Monday, 5 January 2015
45 new books to get excited about reading in 2015!
The year kicks off with the first book in a planned series based on my favourite guilty pleasure TV show, Death in Paradise. A Meditation on Murder (1 January) is written by series creator Robert Thorogood, and Richard Poole isn't dead, AND Camille is in it. Can't wait to binge-rewatch the series and then read it. For very different reasons, I'm also looking forward to Weathering by Lucy Wood (15 January). It follows three generations of a family, and sounds like it weaves in the same elements of magic and folklore as the short stories in her debut collection Diving Belles, which has always stuck in my mind for its short but wonderfully effective character portraits.
The Room by Jonas Karlsson (15 January, reviewed here) is a dark, quirky fable about an office drone, self-important Björn, finding a hidden room at his place of work - disaster ensues in a story that's very funny but also quite thought-provoking. Co-written by Jenn Ashworth and Richard Hirst, Bus Station: Unbound (28 January) looks equally unusual and interesting. The first in a trilogy of 'choose your own adventure' stories from author collective Curious Tales, it's set in Preston bus station during a snowstorm and is bound to be uncanny and strange. Speaking of which, The Vegetarian by Han Kang (1 January) is a surreal Korean novel described as 'fraught, disturbing and beautiful', exploring themes of rebellion and desire.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (15 January, reviewed here) is likely to be a hit thanks to its Gone Girl-style twisted relationship and multiple unreliable narrators. I loved the idea - woman spots the same couple every day from her commute, becomes obsessed with them - but the execution was rather disappointing and it's all a bit thriller-by-numbers. More promising is Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm (22 January) - it surely can't live up to the publisher's blurb, which compares it to (deep breath) Hitchcock movies, Patricia Highsmith, Gillian Flynn, Marisha Pessl and Donna Tartt, but if it resembles just one of them it will be worth reading. The plot, revolving around a runaway living in Paris under an assumed identity, and also involving art fraud, sounds excellent.
Dystopian debut The Ship by Antonia Honeywell (19 February, reviewed here) comes festooned with comparisons to Children of Men, The Handmaid's Tale and The Hunger Games. It's a captivating and intriguing story, but best suited to teenage readers. Meanwhile, The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel (12 February) is 'Jonathan Strange meets Jonathan Creek', apparently - based on my own sampling of the book I would say that description, while certainly beguiling, is wildly optimistic, but I'm sure it'll spark plenty of interest. I might fulfil my craving for the macabre with Rob Magnuson Smith's Scorper (5 February), 'an uncanny and sinister tale of an eccentric American visitor to the small Sussex town of Ditchling, searching for stories about his grandfather; a tale of twitching curtains, severed hands and peculiar sexual practices...'
Touch by Claire North (24 February) is narrated by an entity that can jump from body to body; the premise immediately reminded me of part of David Mitchell's Ghostwritten, and although I don't know much else about it, I'm keen to investigate further. On the other end of the literary spectrum, The Curator by Jacques Strauss (5 February) charts two decades of South African history as seen through the eyes of a single character.
Catherine Chanter's brilliant The Well (5 March, reviewed here), an uncategorisable novel about love, hope, religion, family, friendship, privilege and deprivation, is unique, beautiful and riveting, and far and away the best of the 2015 books I've read so far. The ridiculously prolific Karen Maitland publishes her sixth medieval/magical novel The Raven's Head (12 March), this time focusing on alchemy and blackmail. And an intriguing death-at-a-boarding-school debut, Dark Rooms by Lili Anolik (1 March), has piqued my interest with comparisons to The Secret History, Gillian Flynn and Twin Peaks.
A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell (24 March) is the 'shared suicide note' of three sisters, the last remaining members of a family they believe to be cursed; their epic story spans four generations. Another multigenerational tale that's already attracting quite a bit of buzz is The Shore by Sara Taylor (26 March), which has been compared to the fiction of David Mitchell (its scope ranges across 150 years of history and into the future, all centred on the same small community) but with a feminist slant.
A slightly more leftfield choice is Mikhail Elizarov's The Librarian (12 March) published by Pushkin Press. The plot sounds fun - it's about books with supernatural powers, and a world in which librarians are superheroes - but intriguingly, it also won the Russian Booker Prize.
Sarah Hall is an author I've been meaning to read for a while: her new novel The Wolf Border (2 April) sees a woman returning to the Lake District as part of a project to reintroduce wolves to England, reuniting with her estranged family in the process. Arcadia by Iain Pears (2 April) is described as 'a digital novel' - not just in the sense that it's being published digitally, but because it consists of multilayered stories that can be read in different orders. There'll also be an accompanying app. Slightly gimmicky maybe, but the story, about a spy-turned-writer who creates alternate worlds through his fiction, sounds fascinating. I enjoyed a few dystopian novels in 2014, and hope The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy (9 April) might continue the trend - it's a post-apocalyptic story in which inhabitants of a highly secured community set out to explore what's left of the world.
This month also sees the publication of Disclaimer, the hotly tipped debut thriller from Renee Knight (9 April, reviewed here). A woman finds a novel on her bedside table, and as she reads, she realises it tells the story of her own life, including a damaging secret she has sought to keep for 20 years. It's gripping, but doesn't quite live up to its high-concept premise, and I found it almost instantly forgettable. Would make a good beach read.
In the non-fiction corner is Raw Concrete by Barnabas Calder (23 April). This is a bit of a niche choice and quite specific to my own interests - it's a history of brutalist architecture, concentrating particularly on eight British buildings - but, having struggled to find a book on the topic that isn't dry, lengthy and more focused on the technical elements of brutalism than its political or artistic aspects, I'm excited to try it.
May is a bumper month, with the most exciting title (for me) being Day Four by Sarah Lotz (21 May) - it's the follow-up to The Three and takes place on board a cruise ship which becomes stranded in the Gulf of Mexico. I have high hopes for this, especially as the title and cover seem to suggest a link with the world depicted in The Three. There's also a new book from The Girl Below author Bianca Zander, The Predictions (5 May), about two escapees from a 1970s New Zealand commune. A similar community is featured in The Followers by Rebecca Wait (21 May), which focuses on disruptive events among the members of a religious cult.
The Gracekeepers (7 May) is Kirsty Logan's first novel, following her short story collection The Rental Heart. It's 'the magical story of a floating circus and two young women in search of a home' - probably not the sort of book I would be drawn to otherwise, but I really enjoyed Logan's stories and am keen to see how her fairytale style will translate to a novel. There's more magic in The Ghost Network by Catie Disabato (5 May), about two women trying to track down a missing pop star who become drawn into a dark world of secret societies in the seedy underbelly of Chicago.
I don't know much about Things We Have in Common by Tasha Kavanagh (7 May) yet, but I do know it's about a toxic friendship and is, very interestingly, described as 'Sue Townsend meets Zoë Heller' - enough to get this on my to-read list. Already gathering rave reviews on Goodreads, meanwhile, is The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North (19 May), which 'tells a story of fame, love, and legacy through the propulsive rise of an iconoclastic artist' with a narrative featuring a 'chorus of voices' - very The Blazing World, and I'm keen to find out whether it will be anywhere near as good.
Continuing my quest to read (slightly) more non-fiction in 2015, I'll be keeping an eye out for The Odd Woman and the City: A Memoir by Vivian Gornick (19 May). It's the author's account of her life as an independent woman in New York, and is 'written as a narrative collage that includes meditative pieces on the making of a modern feminist, the role of the flâneur in urban literature, and the evolution of friendship over the past two centuries'.
June brings two huge highlights. Firstly, the long-awaited The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas (4 June), to which I struggle to summon up a more coherent response than just SCREAMING AND VARIOUS EMOJIS. It is 'a fiercely contemporary tale of one extended family, a seed pod that contains the key to enlightenment (or death)... and a copy of a book that is different for every reader who picks it up' (but let's be honest, I would read it no matter what it was about) and I'm convinced it will be amazing - if this lets me down, I may as well give up reading. Secondly, Death is a Welcome Guest by Louise Welsh (4 June), part two of the Plague Times trilogy, which focuses on a different main character this time (something I wasn't expecting). Words can't express how excited I am about both of these books.
The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler (18 June) is a debut novel about 'a mysterious book that holds the key to a curse that has haunted a family of traveling circus performers for generations'. Could be terrible, but if it's pulled off well it could also be fantastic. This being June, there's quite a few good lightweight books due out: The Peacock Room (23 June) is the third novel from Hannah Richell, and has a dual narrative centering on a fading family estate; debut thriller In My House by Alex Hourston (4 June) tells of an unlikely friendship and is touted as a book likely to be enjoyed by fans of The Woman Upstairs and Notes on a Scandal; and Stallo by Stefan Spjut (4 June) is described as a haunting supernatural thriller, set in the fairytale snow-laden forests of Laponia, Sweden.
My non-fiction pick for June is The Four Dimensional Human by Laurence Scott (18 June). Subtitled 'Ways of Being in the Digital World', Scott's exploration of life on the internet aims to examine how technology is 'rewiring our inner lives'.
The Sunlight Pilgrims (2 July) is the long-awaited follow-up to Jenni Fagan's multiple-prize-winning debut The Panopticon. It's another 'end times' story for 2015, this time set in a Scottish caravan park during a freak winter. The extract published in Granta last year was good, so I'm hoping it will live up to the promising premise. Another second novel that's sure to cause excitement is Armada by Ernest Cline (15 July), the author of 2011 hit Ready Player One. It's on familiar ground with the story of a videogame which turns out to be part of a top-secret government training programme.
Two potentially good debuts for July: Pretty Is by Maggie Mitchell (7 July) tells of two women, now with very different lives, who are drawn to remember the summer they were abducted at the age of twelve; and Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase (2 July) splits its story between two time periods, both charting events at an idyllic, crumbling country house.
... and beyond
In September - on the 24th, to be exact - the last book in the Cicero trilogy Robert Harris, Dictator, is apparently coming out. FINALLY. (Although I've already forgotten what happened in the other two so I'll probably need to re-read them...) On the 15th of September, there's a new novel from William Boyd called Sweet Caress. Despite the bloody awful title it sounds really good, kind of like a female-focused version of Any Human Heart: it's the life story of a photographer called Amory Clay, spanning the whole of the 20th century. Finally, in October there's The Watchers by Neil Spring, a 'spooky historical thriller' from the author of The Ghost Hunters which should be just the thing for Halloween.
(Some of the books included within this post have different publication dates according to different sources, eg the Amazon listing may say they're being published earlier than the publisher claims, and sometimes the Kindle edition is published before the hardback - it's all very confusing. I've tried to stick with the publisher's stated UK publication date where possible, but obviously they're all subject to change.)
I've been compiling good what-to-read in 2015 lists on Tumblr and suggest you check these out for even more recommendations: Huffington Post debut fiction and (presumably non-debut) fiction, The Readers, The Writes of Woman, The Guardian, The Observer, and Bookmunch (this is in five parts - start here).
Personally, and I suppose quite naturally, I'm most excited about books from authors I've already read: the new Scarlett Thomas, Louise Welsh and Sarah Lotz books are right at the top of my wishlist. But a new year and new reading plans also brings the promise of discovering brilliant new debuts, and of those listed here I'm particularly looking forward to reading Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm, Dark Rooms by Lili Anolik, and Things We Have in Common by Tasha Kavanagh. What's your most-anticipated book (or books) of 2015?
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