The Books Of May 2019 Are Here To Please

Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images.
I confess: While watching Avengers: Endgame, part of my brain was still fixed on the story I left behind in Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, out May 14. Red, White & Royal Blue envisions a world in which the first son of the United States has a clandestine love affair with the Prince of England, and it's as fun as it sounds.
In fact, all the books of May disprove any lingering misconception that reading isn't fun. Since the spring (almost summer!) is upon us, it's time to break out the juicy sagas, the rom-coms, the "unputdownable" thrillers. But within these genre reads are also discussions about social issues and being a person in the world.
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These are the books that we're crazy about this May. It's a good year in reading.
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The Bride Test, Helen Hoang
May 7

Fans of The Kiss Quotient, rejoice: Helen Hoang is back with another delightful romance featuring a character on the neurodiverse spectrum. Like Stella, the protagonist of The Kiss Quotient, Khai Diep processes his emotions differently than the people around him, leading to a sense of isolation. His mother “solves” his dating problems for him by finding a bride in Vietnam. Enter Esme Tran, a girl of mixed-race descent from the slums of Ho Chi Minh City. Esme actually finds herself falling for Khai — but he can’t return her affection. Or so she thinks.
2 of 18
Rough Magic: Riding the World's Loneliest Horse Race, Lara Prior-Palmer
May 7

At age 19, an aimless Lara Prior-Palmer leaves her nanny job in Switzerland to enroll in the Mongo Derby, an endurance competition that involves riding 25 ponies through 1,000 kilometers of the Mongolian steppe. Prior-Palmer had no idea what to expect. Maybe it was that brazen openness that allowed her to become both the competition's youngest winner and the first woman to win.

Prior-Palmer may be a gifted equestrian, but also she’s a born writer. The memoir’s action is punctuated by idiosyncratic musings and self-reflection, often unflattering. The journey, told through Prior Palmer’s voice, would’ve been interesting even without the satisfaction of victory.
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With the Fire on High, Elizabeth Acevedo
May 7

Sometimes it feels like Emoni Santiago is balancing the world. Emoni, a high school senior, is raising her 2-year-old daughter, going to school, and working at the local burger joint. She wants to turn her innate skills in the kitchen into a career. The award-winning novel in prose, The Poet X, established Elizabeth Acevedo as one of the most stunning YA writers around – this book cements that reputation.
4 of 18
The Farm, Joanne Ramos
May 7

Far out in the Hudson Valley is a paradise for soon-to-be-mothers. They have access to all manner of amenities. But there's a twist: These women are actually carrying children for extremely wealthy families in exchange for significant payouts. What distinguishes the surrogates from the biological mothers, if not accidents of birth and circumstance? The Farm is a sharp takedown of the idea of American meritocracy.
5 of 18
The Flight Portfolio, Julie Orringer
May 7

Julie Oringer’s first novel The Invisible Bridge was a tragic Hungarian-Jewish epic set during WWII. Orringer returns to the fraught era, this time focusing on journalist and classicist Varian Fry’s extraordinary efforts to smuggle people out of Vichy, France. He especially focused on finding Jewish and politically active artists, writers, and intellectuals in danger, like painter Marc Chagall and writer Hannah Arendt.
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Light From Other Stars, Erika Swyler
May 7

Yes, time travel has been done before. But within that plot device is opportunity for constant reinvention. That brings us to Light From Other Stars, Erika Swyler’s memorable and moving follow-up to The Book of Speculation. In the present day, Nedda Pappas is on a ship headed for Mars. When she was 11, her astronaut father invented a time machine to prolong her childhood, but it has massive ramifications on the town of Easter, FL. Be patient with the intertwining storylines, occasionally filled with technical details. The emotional payoff is worth it.
7 of 18
Birthday, Meredith Russo
May 21

Born on the same day in Tennessee, Eric and Morgan's friendship was nearly fated. Since then, they’ve been inseparable. But there’s something about Morgan that Eric doesn’t know: Morgan feels like a girl on the inside. Switching back and forth in perspective, Birthday tracks as Morgan and Eric’s friendship deepens and possibly grows into something more. In addition to being exquisitely written, Birthday showcases the best of YA: Its ability to instill empathy in readers. Written by a trans author, Birthday gives an essential perspective into the trans experience.
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Red, White & Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston
May 14

Imagine a world in which the first son of the United States fell in love with the equally telegenic (and sweet AF) Prince of England. Now imagine you get to watch the secret romance unfold, in all its sexy glory. Clear out the weekend. After beginning this utterly delectable romance about two young men falling for each other, you will not want to do anything else.
9 of 18
Disappearing Earth, Julia Philipps
May 14

It begins with the disappearance of two young sisters on the remote Russian peninsula of Kamchatka, located between Japan and Alaska. From there, Phillips dips into the lives of others connected by the crime: A witness, a mother, an indigenous college student in a controlling relationship.

Phillips deftly handles her many characters’ trajectories; how their small actions may spur domino effects in others’ lives. What results is an unforgettable novel. Ambitious in scope, beautifully written, and a tremendously satisfying and unpredictable plot.
10 of 18
The Guest Book, Sarah Blake
May 14

For three generations, the Milton family have enjoyed their perch at the top of the American food chain. They have money. They have pedigree. And as Evie Milton discovers, they have a lot of skeletons in their closet. How did the Miltons make their money? What tragedies are they hiding? Blake constructed both a juicy family saga and an examination of the American elite.
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Strangers and Cousins, Leah Hagar Cohen
May 14

Does the idea of a novel bursting with quirky characters, long-buried family secrets, and a chaotic reunion make you want to read the whole novel through? Prepare for Strangers and Cousins, an intricately weaved story of a family who gathers in Rundle Junction for a wedding. The novel is old-fashioned in a refreshing way.
12 of 18
Orange World, Karen Russell
May 14

Karen Russell is the master of surprises. Just when you think you know the rules of her story's world, she twists. It’s kind of her thing by now. But knowing that you’ll be surprised doesn’t make the surprise any less thrilling. This collection of magical realism-infused stories will amaze, again and again.
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Home Remedies, Xuan Juliana Wang
May 14

Home Remedies is a collection of 12 short stories set in China and America concerned with the life’s major choices: The places we move, the people we love. Characters include an Olympic hopeful diver who develops feelings for his partner, kids in Beijing who shoot music videos for bands, and a qi-gong master. Each of Wang's stories is written in a distinct style — and thus is a wholly new experience.
14 of 18
The Confessions of Frannie Langton, Sara Collins
May 21

Everyone in early 19th century London has an opinion on Frannie Langton. Did she murder her employers, George and Marguerite Benham, as she's accused? Frannie can't remember anything from that night — but she can remember the years of hardship, beginning with her childhood on a Jamaican planation, that brought her there. Read this extraordinary historical novel before it's adapted into a show.
15 of 18
Necessary People, Anna Pitoniak
May 21

Take the simmering jealousy found in many female friendships, ratchet it up, and mix in some seriously Ripley-esque longings for upper-crust lifestyles, and you’ll land at Anna Pitoniak’s utterly enthralling novel. Necessary People is set in the competitive world of broadcast journalism. Violet is thriving a producer, while her best friend, Stella, lives off her parents’ riches and travels the world. When the reckless Stella finally lands in their shared apartment, she sets her eyes set on the spotlight – and she plans to excel. Necessary People is an escapist thriller laced with substantive social commentary. A no-guilt guilty pleasure.
16 of 18
The Scent Keeper, Erica Bauermeister
May 21

Emmeline grows up cut off from the world – but immersed in it more than the rest of us, too. Emmeline's father teaches her how to navigate their isolated island wholly by scent. Like the books Perfume by Patrick Suskind and Chocolat by Joanne Harris, The Scent Keeper captures sensual experiences in prose.
17 of 18
Ask Again, Yes, Mary Beth Keane
May 28

After a shocking tragedy that unfolds one summer night in New Jersey, the Gleeson and Stanhope families are forever linked, though they’d rather not be. The trouble – or, rather, the series of chance encounters that leads to trouble — begins when two NYPD cops move next door to one another in a quiet town close to New York. Ask Again, Yes achieves that delicious combination of deeply rendered character portraits, compelling plot, and underline-able prose. The novel will appeal to fans of Ann Patchett or Celeste Ng — or anyone who's ever had a neighbor.
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The Flatshare, Beth O’Leary
May 28

The Flatshare is the novel equivalent of a cup of hot tea. It’ll warm you up — and heal you if you’re hurting. After finally ending her tumultuous relationship with Justin, Tiffy moves into an unconventional living situation: She has dominion over a one-bedroom apartment during the nights and weekends, and a man named Leon has it during the day. As Tiffy works through the trauma of her emotionally abusive ex, she also becomes close to Leon through the shared Post-Its they leave around the house. Then, they meet accidentally. You can guess what comes next. The Flatshare is a great romance, but an equally good story about working through trauma.
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