Most Anticipated Books of 2013

Our head books buyer Martin Shaw previews the best of the rest of the year

Well a prognosis at this early time of year is perhaps a little daring of me, but in terms of books, I’d say 2013 seems to be shaping up rather promisingly indeed.

There’s even a strong candidate already for title of the year: Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls (May), which is David Sedaris’s latest essay collection. It includes, I notice, a piece on the eating habits of the kookaburra, perhaps gleaned from his most recent visit to our shores?

More amusement is heading our way with two other terrific American writers. The wicked Sam Lipsyte has a collection of short stories, The Fun Parts, out in March. And George Saunders returns with his own collection, Tenth of December (February): ‘Not since Twain has America produced a satirist this funny with a prose style this fine,’ says Zadie Smith, which is definitely not overstating it.


In the upcoming February issue of the Readings Monthly, you’ll find my colleague Will Heyward rhapsodising over Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard’s A Death in the Family, which is the first of a six volume work of fiction collectively entitled My Struggle, and was a regular pick on many of 2012’s best books lists. Well the second volume arrives in May, A Man in Love. You get the feeling you’d better start with the first few soon, lest they become rather like that foreboding set of Proust on your bookshelf.

Another monumental book in translation – and for my money an extraordinary feat of biography – is Reiner Stach’s work on Kafka. After reading the first volume in English, translated many years ago, I was so desperate to read the second that I tracked it down in the original German. It is an extraordinarily vivid rendition of Kafka’s everyday world, and his relationships with family, friends and lovers. It also has a keen eye for the political, social and economic circumstances of the time that were so significant to his writing (which is so often seen as ahistorical/existentialist). Kafka: The Years of Insight will appear in June, and believe me, those 816 pages will fly by.

To continue the Germanic theme, Scribe have produced three splendid new editions of novels by Hans Fallada, of Alone in Berlin fame (March). They have also uncovered a heretofore lost classic from the Russian-born Hebrew writer David Vogel, Viennese Romance (May), which was written in the late 1930s. Finally, for all the fans of the late great W.G. Sebald, the book that he perhaps enjoyed writing most is finally making an appearance in English after first being published in 1998. A Place in the Country (April) is a collection of essays on the writers and artists that inspired and accompanied him in his own work, from Rousseau to Robert Walser, and it’s a treat.

VampiresInLemonGroveSmall Of the other internationals, readers of all persuasions are going to be well-pleased. We’ll have new work from James Salter, William Gass, Karen Russell, John Le Carré, Ron Rash, Anne Carson, Kate Atkinson, Javier Marias, Margaret Atwood, Patrick Ness (an adult novel for the first time), Isabel Allende, Maggie O’Farrell, Stephen King, Phillip Meyer, Neil Gaiman… the list goes on.

And what about local stocks? Well at first glance the launch of the inaugural Stella Prize this year couldn’t be more opportune, for it’s writing by women that seems the most noteworthy. As widely reported, Hannah Kent took the publishing world by storm last year when the rights to her debut, Burial Rites (May), were put up for sale. Having just read the first chapter, I can report that it is a thoroughly immersive historical novel based on the last woman to be executed in Iceland in the early nineteenth century, teeming with finely-observed cultural detail.

Meanwhile the redoubtable Anna Krien writes on the dark side of AFL culture in Night Games (May); Favel Parrett (Past the Shallows) will have a sophomore effort for us later in the year, as yet untitled; and Alexis Wright returns with The Swan Book (September). And then there’s a novel from Amanda Curtin, Elemental (May), which I can’t help but think will really put her on the map of Australian letters – her story collection from 2011, Inherited, was splendid. Finally, there are a raft of noteworthy memoirs, including Monica Dux’s Things I Didn’t Expect (When I Was Expecting) (March), Anna Goldsworthy’s Welcome To Your New Life (April), and the debut from Readings’ own (well, recently departed) Jo Case, with her Boomer and Me: A Memoir of Motherhood, Family and Asperger’s.


An honorary mention to the guys of course: Richard Flanagan returns with The Narrow Road to the Deep North (August); Chris Womersley with Cairo (October); Steven Carroll with A World of Other People (April); and a debut shot story collection from Chris Somerville We Are Not The Same Anymore (March). My hunch though is that the most talked-about book this year will be J.M. Coetzee’s astonishing The Childhood of Jesus (March) – if you read no other novel this year, make it this one.

Finally a bellwether of our changing publishing world – Ian Pears’s Arcadia (September) is a novel that will be released in the first instance as an app, in which intersecting narratives, characters and eras can be explored in different ways, with other formats to follow in 2014.

So what would the ancients have said? Carpe codex (seize the book)? It’s definitely looking like a great year ahead.