I’ve been sitting on this one for a while, mostly because I couldn’t think of who would want to take reading suggestions – about upcomings books, no less – from me. But then again, why not? Maybe there’s someone out there who didn’t know they needed this particular list.
You know, I’m one of those people – and here I’m assuming that there are others like me, which may be a bit of a stretch – who make lists of books that haven’t been published yet, and which they simply can’t wait to come out! Every other month, I add another book and yet another to my ever-growing list. But I’ve never really shared these effusions of enthusiasm before.
But hey, there’s a start for everything, so here’s one of my lists: 5 upcoming books for the second half of 2020 that I’m really, really excited about. All by female authors (further reason for excitement).
So if you want to buy me a belated birthday present, an early Christmas present, or a Halloween treat – this is what I want, folks!
1. Elif Shafak, How to Stay Sane in Age of Division – out on 27 August from the Wellcome Collection in partnership with Profile Books
The first book by Shafak that I ever read was The Gaze, a novel about the fierce, destructive power of looking – especially when the eye that does the looking comes from a culture of judgement and preconceptions. Honestly, my meeting with this book must have been fated: it was a free, not-for-sale copy that I received at the London Book Fair in my old job. I was intrigued, and then completely hooked, not least because, as I was reading this book, I had also started work on my PhD thesis, in which the gaze, looking, and seeing women was a central theme.
Since then, I have read many of her other novels, and my latest favourite also happens to be her latest published, 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World, narrated from the point of view of a murdered sex worker, just as her brain is shutting down for good. My meeting with this book was also fated – I happened to walk into the local bookstore at a time when they were selling a few copies signed by the author, and of course I was excited to buy mine!
This new book is meant to be a bite-sized incursion into why and how writing can help tether us to our values and spiritual freedom, even as the world seems to be falling apart. And since the world has definitely been on a downward spiral these past few years, I’m really looking forward to learning some helpful coping mechanisms – as a reader and writer.
2. Rachel Morris, The Museum Makers – out on 27 August from September Publishing
I stumbled upon the description of this book purely by chance, and it really drew me in. The publishers say that this is “part memoir, part detective story, part untold history of museums”, all of which are right up my alley!
Honestly, it was this quote that got me:
“Without even thinking I began to slide all these things from the dusty boxes under my bed into groups on the carpet, to take a guess at what belonged to whom, to match up photographs and handwriting to memories and names – in other words, to sort and classify. As I did so I had the revelation that in what we do with our memories and the stuff that our parents leave behind, we are all museum makers, seeking to makes sense of the past.“Rachel Morris
I have been a lifelong lover of museums, of curious and not-so-curious famiy heirlooms, a student of how objects’ significance and value alters with time. The way in which objects tell a story – or can be made to tell a story – fascinates me.
That is why I collect old photographs and postcards, and why I love nothing best than spending a beautiful summer’s day trailing across a cool museum hall.
So I’m very much looking forward to reading a story about the hidden museums of people’s lives.
3. Susanna Clarke, Piranesi – out on 15 September from Bloomsbury Publishing
I have been waiting for a new book from Susanna Clarke ever since Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell (to which I was a latecomer) and the equally absorbing collection of short stories, The Ladies of Grace Adieu.
Clarke has a real talent for writing alternative history stories that are suffused with magic and absolutely credible. It has taken her no less than 16 years from her last publication to bring her new book to light, and in fact, she also spent over a decade in writing Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell.
But, truth be told, I am far from frustrated by the wait. Instead, I’m grateful that she has taken her time to write – all beloved stories deserve that both their authors and their readers take their time over them.
Plus, I’m grateful in another way, too: if such a talented writer as Susanna Clarke took 16 years in-between publishing books, that seems to me to validate the struggle of more junior writers in finishing their stories and getting them to see the light of print.
4. Margaret Atwood, Dearly – out on 10 November from Penguin
Everybody knows who Margaret Atwood is, right? Right. But while many fans first fell in love with her novels, my trajectory as an admirer was less straughtforward. The first book by Atwood that I ever felt compelled to read – and which I adored – was actually a collection of lectures on writers and writing, called Negotiating with the Dead (now published under the less poetic title On Writers and Writing).
It was after that that I started reading her fiction, which, unsurprisingly, I also went on to love. But I think what stuck with me the most were actually some of her poems, despite the fact that her poetry seldom gets as much attention as her prose. (Why don’t people read more poetry anyway, what’s the deal with that?)
My favourite poem by her remains the spine-chilling “This Is a Photograph of Me” from the collection The Circle Game. “The Circle Game“, the poem that lent its title to this collection, also broke my heart a little.
“Being with you
here, in this room
is like groping through a mirror
whose glass has melted
to the consistency
You refuse to beMargaret Atwood, extract from “The Circle Game”
an exact reflection, yet
will not walk from the glass,
Dearly will be her first poetry collection in over 10 years, and I can’t wait.
What upcoming books are you looking forward to over the next 6 months? What else should I be looking forward to reading? I want more reasons for joy, please, don’t let me down.