50 Books we’re looking forward to in the second half of 2015 (Part five by Thom Cuell)

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Imaginary Cities by Darran Anderson: A work of creative non-fiction, Imaginary Cities is an imaginative exploration of urban spaces. Taking in opium dens, impossible skyscrapers, marauding golems and subterranean dwellings, Imaginary Cities claims that the Situationists lacked ambition when they claimed that beneath the paving stones laid the beach: there might be a lot more down there than that.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley: A blend of magic and historical fiction, this debut novel includes Fenian bombings, cross-dressing physicists, and Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, and looks like it will be a hit with fans of The End of Mr Y.

The Last Pilot by Ben Johncock: A family drama set against the backdrop of the space race, this debut novel has attracted advance praise from the likes of Joanne Harris and Jon McGregor, and could be one of the breakthrough books of the year.

Devotion by Ros Barber: Ros Barber’s follow-up to her Desmond Elliot Prize-winning debut The Marlowe Papers swaps poetry for prose and the sixteenth century for the near future. The story of a teenage girl accused of killing 15 students on a college trip and the psychologist sent to evaluate her sanity, Devotion is an ideas-driven psychological thriller which explores the conflict between religion and science.

Stranger Than We Can Imagine by John Higgs: Billed as an alternative history of the twentieth century, John Higgs’ latest non-fiction book examines the intellectual and artistic developments of the past century. Looking beyond the grand narrative of World Wars and Depressions, Higgs’ intriguing account takes in figures like Robert Anton Wilson, Gauguin and Emperor Norton, and explains postmodernism through the medium of Super Mario.

Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes: This debut novel looks at family relationships, female sexuality and power. Holmes’ short fiction shows a sharp, witty voice, making Barbara the Slut… a definite one to watch.

Street of Thieves by Mathias EnardMathias Enard’s first novel, Zone, was a brilliant, ultra-Modernist account of twentieth century conflicts in the Mediterranean. His follow-up is a more contemporary story, set in Tangier during the Arab Spring, which promises to explore religious identity, immigration and the great socio-political issues of our time.

Now and at the Hour of our Death by Susan Moreira Marques: This debut novel explores death through the eyes of a nurse travelling across northern Portugal, blending the stories she hears from her patients with her own philosophical reflections. And Other Stories have a great record for bringing us new and exciting fiction from around the world, and this looks like an intriguing addition to their list.

Playthings by Alex Pheby: Its publishers almost turned Playthings down, concerned that the subject matter (a fictionalised biography of a nineteenth century German judge who spent large chunks of his life in a mental asylum) would be too difficult to explain to the public, but overcame their fears, believing it to be a potential masterpiece. Coming from the people who bought us A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, that recommendation makes Playthings too intriguing to miss.

M Train by Patti SmithThe second volume of punk icon Patti Smith’s memoirs sees Smith travel to the graves of her inspirations Jean Genet, Arthur Rimbaud and Yukio Mishima, while meditating on art, creativity and loss. Like Bob Dylan, Patti Smith writes beautifully evocative, intelligent and thoughtful prose, and this promises to add a surreal element too, as she discusses the artistic process with an ‘astral cowpoke’.


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