As I deliberated over my favourite books of 2019 so far, I realised: Oh my God, I’ve read a lot of great books this year. And also: Oh my God, the back half of the year is packed— packed! — with amazing books, including the thriller of the decade (Adrian McKinty’s The Chain) and an Australian love letter to Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men (Ben Hobson’s Snake Island). Not to mention a new Sarah Bailey, Nina Kenwood’s stunning YA debut, Tristan Bancks’ Detention…
But this list — The 10 Must-Read Books of 2019 – So Far! — is about books available from your local independent bookshop today. Don’t worry about the future. There’s plenty to enjoy now.
The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan
Dervla McTiernan came out swinging with The Ruin (2018), but The Scholar is a knockout. A relentlessly paced, bombshell-laden plot combined with sharply-drawn, empathetic characters make this is the whodunit that should put McTiernan in the same league as Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson, Denise Mina and Tana French.
The Rip by Mark Brandi
With sparse, yet beautiful prose, Mark Brandi portrays destitution and addiction with neither voyeurism or judgement; instead he paints a devastating portrait of two people (and a dog) running the long marathon of struggle and survival on the streets of Melbourne. But on the streets, interpersonal relationships are just as likely to open you up to salvation as damnation. Which is precisely the case when Anton — our narrator’s companion — welcomes Steve into their lives. The Rip is an incredible step forward for a writer of commanding gifts, who seems poised on the threshold of even greater accomplishment.
The Nancys by R.W.R McDonald
When eleven-year-old Tippy Chan learns of her teacher’s murder, she forms ‘The Nancys’ — an amateur detective club inspired by Nancy Drew — with her visiting Uncle Pike and his new boyfriend, Devon. Together, the trio converge on Riverstone — a small town in New Zealand with a kaleidoscopic population of less than 4000 — and nose their way into trouble. Written with verve, humour and heart, The Nancys is a stunning debut, one of those very special books that enthrals from its opening, and leaves you with pangs of regret, desperate to spend more time with its characters.
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
There are very few books that so completely and utterly annihilate my poor excuse for a social life and devour every available moment of my day. There are books I like, and books I love. And Daisy Jones & the Six is a book I love. Like, truly adore. This is a book I could not get enough of. I am genuinely a little heartbroken it’s no longer in my life; that it exists purely in memory.
The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean
In The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone, debut novelist Felicity McLean explores the long echoes of emotional trauma and guilt born of the disappearance of three siblings twenty years ago. It is a propulsive and deeply resonant coming-of-age tale, and an absolutely enthralling account of a young woman’s effort to heal deep wounds that don’t easily show, whose voice will stay with you for a long, long time.
Hitch by Kathryn Hind
Kathryn Hind’s Hitch — the winner of the inaugural Penguin Literary Prize — is a decidedly gripping, harrowing and unflinching tale of grit and perseverance, about a young woman hitchhiking across Australia, desperately trying to outrun her traumatic past, whose courage and vulnerability are irresistible and believable. It is a stunning debut from a writer of considerable talent and promise.
Bodies of Men by Nigel Featherstone
Unafraid of emotion, though without a moment of wretched sentimentality, Bodies of Men magnificently conveys love, courage, endurance and comradeship straining against the cataclysmic backdrop of World War II. With unobtrusively elegant prose, Nigel Featherstone has crafted a vidid evocation of the arduous complexities of love between two men inured by the traumas of conflict. The result is something very special indeed: equal parts compelling, harrowing, and tender.
Heart of the Grass Tree by Molly Murn
With Heart of the Grass Tree, Molly Murn cements herself as not only one of Australia’s most exciting up-and-coming novelists, but a brilliant novelist of Australia. Lyricism empowers this tale of settlement on Kangaroo Island. Its prose is gorgeous, every page jewelled by Murn’s lyrical parlance, antithetical to the brutality of its conquest by the first settlers. Her rendering of the island’s natural beauty and it’s violent, oppressive history is truly exquisite and piercingly acute.
Room For a Stranger by Melanie Cheng
Melanie Cheng’s short story collection Australia Day was an absorbing panorama of contemporary Australia, populated by a diverse cast, that highlighted the ramifications of such an eclectic potpourri of different races and faiths coexisting. The fourteen powerfully perceptive stories were written with love, humour, realism, and a distinct edginess — and left me wanting more. Room For a Stranger was worth the wait: Cheng’s trademark empathy and sharp insight are out in force here, in a novel that transmutes the texture of human relationships into smart, sensitive, engaging art.
The Place on Dalhousie by Melina Marchetta
A deliciously engaging exploration of love, parenthood and belonging, The Place on Dalhousie charts familiar fictional territory, but Melina Marchetta’s inimitable artistry elevates the novel far beyond the sum of its parts into one of my favourite books of the year. It’s one of those precious books you don’t want to end.