50 books we’re looking forward to in 2019 (Pt 2)

Whether you’ve obsessed over Channel 4’s Humans, think Ex Machina is Alex Garland’s best film or still mourn the end of Ada + Alex, you’d be hard pressed to miss some cultural interaction with the idea of humans and artificially intelligent robots acting all lovey-dovey, and now Ian McEwan’s joined the party with Machines like Me, set in an alternate Britain that has lost the Falklands war, in which Margaret Thatcher battles Tony Benn for power and Alan Turing achieves a breakthrough in artificial intelligence. Cut to Charlie and Miranda and their latest purchase, Adam. It ain’t a hop, a skip and a jump to a love triangle…

Way back in 2012, Zambia-born author Elanor Dymmot impressed with Every Contact Leaves a Trace. Her latest novel, Slack Tide, concerns an affair between Elizabeth, recovering from the death of a child, and Robert – “exuberant, generous, apparently care-free”. Slack Tide tracks the ebbs and flows of a “passionate, coercive, intensely sexual” relationship. “When you’ve known lasting love and lost it,” the book asks. “what price will you pay to find it again?”

You’ve won the Booker Prize for your epic Brief History of Seven Killings so what do you do next? Why, begin a fantastic trilogy that “draws on a rich tradition of African mythology, fantasy and history.” Neil Gaiman has already described Black Leopard Red Wolf (the first book of the Dark Star trilogy) as “the kind of novel I never realized I was missing until I read it”.

Obviously Anna Burn’s Milkman is one of the big books of 2018 thanks to its Booker win – and so any corresponding book set in and around the Troubles is going to draw comparisons – and in 2019 we have the David Keenan’s For the Good Times (see 50 Books We’re Looking Forward to in 2019, Pt 1) we mentioned yesterday and Music Love Drugs War by Geraldine Quigley, which is set in Derry in 1981 and concerns siblings Paddy and Liz McLaughlin, Christy Meehan, Kevin Thompson and the allure of their favourite hangout place, the dingy ‘Cave’, where they go to drink and flirt and listen to Dexys and Joy Division through a fog of marijuana, beer and budding romance…

“In an America convulsed by political upheaval, cultural discord, environmental collapse and spiritual confusion, many folks are searching for peace, salvation, and – perhaps most immediately – just a little damn focus. Enter Hark Morner, an unwitting guru whose technique of “Mental Archery” – a combination of mindfulness, mythology, fake history, yoga, and, well, archery – is set to captivate the masses and raise him to near-messiah status…” Sam Lipsyte – for, of course it is he – is back and Hark will be published by Granta in April.

We all know you can’t move for dystopias right now – and the flipside of that is the attempts made by writers to engage, in a fantastical way, with the ramifications of the world in which we find ourselves (so we’re thinking of Ma Jian’s China Dreams, say, which looks to recreate a world in which dreams are erased in order to survive in a somewhat harsh world). As the title suggests, Yoko Ogawa’s latest, The Memory Police, explores what happens when someone finds it difficult to conceal their thoughts from those eponymous police…

From book (Give Me Everything You Have) to book (The Fall Guy), James Lasdun gets more and more interesting. His latest, Victory, due out in the UK in February, comprises two novellas, “Feathered Glory” (which concerns “the seemingly happy marriage of a school principal and his artist wife reveals dangerous fault-lines as an old lover reappears in the husband’s life and the wife, fascinated by a charismatic wildlife rehabilitator, brings an injured swan into their home”) and “Afternoon of a Faun” (“where an accusation of historic sexual assault plunges Marco Rosedale, an English journalist in New York, into a series of deepening crises”). High hopes for this one…

“Each woman in this book has succumbed, even if only for an hour, to that seductive, imprudent, and furtively feline man who managed to glide so naturally into their lives. But who really was Mr. Nishino?” This is the beguiling premise of The Ten Loves of Mr Nishino by Hiromi Kawakami, who you’ll remember brought us The Nakano Thrift Shop and Strange Weather in Tokyo, which we liked a heck of a lot.

One of those short ‘read over a cup of coffee’ books in the vein of Ian McEwan’s My Purple Scented Novel (and like that book it’s being published to celebrate a 70th birthday), Haruki Murakami’s Birthday Girl is essentially a short story within hard covers (it was first published in The Guardian back in 2006) about a waitress’ ostensibly uneventful 20th birthday which takes a turn for the strange when she is asked to deliver dinner to the restaurant’s reclusive owner…

We loved Jenny Offil’s last book, Dept of Speculation. It was one of those books that made its way around Bookmunch Towers until just about every resident had read it. Her latest, American Weather, “tells the story of a librarian-cum-fake-shrink who finds herself drawn into the polarised world of left-wingers worried about extreme weather and right-wingers worried about the decline of western civilisation. A barometer of the current climate in America, the novel about hope and despair, fear and comfort as it plays out in times of meteorological and political turbulence…” Or so it says here. We’ll all be fighting over this one.


Look out for Part 3 of our ’50 Books We’re Looking Forward to in 2019’ which includes newbies from the likes of My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, The Feral Detective by Jonathan Lethem and Things in Jars by Jess Kidd, amongst others…  



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