Our most anticipated books of 2014

Well, what a bountiful year 2014 is shaping up to be! There will be legions of fans awaiting new novels from the likes of Haruki Murakami, Marilynne Robinson, Sebastian Barry, Emma Donoghue, Ian McEwan, Sarah Waters, David Mitchell and Siri Hustvedt. Short-story aficionados have new collections from Lorrie Moore and Lydia Davis to look forward to. A new Gerald Murnane novel is always a cause for celebration.

And towards the end of the year we can await a collection of personal essays from Lena Dunham, which recalls Nora Ephron, Tina Fey and David Sedaris, and comes with quite a pitch: ‘I’m already predicting my future shame at thinking I had anything to offer you with this book, but also my future glory in having stopped you from trying an expensive juice cleanse or having the kind of sexual encounter where you keep your sneakers on.’

There’s even a novel already getting touted as a Booker Prize contender: the South African writer Damon Galgut, who has already been shortlisted twice for the award, brings us Arctic Summer (Atlantic Books), a fictional re-creation of E.M. Forster’s travels to India – and the freedoms and inspiration he found there – which led to the creation of Forster’s classic novel, A Passage to India.

I’ll finish with a rather eclectic list of predominantly Australian titles that are well worth keeping your eye out for. Particularly pleasing is to see some fantastic young writers on debut, with significant careers ahead of them, I suspect.

Tony Birch: With The Promise (UQP), Birch returns to arguably his métier – the short form – with this story collection. Already it’s being hailed as his best work to date.

Emily Bitto: A noteworthy debut this year, I’m sure, will be Bitto’s novel, The Strays (Affirm Press), loosely based on the Heide arts community of 1930s Melbourne. Bitto is influenced by how the controversial artists’ lives impacted on their offspring, and the novel explores the deep cracks in this utopian colony.

Maxine Beneba Clarke: Clarke’s story collection, Foreign Soil (Hachette), was the first book I read for 2014 and, to be honest, I’m not sure I’ll read a better debut this year. With stories of migration and emigration ranging across America, Africa, the United Kingdom and Australia, Clarke’s material is compelling, and her writerly facility utterly extraordinary.

Joël Dicker: is a name you most likely won’t have heard before, but this Swiss author knocked Dan Brown from the top of the bestseller list in Europe last year with The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair (Maclehose). Concerning a young writer who discovers his university professor and mentor is accused of committing a murder 30 years before, it’s enough for me to know that this literary thriller is published by Christopher Maclehose, the legendary publisher who most recently brought Stieg Larsson to the attention of the English-speaking world.

Geoff Dyer: There can’t be many authors with a more diverse list of publications, both fiction and non-fiction, than Dyer. This time, in Another Great Day at Sea (Random House), he documents life on board a US aircraft carrier, and how the men and women on the vessel lead lives diametrically opposite to his own, governed by service and self-constraint, and a refusal to embrace uncertainty. No doubt as funny as it will be insightful, it seems this is more classic Dyer.

Chris Flynn: It’s great to hear there is a second novel due from Flynn, whose first, A Tiger in Eden (Text), released two years ago, was so fresh and inventive. This time he adopts an Australian setting, with a tale concerning a travelling fair. Apparently, Flynn was once a sumo wrestling judge at such a fair himself!

Helen Garner: A new Garner book is always the cause of much interest and anticipation. Given this forthcoming title is another in the ‘true crime’ genre – detailing the tragic tale of Robert Farquharson, convicted of killing his three children by driving them into a farm dam – I’m sure it will be no different.

Eli Glasman: Glasman recently published on his blog a terrific piece about his writing journey to date, which left you in no doubt that he is a real writer, with all the self-doubt and hard-won successes involved. His debut novel, The Boy’s Own Manual to Being a Proper Jew (Sleepers), concerns a homosexual boy growing up in the Melbourne Orthodox Jewish community.

Karl Ove Knausgaard: No doubt the translator is working very hard to be as quick as he can, but alas it’s looking like a new Knausgaard will only be an annual event in the years to come. This year we’ll receive Boyhood Island (Harvill), Volume Three of the acclaimed Norwegian’s six-part autobiographical series, My Struggle. Boyhood Island focuses on his childhood in the 1970s, and is described as the most Proustian of all the volumes. For the fans, these books are a drug (I admit, I’m hopelessly addicted!), so all I can say is if you haven’t yet taken the trip, I heartily recommend that you do so.

Wayne Macauley: In recent years, Macauley, author of The Cook, has well and truly arrived as one of our most exciting prose practitioners. No word on the content of Demons (Text), his forthcoming novel, but I don’t think we care – we’re reading it!

Angela Meyer: From the much-admired writer and critic comes Captives (Inkerman & Blunt), a debut collection of what Meyer calls ‘micro’ or ‘flash’ fictions, in which – in the publisher’s words – ‘Roald Dahl meets Raymond Carver’. Expect then lots of rather strange things going on – and Meyer tells me that they’re also rather dark.

Miriam Sved: Usually, if anyone had asked me to read a book of stories set around the game and culture of AFL, I would have tended to do a handball. But the stories I have read so far in Game Day (Picador), Sved’s debut story collection, are stunning, showing that all manner of narrative thematics and perspectives are possible in what turns out to be a fertile and fresh literary terrain.

Rebecca Starford: I was intrigued to discover that Starford, the well-known co-founder of edgy literary journal Kill Your Darlings, has a memoir coming (Bad Behaviour, A&U). It’s an account of adjusting to life at the Timbertop boarding campus of Geelong Grammar during her high school years, and an advance excerpt published in the GriffithREVIEW made for riveting reading.

Martin Shaw is Readings’ Books Division Manager.

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Boyhood Island: My Struggle Book 3

Boyhood Island: My Struggle Book 3

Karl Ove Knausgaard, Don Bartlett

$22.99Buy now

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