So that’s it. 2016, the year that brought us Brexit, the return of Planet Earth, more deaths than Game of Thrones, and Boaty McBoatface, is finally over. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have spent the first two weeks of January wondering what on earth to do to combat the equal amounts of hope and dread that 2017 will bring. Well the answer to that is…books, books, books.
Whether you’re like me and there are so many books you want to read that you can’t actually choose which ones to commit to, or you’re so busy you don’t know where to look, here are my top ten picks for the year ahead, starting with fiction’s big guns.
Neil Gaiman is visiting the stories that inspired the likes of Tolkein, Marvel Comics, and Gaiman himself in Norse Mythology. Largely originating in Norse mythology, the fantasy genre continues to sell well and, after this new rendition, it’s not likely to be going anywhere.
Tracy Chevalier, author of Falling Angels and Girl with a Pearl Earring, has penned the next book to be released as part of the Hogarth Shakespeare Project, which already boasts work by Margaret Atwood and Howard Jacobson. Chevalier’s New Boy is a retelling of Othello set in a Washington school in the 1970s. Expect it to do powerful justice to Shakespeare’s dramatic masterpiece.
After a decade-long wait, in September Ken Follett is finally publishing the next book in the Kingsbridge series. The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End were literary and TV blockbusters, so don’t be surprised if A Column of Fire has the same response. Set in 1558, Kingsbridge’s residents are living in the wake of the Reformation, and religious intolerance is rife. There’s a theme to look out for in 2017…
Many of those who didn’t predict Bob Dylan’s 2016 Nobel Prize win – let’s face it, most of us – had tipped Haruki Murakami for the prestigious award. The author of Norwegian Wood is publishing Men Without Women, a collection of seven tales about men who, each in different ways, feel alone, and is already being hailed as a contemporary classic.
John Boyne, who wrote the heart-breaking The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, is releasing The Heart’s Invisible Furies early this year. The novel tells the story of an ordinary man from Dublin who, after being told by his adopted parents that he doesn’t really belong, is constantly trying to figure out who he really is. Boyne’s simplistic but beautiful style makes this one a must-read.
Hanif Kureishi, former Whitbread Prize Winner, is releasing The Nothing in May. It’s a novel about an ageing filmmaker who suspects his younger wife of having an affair and becomes determined to exact revenge. Anyone who loves dark humour should have this on their reading list.
Next we come to a trio of non-fiction for literature lovers. Lifelong Emily Brontë enthusiast Samantha Ellis’ Take Courage: Anne Brontë and the Art of Life tells of an unexpected journey that led Ellis to the most overlooked of Yorkshire’s famous daughters, finding that Anne’s writing on women’s issues was well ahead of her time. This is the perfect book to read if you enjoyed Sally Wainwright’s beautiful drama To Walk Invisible over Christmas.
Jane Austen fans, rejoice. 2017 is bicentennial year of Austen’s death, and therefore means that a huge amount of work inspired by her will be published this year. My suggestion is by Helena Kelly, an Austen expert, whose book Jane Austen: The Secret Radical will look at Austen as a woman living in a revolutionary age, using the novel to do revolutionary things.
If you’re looking for a coffee table book in 2017, look no further than award-winning BBC drama producer Adrian Mourby, and his work Rooms of One’s Own: 50 Places That Made Literary History. Exploring locations such as Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin and the Edinburgh Café in which Harry Potter was born, Mourby explores the places that have inspired some of our favourite reads. See here for holiday inspiration.
Last but not least, we turn to the world of poetry. 2017’s biggest event could well be the first collection of lyric poetry for over a decade from Simon Armitage. In The Unaccompanied, one of the world’s most respected living poets turns his focus to a place of economic recession and social division. Expect to see Armitage’s signature dry humour and witty turn of phrase, exploring the absurdity of modern times with plenty of insight.