In this wtg guide for the best portable chargers & power banks for 2019, we show you the top products for boosting your mobile devices while out and about. Portable chargers (or power banks) are essential purchases for anyone who travels a lot or works on the go because it enables you to top up the batteries of your favorite devices while you’re away from a standard electrical outlet.
We provide you incredible portable charger options such as: best overall, best capacity, best budget, best for laptops, best for iphone, best for android, best warranty, and best versatility
Weight: 354g | Size: 16.6 x 5.8 x 2.2cm | Battery capacity: 20,100mAh | Number of ports: 2 | Included cables: Micro USB | Compatible with: iPhone X, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 7, iPhone 6s, iPad, Kindle Fire, Sony Xperia Z Sony Xperia Z, Sony Xperia Z2, Sony Xperia Z2, Google Nexus 5, Google Nexus 7, Google Nexus 10, Samsung S9, Samsung Note 8, 12-inch MacBook 2015
This fantastic device quite simply ticks all our most important boxes when it comes to choosing the best power bank. Long and slim, the Anker PowerCore 20100 power bank comes with two 2.4 Amp ports so you can charge two devices at once. It has a huge (20,100mAh) capacity, which means you can charge everything a few times during one trip; the iPhone 8, iPhone 7 and iPhone 6 around six times, the Samsung Galaxy S9, S8, S7, S6 four times. But perhaps most importantly, it’s very fast when you’re charging devices that use PowerIQ or VoltageBoost. And all of this comes at a very reasonable price. Buying this portable charger is a “no-brainer”.
The best capacity power bank (and the one with the most ports, too)
Weight: 1.26kg | Size: 20.6 x 13.5 x 3.3cm | Battery capacity: 50,000Ah | Included cables: USB Cable | Number of ports: 6 | Compatible with: iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 7 iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, Samsung Galaxy S7, S6, S5, S4, S3, Note 4, Note 3, Note 2, Note 7, iPad Air, iPad Air2, iPad Mini, iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3, Galaxy S6, Edge Nexus, HTC One, Motorola Droid, GoPro CPAP, Lenovo, Samsung, Toshiba, Dell, Acer, Surface Pro 3 Surface Pro 4
With an astounding six ports, the MAXOAK 50,000mAh Power Bank is one of te best portable chargers if you’re on a trip with a bunch of colleagues who all need their phones and tablets charging at once (or you just have a lot of devices you need to charge yourself). And with a whopping 50,000mAh battery capacity, you’re certainly going to have enough power to do so, even multiple times. There are plenty of laptops that are compatible from Fujitsu, Sony, Acer, Asus, IBM, Dell, HP, NEC, Samsung and Lenovo.
Weight: 141g | Size: 8.9 x 4.2 x 2.2cm | Battery capacity: 6,700mAh | Included cables: Micro USB | Number of ports: 1 | Compatible with: iPhone 8, Plus, X, 10, 7, 7 Plus, 6, 6S, 6, 6S Plus, 5, 5S, SE, 5C, 4, 4S; iPad, iPad 2, iPad Mini, Air, Air 2 Pro; Samsung Galaxy S8, S7, S7 Edge, S6, S6 Edge, S5, 4 Note 8, 5, 4; Samsung Galaxy Tab 3, 4, 4; LG G6, G5, G4, G3, V10, Flex 2, Flex, Pro Lite; HTC 10 One A9, M9, M8; Huawei P8, 9, 10, Mate 9, 10; Lumia 435, 635, 550, 640, 640XL, 650, 650DualSIM, 735, 830, 950XL; Google Nexus 5, 5X, 6, 6P, 7, 9, 10; Google Pixel XL; Nokia 820, Nokia 900, Nokia 1020, Nokia 1520; Nintendo Switch
The RAVPower Luster portable charger may be super-cheap, but it still offers a perfectly decent capacity of 6,700mAh, which is certainly enough to power up your smartphone from zero to 100 per cent at least once, and probably twice. This power bank is fairly light, will fit in most pockets nicely, and is compatible with a wide range of devices. In short, it’s a great choice for an evening or a weekend away in which you don’t expect to be using your devices mega-intensively. Also, if you find it difficult to find a small black device amongst all your other small, black devices, then this colorful portable charger has the benefit of being easy to spot.
Weight: 670g | Size: 6.7 x 3.4 x 1.2 inches | Battery capacity: 30,000mAh | Included cables: Micro USB | Number of ports: 1 | Compatible with: iPhone 8, Plus, X, 10, 7, 7 Plus, 6, 6S, 6, 6S Plus, 5, 5S, SE, 5C, 4, 4S; iPad, iPad 2, iPad Mini, Air, Air 2 Pro; Samsung Galaxy S8, S7, S7 Edge, S6, S6 Edge, S5, 4 Note 8, 5, 4; Samsung Galaxy Tab 3, 4, 4; LG G6, G5, G4, G3, V10, Flex 2, Flex, Pro Lite; HTC 10 One A9, M9, M8; Huawei P8, 9, 10, Mate 9, 10; Lumia 435, 635, 550, 640, 640XL, 650, 650DualSIM, 735, 830, 950XL; Google Nexus 5, 5X, 6, 6P, 7, 9, 10; Google Pixel XL; Nokia 820, Nokia 900, Nokia 1020, Nokia 1520; Nintendo Switch
The iMuto Ultra High Capacity portable charger is one of the highest capacity compact chargers on the market. Its huge 30,000mAh capacity means it can charge an average smartphone over six times without needing to be plugged in! It’s also got enough power to charge up compatible MacBooks and laptops, and along with the very reasonable price it makes it one of the best power banks for designers and creatives.
Weight: 585g | Size: 6.5 x 6.5 x 14.5cm | Battery capacity: 20,100mAh | Included cables: 2 Micro USB cables (20cm and 60cm) | Number of ports: 2 | Compatible with: Most Macbooks; Surface Pro 4, Surface Pro 3, Dell XPS 13-inch; most iPhones and iPads; Samsung Galaxy S8, S7, S7 Edge, S6, S6 Edge S 5/4 note 8/5/4; Samsung Galaxy Tab 3/4/4; LG G6 G5 G4 G3, V10, Flex 2, Flex/Pro Lite, HTC 10 One A9, M9 M8; HUAWEI P8, 9, 10, Mate 9, 10; Lumia 435 635 550 640, 640XL 650, 650DualSIM 735 830 950XL; Google Nexus 5, 5X 6, 6P, 7, 9, 10; Google pixel XL; Nokia 820, Nokia 900, Nokia 1020, Nokia 1520; Nintendo Switch
RAVPower doesn’t just do cheap and cheerful power banks. This higher-end device of theirs – the RAVPower Universal Power Bank Travel Charger – is the ideal choice if you love the idea of being able to charge your MacBook or Surface Pro as well as your smartphone. In fact, with both a Type-C (5V/3A) port and iSmart USB (5V/2.4A) port, you’ll be able to charge both at the same time, as there’s plenty of battery capacity (20,100mAh). Alternatively, if you just want to charge one device you can do so over and over again: an iPhone 7 around five times, a Galaxy S7 four times, or the 12-in MacBook once, for example.
Weight: 277g | Size: 8 x 1.7 x 15.5 cm | Battery capacity: 12,000mAh | Included cables: Integrated Lightning cable | Number of ports: 2 | Compatible with: Apple devices, most USB devices and wearables
If you mainly want a power bank to keep your iPhone and/or iPad juiced up, then the Mophie Powerstation Plus XL is the best device on the market for you. That’s mainly because it includes an dual-purpose charging cable with a Lightning adapter that charges your Apple devices. Handily, the adapter can easily be removed if you want to switch it to micro USB, to charge an Android phone, for example. The generous 12,000mAh battery capacity gives you more than four additional charges on your smartphone, or one extra charge for your tablet, while a second USB port lets you charge two devices at the same time. If you often find your Apple devices dying when you’re away from home, and you’re impatient to get them topped up again quickly, the speed and flexibility this power bank will facilitate your day.
Weight: 181g | Size: 9.2 x 6 x 2.2cm | Battery capacity: 10,000Ah | Included cables: 60cm Micro-USB Cable | Number of ports: 1 | Compatible with: iPhone X, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 7, iPhone 6s, iPad; Sony Xperia Z Sony Xperia Z, Sony Xperia Z2 Sony Xperia Z2; Google Nexus 5, Google Nexus 7, Google Nexus 10; Samsung S9, Samsung Note 8; Kindle Fire
If you’re looking for a small and light device that can charge your smartphone a couple of times during your trip away, this could be your perfect sweet spot between size and ability. Smaller than a deck of cards, this power bank is easy to carry around with you, but still packs a lot of punch and speed.
Weight: 387g | Size: 150 x 83 x 21mm | Battery capacity: 20,000mAh | Included cables: Micro-USB cable | Number of ports: 2 | Compatible with: iPhone X, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 7, iPhone 6s, Samsung S9, Samsung Note 8, iPad and others
The AUKEY Power Bank 20,000mAh is an impressive bit of kit. With dual USB ports so you can charge two devices at the same time, the battery capacity is high, and it’s cleverly tuned to support healthy battery life into the bargain. But the thing that most jumps out at us is the 24-month warranty. If you’re planning to use your power bank throughout the next two years, it may well be an important factor in your buying decision.
Weight: 499g | Size: 13 x 3 x 13cm | Battery capacity: 20,100mAh | Included cables: USB-C charging cable | Number of ports: 4 (2 USB & 2 USC) | Compatible with: Latest USB-C MacBook Pros, iPhone 8/X, Nintendo Switch, USB-C phones, laptops
The Omni 20 USB-C Portable Power Bank is quite simply the Rolls Royce of power bank solutions. This high-powered device with four ports is both a laptop charger and a USB hub, so you can potentially charge two laptops and two smart devices simultaneously. There are two USB ports and two USC ports, the latter offering an individual max output of 60W and a total output of 100W. Plugged in by itself, the pack fully charges in just under three hours. Or you can even recharge the Omni 20 while your devices are still charging, which saves messing about with cables when you get to your hotel room. This power bank pays for itself in terms of the extra work you get completed.
If you’re looking for an easily-portable power pack with decent battery life, the Poweradd Pilot 4GS is an excellent choice. The slimline design means you can comfortably carry it around with you in case you need an emergency top-up, and the 12,000mAh battery will give you enough juice to charge up your smartphone or tablet for a good few extra hours. It features a high output that allows you to charge two devices at once, and if you’re charging just the one device, the high output cuts the time it takes to replenish the battery. It’s particularly good for people with Apple products, as it comes with an iPhone charging cable, but it can also charge mobile devices from other brands via USB.
Here at wtg we appreciate the concept of looking good for the purpose of self confidence and presentableness. Growing and maintaining a beard is an ongoing task and we’ve provided the best beard products for 2019 to facilitate the process.
We’ve hand-picked these essential beard grooming tools, and we believe you need to give them a try.
Whether you’re looking to buy some beard oil, a beard brush, shampoo, balm, or maybe a trimmer or scissors, wtg has got you covered.
If you only want to use one thing for your beard, get beard oil. The most common beard complaints are dryness and itchiness, and beard oil addresses both by conditioning beard hair and moisturizing the skin underneath. We actually discovered this one not too long ago, but we love it and can’t stop using it. It’s light and absorbs well — it also softens the hair and leaves a nice shine while scenting your face with a subtle citrus-floral fragrance. The pump dispenser makes things easier than the dropper you’ll find with most beard oils.
We also have this other oil, similar in quality to Jack Black (despite the labeling), and overall simply terrific. It’s a bit thicker in consistency, which some people might prefer, and its scent is more in the spicy-woodsy family. If you’re concerned about synthetics and preservatives, no need to worry, it’s a blend of different organic oils, avocado, pumpkin seed, sweet almond, and argan.
Of all the beard products we bought, in some ways this may be our favorite. It might not seem necessary to some, but brushing every day helps exfoliate the skin, and “train” the hairs to grow in a more uniform direction. (Redditors can tell you how important it is.) The German-made ZilberHaar has bristles made of boar’s hair, but if that creeps you out, other companies make brushes with synthetic bristles. For us, boar’s hair is the traditional — and best — choice. Note that it comes in two bristle strengths: “firm” and “soft.” We’d recommend the soft for short beards and the firm for longer beards. This would make a great gift for anyone with a beard.
Most face washes and hair shampoos are designed to eliminate oil, but beards need some oil — without it, they get particularly dry and itchy. A good beard shampoo should clean your face without stripping it of all its essential oils. Consistently one of the best-reviewed by both Amazon reviewers (it has over 1,300 reviews) and beard enthusiasts on Reddit, this one is handmade in Tasmania. It has an earthy, slightly medicinal (in a good way) scent. Unlike beard shampoos that come in liquid form, this one is safe for the Dopp kit, as it’s a small cubic soap bar.
While Professor Fuzzworthy is definitely the big name in beard shampoo bars, some may prefer Taconic Shave’s version. They’re both all-natural and really well made, but the Taconic just has a nice light woody scent and it lathers up nicely. Also, if you’re using a soap bar on your face, it’s inevitable that a little is going to get in your mouth. This might sound strange but the Taconic kind of tastes good? We don’t mind the taste, let’s just leave it at that.
Beard balm is basically a solid version of beard oil — they share many of the same ingredients, the main difference being that balms usually contain a small amount of wax to help shape and hold the hair. This balm, from the Honest Amish oil brand we mentioned earlier, came recommended on nearly every beard-enthusiast website and is actually the only one we enjoyed using, and also the only one we could find without wax. It feels more like a leave-in conditioner: more substantial than plain oil, but not overly “styled” either. If you have a short beard, you’re probably fine using this or some oil. If you have a long beard, you might prefer something with a little wax for styling. People also like this one a lot.
A beard trimmer comes in handy when you want to clean things up without getting rid of your beard completely. There may be a few particularly itchy days when you may want to shave the whole thing off, but a quick pass with the beard trimmer can buy you some time and relief and the beard can live another day. We recommend this one because it’s affordable (for what it provides), portable, and versatile.
These U.K.-made grooming scissors are good for catching stray hairs or doing some precise grooming, but also just look cool. You can’t go wrong with these if you prefer to trim your beard with scissors.
At wtg we realize that 2019 has been a turbulent year, filled with real life events that have been perhaps more unbelievable than fiction. For the characters in many of the best novels and short-story collections of the year so far, the search to understand oneself is fraught. Teenagers facing the turbulence of first love wrestle with their places in the world as they mature into adults. Immigrants, families and even a spy grapple with what it means to be an American when faced with growing hardships. A mother struggles with her identity as a parent after losing her child. From veterans including Susan Choi and Amy Hempel to emerging voices like Namwali Serpell and Angie Kim, the authors of these stories ask their characters and readers alike to consider how they’ve become who they are.
Well written fiction can excite the imagination and can provide a “get away”. If you don’t currently have one of the following books, we encourage you to obtain one of your liking and consider it as an affordable investment towards stress relief and entertainment.
It’s hard to write about Pulitzer Prize finalist Susan Choi’s latest novel without spoiling its magic. Trust Exercise begins with Sarah and David, first-years at a performing arts high school, who are on the precipice of an angsty love affair. Their somewhat conventional journey twists when a minor character takes center stage, calling into question everything the reader has learned about the teens and their seemingly dramatic lives. The slow build of this mind-bending book is worth the wait as Choi challenges readers to consider the boundaries between fiction and reality.
The 15 stories in Sing to It demonstrate the masterful way in which celebrated short-fiction writer Amy Hempel can pivot between humor and sadness, often in fewer than two pages. From a volunteer at an animal shelter to a wife dealing with her husband’s affair, the characters that populate this collection are rendered in specific yet sparing terms. Hempel constructs quick and quiet narratives that probe the intersections of love and loneliness.
When a child goes missing in the mythical world of Black Leopard, Red Wolf, a mercenary named Tracker is hired to find him. The novel, the first in a promised trilogy, follows Tracker’s adventures as he passes through ancient cities inspired by African history and mythology looking for the boy. Man Booker Prize winner Marlon James, who described his latest book as an “African Game of Thrones,” shows off his impressive skill at blending mystery, magic and history in this thought-provoking epic.
In Angie Kim’s gripping debut, an experimental medical facility mysteriously explodes in a fire that kills an adult and a child. Although the plot of Miracle Creek is propelled by a murder trial following the incident, the book shines when the characters involved open up about what it’s like to make intense sacrifices for the people they love. From the immigrants who ran the facility to the single mother of the child who was killed, Kim makes a case for compassion that surpasses the suspense of her page-turner.
Nine characters narrate the events of Pulitzer Prize finalist Laila Lalami’s fourth novel, which follows an investigation after Driss, an elderly Moroccan immigrant, is suspiciously killed in a hit and run. From Driss’ daughter to the undocumented laborer who witnessed the crash, the narrators showcase the concerns and insecurities they feel toward their places in the California community where the mystery of Driss’ death looms large. Together, their voices create a vivid image of a fractured America.
What if the living could communicate with the dead? In her latest book, novelist and memoirist Yiyun Li imagines conversations between a mother and her son who recently took his own life. In pages that transcend time, Yi conveys in delicate, moving prose the ferocity with which a parent can love a child. Although a devastating read, Where Reasons End provides a sensitive and essential look at the complexities of grief.
A family pulled in different directions makes its way across the U.S. in Valeria Luiselli’s road-trip saga. The husband intends to drive to Apacheria, while his wife wants to investigate the status of her friend’s two undocumented daughters who were last seen at an immigration detention center on the border. As the family’s journey unravels, the couple’s children become aware of the cracks forming between their parents and worry what will happen to their unit. Politics, history and a familial crisis come together in Luiselli’s dynamic examination of immigration and equality.
Man Booker finalist Chigozie Obioma’s bold second novel is centered around Chinonso, a Nigerian poultry farmer, who is lovestruck after stopping a woman, Ndali, from jumping off a bridge. A chi, or guardian spirit, narrates Chinonso’s story as the young lover sacrifices everything to go to college in Cyprus, desperate to prove his worth to Ndali’s wealthy family. But when he makes it to Cyprus, Chinonso’s plans quickly fall apart. What ensues is a heartbreaking quest, inspired by The Odyssey, as Chinonso makes the long, trying trek home.
In Sally Rooney’s follow-up to Conversations with Friends, we’re introduced to Irish teens Marianne and Connell in terms of how they differ: he’s popular, but working class, and she’s a loner, but wealthy. They embark on an enthralling on-again, off-again relationship, rendered completely lifelike through Rooney’s tight language and attention to detail. Although the melodrama in the last quarter of the book undercuts the expertly crafted tension that precedes it, Normal People remains a deeply immersive rumination on social class, self-doubt and first love.
This multi-generational epic follows three families over four generations, beginning in a colonial settlement near the Zambezi River in 1904. The characters in The Old Drift interact in subtle and surprising ways, adding to a bigger narrative that tackles class, race and ancestry. Namwali Serpell’s debut can’t be placed in a single genre — it oscillates fluidly through sci-fi, historical and romantic fiction — and establishes Serpell as an exciting new voice in literature.
This spy thriller follows former FBI agent Marie Mitchell in the form of a letter she has written to her young twin sons. The novel travels in time as Marie tracks both her career in espionage during the Cold War and her upbringing in Queens in the 1960s to paint a vibrant portrait of a woman at odds with her identity. Lauren Wilkinson’s page-turner asks potent questions about politics, race and what it means to be an American.
Here at WTG we are long time fans of science fiction and fantasy, particularly because it can excite the imagination and bring you to other worlds that can provide a “get away”. If you don’t currently have one of the following books, we encourage you to obtain one of your liking and consider it as an affordable investment towards stress relief and entertainment.
It has been argued that we’re currently in the middle of a new Golden Age of SFF, and this publishing year has done nothing to convince us otherwise—assembling this list of the best science fiction and fantasy books of 2019 was difficult, not because we were stretching to fill it out, but because there are too many great books to fit in (which is why we’ve cheated and added another ten “bonus” books at the end—and even still, sacrifices were made).
This year has delivered us enough purely entertaining books to keep you buried in quality for a long time.
Charlie Jane Anders’ follow up to the Nebula Award-winning All the Birds in the Sky seems, at first glance, a complete departure from that fitfully whimsical, apocalyptic bildungsroman, but both novels share a powerful emotional through line, examining the inner lives and grand destinies of outsiders in societies in which they are never sure they truly belong. It leaves Earth behind entirely, delivering us to the hostile planet January, a tidally locked world split between the frozen wastes on its dark side and the searing eternal day of its light side. In the small sliver between these two extremes, the city of Xiosphant barely supports a dwindling human population. Sophie, who comes from an unremarkable family, willingly takes the blame for a petty crime committed by her fellow student, best friend, shining star Bianca, and is condemned to death via exile into the frigid darkness as an example of the cost of even a small act of rebellion. Sophie is saved by one of the strange animal life forms native to the planet, and discovers that the so-called “crocodiles” are no simple beasts, but an advanced race of telepaths whose existence is threatened by the corrosive presence of human settlers in their midst. Sophie’s ultimate fate parallels not just that of Bianca and her fellow citizens of Xiosphant, but all life on January, and the very future of humanity. It’s a richly compassionate, thoughtful work, packing powerful messages of anti-violence, political theory, and environmentalism alongside a story of growing up and growing into yourself that never strikes a false note.
The concluding volume of Arden’s acclaimed Winternight trilogy picks up right where The Girl in the Tower left off, with Moscow in ashes from Vasya’s inexpert use of a Firebird. Russia and the people Vasya love are still in danger, however, as Arden continues her secret history of a nation’s turmoils in parallel with the story of Vasya’s becoming. She stumbles forward in her troubled relationship with the winter-king Morozko, while the Grand Prince Dmitrii makes decisions leading them all inevitably towards a battle that could unite Russia—though the chaos demon Medved would prefer events unfold otherwise. Vasya is no longer the frightened girl of the earlier books, but neither has she perfected her abilities. Even still, she must embark on several dangerous magical quests in order to protect the people and the land she loves. Along the way, she meets new and fascinating chyerti, and all the threads of the two previous books weave together in an epic, truly satisfying ending.
The third book in Bancroft’s deeply compelling Books of Babel quartet more than delivers on the building promise of the first two. The Sphinx, having discovered the location of Senlin’s missing wife Marya, worries over a brewing revolution, and sends her new servant Senlin to the Ringdom of Pelphia to investigate. In Pelphia, Senlin is, per usual, caught up in local intrigue: specifically, the brutal, bloody arena where the enslaved hods fight as gladiators to amuse the crowds. Meanwhile, Voleta and Iren take on false identities in an attempt to get close to Marya, who has married Duke Wilhelm Horace Pell and become a celebrity isolated by fame. Edith, now captain of the Sphinx’s flagship, investigates happenings along the hod’s Black Trail, which stretches the height of the entire Tower, and hears whisperings of a figure known as the Hod King, whose identity drives this volume to its cliffhanger conclusion—as does the question of whether Senlin can stay focused on his mission, or if he’ll risk disobeying the Sphinx in order to finally reunite with Marya. Bancroft once again perfectly pairs beautiful prose with lively characters and an exploration of an utterly original fictional edifice. A classic in the making, it will set your expectations high for the concluding volume, expected to arrive in 2020.
After a decade spent exploring worlds of fantasy and steampunk, Elizabeth Bear launches a new series with a seriously epic space opera flavor. Halmey Dz is an engineer on a slightly sketchy salvage ship, part of a crew that stays just clear of the law in their quest to eke out a living. While exploring a derelict ship, Halmey is infected by something alien, and finds she has a whole new lever of perception that grants her understanding of the fundamental structure of the universe—which makes her an incredibly valuable prize for those with the will to exploit her abilities. Halmey is pursued by the government and a group of ruthless pirates, all of whom want to control her and her new power. She and her crewmates make a run for it—but the pursuit leads them into an even bigger mystery involving an alien ship trapped in a black hole at the center of the galaxy. And that’s just the beginning. The first book in the White Space saga may be Bear’s best science fiction novel yet, and that’s certainly saying something.
At the start of Blake Crouch’s latest mind-bending high-concept sci-fi thriller, New York City detective Barry Sutton begins to encounter people suffering from False Memory Syndrome—a condition where they “remember” lives they never lived, and suffer emotionally due to tragedies they never actually experienced. A year earlier, a brilliant neuroscientist named Helena Smith accepts funding from a mega-wealthy sponsor in order to create a device that can preserve memories to be re-experienced whenever desired—but it also allows people to literally enter those memories, changing everything. As the disorder spreads throughout the city, reality itself is threatened; who can say what is real when you can’t trust your own memories? As Harry connects with Helena and they realize her research is destabilizing the world, the two join forces to find a way to save the human race from this threat from within.
Ivy and Tabitha are sisters, estranged for years by the bitter divide between Tabitha’s magical abilities and Ivy’s complete lack of same. Tabitha went on to teach at the prestigious Osthorne Academy for Young Mages, while Ivy ekes out a living working as a private investigator. When a murder is committed at the Academy, Ivy’s desperate financial situation drives her to take the case despite her animosity toward her sister—and mages in general. At Osthorne, Ivy finds out that even magical academies have Mean Girls, Queen Bees, and popular kids—that is to say, no shortage of murder suspects. As she pretends to have magical powers in order to gain the trust and cooperation of the students and faculty, Ivy finds that to crack the case she’s going to have to face her own fears, her history with her sister, and pull off the most difficult trick of them all: forgiving herself. Regular B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog contributor Sarah Gailey delivers an accomplished debut novel, equal parts hardboiled magical noir and gripping psychological drama.
The Hugo-nominated author of the Craft Sequence fantasy series makes a stunning shift to sci-fi with this splashy, wildly imaginative, utterly strange, and truly intergalactic standalone novel, the anti-hero’s journey of Vivian Lao, a brilliant, morally conflicted young tech billionaire on the verge of world domination—or total destruction at the hands of her many enemies. When she fakes her death and flees to a server farm at the center of the worldwide digital cloud, intending to hack in and make her checkmate move, she unwittingly trips an alarm, endangers a dear friend, and encounters a powerful glowing figure who transports her into an unknown realm that might be a distant galaxy, the far future of her own, or something else entirely. Viv finds herself in a time and place she doesn’t recognized, a universe ruled by the terrifying, emerald-skinned Empress, whose access to a far more advanced Cloud allows her monitor everything, and destroy any civilization that advances to a point that might attract the attention of the Bleed, a truly alien entity that devours reality itself. Viv wasn’t built for terror and passivity, though, and quickly assembles a rag-tag group of heretics, criminals, ex-warlords, and nanobot outcasts, and dedicates herself to breaking the Empress’ hold on the universe. Like Guardians of the Galaxy on mescaline, it’s space opera like you’ve never imagined it.
This epic fantasy debut centers on the city of Guerdon, to where refugees flee from an epic ongoing war between insane gods and the sorcerers who once served them. This is where Carillon Thay, desperate thief and recent member of the Thieves’ Brotherhood, finds herself, alongside her friends Rat and Spar. Thay is dealing with the aftermath of a heist gone wrong, and must contend with Ravellers,the shape-shifting servants of the ancient Black Iron Gods which haven’t been seen in decades. As an apocalypse approaches Guerdon, the last place of safety in this violent world, these three thieves can only count on themselves—but it seems their fates may be strangely intertwined with the warring guilds and other powers that be in the city, and the network of ancient tunnels deep below its streets. Hanrahan brings his city to life in lyrical prose, even as the plot leaps from action sequence to breathless chase and back again.
In a universe where incredibly advanced AI are worshiped as gods and cyborg angels serve as their avatars, humanity’s last hope to break free lies with the space station The Pride of Jai, built entirely without gods’ help and powered by brilliant scientist Yasira Shien’s innovative reactor design. But when the reactor is powered up, disaster strikes—a singularity destroys the station and kills almost everyone on board. Yasira is brought before the gods and told that the disaster is part of a plot to warp reality itself, allowing for an invasion of terrifying monsters from outside our reality. The all-powerful AI believe the plot was engineered by Yasira’s own long-missing mentor Evianna Talirr, but as Yasira is transported to the edge of the galaxy to confront her former teacher, she finds herself questioning the divinity of the gods and the ruthless angels she has always obeyed without question. Hoffman’s debut is starkly original, and tinged with hints of horror fantasy—truly operatic stuff—but it truly impresses in its compassionate treatment of its neuro-atypical characters, hero and villain alike.
The latest novel from Hugo-winner Kameron Hurley is both her most trope-y and traditional, and as fiery and in-your-face as her incendiary last, The Stars Are Legion, which was itself a brutal reimagining of ideas of an all-female society and the worldship into a barely controlled attack on the systems that have exploited women’s bodies and identities for thousands of years. Her targets this time are corporations, unbridled capitalism, and the military industrial complex that supports them, and her tools are the stuff of classic SF adventures: time travel, advanced weaponry, and battle-hardened boots-on-the-ground grunts. Young recruit Dietz was born a non-citizen, forced to grow up without access to not just the wonders of a future world, but without access to the essentials: enough food, adequate medical care, a sense of security. Her only chance to beat the system is to sign up to fight for the corporate cause—a battle against Mars in which soldiers are transformed into light waves and zapped across space and directly into the line of fire. But no sooner than she has completed training, Dietz’s missions begin to go sideways, as her trips with the so-called Light Brigade seem to be sending her pinging back and forth on the timeline of a war that seems to promise humanity’s end. This is military science fiction, Kameron Hurley style—a story about the life of an infantry grunt and the corporate future of warfare, with shades of Robert Heinlein and Joe Haldeman, and a touch of the bizarre that could only come from the author of God’s War.
The first book in an epic fantasy trilogy from Booker Prize-winner Marlon James is as impressive as the author’s pedigree would suggest. The Dark Star trilogy has been likened to an “African Game of Thrones,” and the comparison is both apt and overly simplistic—James is doing far more than gluing familiar tropes onto African folklore. This is a deeply literary work, bordering at times on the poetic in its imagery, but it is also enormously fun, with imaginative world building and a plot that is both measured and propulsive. The Black Leopard is a mercenary able to shape-shift into a jungle cat, and the Red Wolf, also called Tracker, is a hunter of lost folk, with an incredible sense of smell that enables him to hone in on his quarry from vast distances. Sometimes with Leopard and sometimes alone, Tracker works his way across Africa in search of a kidnapped boy, moving through a beautiful, densely detailed world of violence, storytelling, dark magic, giants, and inhuman entities. Tracker’s mission is complicated by the complex and ever-shifting politics of the many tribes he encounters, and furthered along by a growing entourage of followers and allies, from a giant, to a sword-wielding academic, to a buffalo that understands (and sometimes obeys) human speech. It already feels like a classic, and it will be interesting to see how the fantasy connects with James’s literary audience, and vice versa.
Richard Kadrey takes a detour from his bestselling Sandman Slim series for a dark, gritty novel with shades of dystopian sci-fi and bizarre fantasy. In the aftermath of the Great War, Lower Proszawa is a city finally free to sink into endless hedonism and decadence. Largo Moorden has already been swallowed by the city—an addict, he works for a shadowy crime lord, navigating a world covered in mysterious “city dust,” inhabited by genetically engineered monsters, plagued by a ruthless disease known as The Drops, and crawling with artificially intelligent automata that are relentlessly replacing humans. Largo has a plan to get out of the slums and rub shoulders with the elites, but his ambitions run him smack into those of other forces, which share a much darker collective vision for the future of Lower Proszawa—and the world beyond. Even readers who might miss the more overt gallows humor of Kadrey’s other work will goggle at the scope of the imaginative world building on display here.
Fantasy master Guy Gavriel Kay returns to the fictional setting of the Sarantine Mosiac, drawn from the history of Renaissance Italy, as an elderly man named Danio tells his life story, one curiously stocked with royalty and high adventure, considering his low birth. Danio starts off his career as an assistant to a court official, and is in a position to take notice of a young woman brought in as a concubine for the city’s despotic ruler. He correctly deduces she’s an assassin in disguise, and he chooses not to expose her; she is Adria, the daughter of a duke who has chosen to serve her mercenary uncle Folco. Danio’s decision to let the assassination occur sets in motion forces that will propel him and Adria in unexpected directions and lead to world-changing events, with low-born Danio, unpredictably, ever at their center. Kay applies his skill at painting sweeping historical tapestries to the story of the lives of the sort normally lost to the ages, yet whose choices may nevertheless shape the destiny of nations.
Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice is one of the most daring, most-awarded science fiction novels ever written. Now, she throws herself into the fantasy side of the genre fray with equal ambition. Her first epic fantasy delivers the same experimentation with form and her sharp ideas that made her a space opera game-changer. The story is told in varying first- and second-person by a god called the Strength and Patience of the Hill, who is speaking to Eolo, a transgender warrior in service to a prince named Mawat, recently cheated out of his throne. The Strength and the Hill mingles its own complex, ancient history with the account of Eolo’s attempts to defend and protect the prince, and reveals the waning power of Eolo and Mawat’s patron god, the Raven, and the rising incursions of foreign gods who seek to take advantage of that weakness. This is dense, challenging, affecting fantasy storytelling at its finest.
Award-winner Karen Lord’s new standalone fantasy (her first novel in four years) opens with forensic therapist Dr. Miranda Ecouvo triumphant; a killer responsible for seven murders is behind bars thanks to her work. But a harrowing near-death experience soon thrusts her into a whole other reality, where she meets the near-immortal Chance and Trickster, brothers who reveal the difficult truth—the entity truly responsible for the murders is seeking immortality, and it’s not done killing. The brothers guide her through the labyrinths of this hidden world, assuring her the killer can still be stopped, and it’s up to her to do it. As reality, memory, and dreams converge, Miranda and the brothers fight to bring true justice to two worlds.
Martine’s ornate debut space opera constructs a fully realized world. The new ambassador from a small mining Station, Mahit Dzmare, arrives at the court of the ever-expanding Teixcalaanli Empire to find that the previous ambassador is dead. Very likely, she was murdered—though no one will admit that, or the fact that Dzmare is the next most likely victim. Aided by her expertise in the Teixcalaani language and an outdated—and possibly untrustworthy—memory implant from the prior ambassador, Dzmare must negotiate both her own survival and that of the Station in the face of an implacable empire. Meanwhile, the aging emperor seeks to become immortal by any means science can grant him, even as his army plots a coup. In the tradition of Ann Leckie and Iain M. Banks, this is bold, complex space opera with a political bent.
Seanan McGuire’s latest and longest work is also her best: a structurally complex, richly written, deeply imagined fantasy about the bonds that can unite two souls even across vast distances. One day, young Roger Middleton is struggling with his math homework when the voice of a girl named Dodger Cheswich pipes up in his head, giving him the answers. Roger and Dodger some discover that though they live on opposite coasts, they can communicate with one another, and develop a strange sort of friendship. What they don’t know is that they’re the end result of an experiment begun in the late 19th century by alchemist Asphodel Baker who dreamed of rewriting reality by embodies the forces of creation into living hosts, a plan she encoded in a series of children’s books. Her creation and eventual murderer, a man named James Reed, took up her work and engineered Roger and Dodger’s births as one half each of the Doctrine of Ethos, the force that holds existence together. As the twins mature, Reed seeks to control them and implement the final stage of Baker’s masterwork, but their connection has made them powerful, and difficult to control. With the rules of the game set, the children must awaken to their shared destiny and shape a reality that will ensure their survival, not to mention the continued existence of the universe.
Emma Newman’s fourth book set in the Planetfall universe is another inventive and emotionally wrenching affair. As a passenger onboard the spacefaring vessel Atlas 2, Dee was one of the few who witnessed the nuclear strike that killed millions on Earth. Angry and deeply traumatized, Dee seeks both to uncover who was responsible and to escape her suffering within an immersive game that applies real world physicality to a virtual setting. Invited to test a new build of the game by a mysterious guide, Dee enters a play session unlike any she’s ever experienced. When she kills another player in-game and a man winds up dead in real life—a man with possible ties to the nuclear launch, no less—Dee becomes a suspect. As she doubles down on her investigation, she makes a chilling discovery that changes everything she thought she knew about her life—and the colony planet she’s headed toward. Made up of standalone novels that share a setting and a commitment to delving into their characters’ psyches, the Planetfall series stands with the best science fiction of the last decade.
Suzanne Palmer’s zippy space caper stars Fergus Ferguson, a sort of spacefaring repo man with a reputation for chasing down even the most dangerous cargo anywhere in space. His latest target is a heavily armed warship called Venetia’s Sword, currently in the possession of a vicious gangster named Gilger. Fergus isn’t intimidated, even if Gilger is on the brink of war with a dangerous arms dealer. Fergus traces Gilger’s ship to a small colony planet, where he promptly finds himself caught in the middle of a violent civil war. Forced to ally with the enemies of his enemy, Fergus struggles to negotiate a peace, keep tabs on his quarry—and figure out why supposedly legendary aliens—who have turned out to be disturbingly real—are following him around. This debut is a fun, fast-moving jaunt into the zippier, zanier side of space opera.
The Bone Season author Samantha Shannon’s latest eschews the series format, packing an entire trilogy’s worth of story into a standalone epic following three remarkable women whose fate is bound to the survival of an entire world. Sabran IX is Queen of Inys, last of an ancient magical bloodline whose very existence binds the Nameless One, a terrible dragon that could end the world, at the bottom of the ocean. Ead Duryan is one of Sabran’s ladies-in-waiting—but she is actually a secret agent, serving a hidden cabal of mages protecting the queen with magic. And across the ocean, Tané is a dragonrider about to break a societal taboo, with unforeseen consequences that will reverberate all the back to Inys. As Sabran discovers she isn’t who she thinks she is, she must reckon with the fact that her family’s bloodline may not be what’s keeping the Nameless One slumbering after all.
Gyre Price is desperate. Abandoned and alone on a poverty-stricken mining planet, she wants nothing more than to learn of her mother’s fate. Seeking a big paycheck that will allow her to do just that, she fakes her credentials as a caver, assuming that the work, while dangerous, will be organized and supported by the usual safety measures. Her handler on the expedition, Em, turns out to be unpredictable, cruel, and filled with her own secrets—and Em knows that Gyre lied to get the job, and isn’t afraid to use that knowledge to force her into a dangerous, terrifying journey into the darkness. Underground, Gyre must face not only her own inner demons, but plenty of Em’s as well. By the time she begins to understand that the danger may not all be on the inside, however, it may already be too late. This is nail-biting, cinematic sci-fi survival horror.
Sykes new Grave of Empires trilogy is built around Sal the Cacophony, a former mage and gunslinger hellbent on revenge against the 33 mages who tore her magic out of her. Arrested and waiting for execution for her crimes, Sal is given a chance to save herself with a confession, but the story she tells is more than just a list of crimes: she served in the Scar, a blasted wasteland caught between two vast empires, but now exists only to locate and kill the mages who betrayed and brutalized her. Sal will cross any line to complete her quest, and Sykes seems to have a similar regard for the rules of epic fantasy in this go-for-broke blend of Kill Bill and Final Fantasy.
Five years ago, an alien spaceship appeared over the Virgin Islands, and the Ynaa arrived, claiming to be conducting a peaceful—but highly secret—research mission. The Ynaa offer benefits to their human hosts/hostages like incredible healing powers, but punish any form of aggression toward them with brutal violence. As a result, the relationship between the species is fraught, meaning Ynaa ambassador Mera and her human assistant Derrick have they work cut out for them: as the anniversary of the death of a child killed by the Ynaa comes around, tensions threaten to boil over into open conflict as a cycle of violent retribution is set in motion. Mera and Derrick are forced to choose sides in a war that has been five years in the making. Turnbull’s debut—which the publisher bills as one of the first speculative novels set in the Virgin Islands—explores themes of colonialism and prejudice with literary style, pairing nicely with similarly themed (and much praised) works like Tade Thompson’s Rosewater and Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon.
The solution to the mystery of the Witchwood Crown continues to elude King Simon and his queen, Miriamele in this second book of Williams’ Last King of Osten Ard series trilogy. As the kingdoms of Osten Ard descend separately into war, division, and strife, the Crown might be the key to it all—if Simon and Miriamele can solve the puzzle. Meanwhile, the Queen of the Norns has made a deal to bring her immortal armies into the mortal lands, the nomads on the grasslands are unifying with cult-like fervor, and everything begins to fall apart in ways large and small as a disparate group of people fighting for their own survival in the chaos come to represent the only hope for the survival of all living things. We’re happy to say once again that thus far, the followup to Williams’ landmark Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy is more than living up to the reputation of its forebear.
This literary fantasy from comics writer and novelist G. Willow Wilson (Ms. Marvel, Alif the Unseen) is a fast-paced adventure set in Granad, the last emirate of Muslim Spain. Fatima is the sultan’s favorite concubine, but her only true friend is Hassan, the royal mapmaker, who possesses the ability to open portals to other rooms, and even other worlds, at will. When Fatima accidentally reveals Hassan’s power to Luz, a lay sister working for the Inquisition, they flee, accompanied by a rogue’s gallery of companions and allies, including a vampire-jinn in the form of a dog and his sister, who takes the form of a cat. Inspired by a bit of verse they’ve known since childhood, Fatima and Hassan seek the island of Qaf, where the legendary Bird King resides, and where they believe they might be safe from the intolerant Inquisition. Wilson’s imagination overflows from each page as she crafts a fantasy quite unlike any other you’ll encounter this year.
10 More Books We Loved
Because 2019 really has been that good a year for new science fiction and fantasy, we’re extending the list with ten more books that can’t be missed.
Tiamat’s Wrath, by James S.A. Corey Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck—the brains behind the James S.A. Corey pseudonym—have a lot going on, not the least of which is serving as producers of the fantastic streaming series based on their space opera/political soap opera saga The Expanse (of which Tiamat’s Wrath is a part), so you’d be forgiven for thinking they might have let something slip with the penultimate volume of their nine-book magnum opus. But no: It might be the best one yet.
A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World, by C.A. Fletcher The title kind of says it all, doesn’t it? We live in anxious times, and apocalyptic visions are a dime a dozen. C.A. Fletcher’s stands apart for its singular focus on the title characters: a young boy journeying a blasted landscape with his canine friend, in desperate pursuit of the man who stole away with his other pup. You just don’t separate a boy from his dog, apocalypse be damned.
The Record Keeper, by Agnes Gomillion The worldbuilding in this apocalyptic afrofuturist debut is fascinating and stark: In a ruined future America, the dark-skinned Kongoese are kept in servitude to the ruling white class, forced to take a pill that causes them to forget their own pasts. Arika is a Kongoese Record Keeper, living more comfortably but trained to pen false histories to replace those erased ones—which is some kind of metaphor for America’s long (and ongoing) struggles with racism, injustice, and inequality.
The Affair of the Mysterious Letter, by Alexis Hall When an an idea doesn’t know when to stop, you call it putting a hat on a hat. Alexis Hall’s bonkers debut—a Sherlock Holmes pastiche that is also a queer romance set in a wild, war-torn multiverse teeming with magic, monsters, mind-eating gods, and a pissed-off shark—is a hat on top of a hat, but the hats are worn by a many-tentacled Lovecraftian monster sipping a mug of tea. It is, as the kids say, extra—in the very best way.
The Ruin of Kings, by Jenn Lyons Jenn Lyons debut entered 2019 as one of the year’s buzziest books, and it mostly lived up to the hype—a fantasy bildungsroman telling of the strange trip that brought a very particular prisoner to his cell, and of the jailer listening to the story play out, it has worldbuilding to spare (a good thing, considering the first of four planned sequels arrives before the end of the year). Plus, there are intriguing footnotes.
Fleet of Knives, by Gareth L. Powell The sequel to Gareth L. Powell’s British Science Fiction Award-winning Embers of War does everything right, crafting an adventure for its crew of ragtag, haunted heroes that is bigger and more mysterious than that which came before. But most of all, it gives us more of the sentient ships at the center of the story, including the Trouble Dog, an ex-warship with something to atone for.
Waste Tide, by Chen Quifan, translated by Ken Liu In telling the story of a young woman eking out a meager living—and then leading a rebellion—on an island choked with toxic electronic trash, the latest work of Chinese science fiction to come to America by virtue of the work of translator Ken Liu delivers on a premise with an immediacy that makes it a difficult read—or would, if it weren’t so darkly compelling.
Storm of Locusts, by Rebecca Roanhorse Trail of Lightning, the first Hugo- and Nebula-nominated book in the Sixth World series, shocked urban fantasy back to life with a story set in a post-apocalyptic America consumed by rising waters and haunted by the monsters of Indigenous American legend, with a fiery, flawed, deeply angry, and totally badass protagonist at its center. The sequel proves Maggie Hoskie’s first adventure was no fluke, and solidifies Roanhorse’s status as the next genre superstar.
Today I Am Carey, by Martin L. Shoemaker Martin L. Shoemaker’s debut novel expands on an award-winning short story that revisits familiar tropes of an artificial mind’s awakening to the world and gives them an entirely fresh, emotional, and utterly human dimension. This is science fiction at its most achingly sad and genuinely heartfelt.
Titanshade, by Dan Stout This fantasy twist on Chinatown subs in for Los Angeles’s waning water stores the similarly in-short-supply essence of an imprisoned god, and the Chinese-American tensions with a brewing unrest between humans and a race of aliens. A noir pastiche this pastiche-y has no right to work so well, or be so frickin’ entertaining.
Here at wtg we understand that picking the best sketchbook is no easy task. It’s an important decision and one that can have a huge impact on your work. For example, a sketchbook with heavier, thicker paper is more likely to be suitable for artists using watercolors and markers, whereas lighter paper is a better choice for dry media.
The ‘tooth’, or texture of the paper is also an important consideration. Paper with more tooth has more pits and grooves to hold pigment from charcoal and pastels, while smoother paper is more suited to your best pencils and inks. A spiral-bound sketchbook will lie nice and flat while you work, whereas some hard-bound sketchbook may be trickier to use.
For sketching on-the-go, a smaller hard-cover sketchbook will serve you well, fitting into a bag or pocket and protecting your work, whereas large-format sketchbooks will give you more space and freedom. If you could use a new sketchbook, we encourage you to obtain one and view it as an invaluable investment towards your artistic endeavors. With all that in mind, here’s our pick of the best sketchbooks to make you a better artist – however you like to work.
01. Moleskine Art Collection Sketchbook
The best sketchbook overall is a great traveling companion.
The Moleskine Art Collection Sketchbook is ideal for sketching on the move, and wins our vote for best sketchbook overall. This is the larger of the two sizes, giving you plenty of room to work, but it’s still convenient for carrying thanks to its elastic closure, which keeps it neat in a bag, and rounded corners that won’t become bent. Its ivory-colored paper is quite smooth, but with enough tooth for most dry media. With 240 pages, you won’t need to worry about filling it up too quickly, but the price is so reasonable that it wouldn’t matter if you did.
Size: 5 x 8.25 inches | Book type: Hard-bound, portrait | No of pages: 240 | Paper weight: 121lb
The best sketchbook for beginners is perfect for practicing.
If you’re new to sketching, this superb all-rounder will serve you well as you learn and progress, and is inexpensive enough to use for everyday practising, wherever you are. The Leda Art Supply Premium Sketchbook is a little smaller than A4 size, enabling it to fit neatly into most folders and bags. Its cover is waterproof to protect your work on the move, though it’s worth noting that it’s flexible, so you’ll need a hard surface to support it. Despite being thread-bound, it lies just as flat as a spiral-bound notebook, and its cream-colored pages have micro-perforations for easy removal.
Size: 7×10 inches | Book type: Hard-bound, portrait | No of pages: 160 | Paper weight: 81lb
The best sketchbook for professional artists is a delight to use.
Strathmore’s specialist papers are made with specific uses in mind, paying careful attention to color, absorbency, weight and texture. For professional artists, the Strathmore 400 Series Sketch Pad is one of the best sketchbooks around, with a fine tooth that carries graphite, coloured pencils and pastels well. This is the smallest pad, but it comes in a wide range of sizes (all the way up to 18 x 24 inches) if you need more space to work. This top quality general purpose pad is ideal for structural sketches, though the price per sheet means it’s probably a little too expensive for practising.
Size: 9 x 12 inches | Book type: Spiral-bound, portrait | No of pages: 50 | Paper weight: 60lb
The best sketchbook for watercolor won’t ripple or buckle.
Mixed-media pads can be useful, but they rarely perform as well as pads designed for specific tasks. The Canson Artist Series Watercolor Pad is made to made to withstand repeated washes. Its thick paper won’t ripple of deform as it dries, and there’ll be no bleeding. Each page is perforated, but Canson has factored that into the size, so you won’t lose an inch of paper when you tear a page out, as you do with many similar pads. This sketchbook works out quite pricey per page, but so thoughtfully designed, we think it’s well worth the extra outlay.
Size: 5.5 x 8.5 inches | Book type: Spiral-bound, portrait | No of pages: 20 | Paper weight: 140lb
The best sketchbook for markers makes for easy tracing.
Another excellent wet media sketchbook from Canson, the Canson XL Marker Paper Pad provides 100 pages of thin, slightly translucent paper that’s quite unusual, but works well for sketching and tracing. The surface is smooth with little in the way of tooth, so you won’t need to worry about your markers snagging, and the ink won’t bleed through to the next page. The translucent paper means you’ll be able to see your sketches on the reverse, so you won’t be able to sketch on both sides, but there are enough sheets for this not to be an issue.
Size: 9 x 12 inches | Book type: Hard-bound, portrait | No of pages: 100 | Paper weight/type: 18lb
The best sketchbook with toned tan paper will help you master values.
Toned sketchbooks are ideal for learning to use values, encouraging you to use a whole range and helping you achieve more realistic results. Strathmore also offers a gray toned pad, but we’ve picked the Strathmore 400 Series Toned Tan Pad as the best sketchbook because its warm color lends life to portrait sketches. The paper’s smooth texture works particularly well with colored pencils and graphite, though it carries all dry media well. If you’ve not used toned paper before then you might prefer a less costly pad at first, but Strathmore’s paper is a joy to use once you’re confident.
Size: 9 x 12 inches | Book type: Spiral-bound, portrait | No of pages: 50 | Paper weight: 80lb
Many sketchbooks are roughly A4-sized, but there’s no need to confine your work to such small spaces. This version of the Canson Artist Series Universal Sketch Pad is two feet long, giving you space to draw freely. Its paper doesn’t have much tooth, so it’s best for use with pencils and charcoal. The spiral binding lets it lie flat as you work, the hard cover provides protection and support, and each page is easy to remove for storage in a portfolio. Keep an eye out for multipacks of Canson sketchbooks, as these are often a good way to stock up.
Size: 18 x 24 inches | Book type: Wire-bound, landscape | No of pages: 35 | Paper weight: 65lb
The best pocket sketchbook is small but extra tough.
At the other end of the scale, we have the neat little Pentalic Wire-Bound Sketch Book, which is small enough to fit in a pocket, and tough enough to survive some rough treatment. Its hard cover prevents damage from everyday knocks and bumps, and its double wire spiral bounding resists bending. There are no perforations for tearing out pages, so this is better for exercises and rough work than pieces you want to keep in a portfolio. That’s fine by us, though, and its affordable price means we’ve no reservations about filling it. One of the best sketchbooks for any artist on the move.
Size: 4 x 6 inches | Book type: Spiral-bound, portrait | No of pages: 80 | Paper weight: 70lb