Skip To Content
Get Our Newsletter
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Culture

Ben Lerner, Rachel Louise Snyder Round Out New York Times’s 10 Best Books Of 2019

Stories of escape, abduction, friendship, growth and crisis make up The New York Times’s 10 Best Books of 2019, announced November 22.

The Times’s fiction picks include Ben Lerner’s “The Topeka School,” the writer’s third novel. In it, Lerner, through the voices of several characters, evokes the Kansas of his Clinton-era late adolescence. The novel’s kaleidoscopic prose touches on major hallmarks of the Jewish canon: Freud, sex, parents and psychologists — the parents are the psychologists — all make appearances.

On the nonfiction front, Rachel Louise Snyder’s “No Visible Bruises,” an examination of the domestic violence epidemic, reveals the broader societal context for the phenomenon. The compassionately-reported book is a vital resource to readers looking to understand a pervasive problem.

Also recommended is Leo Damrosch’s “The Club,” about the boisterous meetings of such English luminaries as writer Samuel Johnson, historian Edward Gibbon and economist Adam Smith. Damrosch brings these figures to vivid (sometimes raucous) life.

Adam Higginbotham’s “Midnight in Chernobyl” is a riveting companion piece for Craig Mazin’s Emmy-feted HBO miniseries about the 1986 Ukrainian nuclear disaster. The event has new resonance given today’s headlines, as does Patrick Radden Keefe’s “Say Nothing,” which revisits a 1972 murder in Northern Ireland — an area still dealing with the fallout of the Troubles.

The Times list allowed itself the rare work of science fiction with Ted Chiang’s story time travel story collection, “Exhalation,” blurbed by President Barack Obama.

A number of books on the list have been nominated for — or already received — high profile awards. Sarah M. Broom’s memoir, “The Yellow House,” won a National Book Award for nonfiction earlier this week, while Julia Philips’s debut “Disappearing Earth,” about the disappearance of two girls from a far-flung Russian peninsula, was a finalist for the fiction category.

Booker Prize longlisters “Lost Children Archive” by Valeria Luiselli and “Night Boat to Tangier” by Kevin Barry also made The Times’s list.

PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture fellow. He can be reached at grisar@forward.com

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free under an Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives Creative Commons license as long as you follow our republishing guidelines, which require that you credit Foward and retain our pixel. See our full guidelines for more information.

To republish, copy the HTML, which includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline, and credit to Foward. Have questions? Please email us at help@forward.com.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.