Welcome to a new year. January is, as ever, a quiet month for new titles – so we take this opportunity, as we always do, to look ahead to what we can look forward to in the year ahead – and 2012 is an exceptional year for fantastic new titles…
William Boyd: Waiting for Sunrise (thrilling historical novel set in Vienna in 1913)
Nathan Englander: What We Talk About When We Talk About Ann Frank (short stories)
Shalom Auslander: Hope: A Tragedy (novel about ‘the lighter side of Holocaust guilt’)
Nick Harkaway: Angelmaker (a tale about a mobster’s son and a retired secret agent who are forced to team up to save the world, from the author of the much-loved Gone Away World)
Edmund White: Jack Holmes and his Friend (an exploration of American society and its attitudes to sexuality)
Jon McGregor: This Isn’t the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You (short stories)
Alain de Botton: Religion for Atheists: A non-believer’s guide
to the uses of religion (what religion can teach the secular world – click here for a very special offer on this title)
Jonathan Franzen: Farther Away: Essays
William Gibson: Distrust that Particular Flavour (first collection of non-fiction from Sci-fi guru)
Geoff Dyer: Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room (about a 30-year obsession with a film by Andre Tarkovsky)
Karl Marlantes: What is it Like to Go to War? (from the author of Matterhorn – an account of his experience in Vietnam, as well as a meditation on the impact
John Lanchester: Capital (Epic, brilliant, must-read Dickensian novel about London life now)
Nadine Gordimer: No Time Like the Present (A state-of-the-nation novel about the new South Africa from the Nobel laureate)
Marilynne Robinson: When I was a Child I Read Books (a collection of essays about reading from the author of Home and Gilead)
Colm Tóibin: New Ways to Kill Your Mother – Writers and their Families (essays on the effect of family on various writers – WB Yeats, Roddy Doyle, James Baldwin, JM Synge, Thomas Mann and
Noam Chomsky: Making the Future (Four essays on the ‘unipolar moment’ in which the US dominates – but for how long?)
Andrew Motion: Silver (follow-up to Treasure Island)
Irving Welsh: Skagboys (much anticipated prequel to Trainspotting)
Peter Carey: The Chemistry of Tears (the mysteries of life, death and grief are explored by two-time Booker winner)
Ann Tyler: The Beginner’s Goodbye (a novel about marriage and death, and the things that never change)
Laurent Binet: HHhH (Winner of the Prix Goncourt – a fictional account of the life of Reinhard Heydrich - a man whom even Hitler found alarming)
Iain Banks: Stonemouth (a return to the blackly comic rites-of-passage territory of The Crow Road)
Philip Hensher: Scenes from Early Life (an autobiographical novel – but the twist is that the autobiography belongs to Hensher’s husband, Zaved Mahmood)
W.G. Sebald: Across the Land and Water: Poems 1964-2001 (“a significant addition to Sebald’s main achievement” – Andrew Motion)
Susan Sontag: As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980
Christopher Hitchens: Mortality (memoir and essays written in his last year)
The Letters of TS Eliot Volume III (edited by John Haffenden)
Tim Burgess: Telling Stories (a frank and shocking memoir from the lead singer of The Charlatans)
Hilary Mantel: Bring up the Bodies (eagerly-awaited sequel to the magnificent Wolf Hall, charting the downfall and destruction of Anne Boleyn)
John Irving: In One Person (Irving returns to the first person narrative to tell the story of a lonely bisexual man working hard to make his life ‘worthwhile’.)
Mark Haddon: The Red House (an estranged family try to build bridges in Wales – with tragicomic results)
Toni Morrison: Home (a Korean War veteran returns from war to confront racism in America, a family emergency, and the after effects of his time on the front lines)
China Meiville: Railsea (Kafkaesque novel in which our hero rides a diesel locomotive under the command of a captain obsessed with
hunting down the giant ivory-colored mole)
Paul Theroux: The Lower River (sixty-year-old Ellis Hock retreats to Malawi, where he spent four Edenic years in the Peace Corps, after his wife leaves him and his life unravels back home in Massachusetts)
Michael Frayn: Skios (Cerebral summer reading set on an idyllic Greek
island, where a famous scientist has been invited to give a lecture to the
annual convention – but turns out to be not at all what his audience was
Tim Parks: The Server (novel about a Buddhist retreat, by the always
Edward O. Wilson: The Social Conquest of the Earth (Wilson’s magnum opus discusses the influence of group selection on
Orlando Figes: Just Send Word (true story of two young Muscovites separated for 14 years by World War II)
Lionel Shriver: New Republic (1998 novel about terrorism in Portugal, originally rejected by her publisher)
Richard Ford: Canada (a literature professor reminisces about being on the run with his bank robber parents – inspired by The Sheltering Sky)
Mario Vargas Llosa: The Dream of the Celt (fictionalised life of Irish revolutionary Sir Roger Casement, who was knighted by the British Crown in 1911, hanged five years later for treason, and disgraced as a sexual deviant during his trial).
Tana French: Broken Harbour (new thriller from the author of the gripping In the Woods)
Dambisa Moyo: Winner Takes All (the reality of our scarce resources from the author of How the West was Lost)
Martin Amis: Lionel Asbo (satire on the state of modern Britain – dedicated to Christopher Hitchens)
Justin Cronin: The Twelve (follow-up to the compelling and nputdownableThe Passage)
Will Self: Umbrella (in the psychologically swinging 60s, notorious shrink Zack Busner, takes up a post at a north London mental asylum. There he finds coma victims who have been sleeping out the 20th century)
Jeanette Winterson: Untitled (Winterson describes this as her “very scary novella about the Lancashire witches“, the nine women and two men who were tried for murder by witchcraft in 1612.)
Pat Barker: Toby’s Room (Set among a group of students at the Slade
School of Art in London and France before and during the first world war,
Barker’s new novel revisits territory explored in the extraordinary Regeneration trilogy)
Lawrence Norfolk: John Saturnall’s Feast (long awaited new novel from the author of the delectable Lempriere’s Dictionary)
Zadie Smith: NW (novella set in Smith’s London stomping ground of Brent)
John Banville: Ancient Light (aging actor Alexander Cleave remembers his
first sexual experiences as a teenager in a small Irish town in the 1950s, and
tries to come to terms with the suicide of his daughter)
Michael Chabon: Telegraph Avenue (no information yet)
Howard Jacobson: Zoo Time (Jacobson’s follow-up to the Booker-winning The Finkler Question, continues his themes – love, lust, loss – and turns a fierce eye on the state of publishing)
Salman Rushdie: Joseph Anton (His memoir of the fatwa)
What a lot to look forward to! But there is plenty of wonderful reading material in-store right now…
Book of the Month
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
In the highly acclaimed The Art of Fielding, we see young men who know that their four years on the baseball diamond at Westish College are all that remain of their sporting careers. Only their preternaturally gifted fielder, Henry Skrimshander, seems to have the chance to keep his dream – and theirs, vicariously – alive, until a routine throw goes disastrously off course, and the fates of five people are upended.
After his throw threatens to ruin his roommate Owen’s future, Henry’s fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his; while Mike Schwartz, the team captain and Henry’s best friend, realizes he has guided Henry’s career at the expense of his own. Keeping a keen eye on them all, college president GuertAffenlight, a longtime bachelor, falls unexpectedly and dangerously in love, much to the surprise of his daughter, Pella, who has returned to Westish after escaping an ill-fated marriage, determined to start a new life.
Written with boundless intelligence and filled with the tenderness of youth, The Art of Fielding is an expansive, warm-hearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment – to oneself and to others.
“Reading The Art of Fielding is like watching a hugely gifted young shortstop: you keep waiting for the errors, but there are no errors. First novels this complete and consuming come along very, very seldom.” Jonathan Franzen
“I gave myself over completely and scarcely paused for meals. Like all successful works of literature The Art of Fielding is an autonomous universe, much like the one we inhabit although somehow more vivid.” Jay McInerney
“Chad Harbach has hit a game-ender with The Art of Fielding. It’s pure fun, easy to read, as if the other Fielding had a hand in it — as if Tom Jones were about baseball and college life.” – John Irving
“The Novel of the Month Season Year…Riveting…The Art of Fielding emerges fully formed, a world unto itself. Harbach writes with a tender, egoless virtuosity…There’s just something so easy and riveting about the way this book’s layers unfold; not since Lonesome Dove have I been so sorry to let a group of characters go.” Andres Corsello, GQ
“A terrifically engaging novel…once embarked on this long and languorous novel, you will be rewarded by a page-turning, beguiling and wonderfully warm-hearted read.” Sunday Times
“Harbach is a first novelist working skillfully with some of the archetypes of American literature…and his hands, unlike Henry’s, are nimble from start to end.” Spectator
“Pitch perfect…You don’t need to be a baseball fan to love this book. It’s wonderfully entertaining and, like its hero, it really does deliver.” Tatler
“Once started The Art of Fielding is a book you want to read and read. It is deliciously old fashioned: it simply gets on with the business of creating vivid, layered characters and telling a good, engrossing story… Despite the baseball and trumpets, the book calmly and gracefully charms the reader.” Daily Telegraph
“Charming, warm-hearted, addictive, and very hard to dislike…It creates a richly peopled world that you can fully inhabit in your mind, and to which you long to return when you put down.” Guardian
“Steeped in American tradition, this moving debut hits a home run…What in less skilled hands might have been a light comic novel evolves into a debut of great warmth and weight…This is a charming, moving and slyly profound novel. You might even say Chad Harbach hit this one out of the park.” Sunday Telegraph
Rhumba by Elaine Proctor
Ten-year-old Flambeau waits for his young mother to arrive from the Congo, along the same dangerous route that the human traffickers smuggled him. Homesick and pining for love, he sees a glimpse of life in Knight, a fellow Congolese.
Knight, a sapeur – dressed to the nines and dressed to kill – is a gangster who lives for two purposes: to be noticed, and to dance away the immigrants’ troubles on a Friday night at Le Pitch, Broadwater Farm. And, who knows, he might just be able to use his contacts to find Flambeau’s mother, Bijou.
Knight has a girlfriend, Eleanor: a pale Scottish beauty whose love for him is total, but who can never be accepted into the world of Le Pitch. She becomes Flambeau’s confidante, and he her mentor in the art of the Rhumba – the dance that will help her steal her lover’s heart.
But Knight’s past is so troubled, and his present so dangerous, that to challenge the traffickers to find Bijou might be more than his life is worth – something a ten-year-old child cannot be expected to understand.
The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
The lives of four sensuous, bold and remarkable women intersect in the year 70AD, in the desperate days of the siege of Masada, when supplies are dwindling and the Romans are drawing near. All are dovekeepers, and all are keepers of secrets – about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love. There is Yael, the assassin’s daughter whose heartbreak leads to her true path in the ruins of the desert; Revka, the baker’s wife who loses her dearest treasure on earth and yet finds the strength to protect her family; Aziza, the warrior’s beloved who leads a secret life not even those closest to her could imagine; and Marit, beautiful witch of Moab, a woman as loyal as she is dangerous.
”Beautiful, harrowing, a major contribution to twenty-first century literature.” Toni Morrison
”In her remarkable new novel, Alice Hoffman holds a mirror to our ancient past as she explores the contemporary themes of sexual desire, women’s solidarity in the face of strife, and the magic that’s quietly present in our day-to-day living. Put The Dovekeepers at the pinnacle of Hoffman’s extraordinary body of work. I was blown away.” Wally Lamb
“Hoffman knows how to tell a good story. She brings this ancient world alive…It will bring huge pleasure to many readers.”: Sunday Times
Marilyn’s Last Sessions by Michael Schneider
4.25 am, 5 August 1962, West Los Angeles Police Department “Marilyn Monroe has died of an overdose”, a man’s voice says dully. If life were scripted like the movies, this extraordinary phone call would have been made by the most important man in Marilyn Monroe’s life – Dr Ralph Greenson, her final psychoanalyst. During her last years Marilyn had come to rely on Greenson more and more. She met with him almost every day. He was her analyst, her friend and her confessor. He was the last person to see her alive, and the first to see her dead. In this highly acclaimed novel, Marilyn’s last years – and her last sessions on Dr Greenson’s couch – are brilliantly recreated. This is the story of the world’s most famous and elusive actress, and the world she inhabited, surrounded by such figures as Arthur Miller, Truman Capote and John Huston. It is a piece of storytelling that illuminates one of the greatest icons of the twentieth century.
“Michel Schneider breathes life into the complex and fascinating relationship between Marilyn Monroe and Ralph Greenson, creating an intimate, inventive and heartbreaking novel in which psychoanalysis and the movies are brilliantly intertwined.” HanifKureishi
“Michel’s Schneider’s book is marvellous and insightful, a real vision of human delicacy, and one of the international novels of the year.” Andrew O’Hagan
“An extraordinary marriage of scholarship and storytelling that reminds us that Marilyn Monroe was a living complication of a woman and not a series of blinding attributes. An absolute triumph.” Carol Topolski
You and I by Padget Powell
Described, somewhat bizarrely, as ‘Waiting for Godot on acid’, this enigmatic, confounding and intriguing novel, from the author of The Interrogative Mood, will take you on a journey into the subconscious.
Padgett Powell writes: ‘Their conversation we may find it difficult to grasp much like they themselves. Coming to conclusions that don’t conclude. To questions that have no answers. To positions that may not be finally so aimless. They disagree to agree. They are smart, not smart; fools, not fools.’
Poignant, funny, opaque, diamond-clear, this strange little gem is sure to delight the thousands of devotees found by Powell’s The Interrogative Mood. ‘I’d like to see some flying dogs. Are there flying dogs? Not that I know of. Seeing some would improve my mood tremendously, though. I suspect it would. Mine too. Cheer us right up, flying dogs. Raining cats and dogs.Like to see cats bouncing off cars. Why’d they call combat air battles “dogfights”? They wanted to see flying dogs too.’
Prague Fatale by Philip Kerr
September 1941: Bernie Gunther returns from the horrors of the Eastern Front to find his home city of Berlin changed, and changed for the worse. The blackout, rationing, the RAF, the S-Bahn murderer and Czech terrorists are all conspiring to make life very unpleasant. Now back at his old desk on Homicide in Kripo HQ, Alexanderplatz, Bernie starts to investigate the death of a Dutch railway worker, while starting something — of an entirely different nature — with a local good-time girl.
But he is obliged to drop everything when his old boss, ReinhardHeydrich of the SD, the new Reichsprotector of Bohemia and Moravia, orders him to Prague to spend a weekend at his country house. It’s an invitation Bernie feels he would gladly have been spared, especially when he meets his fellow guests — all of them senior loathsome figures in the SS and SD.
The weekend turns sour almost immediately, when a body is found in a room that was locked from the inside. The spotlight falls on Bernie to show off his investigative skills and solve this seemingly impossible mystery. And if he fails to do so, he knows what is at stake — not only his reputation, but also that of Heydrich, a man who does not like to lose face.
So begins the most diplomatically sensitive case of Bernie Gunther’s police career. This eighth book in the Bernie Gunther series is, as ever, meticulously researched, with a compelling sense of time and place – highly recommended.
Exile: Book One of The Africa Trilogy by Jakob Ejersbo
For the vagabond pack of ex-pat Europeans, Indian Tanzanians and wealthy Africans at Moshi’s International School, it’s all about getting high, getting drunk and getting laid. Their parents – drug dealers, mercenaries and farmers gone to seed – are too dead inside to give a damn.
Outwardly free but empty at heart, privileged but out of place, these kids are lost, trapped in a land without hope. They can try to get out, but something will always drag them back – where can you go when you believe in nothing and belong to nowhere?
Exile is the first of three powerful novels about growing up as an ex-pat in Tanzania. Ejersbo’s first novel, Nordkraft, the Danish Trainspotting, was a phenomenal bestseller. Ejersbo’s trilogy, only published after his death in 2008, has proved to be another cult and critical sensation.
Slash and Burn by Colin Cotterill
Things have been pretty hectic for Dr Siri. Now he’s off on what he calls a ‘therapeutic holiday’ in the mountains with his wife and friends. But sadly there’s no rest for the wicked – with the help of a little blackmail they are accompanying an American MIA team. Their mission is to discover what happened to a stoned airman downed ten years earlier. Could he have survived? Who is eliminating the last people to have seen him alive? And who, we ask, is lighting the fires that are shrouding the Friendship Hotel in smog? In the remote Plain of Jars, surrounded by a thousand tons of unexploded bombs, Siri and the morgue team have to discover who is the killer in their midst before they too become victims…
One Day I Will Write About This Place by by Binyavanga Wainaina
Binyavanga Wainaina tumbled through his middle-class Kenyan childhod out of kilter with the world around him. This world came to him as a chaos of loud and colourful sounds: the hair dryers at his mother’s beauty parlour, black mamba bicycle bells, mechanics in Nairobi, the music of Michael Jackson – all punctuated by the infectious laughter of his brother and sister, Jimmy and Ciru. He could fall in with their patterns, but it would take him a while to carve out his own. In this vivid and compelling debut, Wainaina takes us through his school days, his failed attempt to study in South Africa, a moving family reunion in Uganda, and his travels around Kenya. The landscape in front of him always claims his main attention, but he also evokes the shifting political scene that unsettles his views on family, tribe, and nationhood. Throughout, reading is his refuge and his solace. And when, in 2002, a writing prize comes through, the door is opened for him to pursue the career that perhaps had been beckoning all along. A series of fascinating reporting assignments follows in other African countries. Finally he circles back to a Kenya in the throes of postelection violence and finds he is not the only one questioning the old certainties. Resolutely avoiding stereotype and cliché, Wainaina paints every scene in the highly-acclaimed One Day I Will Write About This Place with a highly distinctive and hugely memorable brush.
“A beguiling account and vibrant celebration of coming of age in post-colonial Africa.” Sunday Times
“An autobiographical portrait of the artist as a young man with brilliant commentary and critique.” Guardian
“Head directly to the bookstore for BinyavangaWainaina’s stand-up-and-cheer coming-of-age memoir.” New York Times
“A sharply observed picaresque tale that delivers on the promise of his earlier writing.” Observer
Grand Pursuit: A Story of Economic Genius – Great 20th Century Economic Thinkers and What They Discovered About the Way the World Works by Sylvia Nasar
Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind takes us on a journey through the tumultuous story of the making of modern economics, and how it rescued mankind from squalor and deprivation by placing its material fate in its own hands, rather than in Fate.
Nasar’s account begins with Charles Dickens and Henry Mayhew observing and publishing the condition of the poor majority in mid-19th century London, the richest and most glittering place in the world. She then describes the efforts of Marx, Engels, Alfred Marshall, Beatrice and Sydney Webb, and Irving Fisher to put those insights into action – with revolutionary consequences for the world.
From the great John Maynard Keynes to Schumpeter, Hayek, influential American economists Paul Samuelson and Milton Friedman, and India’s Nobel Prize-Winner Amartya Sen, she show how the insights of these activist thinkers transformed the world – from one city, London, to the developed nations in Europe and America and now the entire world.
In Nasar’s dramatic account of these discoverers we witness men and women responding to personal crises, world wars, revolutions, economic upheavals, and each others’ ideas. This is a story of trial and error, triumph and disaster, and how we face the future, based on the economic trials of the past.
Holidays in Heck by P. J. O’Rourke
Holidays in Heck takes the reader on a globe-trotting journey to far-reaching places including China, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and the Galapagos Islands. The collection begins after the Iraq War, when P.J. retired from being a war correspondent because he was “too old to keep being scared stiff and too stiff to keep sleeping on the ground.” Instead he embarked on supposedly more comfortable and allegedly less dangerous travels – often with family in tow – which mostly left him wishing he were under artillery fire again. The result is a hilarious and oftentimes moving portrait of life in the fast lane – only this time as a husband and father of three.
Tolstoy: A Russian Life by Rosamund Bartlett
In November 1910, Count Leo Tolstoy died at a remote Russian railway station attended by the world’s media. He was eighty-two years old and had lived a remarkable and long life during one of the most turbulent periods of Russian history. Born into a privileged aristocratic family, he seemed set to join the ranks of degenerate Russian noblemen, but fighting in the Crimean war alongside rank and file soldiers opened his eyes to Russia’s social problems and he threw himself into teaching the peasantry to read and write. After his marriage he wrote War and Peace and Anna Karenina, both regarded as two of the greatest novels in world literature. Rosamund Bartlett’s exceptional biography of this brilliant, maddening and contrary man draws on key Russian sources, including the many fascinating new materials which have been published about Tolstoy and his legacy since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“Conveys Tolstoy to me more vividly that any biography I have ever read…at every stage of Tolstoy’s life we feel ourselves in a gigantic presence…Bartlett never seems hurried and she gives herself time to paint the scene for us, bringing the scent of Russian earth and grass to the nostrils.” A.N.Wilson, Financial Times
“Engaging…Bartlett reminds us not only that the great man is not so very long dead, but also that his myth is being made and remade even now.” Claire Messaud, Daily Telegraph
“A splendid book – immensely readable, full of fresh details, and often quite brilliant in its perceptiveness about the greatest of Russian writers.” Jay Parini, author of The Last Station
100 Years of Struggle: Mandela’s ANC by Heidi Holland
Heidi Holland, author of Dinner with Mugabe, analyses transformation and stagnation in the ANC in her new book, 100 Years of Struggle: Mandela’s ANC
Despite the ANC being at the height of its powers, its future is today less certain than at any time in its long history. In the past, the liberation movement went through two enormous transformations with remarkable agility; the first at the instigation of the hot-headed young rebel, Nelson Mandela. He brought about changes that drove the organisation from gentlemanly petitions to armed resistance.
The second great shake-up in the ANC occurred over twenty years ago as Mandela emerged from prison, when the movement transformed itself from deep socialist militancy to centre-left political respectability. But it was at the time dominated by realistic, courageous leaders like Mandela, Sisulu and Tambo, who are no longer steering the vast juggernaut through the third revolution that is under way now.
The ANC’s struggle for freedom was supposed to have ended with its election to office in 1994, when it defeated apartheid. But rampant unemployment, income distribution as skewed as anywhere on earth, catastrophic corruption, inferior education and lingering racial tensions cast shadows that lengthen with each passing year. Whether the ANC, with its current leadership, still has the flexibility to transform itself and survive the anarchistic onslaught of politicians like Julius Malema remains to be seen.
Paradoxical Undressing by Kristen Hersh
Kristin Hersh was a preternaturally bright teenager, starting university at fifteen and with her band, Throwing Muses, playing rock clubs she was too young to frequent. By the age of seventeen she was living in her car, unable to sleep for the torment of strange songs swimming around her head – the songs for which she is now known. But just as her band was taking off, Hersh was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Paradoxical Undressing chronicles the unraveling of a young woman’s personality, culminating in a suicide attempt; and then her arduous yet inspiring recovery, her unplanned pregnancy at the age of 19, and the birth of her first son. Playful, vivid, and wonderfully warm, this is a visceral and brave memoir by a truly original performer, told in a truly original voice.
Happy reading – see you soon…