Buy The Order of the Day
Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi
Perdita and Harriet Lee make gingerbread, which isn’t popular in London, but which is very popular in Druhástrana, Harriet’s home as a child – which Wikipedia thinks doesn’t exist. Years later, Perdita seeks out her mother’s long-lost friend Gretel, which prompts a retelling of Harriet’s story, and a few reunions. Inspired by the special place gingerbread has in fairy tales, this is a wonderful story of a surprising family legacy.
Read author Daisy Johnson on the wonder of Helen Oyeyemi.
Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor
A joyous romp through early 90’s American subculture, Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl follows Paul Polydoris, a shapeshifter who can change sex at will, as he navigates relationships and identity politics from Iowa City to Chicago leather bars, and from a women-only music festival to the bright lights of San Francisco. This riotous bildungsroman is full of heart and humour.
Read our interview with Andrea Lawlor
Buy Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl
The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal
Elizabeth Macneal’s bestselling debut novel immerses the reader in the intoxicating world of Victorian London, as the Great Exhibition approaches. All Iris wants in life is the freedom to pursue her passion for art. When Pre-Raphaelite artist Louis Frost asks her to model for him she agrees, on the condition that he teaches her to paint. As a whole world of art and love opens up for Iris, a chance encounter with Silas, a collector of the strange and beautiful, changes everything. Because Silas can’t stop thinking about Iris, and his dangerous obsession is growing . . .
Discover ten weird and wonderful facts about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood
Buy The Doll Factory
Salt Slow by Julia Armfield
Julia Armfield was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award 2019 for her brilliantly inventive and haunting collection of short stories, Salt Slow. These stories explore the body and the bodily through the characters’ experiences of isolation, obsession, love and revenge. Salt Slow blurs the gothic with the everyday, and marks the arrival of an ambitious and singular new voice.
Buy Salt Slow
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
One of the Guardian's 'Best Books of 2019’, A Thousand Ships tells the story of the Trojan War from the perspective of the women, girls and goddesses whose voices have for so long been silent. The devastating consequences of the war fall on the women embroiled in the conflict and its aftermath in this powerful retelling of Greek myth.
Buy A Thousand Ships
Diary of a Somebody by Brian Bilston
Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2019, Diary of a Somebody is the hilarious debut novel from the unofficial Poet Laureate of Twitter, Brian Bilston. On 1 January Brian makes a New Year’s resolution – to write a poem every day for a year – convinced it will change his life. And Brian’s life certainly needs improving. But when his poetry club arch-nemesis Toby Salt goes missing, Brian finds himself the number one suspect. Can he solve the mystery of Toby’s disappearance before it’s too late?
Listen to Ben Miller read three poems from Diary of a Somebody
Buy Diary of a Somebody
The Hiding Game by Naomi Wood
The Hiding Game is Naomi Woods’s beautifully written, atmospheric third novel about the dangerously fine line between love and obsession. Set against the rising political tensions of 1920s Germany, the story follows Paul Beckermann as he arrives at the Bauhaus art school and is seduced by the bohemian atmosphere, charismatic teachers and his fellow students. As he spends more time with his new friends, he quickly falls in love with the mesmerising Charlotte, and tensions and rivalries begin to surface. As the existence of the Bauhaus is threatened and betrayals and jealousy splits the group apart, they hurtle toward an unthinkable tragedy . . .
Read Naomi Wood on the influence of Bauhaus design and teaching on the way we live now.
Buy The Hiding Game
Nothing Ventured by Jeffrey Archer
The start of a thrilling new series by bestselling author Jeffrey Archer, Nothing Ventured begins the story of Wiliam Warwick – a family man and detective – who will do battle with a powerful criminal nemesis. After graduating from university, Wiliam joins the Metropolitan Police Force where he rises to the rank of detective, taking on his first high-stakes case in Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques squad. Investigating the theft of a priceless missing painting, he meets and falls hopelessly in love with research assistant Beth Rainsford, and comes up against suave art collector Miles Faulkner, who is willing to bend the law to breaking point to get what he wants.
In this video, Jeffrey Archer introduces his new series featuring William Warwick.
Buy Nothing Ventured
The Confession by Jessie Burton
The highly anticipated third novel from million-copy bestselling author Jessie Burton is a powerful and deeply moving story about secrets, motherhood and friendship. In 1980 Elise meets Constance, a successful writer, and quickly falls under her spell, moving to LA to be with her. Three decades later, Rose Simmons is looking for answers about her mother, who disappeared after she was born. When she learns that reclusive novelist Constance Holden was the last person to see her mother alive, she is drawn to her door in search of a confession . . .
Read Lucy Scholes on The Confession and portrayals of motherhood in literature.
Buy The Confession
One Good Deed by David Baldacci
In 1949, Aloysius Archer is released from prison, where he’s been serving time for a crime he didn’t commit. He arrives in the dusty Southern town of Poca City, looking for a peaceful new start, but on his first night of freedom he meets local business tycoon Hank Pittleman. Pittleman offers Archer well-paid work as a debt collector, but soon Archer finds he’s taken on more than he bargained for. He becomes embroiled in a feud between the town’s most dangerous residents and, when one of them dies, Archer is the prime suspect.
Discover all David Baldacci’s books in order.
Buy One Good Deed
What’s to come in 2020
Little Bandaged Days by Kyra Wilder
Kyra Wilder’s debut novel is a beautifully written, painfully claustrophobic story of a woman’s descent into madness. A mother moves to Geneva with her husband and their two young children. Unable to speak the language, and with her husband working increasingly long hours, she becomes more and more isolated. As her whole world becomes about caring for her children, Erika is determined that everything will be perfect. But it isn’t . . . Erika has never been so alone, and when the children are sleeping, there is just too much time to fill all by herself.
Buy Little Bandaged Days
Correspondents by Tim Murphy
Tim Murphy’s powerful novel spans the breadth of the twentieth century and the legacy of the post-9/11 wars. Rita Khoury is an Irish-Lebanese woman whose family came to America during the golden years of immigration. When her career as a journalist sees her posted to Iraq after the 2003 American invasion, she finds that her safety depends on her translator Nabil – a young man hiding a secret about his sexuality. When Nabil’s identity puts him in trouble and Rita’s position becomes more and more unstable, they are forced out of the country and into an uncertain future.
The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
This stunningly evocative novel set on the remote Norwegian island of Vardø in the 1600s was inspired by the real Vardø storm and the subsequent witch hunt. When a catastrophic storm wipes out almost the entirety of the male population of the island, the women who are left, still grieving for their men, are forced to fend for themselves. Eighteen months later, the sinister new commissioner, Absolom Cornet, arrives with his young wife Ursa. Ursa sees independent women for the first time in her life, and she is drawn to Maren, the young woman who helps her navigate life in this harsh new world. But Absolom is convinced that the women’s behaviour is ungodly and he must bring them to heel by any means necessary.
Buy The Mercies
Amnesty by Aravind Adiga
Full of Aravind Adiga’s signature wit and magic, this novel from the Man Booker Prize-winning author is both a universal story and a timeless moral struggle. When Danny – an illegal immigrant in Sydney who has been denied refugee status – hears about a murder that has been committed which he may have information about, he faces a moral choice. Should he come forward with his knowledge of the crime and risk deportation, or should he stay silent, protecting the life he has built but letting justice go undone?
The Other Bennet Sister
In Jane Austen’s beloved classic, Pride and Prejudice, Mary Bennet is often overlooked in the company of her sisters, unloved for her plainness. In Janice Hadlow’s heart-warming new story, Mary takes centre stage and reveals herself to be a warm, loving girl with hopes and dreams of her own. Fans of Jane Austen will love this homage to the classic story, rooting for Mary as she struggles to find her purpose and place in the world.
Buy The Other Bennet Sister
The Animals at Lockwood Manor
With the Second World War looming in the summer of 1939, the Natural History Museum’s extensive taxidermy collection is evacuated to the estate of Lockwood Manor. Ambitious Hetty Cartwright is tasked with safe-guarding the collection, but soon finds she has taken on more than she bargained for. Forced to contend with the short-tempered Lord Lockwood and his hostile servants, Hetty’s only comfort is a blossoming friendship with the enchanting Lucy Lockwood. But when precious specimens start to go missing and a more sinister presence is felt in the house, Hetty starts to uncover long-buried secrets some would prefer to keep hidden . . .
Buy The Animals at Lockwood Manor
Looking for more world-class literature?
Sign up to the Literary Reads newsletter and be the first to discover the latest news from our award-winning Picador authors.