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18 Goodreads Choice Awards Finalists We’ve Read & Loved in 2019

by  | November 26

Voting has ended for the 11th Annual Goodreads Choice Awards, but we’re pretty excited about the books that made the cut for the final round! What’s your pick for best read of the year? Are you a sucker for a good mystery, or do you go weak in the knees for passion-filled romance novels?

Here are 18 Goodreads Choice Awards finalists that we’d be thrilled to see come out on top when the winners are announced on December 10. If you haven’t already, we recommend checking out some of these seriously good reads of 2019.

Ask Again, Yes

Ask Again, Yes

by Mary Beth Keane

Best Fiction Finalist

As the daughter of cops myself, I was immediately drawn to this touching novel about two NYPD officers, Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, whose families end up living next door to each other. As the years pass and their children grow up together, the two families’ lives become inextricably linked, for better and for worse, in ways they never could have predicted. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that this book will take you on an emotional journey you won’t soon forget. If you enjoy shows like This Is Us and Parenthood, you need Ask Again, Yes in your life. 

—Heather Waters

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Queenie

Queenie

by Candice Carty-Williams

Best Fiction Finalist & Best Debut Novel Finalist

No one said adulting would be easy, but no one said it would be this hard. Following an unexpected breakup with her longtime boyfriend, twenty-five-year-old Queenie Jenkins struggles to cope, making oh-so relatable mistakes. We’ve all been there, which is why this heartening debut novel, with its realistic portrayal of mental illness and positive message about seeking help, will stick with you. 

—Kristin Zimmermann

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The Testaments

The Testaments

by Margaret Atwood

Best Fiction Finalist

In the decades since Margaret Atwood wrote the incredibly poignant dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale, a lot has changed...and also a lot has not. It is this mirror of anxieties past and present through which the sequel, The Testaments, seems perfectly suited to continue the story. Taking place some fifteen years after Offred's removal from the Waterford household, but before the fall of Gilead, this new tale follows three different female narrators. Atwood has promised to give us a better look at Gilead, its inner workings and beliefs, that will likely remind readers around the globe of the chaining political tides of our own nations....

—Sara Roncero-Menendez

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My Sister, the Serial Killer

My Sister, the Serial Killer

by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Best Mystery/Thriller Finalist & Best Debut Novel Finalist

What a title, am I right? But beyond just the incredibly intriguing name is a story of two sisters, one a serial killer and the other, who is constantly called in to help with the cleanup. Ayoola’s habit of offing her current beau puts her sister Korede in a tough position: she loves and wants to protect her sister, but she’s also worried about where this road will lead the both of them…and how many more bodies will be involved. The plot thickens when Ayoola’s next victim appears to be a doctor Korede is in love with, and how this gorgeously written book ends will keep you on the edge of your seat.

—Sara Roncero-Menendez

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The Turn of the Key

The Turn of the Key

by Ruth Ware

Best Mystery/Thriller Finalist

In this modern reimagining of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, a woman, Rowan, takes a job at an isolated Scottish home as a nanny for three children. The house, which is decked out with the latest in-home technology, seems like an idyllic place to live...until things start going haywire. Sinister children or a ghost in the machine? Rowan must navigate her new role the best she can. That is, until a child winds up dead. A truly chilling story, this is absolutely my favorite Ruth Ware to date. Completely told by her in a letter to her lawyer, this unique framing device forces the reader to question Rowan’s story until its truly gutting conclusion. 

—Amy Cardoza

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The Savior

The Savior

by J.R. Ward

Best Romance Finalist

An insane and sexy vampire named Murhder on a revenge mission? Already I’m intrigued. Anyone who knows me knows that I really do love a good vampire story, and it’s even better when the story happens to be chock-full of sexy vampires. (Yeah, I get it: vampires are supposed to be scary, but this is fantasy, and I’d rather they were both.) Anyway, on his quest for vengeance Murhder meets Sarah, a biomedical scientist who recently lost her fiancé and discovers that he was not the man she thought he was. Sarah and Murhder’s quests for truth and redemption lead them to each other. This book is all about love, brotherhood, and forgiveness. While Murhder may be a crazy vampire, he and Sarah share some very sweet moments. 

—Maddie Ehrenreich

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The Unhoneymooners

The Unhoneymooners

by Christina Lauren

Best Romance Finalist

Have you ever been on a fabulous vacation with someone you can’t stand? Sometimes life has a strange way of putting people together, which is exactly what happens to Olive and Ethan. Olive’s sister, Ami, gets married, a process less bearable thanks to the presence of Ethan, the best man and the target of Olive’s hatred. When the whole wedding party and the wedding guests gets food poisoning, they both get the opportunity for a free vacation in gorgeous Maui…as long as they pretend to be the newlyweds. However, in true romance-novel fashion, when our unlikely duo makes it to their island paradise, their ire turns to love. On top of the ultimate fantasy of getting a dream vacation to Hawaii, the quick banter and plot twists make reading this book a trip all on its own. 

—Sara Roncero-Menendez

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Verity

Verity

by Colleen Hoover

Best Romance Finalist

Verity is not the kind of book you would expect to have been penned by Colleen Hoover. She definitely took a dark turn with this book, but I’m here for it! Verity Crawford is a bestselling author, but after a terrible accident she is no longer able to finish her successful series. Her husband, Jeremy, and her publisher decide to hire another writer to complete the series. That’s where Lowen Ashleigh comes into the picture…. Lowen is a writer who is struggling financially when the opportunity to finish the Noble Virtues series falls into her lap. She heads to the Crawford home to review Verity’s notes for the previous titles in the series so that she can start writing the next book. While digging through Verity’s office she comes across a manuscript of what appears to be Verity’s autobiography. Lowen can’t resist reading the manuscript, thinking it could help with the writing of the new novel, but she soon discovers the shocking secrets that the Crawfords may never want revealed to the world!

—Saimah H.

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Red, White & Royal Blue

Red, White & Royal Blue

by Casey McQuiston

Best Romance Finalist & Best Debut Novel Finalist

If enemies-to-lovers romances light your fire, then you can be sure Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue will keep you nice and toasty. Alex Claremont-Diaz, the son of the first female president of the United States, can usually charm anyone in his path, so it’s always stuck in his craw that Henry, the Prince of Wales, seemed to dislike him instantly. When an argument between the two escalates into a PR nightmare for both countries, Alex and Henry find themselves forced to play best friends for the cameras. Only then does Alex begin to comprehend that he may have completely misread Henry’s behavior toward him--and his own feelings for the handsome prince…

—Heather Waters

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This Is How You Lose the Time War

This Is How You Lose the Time War

by Amal El-Mohtar

Best Science Fiction Finalist

Falling in love in the middle of a war is usually a bad idea, but it's an even worse one to fall in love with someone on the other side of the conflict. But that's exactly what happens in This is How You Lose the Time War when one agent finds a letter from the other, and she reads it instead of burning it. The main characters, called Red and Blue, trade correspondence layered with jabs and barbs, which slowly morphs into genuine feeling for each other. Fighting across space and time, the two women find themselves in a tricky situation, and though the novel is short, it demands to be read over and over. 

—Sara Roncero-Menendez

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The Deep

The Deep

by Rivers Solomon

Best Science Fiction Finalist

The Deep is a powerful, moving story that uses fantasy to weave a deep story about humanity. Following Yetu and her aquatic people, who are descendants of creatures born when pregnant slave women were thrown from slave ships, this novel contends with memory, history, and pain unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Based on a song created by Clipping, and written by the incredible Rivers Solomon, this one you have to read!

—Cara Nesi

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The Institute

The Institute

by Stephen King

Best Horror Finalist

Like It, this one stars a bunch of badass kids, but this time they come equipped with superpowers like telekinesis and telepathy. They get abducted from their homes and sent to a place called The Institute. Here, they are surrounded by other kids who have similar powers to themselves. They’re troubled with trying to find a way out, while the staff of The Institute is trying to extract their powers and keep them from ever leaving. Trying to escape sounds great and all, but no one has ever done so… 

—Nick R.

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The Twisted Ones

The Twisted Ones

by T. Kingfisher

Best Horror Finalist

Oh, boy! It’s about to get spooky. If anyone knows anything about me, it should be no surprise that I’m excited about this gem of a folk horror book. Loosely based on the classic horror story The White People, this is a refreshing and creepy combination of folklore and Southern gothic literature. The Twisted Ones follows Mouse, along with her lovable dog, Bongo, as she ventures to rural North Carolina to clean out her deceased pack-rat grandmother’s home. While there, Mouse stumbles upon her step-grandfather’s journal, which seems to be filled with the ramblings of a madman. That is, until Mouse actually starts to see some of the things her grandfather described. This is a page-turning mystery of madness and folklore sure to engross you from start to end. 

—Maddie Ehrenreich

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The Secrets We Kept

The Secrets We Kept

by Lara Prescott

Best Debut Novel Finalist

In The Secrets We Kept, two secretaries (a term of the time) are pulled from their post and into an assignment working for the CIA. Inspired by a true story, this book follows Sally and Irina as they attempt to smuggle the manuscript of Doctor Zhivago (a sweeping love story) out of the USSR, where no one would publish it at the height of the Cold War. The Secrets We Kept centers on women empowered to make their mark on the world. 

—Nicole Sam

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How We Fight for Our Lives

How We Fight for Our Lives

by Saeed Jones

Best Memoir & Autobiography Finalist

Saeed Jones tells his story of growing up black and gay in the South while fighting to carve out a place for himself in the world. He takes us through his coming of age in the 1990s and 2000s, creating a narrative that is both heart-wrenching and completely relevant to our present-day social issues, from racism to LGBT rights. I rooted for Saeed to succeed. I cried when he explained that as a gay, black teenager he assumed he would die young. I couldn’t stop reading this memoir, and now that I’ve finished it, I want to make sure as many people read this book as possible, because it is not only stunning, powerful, and haunting: it’s an essential addition to our country’s narrative. 

—Erin Madison

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On the Come Up

On the Come Up

by Angie Thomas

Best Young Adult Fiction Finalist

Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give was one of my favorite reads last year. It topped many ‘Best of’ lists and was adapted into an incredibly heart-wrenching movie! On the Come Up is the highly anticipated sophomore novel from this talented writer. The story features another badass young woman, sixteen-year-old Bri, who wants to become one of the greatest rappers of all time. Her father, who died before his big break, was an underground hip-hop legend and she aspires to follow in his footsteps. Bri channels her emotions into her first song, which goes viral. She soon finds herself at the center of a media maelstrom, but the attention she is getting isn’t what she intended to happen. 

—Saimah H.

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Five Feet Apart (Media Tie-In)

Five Feet Apart (Media Tie-In)

by Rachael Lippincott

Best Young Adult Fiction Finalist

Five Feet Apart shares the story of two teenagers who are living with cystic fibrosis (CF). Their condition weakens their immune system, making even fighting a common cold seem like they are tackling pneumonia. Stella has always been very regimented with her treatments and following the rules. When Stella and Will cross paths they want to throw all the rules out the window. Will shows Stella what she should be fighting for…. This is a heartfelt story of young love and overcoming the curveballs that life throws our way. 

—Saimah H.

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The Wicked King

The Wicked King

by Holly Black

Best Young Adult Fantasy Finalist

Holly Black has become an auto-buy for me, and The Wicked King is one of my favorite books of 2019. If you’re new to this trilogy, start with the first installment, The Cruel Prince, which introduces the mortal Jude, who’s raised in the High Court of Faerie and wants nothing more than to prove she’s as worthy of a role in the Court as anyone else—even her longtime tormentor, the wicked Prince Cardan, youngest son of the High King. Once you reach book 2, The Wicked King, you’ll understand what I mean when I say that this is a series that fantasy romance readers cannot miss. 

—Heather Waters

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