Pandaemonium

TWENTY BOOKS TO LOOK FORWARD TO

One of the pleasures of the New Year lies in the anticipation of new reading, of all the books that one can look forward to in the coming months. So here’s a list of 20 forthcoming books that have caught my eye. It is, as all such lists tend to be, somewhat arbitrary. I could probably have created several such lists with no titles in common between them. There are many books not here that I certainly look forward to reading – David Cannadine’s The Undivided Past, for instance, Evgeny Morozov’s To Save Everything, Click Here or JM Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus. But to keep the list manageable I have had to limit it to twenty. I have largely kept away from academic works (though one or two may have crept in).  And I have broken it down by month and chosen four books, two fiction and two non-fiction, for each month until May. (Click on a  title or image to find it on Amazon). What strikes me, looking over the list, is how few science and philosophy books caught my eye, the growing number of good contemporary histories, and some outstanding collections of short stories that will be published this year.

Finally, I have also added at the end the book I am least looking forward to have to read in the next few months…

January

Graham Stewart, Bang! (Atlantic)

bang
As it says in the subtitle, a history of Britain in the 1980s.

Carl Rollyson, American Isis (St Martin’s Press)

american isis

On the fiftieth anniversary of her death, a new biography of Sylvia Plath.

George Saunders, Tenth of December (Bloomsbury)

tenth-of-december

A new collection of surreal and satirical short stories that, in Hari Kunzru words, often give ‘a more acute sense of what it feels like to live and work in post-industrial, post-crash western economies than much journalism.’

Ayana Mathis, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie (Hutchinson)

tribes-of-hattie

The story of family in the Great Migration, the mass movement of African Americans from the South to the North, and hence a story, too, of the making not just of black American but of modern America, too. The fact that Oprah picked it for her book club is, hopefully, not a bad omen.

February

Charlie LeDuff, Detroit (Penguin Press)

detroit

Subtitled ‘An American Autopsy’, LeDuff’s book tells the story of the fall of a city that once was the richest in the nation, and is now its poorest, a city that once was the vanguard of America’s machine age, and is now America’s capital for unemployment and illiteracy.

Bridget Anderson Us and Them? (Oxford University Press)

us and them

A study of the politics and ethics of immigration controls.

Nadeem Aslam, The Blind Man’s Garden (Faber)

blind man's garden

A novel about the war in Afghanistan, and of the moral and personal dilemmas it poses, told through the story of Jeo and Mikal, foster-brothers from a small Pakistani town, who secretly enter Afghanistan to help care for wounded civilians.

Karen Russell, Vampires in the Lemon Grove (Knopf)

vampires

Dark, inventive and surreal short stories

March

Eric Hobsbawm Fractured Times (Little Brown)

Eric-Hobsbawm

The first posthumous collection of Hobsbawm’s work that pulls together essays on twentieth century culture and its fragmentation. When it comes to recent history, Hobsbawm always had a far surer grasp of culture than he ever did of politics.

Michael Axworthy, Revolutionary Iran (Allen Lane)

revolutionary iran

A history of post-1979 Iran that should be worth reading.

Mohsin Hamid, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (Viking)

filthy rich

The follow-up to the wonderful The Reluctant Fundamentalist. A barbed satire, it tells the story of a man’s journey from impoverished boy to corporate tycoon, in the form of a business self-help book.

William H Gass, Middle C (Knopf)

middle_c

A novel mining many of Gass’s perennial themes: inhumanity, identity, change, deception.

April

Faisal Devji, Muslim Zion (Hurst)

muslim zion

Devji is both perceptive and iconoclastic and his new book on ‘Pakistan as a Political Idea’ should be well worth reading.

Peter Adamson (ed) Interpreting Avicenna (Cambridge University Press)

interpreting avicenna

A collection of essays on the life and thought of the great Muslim philosopher Ibn Sina.

Taiye Selasi, Ghana Must Go (Viking)

ghana must go

Taiye Selasi’s debut novel, garlanded with praise from Salman Rushdie and Toni Morrison, among others. Whether that is a good sign or not remains to be seen.

Amir Cheheltan, Revolution Street (Oneworld)

revolution street

A novel about love and torture in post-revolutionary Iran.

May

Albert Camus, Algerian Chronicles (Belknapp)

algerian chronicles

Unlike fellow existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, who was courageously fierce in his support of Algerian freedom, Camus never accepted the idea of Algerian national sovereignty. Published in France in 1958, the same year the Algerian War brought about the collapse of the Fourth French Republic, the Algerian Chronicles express Camus’ tortured attachment to Algeria. This is the first English translation.

Lee Smolin, Time Reborn (Allen Lane)

time

An intriguing argument for the historicisation of the laws of physics.

James Salter, All that is (Knopf)

all_that_is

The first novel in 34 years from one of the great stylists of American literature.

John le Carré, A Delicate Truth (Viking)

delicarte truth

Any new book by Le Carré would always find a place on my list.

And finally…

silence of animals

If there is one book I least want to read, it is probably John Gray’s new tome The Silence of the Animals, apparently a sequel to his 2002 book Straw Dogs. I have never understood the adulation heaped upon Gray – as you can probably tell by my reviews of Gray’s Anatomy and Black Mass – and I will undoubtedly understand it even less after reading this.

One comment

  1. Andrew

    I’ve recently had reason to read sections of Straw Dogs (won’t be bothering with the whole thing), and your response, & it made me wonder if you think you’re wasting your time with this whole ‘defending enlightenment values’ lark and would be far richer and far more famous if you came up with something more ‘ground breaking’ ‘provocative’, ‘controversial’.

    I don’t just question the adulation, I question why he’s taken seriously at all?. The consequences of such an extreme biological determinism seem pretty obvious pretty quickly, but Gray & others like him get fetted, called ‘brave’ and ‘radical’ rather than the more obvious, ‘silly’.

    To my mind it’s one of the worst aspects of academia that it’s almost like nature abhorring a vacuum, and there’s a constant craving for ‘new’ , takes on everything which then become fashionable and spawn endless responses seemingly regardless of the worth of the original idea.

    I am looking forward to the Camus though, as I think much of his response to the Algerian question had a really strong moral basis, and if there’s ever been a case of ‘wrong for the right reasons’ it’s that (His famous quote regarding his Mother has been I think completely misunderstood).

    I’d question how courageous Satre was though, just because it’s obvious he was right that Algeria deserved self determination, doesn’t mean his defence of the ends justifying the means was. It seems to me to be an extension of their argument over the Soviet Union, over which I think Camus has been shown to be the morally courageous one.

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