There will be so many incredible sounding books released next year that I have been thinking about this post for weeks. As usual, I will for now concentrate on the first half of the year and hopefully write another post some time around June when more books will have been announced. I have tried to no go totally over-board and only include books I am sure I want to get to. You can find more books on my radar on my Goodreads.
I will mostly focus on books that aren’t part of ongoing series but there are plenty of those I am excited about; for example: Headliners (London Celebrities #5) by Lucy Parker, Dirty Martini Running Club #2 by Claire Kingsley, Shorefall (Founder #2) by Robert Jackson Bennett, Alpha Night (Psy-Changeling Trinity #4) by Nalini Singh (hands down my most anticipated release of the entire year).
Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey (Knopf/ January 7th, 2020)
Miranda Popkey’s first novel is about desire, disgust, motherhood, loneliness, art, pain, feminism, anger, envy, guilt–written in language that sizzles with intelligence and eroticism. The novel is composed almost exclusively of conversations between women–the stories they tell each other, and the stories they tell themselves, about shame and love, infidelity and self-sabotage–and careens through twenty years in the life of an unnamed narrator hungry for experience and bent on upending her life. Edgy, wry, shot through with rage and despair, Topics of Conversation introduces an audacious and immensely gifted new novelist.
Everything about that blurb appeals to me – that it has been praised as similar to Sally Rooney alone would have been enough to make me excited though.
The Island Child by Molly Aitken (Cannongate/ January 30th, 2020)
Twenty years ago, Oona left the island of Inis for the very first time. A wind-blasted rock of fishing boats and sheep’s wool, where the only book was the Bible and girls stayed in their homes until mothers themselves, the island was a gift for some, a prison for others. Oona was barely more than a girl, but promised herself she would leave the tall tales behind and never return.
The Island Child tells two stories: of the child who grew up watching births and betrayals, storms and secrets, and of the adult Oona, desperate to find a second chance, only to discover she can never completely escape. As the strands of Oona’s life come together, in blood and marriage and motherhood, she must accept the price we pay when we love what is never truly ours . . .
Rich, haunting and rooted in Irish folklore, The Island Child is spellbinding debut novel about identity and motherhood, freedom and fate and the healing power of stories.
I adore books about identity and I am at the moment really interested in books about motherhood. If this book works for me (folklore-y books are a bit hiss and miss), I am sure I will adore it. I have an ARC for this, so I will definitely get to this at some point.
Verge by Lidia Yuknavitch (Riverhead/ February 4th, 2020)
I tell you, do not go near that place. Do not go near it. Graywolves guard the ground there. Girls are growing from guts, enough for a body and language all the way out of this world.
An eight-year-old trauma victim is enlisted as an underground courier, rushing frozen organs through the alleys of Eastern Europe. A young janitor transforms discarded objects into a fantastical, sprawling miniature city until a shocking discovery forces him to rethink his creation. A brazen child tells off a pack of schoolyard tormentors with the spirited invention of an eleventh commandment. A wounded man drives eastward, through tears and grief, toward an unexpected transcendence.
Lidia Yuknavitch’s bestselling novels The Book of Joan and The Small Backs of Children, and her groundbreaking memoir The Chronology of Water, have established her as one of our most urgent contemporary voices: a writer with a rare gift for tracing the jagged boundaries between art and trauma, sex and violence, destruction and survival. In Verge, her first collection of short fiction, she turns her eye to life on the margins, in all its beauty and brutality. A book of heroic grace and empathy, Verge is a viscerally powerful and moving survey of our modern heartache life.
I love Lidia Yuknavitch and when this was announced I squealed so loudly, you cannot even imagine. I cannot wait to see what she does with a short format but I am sure I will love it.
The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams (Doubleday/ February 6th, 2020)
A mysterious flock of red birds has descended over Birch Hill. Recently reinvented, it is now home to an elite and progressive school designed to shape the minds of young women. But Eliza Bell – the most inscrutable and defiant of the students – has been overwhelmed by an inexplicable illness.
One by one, the other girls begin to experience the same peculiar symptoms: rashes, fits, headaches, verbal tics, night wanderings. Soon Caroline – the only woman teaching – begins to suffer too. She tries desperately to hide her symptoms but, with the birds behaving strangely and the girls’ condition worsening, the powers-that-be turn to a sinister physician with grave and dubious methods.
Caroline alone can speak on behalf of the students, but only if she summons the confidence to question everything she’s ever learnt. Does she have the strength to confront the all-male, all-knowing authorities of her world and protect the young women in her care?
Distinctive, haunting, irresistible, The Illness Lesson is an intensely vivid debut about women’s minds and bodies, and the time-honoured tradition of doubting both.
This sounds absolutely incredible. I love books that straddle the line to the absurd and when they then also center around women, I am in love. I have been wanting to get to the authors short stories for a while – so I am hoping to adore this so that I can then treat myself to her other book. Also, can we talk about this cover?
Daughter from the Dark by Marina & Sergey Dyachenko (Harper Voyager/ February 11th, 2020)
Late one night, fate brings together DJ Aspirin and ten-year-old Alyona. After he tries to save her from imminent danger, she ends up at his apartment. But in the morning sinister doubts set in. Who is Alyona? A young con artist? A plant for a nefarious blackmailer? Or perhaps a long-lost daughter Aspirin never knew existed? Whoever this mysterious girl is, she now refuses to leave.
A game of cat-and-mouse has begun.
Claiming that she is a musical prodigy, Alyona insists she must play a complicated violin piece to find her brother. Confused and wary, Aspirin knows one thing: he wants her out of his apartment and his life. Yet every attempt to get rid of her is thwarted by an unusual protector: her plush teddy bear that may just transform into a fearsome monster.
Alyona tells Aspirin that if he would just allow her do her work, she’ll leave him—and this world. He can then return to the shallow life he led before her. But as outside forces begin to coalesce, threatening to finally separate them, Aspirin makes a startling discovery about himself and this ethereal, eerie child.
I adored Vita Nostra when I read it last year (review) and have since then held my breath for another of their works to be translated by the incredible Julia Hersey. I cannot wait for this.
And I Do Not Forgive You: Stories and Other Revenges by Amber Sparks (Liveright/Febraury 11th, 2020)
Exciting fans of such writers as Kelly Link, Karen Russell, and Carmen Maria Machado with prose that shimmers and stings, Amber Sparks holds a singular role in the canon of the weird. Now, she reaches new, uncanny heights with And I Do Not Forgive You. In “Mildly Happy, With Moments of Joy,” a friend is ghosted by a simple text message; in “Everyone’s a Winner at Meadow Park,” a teen precariously coming of age in a trailer park befriends an actual ghost. At once humorous and unapologetically fi erce, these stories shine an interrogating light on the adage that “history likes to lie about women”— as the subjects of “A Short and Speculative History of Lavoisier’s Wife” and “You Won’t Believe What Really Happened to the Sabine Women” (it’s true, you won’t) will attest. Blending fairy tales and myths with apocalyptic technologies, all tethered intricately by shades of rage, And I Do Not Forgive You offers a mosaic of an all-too-real world that fails to listen to its silenced goddesses.
Amber Sparks is my favourite short story writer. I am currently reading an honest to god physical ARC of this book and believe me when I tell you that she is as brilliant as ever but infinitely more angry. If you like weird and beautiful and imaginative short stories, I could not recomment this highly enough.
The Unspoken Name (The Serpent Gates #1) by A. K. Larkwood (Pan Macmillan/ February 20th, 2020)
What if you knew how and when you will die?
Csorwe does — she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice.
But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin—the wizard’s loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.
But Csorwe will soon learn – gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due.
I adore books about gods, so I was pretty much sold from the start. I haven’t been reading as much fantasy lately but I do want to get back to that.
So We Can Glow: Stories by Leesa Cross-Smith (Grand Central Publishing/ March 10th, 2020)
A lush, glittering short story collection exploring female obsession and desire by an award-winning writer Roxane Gay calls “a consummate storyteller.”
From Kentucky to the California desert, these forty-two short stories expose the glossy and matte hearts of girls and women in moments of obsessive desire and fantasy, wildness and bad behavior, brokenness and fearlessness, and more.
Teenage girls sneak out on a summer night to meet their boyfriends by the train tracks. A woman escapes suffocating grief through a vivid fantasy life. Members of a cult form an unsettling chorus as they extol their passion for the same man. A love story begins over cabbages in a grocery store. A laundress’ life is consumed by obsession for a famous baseball player. Two high school friends kiss all night and binge-watch Winona Ryder movies after the death of a sister.
Leesa Cross-Smith’s sensuous stories will drench readers in nostalgia for summer nights and sultry days, the intense friendships of teenage girls, and the innate bonds felt between women. She evokes the pangs of loss and motherhood, the headiness and destructive potential of desire, and the pure exhilaration of being female. The stories in So We Can Glow–some long, some gone in a flash, some told over text and emails–take the wild hearts of girls and women and hold them up so they can catch the light.
The first sentence of this blurb had me convinced. This sounds just like my type of stories and the fact that they seem to be rather short makes me even more excited.
The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit/ March 26th, 2020)
Five New Yorkers must come together in order to defend their city in the first book of a stunning new series by Hugo award-winning and NYT bestselling author N. K. Jemisin.
Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got five.
But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.
How could I not be excited for this? Jemisin’s first foray into Urban Fantasy is bound to be absolutely brilliant.
Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby (Vintage/ March 31st, 2020)
Beloved writer Samantha Irby returns to the printed page for her much-anticipated, sidesplitting third book following Meaty and New York Times bestselling We Are Never Meeting in Real Life.
Irby is turning forty, and increasingly uncomfortable in her own skin. She has left her job as a receptionist at a veterinary clinic, has published successful books and is courted by Hollywood, left Chicago, and moved into a house with a garden that requires repairs and know-how with her wife and two step-children in a small white, Republican town in Michigan where she now hosts book clubs. This is the bourgeois life of dreams. She goes on bad dates with new friends, spends weeks in Los Angeles taking meetings with “skinny, luminous peoples” while being a “cheese fry-eating slightly damp Midwest person,” “with neck pain and no cartilage in [her] knees,” and hides Entenmann’s cookies under her bed and unopened bills under her pillow.
The essays in this collection draw on the raw, hilarious particulars of Irby’s new life. Wow, No Thank You is Irby at her most unflinching, riotous, and relatable.
Sometimes I just want to read something funny. And Irby’s writing is always funny.
Godshot by Chelsea Bieker (Catapult/ April 7th, 2020)
Drought has settled on the town of Peaches, California. The area of the Central Valley where fourteen-year-old Lacey May and her alcoholic mother live was once an agricultural paradise. Now it’s an environmental disaster, a place of cracked earth and barren raisin farms. In their desperation, residents have turned to a cult leader named Pastor Vern for guidance. He promises, through secret “assignments,” to bring the rain everybody is praying for.
Lacey has no reason to doubt the pastor. But then her life explodes in a single unimaginable act of abandonment: her mother, exiled from the community for her sins, leaves Lacey and runs off with a man she barely knows. Abandoned and distraught, Lacey May moves in with her widowed grandma, Cherry, who is more concerned with her taxidermy mice collection than her own granddaughter. As Lacey May endures the increasingly appalling acts of men who want to write all the rules, and begins to uncover the full extent of Pastor Vern’s shocking plan to bring fertility back to the land, she decides she must go on a quest to find her mother, no matter what it takes. With her only guidance coming from the romance novels she reads and the unlikely companionship of the women who knew her mother, she must find her own way through unthinkable circumstances.
Possessed of an unstoppable plot and a brilliantly soulful voice, Godshot is a book of grit and humor and heart, a debut novel about female friendship and resilience, mother-loss and motherhood, and seeking salvation in unexpected places. It introduces a writer who gives Flannery O’Connor’s Gothic parables a Californian twist and who emerges with a miracle that is all her own.
Everything about this book sounds right up my alley but what sealed the deal for me was this: “her only guidance coming from the romance novels she reads”. I cannot imagine this not being brilliant.
Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell (Sceptre/ June 2nd, 2020)
Utopia Avenue are the strangest British band you’ve never heard of. Emerging from London’s psychedelic scene in 1967 and fronted by folksinger Elf Holloway, guitar demigod Jasper de Zoet and blues bassist Dean Moss, Utopia Avenue released only two LPs during its brief and blazing journey from the clubs of Soho and draughty ballrooms to Top of the Pops and the cusp of chart success, to glory in Amsterdam, prison in Rome and a fateful American fortnight in the autumn of 1968.
David Mitchell’s new novel tells the unexpurgated story of Utopia Avenue; of 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. Can we change the world in turbulent times, or does the world change us? Utopia means ‘nowhere’ but could a shinier world be within grasp, if only we had a map?
It’s David Mitchell. Of course I am excited.
I Had A Wolf by the Ears by Laura van den Berg (FSG/ June 9th, 2020)
I Hold a Wolf by the Ears, Laura van den Berg’s first story collection since her acclaimed and prizewinning Isle of Youth, draws readers into a world of wholly original, sideways ghost stories that linger in the mouth and mind like rotten, fragrant fruit. Both timeless and urgent, these eleven stories confront misogyny, violence, and the impossible economics of America with van den Berg’s trademark spiky humor and surreal eye. Moving from the peculiarities of Florida to liminal spaces of travel in Mexico City, Sicily, and Spain, I Hold a Wolf by the Ears is uncannily attuned to our current moment, and to the thoughts we reveal to no one but ourselves.
In “Lizards,” a man mutes his wife’s anxieties by giving her a La Croix-like seltzer laced with sedatives. In the title story, a woman poses as her more successful sister during a botched Italian holiday, a choice that brings about strange and violent consequences, while in “Karolina,” a woman discovers her prickly ex-sister-in-law in the aftermath of an earthquake and is forced to face the truth about her violent brother.
I Hold a Wolf by the Ears presents a collection of women on the verge, trying to grasp what’s left of life: grieving, divorced, and hyperaware, searching, vulnerable, and unhinged, they exist in a world that deviates from our own only when you look too close. With remarkable control and transcendent talent, van den Berg dissolves, in the words of the narrator of “Slumberland,” “that border between magic and annihilation,” and further establishes herself as a defining fiction writer of our time.
This sounds INCREDIBLE. I adore short stories that are just at the line between our world and something weird.
There are also a number of books supposed to come out in 2020 without release dates yet: The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue by V. E. Schwab (this sounds like the quinessential Schwab book and I like her stuff the most when she just does what tickles her), Between Earth and Sky by Rebecca Roanhorse (while I would love a third in her other series more, I will take whatever she writes), Blue Ticket by Sophie Macintosh (I adored her debut), Milk Fed by Melissa Broder (if this releases next year, this is the one I am most excited about), The Devil and the Water by Stuart Turton (I had so much fun with his first book!).
Which books are you most excited about?