The books to read in 2012
Once you’ve made it through the stack of literature that filled your stocking, get your teeth into these – ARMINTA WALLACEpicks the best publications from the year ahead
February 2012 marks 100 years since the birth of Charles Dickens, and in April it will be 100 years since the sinking of Titanic. There will be a million books on both topics, so we’ve chosen two: John Welshman tells the stories of a dozen ill-fated passengers in Titanic: The Last Night of a Small Town(OUP, March), while in Dickens and the WorkhouseRuth Richardson re-creates her discovery of a workhouse next door to the house where Dickens lived just before he wrote Oliver Twist(OUP, February).
Tim Newark journeys from the Boyne to Helmand in The Fighting Irish: The Story of the Extraordinary Irish Soldier(Constable, February); Frank McLynn tracks the occasions when England came close to revolution in The Road Not Taken(Bodley Head, June); Piers Paul Read says The Dreyfus Affair(Bloomsbury, February) is crucial to an understanding of the later history of France. Thinking the Twentieth Century (Heinemann, February) was written as the historian Tony Judt faced a neurological disease that left him paralysed. March will see the start of a new history series from O’Brien Press entitled 16 Lives That Changed the Course of Irish History. The first three volumes will be devoted to James Connolly, Joseph Plunkett and Michael Mallin and will be written by Lorcan Collins, Honor Ó Brolcháin and Brian Hughes.
Cork University Press’s monumental Atlas of the Great Irish Famine, edited by John Crowley, William J Smyth and Mike Murphy, will be out in May. Paul O’Brien’s third book on 1916, Crossfire(New Island, March), recounts the huge battle that centred on North King Street and the Four Courts, in Dublin: and Recollecting Hunger(Irish Academic Press, April) is an anthology of essays edited by Marguerite Corporaal, Christopher Cusack and Lindsay Janssen.
The big news in Irish fiction is a new literary novel from John Banville, Ancient Light, published by Viking in July; David Park’s The Light of Amsterdam(Bloomsbury, March) finds three sets of people leaving the island on a pre-Christmas escape; and Glenn Patterson’s hero Gilbert Rice takes us deep into Belfast as an industrial boom town in The Mill for Grinding Old People Young(Faber and Faber, March). Aifric Campbell is On the Floorat an investment bank (Serpent’s Tail, March) and Alan Monaghan’s The Soldier’s Farewell(Macmillan, May) is the final part of his acclaimed trilogy. Meanwhile there are debuts for Greg Baxter ( The Apartment,Penguin Ireland, April), the Irish-Trinidadian writer Amanda Smyth ( A Kind of Eden, Serpent’s Tail, June) and the joint winner of the inaugural Terry Pratchett prize, David Logan ( Half Sick of Shadows, Transworld, May). Internet-obsessed teens get involved with Chinese criminals in Anna Heussaff’s An Dragan Órga(Cló Iar-Chonnacht, April) while Alzheimer’s is at the centre of Pádraig Standún’s Ar Nós an Pháiste(Cló Iar-Chonnacht, May).
An 18th-century automaton comes to life in the new novel from Peter Carey, The Chemistry of Tears(Faber and Faber, April); Richard Ford’s Canada(Bloomsbury, June) is a sprawling, big-canvas affair; and Romesh Gunesekera’s The Prisoner of Paradise(February) finds an Englishwoman in Mauritius in 1825. Kate Grenville’s Sarah Thornhill(Canongate, February) is a sequel to The Secret River, and Ron Rash’s The Cove(Canongate, March) has earned comparisons to Cormac McCarthy and William Faulkner. There’ll also be new books in 2012 from Martin Amis ( Lionel Asbo, Jonathan Cape, July), Ismail Kadare ( The Fall of the Stone City, Canongate, May), James Kelman ( Mo Said She Was Quirky,Hamish Hamilton, July), John Irving ( In One Person, Transworld, May), Elif Shafak ( Honour, Viking, April) and the Impac winner Gerbrand Bakker ( The Detour, Harvill Secker, February). Mario Vargas Llosa’s book about Roger Casement, The Dream of the Celt, is also due from Faber and Faber in June. Enrique Vila-Matas is set to make a big splash with a Joyce-inspired fantasy, Dublinesca(Harvill Secker, June). Dan Rhodes’s This Is Life(Canongate, March) is a missing-baby mystery; Andrew Motion has written a sequel to Treasure Island, Silver(Jonathan Cape, April); and Irvine Welsh has written a prequel to Trainspotting, Skagboys(Jonathan Cape, April).
In Iain Banks’s Stonemouth(Little, Brown, April) a man returns to his family for a funeral: The Gathering, but in England. And the new novel from the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon, finds a family cooped up on a wet week in Wales ( The Red House, Jonathan Cape, May).
New writing comes from Peru in Alonso Cueto’s The Blue Hour(Heinemann, June), Argentina in Martin Kohan’s boarding-school drama School for Patriots(Serpent’s Tail, June) and Saudi Arabia in Abdo Khai’s Throwing Sparks(Bloomsbury, March). A psychiatrist in Vienna in 1913 is the subject of William Boyd’s Waiting for Sunrise(Bloomsbury, March), while Elliot Perlman’s The Street Sweeper(Faber and Faber, February) chronicles the friendship between a hospital janitor and a Holocaust survivor. Speaking of survivors, there’ll be a replica first edition of Dracula, with an introduction by Colm Tóibín, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Bram Stoker’s death (Constable, April) and a restored Finnegans Wakeedited by Danis Rose and John O’Hanlon from Penguin Modern Classics in April – while the 2012 Dublin One City, One Book choice, Dubliners, comes in a new edition from the O’Brien Press in March.
Time for a fresh look at the democratic process, says Matthew Flinders in Defending Politics: Why Democracy Matters in the 21st Century(OUP, April). Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson, however, are focusing on why some countries just can’t seem to get their acts together in Why Nations Fail(Profile Books, March). What happens when nobody is running the world? A global power vacuum, says Ian Bremner in G-Zero(Portfolio Penguin, May). Richard Aldous shatters the myth of a special relationship between the UK and the US in Reagan and Thatcher(Hutchinson, March).
The inside story of the Green Party’s role in the calamitous Cowen government is told by former party chairman and senator Dan Boyle in Without Power or Glory(New Island, March), while the declining role of the Senate itself is the subject of The House of Disrepute: The Story of Seanad Éireann– and Whether it’s Worth Saving(Liberties Press, August), by Jimmy Healy and Paul O’Brien. Finally, we can look forward to two histories of the Irish Labour Party: Emmet O’Connor’s A Labour History of Ireland 1824-2000(UCD Press, January) and Paul Rouse’s The Irish Labour Party 1912-2012(the Collins Press, April).
Rachel Cusk follows her acclaimed A Life’s Work, about becoming a mother, with Aftermath(Faber and Faber, March), a series of meditations on life after marriage, while Sarah Manguso, who wrote about her own life-threatening illness in Two Kinds of Decay,tells the story of a friend who threw himself under a train in The Guardians(Granta, June). Jane Maas reveals the real stories behind Mad Menin Mad Women(Bantam, February), and Marion Beardsley Alford tells all about her youthful affair with John F Kennedy in Once Upon a Secret(Hutchinson, February). The UCD sociologist Tom Inglis takes an unflinching look at life with his wife, who died from breast cancer in 2005, in Making Love(New Island, April); and in Touchstones(Hodder, June) Felicity Hayes-McCoy recounts how her life was transformed by a move to the Dingle Peninsula.
Susannah Clapp recalls her friendship with a great novelist in A Card from Angela Carter(Bloomsbury, February); the Australian writer Tim Winton retraces his lifelong love affair with the sea in Land’s Edge(Picador, May); and the great travel writer Pico Ayer sets out to write about Graham Greene and ends up writing about his own father in The Man within My Head(Bloomsbury, May). Mary M Talbot and Brian Talbot have an interesting take on James Joyce’s daughter Lucia in Dotter of her Father’s Eyes(Jonathan Cape, February) and the music writer Nick Coleman writes about coming to terms with deafness in The Train in the Night(Jonathan Cape, February).
Helga’s Diary(Viking, June) is the story of Helga Weiss, recounting her experiences in Auschwitz and Terezin, and A Kind of Prayer(Two Roads, March) offers wisdom from the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor, Caroline Stoessinger – almost 108, a Mozart specialist and still playing the piano.
If travelling around Australia in a 1975 Ford Falcon station wagon sounds good to you, Paul Martin’s account of his Travels with Bertha(Liberties Press, April) is guaranteed to have you reaching for an online visa form. AA Gill brings his usual critical eye to New York and rural Kentucky in America(Weidenfeld Nicholson, May). Tips and advice married to photos and descriptive narrative make Mary-Ann Gallagher’s Dream Journeys(Quercus, February) – 50 once-in-a-lifetime trips selected by the Scottish travel writer – a must-have for travel fans. Like many before him, Paul Strathern is in search of The Spirit of Venice(Jonathan Cape, May). Llewelyn Morgan explores Afghanistan by seeking out the history of The Buddhas of Bamiyan(Profile Books, April).
In the first-prize-for-trying category are two books about places you’d never ever want to visit, ever. In You Are Awful (But I Like You)(Jonathan Cape, February) Tim Moore checks out deep-fried, pound-shop Britain while Andrew Blackwell trots around the world’s most polluted places, from Canada’s strip mines to the Chinese city of Linfen, in Visit Sunny Chernobyl(Random House Books, June). A country that no longer exists is the subject of Jean-Paul Kauffmann’s Courland(Quercus, April). Once the buffer between the Germanic and Slav worlds, it’s now part of Latvia – a place of wide skies, deserted beaches, stately homes and ex-KGB prisons.
The credit crunch has barely started, writes Mitch Feierstein in Planet Ponzi(Transworld, February). He predicts four outcomes, none of which is a barrel of laughs. Daniel Franklin and John Andrews also plunge into the prediction business in Megachange: The World in 2050(Profile Books, April), and Ruchir Sharma explains why the next economic success stories won’t be where we expect them to be in Breakout Nations(Allen Lane, May). David Wolman peeks into a cashless future in The End of Money(Da Capo Press, March), and Michael Moran studies the impact of the debt crisis on US power in The Reckoning(Palgrave, May).
The film offered a devastating critique of the American financial-services market – and in the book Inside Job(Oneworld, May), Charles Ferguson reveals the whopping 98 per cent of his research he says he couldn’t use on the big screen. The Zambian economist Damisa Moyo asks what the race for the world’s resources will mean for you and me in Winner Take All(Allen Lane, June). And if you know anyone who’s facing the terrible task of job interviews, have a look at the impossible interview questions in William Poundstone’s Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?(Oneworld, April).
Writing about Vladimir Putin has resulted in death threats for Masha Gessen: nevertheless, she analyses the Russian politician’s rise to power in The Man without a Face(Granta, March). Stephen Brumwell looks at an American president’s evolving attitude to war in George Washington: Gentleman Warrior(Quercus, June). Josephine Bonaparte is the subject of Kate Williams’s Mistress of Empires(Hutchinson, June), and Michael Hoffmann offers an epistolary study of the Hungarian writer Joseph Roth (Granta, February). Artur Domoslawski writes about Ryszard Kapuscinski (Verso, June); Peter Ackroyd turns his attention to the Victorian crime novelist Wilkie Collins (Chatto Windus, March). Jenny Williams uncovers the astonishing life of Hans Fallada, author of last year’s smash hit Alone in Berlin, in More Lives Than One(Penguin, February).
Kevin O’Connor’s The Little Genius(Liffey Press, April) is billed as the first full-length biography of Harry Kernoff, one of Ireland’s greatest 20th-century artists, while Catherine Morris analyses the achievements of one of the inventors of modern Ireland in Alice Milligan and the Irish Cultural Revival(Four Courts Press, May).
Pat Walsh’s A Rebel Act(Mercier Press, March) is a biography of the poet Michael Hartnett and his decision to give up writing in English. Rónan Mac Con Iomaire chronicles the life of the Connemara boxer Seán Ó Mainnín in Rocky Ros Muc(Cló Iar-Chonnacht, April). And the first Irishman to reach the summit of K2, only to be killed on the descent, is celebrated in Damien O’Brien’s The Time Has Come: The Life and Loss of Ger McDonnell(the Collins Press, April).
Two decades after his influential book Jiving at the Crossroads,the Irish Timescolumnist John Waters delves into the Irish psyche once again in Tripping on the Tiger’s Tale(Transworld, April). Next year is the 20th anniversary of the Bosnian war, and Ed Vulliamy reviews the current state of Balkan affairs in The War Is Dead Long Live the War(Bodley Head April). The movement of 200 million people between the Chinese countryside and its manufacturing centres every year is the subject of Hsiao-Hung Pai’s Scattered Sand: The Story of China’s Rural Migrants(Verso, June). Peter Bergen recalls the 10-year search for Osama bin Laden in Manhunt(Bodley Head, May); Tim Weiner analyses the lawless methods used by the world’s greatest democracy in State of Danger: The FBI and its Enemies(Allen Lane, May); and Matthew M Aid argues that the US has lost the war on terror in Intel Wars(Bloomsbury, March).
In The Rebirth of History(Verso, July) Alain Badiou rethinks the state of history in the wake of the Arab spring; John R Bradley predicts that radical Islam will sweep the “new” Middle East in Tunisian Tsunami(Palgrave, March). The Crime novelist Tobias Jones gives a glimpse into the horrors of real-life crime in Italy in Blood on the Altar(Faber and Faber, March). And Mary Gallagher launches a blistering attack on the collapse of academic values in Irish third-level education in Academic Armageddon(Liffey Press, April).
Irish crime fiction is now as good as any in the world, and next year we can look forward to new books from Ken Bruen ( Headstone, Transworld, April), Conor Fitzgerald ( The Namesake, Bloomsbury, March), Tana French ( Broken Harbour,Hodder, June), Jane Casey ( The Last Girl, Ebury Press, May) and Brian McGilloway ( The Nameless Dead, Macmillan, May). At the box office, however, the Scandinavians are still the masters of the crime universe – and the news that Martin Scorsese is to direct the movie version of The Snowmanprobably won’t do Jo Nesbø’s new Harry Hole book, Phantom(Harvill Secker, March) any harm. A thriller based around the still-unsolved murder of Swedish prime minister Olof Palme comes from Leif GW Persson ( Another Time, Another Life, Transworld, March), Hakan Nesser goes all exotic with Carambole(Macmillan, April) and Jussi Adler-Olsen is back with Disgrace(Penguin, June).
The easygoing Icelandic cop Sigurdur Oli takes centre stage in Arnaldur Indridason’s Black Skies(Harvill Secker, June). Those in search of the new Sarah Lund should check out Mons Kallentoft’s Summertime Death(Hodder, May) and Asa Larsson’s The Black Path(Quercus, March); there are dark deeds on the island of Gotland in Mari Jungstedt’s The Dark Angel(Transworld, March); and Easy Money,from Jens Lapidus (Macmillan, February), is the first of a trilogy set in the Stockholm underworld. And if all this Scandinavian crime fiction is leaving you dazed and confused, check out Barry Forshaw’s literary overview of the genre, Death in a Cold Climate(Palgrave, February).
Murder and mayhem in Humberside is the order of the day in David Mark’s The Dark Winter(Quercus, March) while Scotland is still fertile ground for murderers in Alex Gray’s A Pound of Flesh(Sphere, March) and Karen Campbell’s Proof of Life(Hodder, February). Detective Nick Belsey goes underground in London’s secret tunnels in Oliver Harris’s Deep Shelter(Jonathan Cape, May). And there’s a new outing for Fr Anselm in William Brodrick’s The Day of the Life(Little, Brown, April). On the Italian front there are new books from Donna Leon ( Beastly Things, Heinemann, April) and Andrea Camilleri ( The Potter’s Field, Macmillan, April) while Kingdom of Strangers(Little, Brown, May) is Zoe Ferraris’s third novel featuring the Saudi detective Katya. RJ Ellory’s A Dark and Broken Heart(Orion, May) finds good cop Madigan in thrall to drugs bad-guy Sandia. And Mma Ramotse is back in the new Alexander McCall Smith novel, The Limpopo Agency for Private Detection(Little Brown, March).
The London Olympics are the hook for a fistful of books looking at the ups and downs of the sporting life, among them Chris Cooper’s Run, Swim, Throw, Cheat(OUP, May), which examines the biochemistry of drugs and asks whether it’s really possible to test for them. Mike Rowbottom’s Foul Play(Bloomsbury, May) takes a humorous look at the lengths people will go to in order to win. Marc Perelman, meanwhile, is a man on a mission: he detests sport and argues that it’s a disastrous negative force in Barbaric Sport: A Global Plague(Verso, May).
For most people, however, sporting heroes haven’t lost their tarnish, and among those in the spotlight next year will be Jimmy Connors, whose Autobiography(Bantam, June) will appear on the anniversary of his last Wimbledon victory, and the Belgian cyclist Eddy Mercx, who is the subject of William Fotheringham’s Mercx: Half Man, Half Bike(Yellow Jersey, June).
Adam Smith gets up close and personal to the families who dominate the boxing world for Beautiful Brutality(Transworld, June), while Kevin McCarra spoke to nine people associated with the Glasgow club, including Roy Keane, Dermot Desmond and Martin O’Neill, for Celtic: A biography in Nine Lives(Faber and Faber, April). Jonathan Wilson’s The Outsider(Orion, May) is billed as the first cultural history of goalkeepers. Adharanand Finn moved to a small town in Kenya, where he trained for a marathon with Kenyan athletes; he tells the tale in Running with the Kenyans(Faber and Faber, April).
Kathleen MacMahon created a sensation when she got an advance of nearly €600,000 at this year’s London Book Fair for her love story This Is How It Ends(Sphere, June). For MacMahon, with luck, a stellar career is just beginning. A literary agent who loses her phone kicks off Niamh Greene’s A Message to Your Heart(Penguin Ireland, June).
All is not well in the horsey heaven that is Co Kildare in Tara Moore’s Blue-Eyed Girl(Orion, March), while Marita Conlon-McKenna does what she promises on the cover and tells a tale of Three Women(Transworld, March). There’s a new book from the former corporate lawyer Sarah Harte, Thick and Thin(Penguin Ireland, May), and a new voice in Irish women’s fiction, Cee Liddy, makes her debut with Not Quite a Fairytale(Penguin Ireland, March). Anita Notaro is keeping shtum about the plot of A Moment Like This(Transworld, May). The queen of comic fiction, Sue Townsend, looks to be on form with The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year (Michael Joseph, March) – a hardback edition of Adrian Mole is also on the way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the original wimpy kid.
Ignore the supernatural – and steal the really good stuff. So says Alain de Botton in Religion for Atheists(Hamish Hamilton, February). Jim Holt consults eccentric Oxford philosophers, a Nobel laureate and John Updike, among others, for an answer to the question Why Does the World Exist?(Profile Books, May), while Robert and Edward Skidelsky propose a radical new model for income distribution in How Much Is Enough?: Money and the Good Life(Allen Lane, April). Oliver Burkeman turns decades of self-help dogma on its head when he suggests that failure, uncertainty and death are good for you in The Backwards Law(Canongate, June), and Geoff Dyer turns life, the universe and pretty much everything on its head in Zona(Canongate, February), which begins as a study of Tarkovsky’s film Stalker. And Brendan O’Donaghue has put together A Moriarty Reader(Lilliput Press, March), a guide to the works of the late philosopher John Moriarty.
First-time fathers should keep an eye out for The Irish Dad’s Survival Guide to Pregnancy and Beyond(the O’Brien Press, March), by David Caren; at the other end of the emotional spectrum, there are tips for how to manage the end of a relationship in Rachel Fehilly’s Break Up, Don’t Crack Up(Orpen Press, February). The history of Irish psychiatry comes under scrutiny in Asylums, Mental Health Care and the Irish 1800-2010, edited by Pauline Prior (Irish Academic Press, May), while the consultant geriatrician Des O’Neill offers some practical advice for in Ageing and Caring: A Toolkit for Later Life(Orpen, February).
Mike Gibney looks at the challenges and controversies surrounding nutrition in Something to Chew On: Challenging Controversies in Food and Health(UCD Press, June); on a similar note, Hattie Ellis asks What to Eat? Ten Chewy Questions About Daily Food and Drink(Granta, May). The commercial-fiction superstar Marian Keyes offers a frank account of her depression and how baking got her back on track in Saved by Cake(Michael Joseph, February) – and the former minister for agriculture, food and fisheries Trevor Sargent dishes up a week-by-week guide to planting, maintaining and harvesting your own food in Trevor’s Kitchen Garden(Orpen Press, March).
All the evidence is that there are still lots of books with titles such as Martin Redfern’s Earth: 50 Ideas You Really Need to Know(Quercus, June), Ian Stewart’s Seventeen Equations That Changed the World(Profile Books, February), John D Barrow’s 100 Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know About Sport(Bodley Head, March) and Jim Al-Khalili’s The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Physics(Bantam, April). And now enough of those titles, guys, already . . .
There’ll be a transit of Venus in June 2012, then none until 2117; Andrea Wulf tells the story of the 1761 transit, which she calls the first international scientific conference, in Chasing Venus(Heinemann, May). The author of Inflight Science,Brian Clegg, turns his attention to the zoo of tiny aliens that is the human body in The Universe Inside You(Icon Books, April).
Jonah Lehrer wonders how creativity works in Imagine(Canongate, April), while the feminist sociologist Hilary Rose and the neuroscientist Steven Rose ask some hard questions around bioethics and genomics in Genes, Cells and Brains(Verso, June). Romance is the somewhat unlikely topic for the evolutionary anthropologist Robin Dunbar in The Science of Love and Betrayal(Faber and Faber, April), Leonard Mlodinow says your unconscious rules your behaviour in Subliminal(Allen Lane, May) and Bruce Hood explains why there is no “you” inside your head in The Self Illusion(Constable, April). Watch out for Ben Miller of the Armstrong and Miller duo, lately of the TV comedy-drama Death in Paradise: he was working on a PhD in physics at Cambridge when he got into comedy, and he revisits his scientific roots in It’s Not Rocket Science(Sphere, June).
Why is Ireland’s bird life different from that of our neighbours in Britain and Europe? Because of the habitat types found here, explain Richard Nairn and John O’Halloran in Bird Habitats of Ireland(the Collins Press, March), while Tim Birkhead wonders What It’s Like to Be a Bird(Bloomsbury, February). Can you keep bees in the city? Yes you can, writes Steve Benbow, who tells you how in The Urban Beekeeper(Square Peg, May). If you fancy an outdoor challenge for 2012, check out Kieron Gribbin’s Ireland’s County High Points(the Collins Press, March), a guide to the highest points of each county in the country and how to get there.
First-rate nature writing has become a genre of its own, and two of its best are Robert Macfarlane, who seeks inspiration just outside the windows of his Cambridge home in The Old Ways(Hamish Hamilton, June), and Kathleen Jamie, who takes a fresh look at her native Scottish landscapes before heading to the Arctic in Sightlines(Sort Of Books, April). And if you read just one book on climate change, make it Michael E Mann’s riveting exposé of disinformation and denial, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars(Columbia University Press, March).
From the memoirs of Barack Obama to the importance of aunts, Colm Tóibín looks at how writers tackle the topic of families in his collection of essays New Ways to Kill Your Mother(Viking, February). Derek Mahon has a volume of Selected Prose(Gallery Press, March), as does the late Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño ( Between Parentheses, Picador, March). The author of the cult novel Neuromancer, William Gibson, offers his opinions in Distrust That Particular Flavour(Viking, February); a very different set of ideas on life comes from the Pulitzer and Orange prizewinner Marilynne Robinson in When I Was a Child I Read Books(Virago, March). The New York Timesbestselling novelist Jonathan Lethem offers The Ecstasy of Influence(Jonathan Cape, March). Stieg Larsson is now best known for the ubiquitous Millennium trilogy, but his day job was as a crusading journalist, and the articles in The Expo Files(Maclehose, February) see him taking on the topics of right-wing extremism, violence against women and homophobia. Mary Cullen’s collected essays in gender history is called Telling It Our Way(Arlen House, May), and there’s a celebration of a century of one of Ireland’s most influential socioeconomic periodicals in An Irish Century: Studies 1912-2012(UCD Press, February), edited by Bryan Fanning.
Kate Summerscale follows her wildly successful The Suspicions of Mr Whicherwith Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace(Bloomsbury, May), tracking the scandal that befell a respectable Edinburgh matron. When good neighbours go bad it’s a recipe for disaster, finds Emily Cockayne in Cheek By Jowl(Bodley Head, April). The old arts are alive and well in Ireland, according to Joe Cassidy, who writes about a decade of divining and healing in The Diviner(Penguin Ireland, April), while traditional crafts of all kinds are the subject of Sylvia Thompson’s Hands On: Traditional Crafts and Where to Learn Them(the Liberties Press, April). Donough O’Brien takes a light-hearted look at the legacy of a raft of historical figures, from Jim Larkin to Louis Walsh, in Impact: Those Who Deserved Their Influence . . . and Those Who Didn’t(the Liberties Press, April). Noel McLaughlin and Martin McLoone scrutinise Rock and Popular Music in Ireland: Before and After U2(Irish Academic Press, February). Lee Henry’s Belfast Taxi(Blackstaff Press, May) is based on interviews with drivers who kept working in the Troubles; and the story of an 1894 atrocity that saw an English landowner disfigured for life is told in Patricia Byrne’s Veiled Woman of Achill(the Collins Press, April).
Teenage goth on a terror mission? Septuagenarian kiddie-snatchers? It must be Kevin Barry’s new collection, Dark Lies the Island(Jonathan Cape, April). Word is there’ll be a new collection from Joseph O’Connor next year, too – no title announced as yet – while Blackstaff Press will bring out Éilis Ní Dhuibhne’s Shelter of Neighboursin February. Arlen House has three debut story collections in April: Seamus Scanlon’s The Butterfly Love Song, Eileen Casey’s Snow Shoesand James Martyn Joyce’s What’s Not Said. According to Colum McCann, Nathan Englander is the best short-story writer in the world – so What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank(Weidenfeld Nicholson, February) shouldn’t be missed. Nor should a collection of experimental early fiction from the Portuguese Nobel laureate José Saramago, The Lives of Things(Verso, April). The Ontario writer Alexander MacLeod’s Light Lifting(Jonathan Cape, February) arrives across the Atlantic laden with praise, as does the New York-based Indian writer Rajesh Parameswaran’s I Am an Executioner(Bloomsbury, May). And some new insights into the ancient stories of Finn Mac Cumhaill and his warrior band are promised by Sharon J Arbuthnot and Geraldine Parsons in their book The Gaelic Finn Tradition(Four Courts Press, April).
Samuel Beckett was arguably always a poet, whatever he wrote. Which makes his Collected Poems, edited by Beckett scholars Sean Lawlor and John Pilling and billed as the first complete critical edition of his poems to appear (Faber and Faber, May), a volume to treasure. A new volume from Paul Durcan is always a treasure, and Praise in Which I Live and Move and Have My Being(Harvill Secker, April) will be his 22nd. There’s a gem of a compendium from John Montague on the way, too: New Collected Poems(Gallery, June) will contain some previously uncollected work from the 83-year-old elder of the tribe. Dennis O’Driscoll engages with the internet era, climate change and much more in his new book of poems, Dear Life(Anvil, May). Happy Hour (Gallery, June) is a debut from Andrew Jamison. The first collection for a decade from the Booker winner Ben Okri is called Wild(Rider, April), while the Forward and Whitbread prizewinning Paul Farley’s new collection is called The Dark Film. And anyone who enjoyed Ruth Padel’s verse biography of her ancestor Charles Darwin should look out for The Mara Crossing(Chatto Windus, January), which mixes science, myth and nature to capture a world created and sustained by migration.