Exciting year ahead in world of books

Turning the page on another year, experts offer their predictions of what’s going to be hot in the world of books for 2021.
Exciting year ahead in world of books

Many key titles were delayed due to the pandemic, so there should be a bumper crop of books to bag in 2021.

IT’S going to be a sizzling year for new books in 2021, from dazzling debuts and celebrity memoirs to tomes exploring diversity, as well as light-hearted reads — and even a revisiting of Bridget Jones.

Many key titles were delayed due to the pandemic, so there should be a bumper crop of books to bag in 2021, but keep an eye on changing publication dates.

Caroline Sanderson, associate editor of trade publication The Bookseller, observes: “I suppose if there is a trend, in the wake of Black Lives Matter there are a lot of books looking at race and identity, with lots of interesting stories emerging.”

Bea Carvalho, fiction buyer at Waterstones, adds: “The publishing industry has a lot of work to do in representation and diversity, and publishers are getting better at finding talent from more diverse backgrounds.”

“Another trend which is continuing is the ‘locked room’ type mystery, where you have a group of people in a confined space and it’s got to be one of them, which we saw with Lucy Foley’s The Hunting Party,” says The Bookseller’s books’ editor Alice O’Keeffe.

Here are just some of the titles they suggest to look out for…

Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding. 
Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding. 

Popular fiction

Can you believe it’s 25 years since Helen Fielding introduced us to the wine-swilling 30-something singleton in London, trying to make sense of life and love in Bridget Jones’s Diary, played by Renee Zellweger in the films?

The new reissue (Picador, February 4) features 100 pages of rare and previously unseen material, so publishers are predicting fans will grab a copy for old times’ sake.

Dipping her toes further into the water of crime novels, popular writer Adele Parks gives us Both Of You (HQ, May 27), in which two women go missing in the same week and the investigating detective has a hunch the disappearances are connected.

Klara And The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. 
Klara And The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. 

Literary gems

Waterstones is predicting Klara And The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber & Faber, March 2), his first novel since winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, is going to be a big seller. It focuses on Klara, an artificial friend who watches customers come in the store to browse, and who remains hopeful they will choose her.

Singular by Haruki Murakami. 
Singular by Haruki Murakami. 

Other big names with new fiction out for 2021 include Haruki Murakami with First Person Singular (Vintage, Apr 6), a collection of short stories, while Jon McGregor gives us Lean Fall Stand (Fourth Estate, Apr 29), which tackles heroism and sacrifice when an Antarctic research expedition goes wrong, with far-reaching consequences.

Luster by Raven Leilani. 
Luster by Raven Leilani. 

Debuts

There’s a buzz around Luster by Raven Leilani (Picador, January 21), already a hit in the U.S. It sees a young black woman navigating life in New York begin a relationship with an older white man in an open marriage; she becomes embroiled in his family as she also gets to know his wife. Leilani’s voice is fresh, sharp and caustically funny.

Another debut to keep an eye on is Girl A by Abigail Dean (HarperCollins, Jan 21), which was sold in the UK after a nine-way auction: TV and film rights have been sold too. It focuses on the eponymous Girl A, now an adult lawyer who survived a horrific upbringing in a house of horrors. When her mother dies in prison, she’s bequeathed the family home where she must come to terms with the past, alongside her six siblings.

Also much anticipated is The Art of Falling (John Murray, February), the debut novel from Cork poet Danielle McLaughlin.

Her stories have appeared in various journals, newspapers and anthologies, including The New Yorker, The Irish Times, Southword, The Penny Dreadful, Long Story Short and The Stinging Fly. Her debut collection of short stories, Dinosaurs On Other Planets, was published in Ireland in 2015 and was shortlisted for the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards 2015. She was writer in residence at UCC for 2018-2019 and was the winner of the Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award 2019.

Diversity, race and identity

Watch out for The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr (riverrun, January 5), set on a plantation in Mississippi, which tells of the forbidden love between two enslaved men who find in each other a refuge and hope in a world dominated by brutal masters.

Yaa Gyasi (author of phenomenal debut Homegoing) brings us Transcendent Kingdom (Viking, March 4), a saga following a family of Ghanaian immigrants in Alabama, exploring faith, love and addiction in contemporary America.

From Georgina Lawton comes Raceless (Sphere, February 4), her story of being raised by white parents and her challenging journey of self-discovery as an adult as she tries to unravel her racial identity, and the deceit her parents wove around her.

Brown Baby: A Memoir Of Race, Family Home by Nikesh Shukla (Bluebird, February 4), is an inspiring memoir about how to find hope and even happiness in a world of grief and racism, explored from Shukla’s perspective as a father. In spring, social media influencer and Instagram star Sophie Williams brings us Millennial Black (HQ, Apr 15) a much-needed roadmap for young black women.

Reflections on Covid

Legendary children’s author Michael Rosen brings us Many Different Kinds Of Love (Ebury, Mar 18), an account of his battle with Covid-19.

Bestselling novelists

Familiar names who always deliver include Kate Mosse, whose new novel The City Of Tears (Pan Macmillan, January 21), the second historical epic in The Burning Chambers series, is a story of love and loss, war and displacement sweeping from Carcassonne to South Africa.

Elly Griffiths brings us Nighthawk (Quercus, February 4), another tale involving forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway that finds her investigating the death of a boy.

Slough House by Mick Herron. 
Slough House by Mick Herron. 

And Slough House (John Murray, February 4), the seventh book in Mick Herron’s Sunday Times bestselling award-winning series, finds Diana Taverner on the warpath a year after a calamitous blunder by the Russian secret service left a British citizen dead.

Thrillers

There’s a huge publicity campaign for The Push by Ashley Audrain (Penguin Michael Joseph, January 7, see reviews) which charts the experiences of a new mother who finds motherhood isn’t what she hoped for.

Acclaimed author Belinda Bauer brings us Exit (Bantam, January 21), her first thriller since her Booker Prize long-listed Snap, in which an old man, part of a network called the Exiteers, keeps a dying man company as he takes his final breath until something goes wrong and he finds himself on the run.

And ex-top-10 British freestyle snowboarder Allie Reynolds brings us Shiver (Headline, January 21) a debut set in her sport, in which a woman accepts an invitation for a reunion in a deserted lodge in the French alps with four fellow athletes she hasn’t seen for a decade.

Soon, buried secrets come to light with dangerous consequences. This one sold after a 10-publisher auction and the TV rights have already been sold.

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