JANUARY The year in books begins with the ultimate English legend: The Death of King Arthur: A New Verse Translation (Faber), in which Simon Armitage follows his interpretation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with a reshaping of the 15th-century Alliterative Morte Arthure for modern ears. As quintessentially American as Arthur is English is The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (Fourth Estate), the door-stopping debut novel about baseball that has had its young author hailed as the new voice of his nation. Harbach’s equivalent in non-fiction is surely Jodi Kantor, the celebrated New York Times reporter whose unique White House access resulted in The Obamas: A
FEBRUARY There’s much gritty wilderness in Booker-nominated Kate Grenville’s new novel Sarah Thornhill (Canongate), a dark love story which returns to the early Australia of her celebrated The Secret River. Another hotly anticipated novel is Hope: A Tragedy (Picador), a mordant look at the burdens of history – and mothers – by the cult memoirist Shalom Auslander, who surely deserves a place in Colm Tóibín’s essays on writers and families, New Ways to Kill Your Mother (Viking). In Religion for Atheists (Hamish Hamilton) Alain de Botton chooses what best to steal from religion to feel good. The ultimate in literary non-fiction comes from Granta in the form of Joseph Roth: A Life in Letters, translated by Michael Hofmann. From the big dog of Austro-Hungarian letters to Hollywood’s most famous canine star: Susan Orlean has written the definitive biography of Rin Tin Tin (Atlantic); and a more esoteric cinematic history comes from the genre-busting Geoff Dyer, whose study of the Russian film Stalker, Zona (Canongate), spirals off into unexpected directions. Traditionalists who prefer their history linear, human and unashamedly British will appreciate All the King’s Men: The British Soldier from the Restoration to Waterloo by the celebrated historian Saul David (Viking).
MARCH At last, the long-awaited personal history from an extraordinary former Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway. Leaving
APRIL Spring is heralded by two novels of the Eighties, Skagboys (Jonathan Cape) by Irvine Welsh, a prequel to Trainspotting, and Can We Still Be Friends?, the debut by Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman (Fig Tree) about a group of young women in the age of big hair and pixie boots. Another literary look at past relationships is The Beginner’s Goodbye (Chatto) by that faultless veteran Anne Tyler, a bittersweet ghost story about what happens to a marriage when a dead spouse reappears. Bound to be every bit as moving is The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey (Faber), in which a museum, a grieving lover and a 200-year-old automaton teach lessons about the science of love. For the same subject in non-fiction form try The Science of Love and Betrayal by Robin Dunbar (Faber): the Oxford Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology shows what new discoveries in psychology and ethology tell us about falling in love. One man who knew a thing or two about love was Tolstoy, the subject of a new biography by AN Wilson (
MAY May promises rich pickings for history buffs, kicking off with What, When, How and Why (Weidenfeld), a memoir by Bernard Lewis, aka “the White House’s favourite historian”. The Spectre of Vichy by Allan Massie (
JUNE Still rambling on (in the most sensitive and intelligent way possible) is Robert Macfarlane, whose The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot (Hamish Hamilton) charts his walks along the byways of Cambridgeshire. Also keeping their eyes to the ground are the heroes of Reading the Rocks: How a Club of Gentleman Geologists Changed the World by Brenda Maddox (Bodley Head), an introduction to the major figures of Victorian geology whose discoveries redefined life on Earth. That unique chronicler of houses and streets, Gillian Tindall, focuses on Three Houses, Many Lives (Chatto) to evoke four centuries of social change in
JULY Wharton would surely have approved of How Much is Enough? Money and the Good Life by Robert and Edward Skidelsky (
AUGUST August, typically a spare month for fiction, nevertheless has two strong contenders for the prize of top summer read. Picador is buzzing with excitement after securing the rights to Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann, the debut novel by the great-great-great-granddaughter of Herman Melville, which takes us on a jazz-imbued tour of the glossy East Coast lives of a wealthy Fifties family. By contrast, Enid Shomer’s The Twelve Rooms of the Nile (Simon & Schuster) promises little glitz or glamour but heat and mud aplenty in an atmospheric imagining of the friendship that grew between Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert on their 1849
OCTOBER-DECEMBER One of the most talked-about books of autumn will be Empire of the Mind: The Dawn of the Techno-Political Age (John Murray) by Eric Schmidt, the former Google CEO, and Jared Cohen, a US government adviser. With insights from politics and industry, it claims to be the first comprehensive study of the interplay between technology and world affairs. It’s the role of new technologies in music that concerns Talking Heads’ David Byrne in How Music Works (Canongate), apparently the closest he’ll ever get to writing an autobiography. And finally, there’s a true biographical treat in store with the long-awaited arrival of Patrick Leigh Fermor by Antony Beevor and Artemis Cooper (John Murray), the sure-to-be-glorious life of the 20th century’s greatest Hellenic traveller. What more civilised way to round off a varied and inspiring year in books?
Will this year be the year you write that book? Why not contact a member of the Words Worth Reading Ltd team and find out how they can help you make it happen!