It’s that time of year: there’s clouds and rain, and now I’ve got “Books of the Decade” lists all over my shoes. But are we really gonna do 2019 like that? No, we are not. We’re doing a 2019 books list like usual: short, spicy, and summing up the favorite books our staff read this year. SUZETTE SMITH

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The Cursed Hermit by Kris Bertin and Alexander Forbes (Conundrum Press)

The first Hobtown Mystery book, The Case of the Missing Men, appeared on many “Best of 2017” lists as an unexpected hit. Who were this powerhouse duo—author Kris Bertin and illustrator Alexander Forbes—from Nova Scotia? They just rolled up and dropped readers into the densely-written, lushly-illustrated investigations of the Hobtown Junior Detective Club like: Oh hey, do you like mystery-solving teens? How about secretive small towns? Bertin and Forbes play their influences deftly, incorporating them into a work that feels wholly original. I eagerly anticipated this year’s sequel. Where Missing Men largely revolved around the unflappable Dana Nance and Sam Finch (clearly riffs on Nancy Drew and Johnny Quest), Cursed Hermit fills out Hobtown even further by following the team’s creepy psychic Pauline Larmier to a prestigious (AND SINISTER) private school. SUZETTE SMITH


I Can Cook Vegan by Isa Chandra Moskowitz (Abrams Books)

In the early aughts—when Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Post Punk Kitchen message boards cooked and sizzled the internet—veganism was still a post-punk thing to do, and nutritional yeast had barely entered the kitchen. But now that “tofu is now the other white meat,” Moskowitz’s I Can Cook Vegan is a post-post-vegan adventure focused on the cooking challenges of the home cook. (You’ll get to know magic ingredients like nori and kala namak, before going off the page with beet Reubens, beefy tempeh, and chickpea soup.) With over 125 ways to prepare vegetables and proteins, I Can Cook Vegan is making my life easy and deeply satisfying. Harkening to those zinester days of yore, big bold illustrations by Lucy Sherston divide the sections while full-page food photography by Vanessa Rees and Joshua Foo accompany each recipe. I Can Cook Vegan gives me hope I will never have to eat another Impossible Burger. KATHLEEN MARIE


Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino (Random House)

Even before I knew I would be called upon to write about Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror, I still found myself impulsively underling multiple sections of the book. Like in the opening essay, “The I in Internet,” where Tolentino perfectly describes the wheel-spinning, self-serving online rant so common in our era: “The internet was dramatically increasing our ability to know about things, while our ability to change things stayed the same, or possibly shrank right in front of us. I had started to feel that the internet would only ever induce this cycle of heartbreak and hardening—a hyper-engagement that would make less sense every day.”

Beyond that barn burner of an opener, Tolentino’s essay collection varies in topic and impact, with the most effective pieces focusing on millennial scammers and the parallels between drugs, music, and religion. Tolentino’s writerly yet accessible prose lends itself well to the format, and I can imagine myself returning to Trick Mirror in 20 or 60 years and thinking, “Yep, that sure is what it was like!” For better or for (mostly) worse, this book gets to the heart of what it means to be a human in 2019. BLAIR STENVICK


The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells (Tim Duggan Books)

David Wallace-Wells’ brutally forthright examination of the climate crisis is full of fun facts that’ll give any rational person insomnia: That in 2019, 10,000 people died every day from air pollution. Or that by 2050, Earth’s oceans will contain more plastic than fish. Thankfully, the strength of Wallace-Wells’ lies not in its dour accounting of how bad things are and how much worse they’ll get, but rather in its zoomed-out view of the titanic task that lies before us if we want to preserve our species and planet in forms that’re even remotely recognizable. (While Wallace-Wells points to the need for a “global mobilization at the scale of World War II,” as we head into 2020, even the most ambitious plans of our most scientifically literate presidential candidates are laughably inadequate.) Rather than wasting time patting readers on the back for well-intentioned but meaningless lifestyle choices (“While plastics have a carbon footprint,” he writes, “plastic pollution is simply not a global warming problem—and yet it has slid into the center of our vision, at least briefly, the ban on plastic straws occluding, if only for a moment, the much bigger and much broader climate threat”), Wallace-Wells forces us to grapple with the true enormity and terror of the science. Considering one’s annihilation generally leads to denial, distraction, and hangovers, but The Uninhabitable Earth sets us up for the next step: Pushing for immediate, worldwide, and systemic change—the only thing that might save some of us. ERIK HENRIKSEN

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This Woman’s Work by Julie Delporte (Drawn & Quarterly)

French-Canadian cartoonist Julie Delporte began writing This Woman’s Work as a research project on Tove Jansson—Finnish creator of the world-beloved Moomin books and one of history’s few happy, accomplished artists. Over Delporte’s travels, the work morphed into a longform illustrated essay, unwinding her thoughts on the conflicts of modern womanhood, love, and creative freedom.

What still stands out about This Woman’s Work is the way Delaporte's colorful illustrations of Brussels, cabbages, and nude bodies provide her cover to explore extremely unpopular topics. She's terrified motherhood will destroy her artistic practice, and she often wishes she weren't a woman. She wonders if she might be able to outgrow heterosexuality and escape the expectation of constant adversity and inevitable violence that sometimes accompanies loving men. Delaporte's boldness in putting these ideas on the page gives hope that, though she may have a hard time finding living role models right now, she leaves some useful advice to the generations of women artists that will follow. SUZETTE SMITH

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