50 Books We’re Looking Forward to in 2020 (Pt 4)






“One thousand years from now, the sole inhabitants of a small island – a group no larger than an extended family – are living in a post-civilised world. They are perhaps the Earth’s only human survivors.” For readers of The Wake and Beast, this may well be all you need to start to get excited for Alexandria, the third and final book in Paul Kingsnorth’s loose trilogy. “Beckett doing Beowulf,” according to London Review of Books…

It’s Gone Dark Over Bill’s Mother may well be our favourite 2020 title so far. Those nice people at Myriad tell us, “Lisa Blower celebrates her characters with stories that they wouldn’t want told. She makes the bleak funny, and strikes a new chord in regional and working-class fiction.” This is another book we’re scrapping over as far as who gets to review it…

We’re proper excited by Flake, a graphic novel by Matthew Dooley, the Cape/Comica/Observer graphic short story competition winner – “a tale of a skirmish in the ice-cream wars that is worthy of Alan Bennett”. Here’s the skinny: “In the small seaside town of Dobbiston, Howard sells ice creams from his van, just like his father before him. But when he notices a downturn in trade, he soon realises its cause: Tony Augustus, Howard’s half-brother, whose ice-cream empire is expanding all over the North-West…”

All good things come to an end and so Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet will draw to a close in 2020 with Summer – you can catch up on the story so far (or at least our thoughts on the story so far) by reading all about Autumn, Winter and Spring… 

Dog Run Moon was a fine collection of stories (“short stories of the highest order,” we said). And now Callan Wink is back with a novel, August, about a young boy and his life on a farm which all sounds somewhat Kent Haruf but, you know, as Kent Haruf was a tremendous genius who is sadly no longer with us, we’ll take every shred of hopefulness we can get.

Okay, we know we weren’t quite as excited by Everything Under, Daisy Johnson’s debut novel, as the rest of you were but that doesn’t stop us eagerly anticipating Sisters, her book 2. The lead in is this: “After a serious case of school bullying becomes too much to bear, sisters July and September move across the country with their mother to a long-abandoned family home.” Expect much in the way of “sibling love that cements Daisy Johnson’s place as one of the most inventive and exciting young writers at work today” apparently.

Utopia Avenue is David Mitchell’s latest magnum opus, a 540+ page whopper that looks like Michael Chabon’s marvellous Telegraph Avenue and smells rather like David Keenan’s This is Memorial Device. We’re told we can look forward to “riots in the streets and revolutions in the head; of drugs, thugs, madness, love, sex, death, art; of the families we choose and the ones we don’t; of fame’s Faustian pact and stardom’s wobbly ladder” – we’ll reserve our judgement till we’ve read it…  

We know it’s probably not cool to look forward to a new book by Rachel Joyce (she shifts units after all, which is not cool) but hell, what can we say, we like what she does. We liked The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, we liked Perfect, we liked The Love Song of Queenie Hennessy and we liked The Music Shop so it’s probably safe to say we’ll get along with Miss Benson’s Beetle…

“Winona is a young Lakota orphan adopted by former soldiers Thomas McNulty and John Cole. Living with Thomas and John on the farm they work in 1870s Tennessee, she is educated and loved, forging a life for herself beyond the violence and dispossession of her past. But the fragile harmony of her unlikely family unit, in the aftermath of the Civil War, is soon threatened by a further traumatic event, one which Winona struggles to confront, let alone understand.” A Thousand Moons is Sebastian Barry’s latest, out in March 2020. (Read what we had to say about previous Barry novels Days Without End & On Canaan’s Side if you like!).

Subtitled ‘A year of not sleeping’, Samantha Harvey’s first foray into longform nonfiction, The Shapeless Unease confronts a long, long, looooooooooooooong period of insomnia (we’ve all been there right?). The press release reads: “What happens when one of the basic human needs goes unmet? For Samantha Harvey, extreme sleep deprivation resulted in a raw clarity about life itself. Original and profound, The Shapeless Unease is a startlingly insightful exploration of memory, writing and influence, death and grief, and the will to survive.”


Look out for Part 5 of our 50 Books We’re Looking Forward To in 2020 tomorrow featuring newbies by the likes of David Peace, Elena Ferrante, Mark Blacklock and Sophie Mackintosh.

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