The best international fiction books of 2019

Every year our staff vote for their favourite books, albums, films and TV shows of the past 12 months. Here are our top 10 international fiction books of the year, voted for by Readings' staff, and displayed in no particular order.

(You can find all our best picks for books, music & DVDs of 2019 here.)


Lanny by Max Porter

So many of us at Readings fell head over heels for Max Porter’s very special second novel, Lanny, early in the year. This beautifully rendered literary work is brimming with ideas and mystery and myth, centring on characters that are so alive on the page that they remain in the reader’s imagination. An extraordinary reading experience.


The Eighth Life (For Brilka) by Nino Haratischvili (translated by Ruth Martin & Charlotte Collins)

Epic in every sense, this nine hundred-plus page novel is a multi-generational, sprawling narrative that takes readers on an immersive journey through the histories of Georgia and Russia across the twentieth century. Surprisingly addictive and incredibly readable, this all-consuming book is a reminder of the fulfillment to be found in the act of reading.


Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

This debut novel is an addictive comedy of manners. When recent divorcé Toby Fleishman finds his newly single life in New York rudely interrupted by the mysterious disappearance of his ex-wife, his recently acquired freedoms go out the window as author Taffy Brodesser-Akner mercilessly dissects relationship norms.


The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

This short but devastating novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning Colson Whitehead is based on the history of a real ‘reform’ school in 1960s Florida, where the systematic abuse of its African American students is masked by the school’s claims to provide moral training. Exposing the institutionalised mechanisms of racism, this book is timely and crucial.


Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane

This lovely novel is a reflection on friendship that defies sentimentality. Finding herself adrift at mid-life, May decides to reconnect with old acquaintances. Meditating on loneliness, the meaning of friendship in our age of connectivity, and the power of simply being present in the lives of others, this is a slyly moving book that feels like real life.


Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing is an exquisite character study and the story of an unusual childhood. Kya lives an isolated life, growing up in the 1950s and 60s, and eking out her survival in a shack on the edge of civilisation. She is an outsider who finds her way in nature, and her story of segregation can be read as a metaphor for our times.


On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Ocean Vuong is an acclaimed poet, and has written a show-stopping debut novel. Written as a letter from a son to his mother, this book pays homage to Vuong’s family history, and is at heart a coming-of-age story that explores masculinity and cultural identity. The sheer beauty of the author’s prose shines.


The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

When a woman loses her close friend unexpectedly, she discovers he has left her in charge of his dog, a Great Dane. And so unfolds Sigrid Nunez’s elegant story about grieving and friendship (human–human and human–canine), told with humour and an eye for the absurd. This book is a gift for readers and writers alike, with so much to delight the literary-minded.


The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy

A perennial favourite author of Readings staff, Deborah Levy has delighted us again with this novel of ideas. A consummate stylist, Levy tells the story of Saul Adler, who is hit by a car crossing Abbey Road twice. As time and reflection become fluid across these accounts, Levy masterfully interrogates notions of history, autobiography, and the veracity of storytelling.


The Topeka School by Ben Lerner

The Topeka School is so many things: a family saga; a psychodrama; a campus novel; an exploration of toxic masculinity; a reflection on parenthood; a tale of competitive debating; an experiment in form. But the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A truly innovative work of fiction by a writer of huge vision and technical brilliance.

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Max Porter

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