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Best of 2019: the 15 best books we read this year

Over the four years I’ve been writing these “best books of the year” lists as Vox’s book critic, I’ve realized the lists aren’t really about what the publishing landscape looks like in a given year. They’re about which tiny slice of the 2 million books published every year I’ve chosen to give my attention to, and which tiny slice I’ve chosen to point your attention to as well.

So please don’t take the following list as a definitive or exhaustive record of all the books that came out in 2019 that are worthy of your time. Instead, here are 16 books from the year’s 2 million that I am glad I gave my attention to: books that made me laugh or cry, that made me better understand the world or made the world feel like a nicer place to live in. I hope they can do the same for you, too.

Fiction

Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Fleishman Is in Trouble takes the classic divorce novel and gently, devastatingly turns it inside out. It centers on Toby Fleishman, a middle-aged New York doctor who is in the process of getting a divorce from his wife, Rachel. True to the divorce novel genre, Fleishman spends a lot of time talking about how Rachel is a shrew and about all of the exciting kinky dating Toby’s doing now that he’s free of her — but unlike what you’d see in the classic divorce novel format, Toby is not the narrator of Fleishman Is in Trouble. A woman is telling his story. And as the novel goes on, women slowly begin to take center stage, and tell more and more of the story that Toby believed was his alone.

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