50 Books You’ll Want to Read in 2010 (Pt 4)

So what can we expect in 2010? Great debuts, great nonfiction, great second novels that fully deliver on the promise of debuts, satisfying fiction by writers at the top of their game, terrific novels that come, unexpected like a bolt from the blue? Hopefully… Here are a few books that might find themselves on end of the year lists…

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  1. Castle by J Robert Lennon – It feels like an absolute age since we had a new novel from J Robert Lennon (the last one to be published in the UK was the barnstorming Mailman) and this one has me keen with excitement. ‘When Eric Loesch returns to the small town in upstate New York where he was reared, he dutifully describes life there in meticulous detail: the woman who sells him his dilapidated house and its six hundred and twelve acres, the hardware store he visits, the large outcropping of rock he can see from his bedroom window. And when he discovers that this rock in the center of his view marks a tiny patch of land that is not, legally, his, and that the owner’s name has been blacked out on the property deed, he decides to fill the gap in the official record. Meanwhile, the reader is wrestling with the narrator’s own troubling omissions: Why does Eric hate his sister? Why can he remember so little of his childhood, and why won’t the woman in the hardware store sell him a gun? As Lennon investigates the lethal consequences of failing to question authority, what begins as a claustrophobic tale of suspense gradually becomes an indictment of national policy….’
  2. Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis – Already greeted with less than excitement by self-acknowledged Ellis devotee Gavin James Bower (author of one of the best debuts of 2009 with Dazed & Aroused), Imperial Bedrooms is a sequel to one of Ellis’ classics, Less than Zero. Is this an Ellis of diminishing returns (as the film of The Informers turned out to be) or the Ellis of Glamarama/Lunar Park? We’re hoping for the latter…
  3. The Canal by Lee Rourke – The Offbeats take their schtick mainstream in 2010 with Picador publishing Ben Myers and Lee Rourke debuting his novel The Canal. In an interview on Dogmatika a wee while ago, Rourke said, ‘It’s about boredom (of course) and the fetishisation of modern culture and violence (especially the kind of violence that is deemed by its perpetrators to have a ‘just cause': terrorism is a good example of this). It is also about the Regents Canal in London; a bench; a man; a woman; a gang of youths; secrets; commuting; work; bicycle bells; canal dredgers; technology; swans; Canada geese; coots; memory; civil aircraft; the London bombers and 9/11. But crucially it is about the man, the woman and the swan—and in particular the man’s repressed desire, the woman’s repressed fetishism, and the swan’s ever-present beauty.’
  4. Canada by Richard Ford – Only currently tentatively titled Canada, Ford’s first since The Lay of the Land will be a “novel of revenge and violent retribution set on the Saskatchewan prairie, in the early 1960s,” according to a statement from his publisher…
  5. The Leaping by Tom Fletcher – Tom Fletcher has been quietly making a name for himself in Manchester and the North of England this last couple of years. 2010 sees the debut of his novel which – if ‘Safe Children’ his recently published short is anything to go by – should be a cracker…
  6. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer – Okay. I think enough time has gone by for us to admit that we didn’t really get on with either of Safran Foer’s novels but we are a bit excited by his first major work of nonfiction that attempts to do a Peter Singer on the whole eating of meat and the future of the planet thing.
  7. King Death by Toby Litt – Litt hits K with a thriller that starts with a human heart hitting the window of an underground train. In recent years Litt has been going from strength to strength so – we’re expecting good things here…
  8. Light Boxes by Shane Jones – Light Boxes is about a mysterious town that endures a long, deadly winter. Told in short bursts, the story concerns the war the townspeople bring against February, an oddly real and powerful character. Chris Killen (author of another of our favourite 2009 books, The Bird Room) said, ‘Reading LIGHT BOXES made me feel like I was walking through a series of strange, interesting rooms that I’d never been in before. It also made me feel sad, especially at the end when it finished and I wanted to carry on reading. Shane Jones is one of my favorite new writers.’ Which is recommendation enough for us…
  9. The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris – the only one of the 50 that we’ve actually read so far, Joshua Ferris’ follow-up to the award-winning debut, Then We Came to the End, is less humorous and a smidge darker than previous. We’re firmly in Richard Yates territory. Yes, it’s that good…
  10. The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Simm by Jonathan Coe – The Penguin catalogue entry reads, ‘How bad is it when your SatNav is your last best friend?’ before going on to say ‘With his new novel Jonathan Coe does for the noughties what What a Carve Up did for the eighties.’ We liked What a Carve Up a LOT. If his new book is as good as that book, it will be very good indeed…

Tomorrow: in our fifth and final 2010 preview, there’s Catherine O’Flynn, Andrew O’Hagan, Mick Jackson, Damon Galgut and Seth, among others…

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