50 books we’re looking forward to in 2019 (Pt 1)

This is Memorial Device blew our proverbial socks right off at the start of 2018 and so it probably all but goes without saying that we are very much looking forward to For the Good Times, David Keenan’s second novel, which promises to tell the story of a group of Belfast boys running a comic shop owned by the IRA in a mixture of “modernist prose, roughhouse vernacular and hallucinatory Irish humour”. Big fat yes please.

We’ve had Autumn and we’ve had Winter – it was only a matter of time before the extraordinarily prolific Ali Smith sprang the third instalment of her Seasonal Quartet, Spring, on us. All we know? “The leaves on its trees will open after blossom. Before it arrives, a hundred years of empire-making. The dawn breaks cold and still but, deep in the earth, things are growing…”

You wouldn’t expect the author of Grief is the Thing With Feathers to go all conventional in his follow-up so don’t be surprised that Max Porter’s Lanny concerns “Dead Papa Toothwort who has woken from his slumber and is listening, and watching. Mad Pete the village artist. Ancient Peggy gossiping at her gate, to families recently moved here and to families dead for generations.” You might be scratching your head, as we are, but you know your interest is piqued…

“A woman’s teenage son takes his own life. It is incomprehensible. The woman is a writer, and so she attempts to comprehend her grief in the space she knows best: on the page, as an imagined conversation with the child she has lost. He is as sharp and funny and serious in death as he was in life itself, and he will speak back to her, unable to offer explanation or solace, but not yet, not quite, gone.” The Vagrants was a Bookmunch favourite so we expect good things from Yiyun Li’s latest, Where Reason Ends.

There’s only one author with two books on our 50 Books We’re Looking Forward To… list and that author is Ian Sansom. Book 1 is Flaming Sussex, the fifth in his County Guide series, following The Norfolk Mystery, Death in Devon, Westmorland Alone and Essex Poison. We loved the previous four books and this time around, “Sefton goes for a swim in Pells Pool, the oldest freshwater lido in England – in the very centre of Lewes – where he discovers a woman’s body. She has drowned. Is it a misadventure or could it be … murder?” These books are pure pleasure and Sansom should be selling JK Rowling-sized numbers.

Argentinian sensation Samanta Schweblin’s debut, Fever Dream, caused a big stir the year before last and now she’s back with a collection of 20 short stories called, rather wonderfully, Mouthful of Birds. Kirkus Reviews said the collection is “like an eerie walk through a perpetual twilight of uneasy—and often absurdly funny—states of consciousness and being.” To a certain extent we’re playing catch-up (Mouthful of Birds was first published in 2008, and it’s the second of three short story collections she’s published to date), but when you’re reading a writer you like it’s always a comfort to know that there’s still more to come… 

“It is Harvard in the early 1960s. Just off campus, Dr Timothy Leary plays host for his PhD students, laying on a spread of cocktails, pizza and LSD. Among the guests is Fitzhugh Loney, a psychology student, and his librarian wife Joanie. Married young, and both diligently and unglamorously toiling to support their son, they are not the sort of people one would expect to be seduced by the nascent drug culture. But their nights on LSD prove so extraordinary – so revelatory, so earth-shattering, so downright seductive – that Fitzhugh and Joanie are soon captive to the whims of the charismatic and subversive Dr Tim.” This is Outside Looking In, the 17th novel by Bookmunch favourite, TC Boyle. We’re figuring it’s Budding Prospects meets Riven Rock and we are EXCITED.

“Zorka. She had eyebrows like her name.” Set in 1980s Prague, Ukrainian-born, American and French artist and writer, Yelena Moskovich, has chosen to follow her debut The Natashas (which was described by the Financial Times as ‘brave, original prose [that] radiates with heat’, and named a book of the year by the Irish Times, Telegraph and Guardian), with Virtuoso, “an audacious, mesmerising novel of love in the post-communist diaspora”.

Where once Jason books were slim, single story affairs, over the last decade he has embraced the compendium and so now new Jason books contain four, five, six stories or more and O Josephine is no exception. Picking up the thread from On the Camino, Jason’s first autobiographical graphic novel, there is a story of Jason’s walk on the Wicklow Way as well as fictional fare in the shape of two detectives on a mysterious stake-out, bizarre never-before-revealed (and wholly made up) secrets about Leonard Cohen and the shocking love affair between Napoleon and Josephine Baker. However you cut it, it’s 176 pages of new Jason.

Everyone is talking about Zadie Smith’s next novel, The Fraud, a historical yarn about highwaymen. Yes, you heard that right. And everyone who is excited by The Fraud is galloping passed an as yet untitled collection of short stories, collecting all those stories that have appeared in the New Yorker over the course of the last twenty years, like it’s not a big deal. We’re looking forward to The Fraud too but it’s unlikely to see the light of day before 2020. Thankfully, we like short stories. We’ve got a Zadie Smith short story collection. It’ll more than keep us going.

 

Part 2 of 50 books we’re looking forward to in 2019 features new books from the likes of Ian McEwan, Yoko Ogawa, Sam Lipsyte and Hiromi Kawakami

 

 

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