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Our Books of the Year

Posted 9th Dec 2019

As we approach the end of the year (and decade!), what better time to look back on the amazing year we’ve had? The Pushkin team have picked their favourite book from our 2019 list, as well as the title they loved most from the wider book world.

Laura (Deputy Publisher)

Will by Jeroen Olyslagers (tr. David Colmer): Part wartime thriller, part historical novel, this compelling read feels frighteningly relevant to our troubled political times. And it’s a spur to exercise your democratic right and vote this Christmas!

I raced through Expectation by Anna Hope. It’s such an accurate portrayal of women’s lives right now, it’s fresh and urgent, and just so enjoyable. I had a more complex relationship with My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Otessa Moshfegh, a novel that plays so many tricks on the reader that I’m still puzzling over it – but I think that’s a good thing.

Natalie (Head of Marketing)

Liar by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen (tr. Sondra Silverston): I read this compulsively in one sitting – it’s a hugely enjoyable, compassionate, razor-sharp novel about how easily we lie, and its sometimes devastating consequences.

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer: this witty and wise novel is a memorable story of strong, ambitious women – and of how meeting the right person at the right time can change everything. Months after reading it, I still think about these characters all the time.

Harriet (Editor)

The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo (tr. Louise Heal Kawai): Deliciously dark, this classic locked room mystery from one of Japan’s most loved crime writers has all the ingredients for a compelling puzzle.

Love by Hanne Ørstavik: A chilling, devastating novel that switches seamlessly between the thoughts of a mother and son in one night. A powerful and compelling portrayal of a doomed search for intimacy.

Rory (Editorial Assistant)

In the House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt: A disturbing, ingenious story about witchcraft, double identities and American mythology. Laird Hunt’s prose is beautifully strange, full of grotesque images and the tripping rhythms of fairy tales.

The Undying by Anne Boyer: An electrifying, furious book about pain, sickness and the perverse cruelties of the cancer industry. Boyer writes like no-one else on the emotional, physical and economic toll of being ill in America.

Poppy (Publicity Director)

Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent: A gorgeous book, perfect for Christmas time. With shades of Julie & Julia, it’s a story of unlikely friendship, food as emotional nourishment, and reasons to slow down and savour the good things that are right in front of you. I loved it.

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo: An epic, messy, family novel. This is the novel to take home with you for Christmas if you love I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith or binge-watch This is Us.

Daniel (Commissioning Editor)

Bearmouth by Liz Hyder: A powerful, inspiring story told in a voice like no other. This is such an exciting debut. The reception so far has been brilliant and I think the excitement will only grow over the next year.

The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman: A strange and enthralling sequel to La Belle Sauvage. The Book of Dust is walking a highwire between older and young readers, I think it succeeds and I can’t wait to find out how Pullman ties up the trilogy.

India (Managing Editor)

A Woman in the Polar Night by Christiane Ritter (tr. Jane Degras): I was completely absorbed by this magical book. The almost fantastical adventure of it, alongside the wild capability of this woman. It will make your heart sing and any traveller’s feet will begin to turn north.

Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri (tr. Morgan Giles): If you’re looking to expand your reading away from the ‘quirkiness’ of recent Japanese translation, this book will not disappoint. It is a timely, sad but respectful story of class and homelessness in Japan told by Kazu, a ghost reflecting on his life.

Simon (Children’s Editor)

Odessa Stories by Isaac Babel (tr. Boris Dralyuk): He was a Jew who rode with the antisemitic Cossacks, a Bolshevik who celebrated the anarchic Jewish gangsters of Odessa. The characters’ colourful craziness is matched by the profusion of Babel’s language – itself matched by translator Dralyuk’s vivid extemporising.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders: It may be, in the author’s own words, ‘disorienting’ – yet, like other radical narrative experiments such as Ulysses or Life: A User’s Manual, it succeeds by virtue of traditional pleasure-giving qualities: sympathetic characters, comedy, high emotion and sheer readability.

Elise (Digital Marketing Executive)

Memories of Low Tide by Chantal Thomas (tr. Natasha Lehrer): Somehow both dreamlike and entirely vivid, Thomas’ writing everything great writing should be: immersive, evocative and rammed full of empathetic potential. A story about mothers and daughters, I was compelled to share it with mine right away.

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot: Writing from her room in a mental institution, Mailhot’s undeniable talent brings the most beautiful turns of phrase to the brutality she describes, from sexual abuse and intergenerational trauma to motherhood and marriage, and is the most powerful thing I’ve read in a long time. 

Sarah (Children’s Editor-at-Large)

The Dead World Of Lanthorne Ghules by Gerald Killingworth: A wonderful, dark, macabre and funny tale of sibling rivalry gone awry.  It is a perfect read for children who love a little scare factor with their humour and its story of friendship and families (stresses and all) resonates so perfectly with any reader.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver: If anyone has managed to talk to me without me bringing this novel in to the conversation then they are absolutely the exception. It’s brilliant.  

Kirsten (Editorial Assistant)

And the Earth Will Sit on the Moon by Nikolai Gogol (tr. Oliver Ready): Enigmatic, subversive, idiosyncratic, and painfully funny. Stories set in the Ukrainian and Russian countryside are sweeping and beautiful, without losing any of Gogol’s psychological acuteness.

Berg by Ann Quin: It’s always incredible to see unjustly-forgotten female writers getting their long-overdue moment. An explosive and experimental novel that takes a wicked delight in dredging up the tired narrative of an overwrought Oedipus complex and twisting it fantastically out of shape – featuring talking parrots, ventriloquist’s dummies, walls that come alive, and fathers who won’t stay dead.

What were your favourites of 2019? Let us know on social media!