So much good reading to look forward to this year!
In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri (9th Feb)
Jhumpa Lahiri is known for her lyrical prose, and the former language tutor in me is beside herself with excitement about this memoir. Lahiri wrote it in Italian, and the original and its English translation by Ann Goldstein come together in this book to tell the story of her love affair with Italian and where this obsession has led her. In Other Words promises to be a wholly original book, touching on themes that resonate deeply with me: exile, belonging, and the pursuit of a new writing voice in another language.
CRUSH: Writers Reflect on Love, Longing and the Power of Their First Celebrity Crush, edited by Cathy Alter and Dave Singleton (5th April)
For me, it was Jason Donovan, back in the late eighties: an innocent-looking blond twenty-year-old pop singer. He’d come out of the terrible but popular Australian soap opera Neighbours (and dated Kylie Minogue for a time, both on and off-screen). The day when my mother allowed me to put posters up in my room was one of the most triumphant of my young life, and I still think of him fondly. I could write my own memoir of celebrity crushes, and I can’t wait to read this collection of essays on the subject by such varied contributors as Stephen King and Roxane Gay, as well as my friend Karin Tanabe and my creative writing professor Richard McCann.
The Gilded Years, by Karin Tanabe (12th June)
Speaking of my friend Karin Tanabe, I also can’t wait to read her third novel, The Gilded Years. Karin and I met in 2013 at the signing for her first novel, The List, which, DC scandal being my favourite kind of literary scandal, I really enjoyed. We bonded on Twitter over our love of (what else?) The West Wing and our Belgian roots. I’ve heard a lot about this book as she’s been writing it – including the nail-biting decision about its title – and it sounds fascinating: it’s historical fiction based on an African American woman whose pale skin enables her to post as white and thus be accepted at Vassar.
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid (12th June)
I fell in love with Taylor Jenkins Reid’s writing in the first few pages of her first book, Forever, Interrupted, and I’ve read each of her subsequent novels within weeks of their publication. Her fourth, One True Loves, is an auto-buy for me not only because of its author, whom I now faithfully follow, but also because it deals with one of my favourite tropes: the return of the long-ago lost love. Emma believed Jesse to have died in a helicopter crash; she has found a fresh start with Sam, her new husband. But what happens when Jesse comes back? I can’t wait to go on this emotional journey with Emma and explore what happens to love after mourning, and whether new love can ever compete with first love.
The Inside of Out, by Jenn Marie Thorne (5th July)
I loved Jenn Marie Thorne’s YA début, The Wrong Side of Right, which I read because of my love for campaign novels. I found it smart, surprising, unpredictable, and emotionally complex. The bar has been set high, but I’m confident that this sophomore novel can meet my expectations. Emotional complexity certainly seems to be on the menu again: Daisy’s well-intentioned championing of gay rights after her best friend comes out has all sorts of unintended and unexpected consequences.
Shiny Broken Pieces, by Sona Charapoitra and Dhonielle Clayton
The stakes don’t get much higher than for June, Gigi and Bette in this follow-up to Tiny Pretty Things. Each of them is convinced that their entire lives have led up to a place in the American Ballet Company. But there’s only one place, and which of them will be found worthy of it? Will it be June, who is finally learning to believe in herself as a dancer? Bette, who is back after she was suspended for her part in Gigi’s injury? Or Gigi, whose sweet nature has been embittered by the desire for revenge? If, like me, you gasped and groaned your way through Tiny Pretty Things and love a good ballet novel, you won’t want to miss this one.
What books are you most looking forward to this year?