Haddon, Porter and McMillan: The Guardian’s Best books of 2019 so far

Mark Haddon and Natalie Haynes took on Greek myth, Queenie made us laugh and Toni Morrison returned with essays. Here are our highlights across fiction, poetry, non-fiction and children’s books.

The Porpoise by Mark Haddon

Mark Haddon
 Mark Haddon. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

In this ode to the power of storytelling, Haddon weaves together multiple strands to take on Shakespeare’s Pericles, which sees an incestuous king challenged by an adventuring hero, from behind the walls of today’s European super-rich to the grime of Jacobean London.

What we said: A helix, a mirrorball, a literary box of tricks … take your pick: this is a full-spectrum pleasure, mixing metafictional razzmatazz with pulse-racing action and a prose style to die for. I’ll be staggered if it’s not spoken of whenever prizes are mentioned this year.
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Lanny by Max Porter

Set around the disappearance of a small boy after he summons a strange presence to his commuter village, Porter’s second novel experiments with voices and typography to tap into the strangeness of English folklore.

What we said: Lanny is simultaneously a fable, a collage, a dramatic chorus, a joyously stirred cauldron of words, and remarkable for its simultaneous spareness and extravagance. Porter takes risks – and one couldn’t ask him to rein in a strangeness that is so often triumphant.

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playtime by Andrew McMillan

The young gay poet’s brilliantly uncensored voice is back for a second collection to follow up Physical – now taking on the most disturbing aspects of adolescence.

What we said: The overall sense is of an unobstructed exploration of an important subject. McMillan is writing not only see-through but see-beyond poetry.
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