59 books to watch out for in 2020 – all from independent publishers
From folk tales to diplomats, botanists to lost homelands, hermits to thrillers
Indie publishers recommend their books to watch out for in 2020
The small community of independent and specialist publishers continues to fly the flag in a difficult environment, with an amazingly rich, diverse offering. We have asked some of them to tell us about a couple of titles they’re planning for 2020; they do so below.
All will be hoping to see the kinds of successes that independent publishers have had in the past year. This month the British-Trinidadian dub poet Roger Robinson won the TS Eliot poetry prize for his collection A Portable Paradise, published by the tiny Peepal Tree. It was also a great year for Galley Beggar Press. Alex Phelby’s Lucia was joint winner of the Republic of Consciousness prize, and Lucy Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport won the 2019 Goldsmiths Prize.
But there were pressures too. Galley Beggar says that, when Ellman’s experimental novel was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, it had to pay the Booker Prize Foundation, which runs the award, £5,000 (almost €6,000) just for being shortlisted; this money helps pay for publicity. Then, in December, a discount supplier went into administration owing Galley Beggar £40,000, it says, showing how precarious the business can be, even for successful small publishers.
For the Irish publisher New Island, “independent book publishing can be a challenging business model, but focusing on producing beautiful books which have something important to say is solid motivation. Staying involved in the local scene and keeping in touch with our authors is a key factor in the success of our work, and the supportive community among the Irish publishers also plays an important role.”
Here’s what New Island and its fellow indie publishers say about their books to watch out for in 2020.
And Other Stories
Made in Saturn
By Rita Indiana, translated by Sydney Hutchinson. Out now
Like the famous Goya painting Saturn referenced in the title, Rita Indiana’s latest novel (after the word-of-mouth success of Tentacle) focuses on a destructive father-son relationship. A turbulent, arresting novel about artistic struggle and the corruption of power, Made in Saturn follows the once-promising painter Argenis Luna to rehab in Cuba and back to the Dominican Republic, where his ex-guerilla father is now a leading member of a much more conservative political elite.
By Luke Brown. February 4th
Theft is an exhilarating novel about love, envy and revenge that, while always being a lot of fun, gives us a new perspective on the state of our divided, riven modern world. In this case we’re in Brexit Britain: class, privilege and identity politics through the lens of a man from a broken former fishing town in the northwest of England now living a precarious life in London. It connects the current fates of the haves and the have-nots in a way that its publisher, Stefan Tobler, hasn’t seen in recent British fiction. Colin Barrett, Nicole Flattery and Dolly Alderton are among the book’s early fans.
Look! It’s a WOMAN Writer! Irish Women’s Literary Journeys
Edited by Éilís Ní Dhuibhne. June
Essays by Irish women writers of the 1950s generation who are literary survivors. These women experienced resistance and prejudice, and yet with groundbreaking publishers brought about a dramatic seachange in Irish literature. They tell their stories for the first time; contributors include Catherine Dunne, Mary O’Donnell, Lia Mills, Medbh McGuckian, Anne Devlin, Evelyn Conlon, Liz McManus, Celia de Fréine.
The Boiling Point for Jam
By Lynda Tavakoli
June Lynda Tavakoli is an award-winning Hennessy-nominated poet and fiction writer who divides her time between Northern Ireland and the Middle East. She has been translated into Farsi, and is published in Bahrain and Oman. Her poems deal with dementia, cancer, refugees, war and conflict. This is her debut collection.
By Anna Vaught. April 30th
Violet Gibson, Irish aristocrat and daughter of the first Baron Ashbourne, shot Mussolini in 1926 and spent the rest of her days in an English psychiatric hospital. A fellow “patient” was Lucia Joyce, daughter of James, who acts as our guide through the novel. Blavatsky, Yeats and Joyce himself were all guests at the Gibsons’ Merrion Square mansion; they appear as fleeting visitors in the novel; as Violet reminds us, “those who are confined have the best imaginations”. Anna Vaught explores the history of treatment for mental illness in the novel and retells the stories of those women’s lives that have been silenced and denuded.
The Sound Mirror
By Heidi James. July
A literary family saga tracing three generations of women in one family, through the 20th and 21st centuries. It’s about colonisation, power, class, sex, motherhood, love and how our forebears’ lives and stories can still make it feel as if they have their hand on the tiller, invisibly navigating our past, present and future.
The Book of Newcastle
Edited by Angela Readman and Zoe Turner. Out now
A collection of 10 short stories depicting the city of Newcastle as it is today, written by its most renowned literary talent and exciting new voices. Featuring award-winning Angela Readman, Portico-shortlisted Jessica Andrews, local treasure Julia Darling, winner of the inaugural NorthBound Book Award JA Mensah, and many more. This book demonstrates that while Newcastle continues to feel the effects of its lost industrial past, it is also a city striving for a future that brims with promise, and celebrates the identity of northeast England.
Edited by Sophie Hughes and Sarah Cleave. March 12th
A collection of essays and short fiction by 28 acclaimed women writers, artists, scientists and entrepreneurs from across the continent offers new perspectives on the future of Europe during a time of rising nationalism, and how it might be rebuilt in order to preserve social cohesion, European integration and perhaps even democracy. Featuring Leila Slimani, Hilary Cottam, Lisa Dwan, Kapka Kassabova and Janne Teller, and introduced by the founder of Everyday Sexism, Laura Bates, Europa28 asks what it means to be European today and demonstrates – with clarity and often humour – how women really do see things differently.
Cork University Press
The Alliance of Pirates: Ireland and Atlantic piracy in the early seventeenth century
By Connie Kelleher. April
In the early 17th century, piracy was a way of life along the southwest coast of Ireland. Little is known about the Alliance of Pirates who frequented the southern coast of Ireland in that period. This book explores who they were, why they came to be in Munster, what evidence can be found for them and how they and their business of plunder fitted into the wider, expanding maritime world of the time. This is the first book to comprehensively look at the history and archaeology of piracy in Irish waters of the period.
Sport and Media in Ireland: Interdisciplinary Perspectives
Edited by Neil O’Boyle and Marcus Free. May
While sport occupies a central position in Irish social and cultural life, few studies have explored its significance. This timely volume focuses on the interrelationships between sport and media, demonstrating the media’s role in how sports are funded, organised, broadcast, represented, ranked, sponsored and even performed. It includes ongoing controversy surrounding the GAA’s sale of some broadcasting rights to Sky Sports as well as George Best’s appearances in early 1970s British television “entertainment” formats.
Winter in Sokcho
By Elisa Shua Dusapin, translated by Aneesa Abbas Higgins. February 20th
As if Marguerite Duras wrote Convenience Store Woman, Winter in Sokcho is an atmospheric novel from an award-winning debut French-Korean author. It’s winter in Sokcho, a tourist town on the border between South and North Korea. A young French-Korean woman works as a receptionist in a tired guesthouse. One evening, an unexpected guest arrives: a French cartoonist determined to find inspiration in this desolate landscape. The two form an uneasy relationship, but as she’s pulled into his drawings, she is troubled by his vision of her – until she strikes upon a way to finally be seen.
The Dominant Animal
By Kathryn Scanlan. April 23rd
The Dominant Animal is Kathryn Scanlan’s debut collection but her adventurous and unnerving writing has already drawn praise from Lydia Davis and Mary Ruefle. In these short and sharp stories, the nature of love is questioned at a golf course, a flower shop, an all-you-can-eat buffet. With exquisite control, Scanlan moves from expansive moods and fine afternoons to unease and violence. No mercy, a character says, and these stories are merciless and strange and absolutely masterful, says publisher Zeljka Marosevic.
Indigo, Electric, Baby
By Enda Coyle-Greene. February 4th
Blue is the word often used to describe “a mood no one chooses”, suggesting, for example, the indigo magic that is the music of Robert Johnson. In Indigo, Electric, Baby, Enda Coyle-Greene’s strikingly highly lyrical and evocative third collection, the Skerries-based poet explores a range of what she calls “blue times”, including the blue notes of a favourite record by which we might approach both the past and “the dead of the night”.
The Humours of Nothingness
By Gerry Murphy. February 4th, 2020
In his latest book, Cork’s “uncrowned poet laureate” explores, confronts, indulges and, at every available opportunity, undermines the very notion of the self-engaged in a writing life – even as he takes on the duties of that calling with verve and nerve, says Pat Boran of Dedalus. At once hilarious and melancholy, earnest and throwaway, the poems in The Humours of Nothingness enlist the power of humour in the entirely serious business of staying sane.
TRAUMA: Art as a response to mental health
Edited by Thom Cuell and Sam Mills. September 10th
Trauma will be an anthology of cerebral essays on mental health, ranging from the personal to the political, from the raw to the reflective, exploring topics such as grief, insomnia, anxiety, schizophrenia, meditation, abusive relationships, work, post-natal depression and the relationship between madness and creativity. Contributors include Neil Griffiths, Kirsty Logan, Marina Benjamin, Monique Roffey and Juliet Jacques.
Four Courts Press
The Ideal Diplomat? Women and Irish Foreign Affairs, 1946-90
By Ann Marie O’Brien. May 22nd
The first full examination of the appointment and experiences of women in the Department of Foreign Affairs focuses on Irish female diplomats’ experiences in a historically male-centred career. Sheila Murphy’s diplomatic appointment in 1946, after 20 years in the department, sparked more women joining the diplomatic corps, but there were challenges. There was only a handful of women initially; the civil service marriage bar was in place; there was no equal pay; and they had to fight the image of the diplomat as male. This is the story of these women’s careers, from 1940s pioneers to the 1990s trailblazers.
The best address in town: Henrietta Street, Dublin and its first residents (1730-1780)
By Melanie Hayes. June 12th
Once Dublin’s most exclusive residential street, in the 18th century elegant Henrietta Street was home to city peers, property tycoons, clerics, social climbers, military leaders and leading lights of the capital’s beau monde, making it a centre of elite power in Georgian Ireland. This illustrated book by a researcher who worked on the 14 Henrietta Street museum looks behind the red-brick facades of the once grand terraced townhouses at the people who originally lived there. It delineates the street’s rich social and architectural history during its first 50 years by weaving the residents around the buildings’ framework and offering a window into their lives within.
Galley Beggar Press
By James Clammer. September
Insignificance is a day in the troubled life of a plummer called Joseph, who is trying to complete a job but is distracted by the terrible things that have been happening to his family. He thinks that his son has tried to kill his wife and will do it again. He worries that his wife is going to leave him. He wonders if he will even make it through the day. It’s a short novel with a compact time frame, but it packs in an incredible amount that really matters, says publisher Sam Jordison, and it is also a beautiful and moving work of art.
By Alex Pheby. August
The first book in Pheby’s new trilogy is an introduction to a whole new world and way of thinking. It’s an immersive, astonishing and deeply unsettling journey through the slums and sewers of the island of Mordew – and the palaces that have been built above them. It’s like Bataille meets Mervyn Peake meets George RR Martin and they all start wrestling in the mud redefining the boundaries both of fantasy and literary fiction. And it’s a cracking good story too, says Jordison.
The History Press
The Anthology of Irish Folk Tales
By The History Press. March
Carefully selected stories from The History Press’ distinguished Folk Tales series have been gathered for a special volume celebrating traditional Irish legend and lore. It promises a treasure trove of tales from talented storytellers performing today. From banshees, pookas and changelings to rainbows, fairies and leprechauns, it will honour the distinct character of Ireland’s customs, beliefs and dialects.
Celt-ish: Unravelling the Great Celtic Confusion
By Bruce Durie. November 2nd
Being Celtic has been something to be proud of and aggressively traded upon for centuries. Expert genealogist Bruce Durie has uncovered and analysed archaeological, DNA and linguistic evidence to conclude this was simply an invention of the Victorian “Celtic Nations” movement. Delving into the earliest history of the Irish, British and Scots, Durie reveals that in fact the Gaels were extant 1,500 years earlier than the European Celts. With illuminating, brand-new research Durie reasons out the true identity of these discrete peoples and seeks to debunk the commercially-driven myth of the Celt.
The Highly Unreliable Account of the History of a Madhouse
By Ayfer Tunç, translated from the Turkish by Feza Howell. March 12th
A novel that moves at a giddy pace, this literary palimpsest of Turkey defies spatial or temporal boundaries, with one end in the 19th century and the other in the 21st, moving between Caucasia, the Ottoman Empire, the Republic of Turkey, Hungary, France, Sweden, the USA and back again. It startles with unexpected turns of events immediately after deceiving the reader into anticipating the end of a plot line. Tunç queries the concept of six degrees of separation, relating dozens of tales, some entertaining, others unpredictable or tragic, and weaving through an amusing chain of interlinked lives and complex personalities connected either by insanity (manifest or latent) or an exquisite Georgian icon.
Our Daily Bread
By Predrag Matvejevic, translated from the Croatian by Christina Pribicevich-Zoric. July 20th
Our Daily Bread is a meditation on the cultural and religious significance of bread through history, charmingly weaving together customs, rituals, anecdotes, legends and sayings that move from Mesopotamia, through Egypt, to the Far East, ancient Greece, ancient Rome, and the New World. Matvejevic shows how bread is depicted in literature and art (with beautiful illustrations) and examines especially closely the role of bread in the major world religions, drawing from the Bible, Talmud and Koran, but also at various apocryphal texts.
A Sabbatical in Leipzig
By Adrian Duncan. March 25th
A Sabbatical in Leipzig is an intensely realistic second novel, following Michael, a retired bridge engineer, who has lived away from Ireland for most of his life and lives alone in Bilbao after the death of his girlfriend, Catherine. With a clear voice and precise, structured thoughts, we move between memories of vast empty landscapes and memories of the failed and successful edifices and bridges Michael designed in Europe and India. This narrator has left the void of his world in rural Ireland to build new environments elsewhere, yet remains connected to his homeland. Duncan’s second novel stands alone as a substantial and compelling work of literary fiction, says Lilliput.
Are You With Me?
By Mike Chinoy. March 19th
The first biography of human rights lawyer Kevin Boyle (1943-2010), by former CNN correspondent Mike Chinoy. Boyle’s decades-long career spanned continents, tackling a range of issues. Among the dozen most important figures in the Northern Ireland civil rights movement, his ideas, endorsed in a previously unrevealed conversation between Margaret Thatcher and Garret Fitzgerald, provided intellectual underpinning for the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement. In 2001, he was chief advisor to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson during 9/11; he was lead lawyer in the case decriminalising homosexuality in NI; and led the campaign supporting Salman Rushdie after the writer was targeted by Iran’s ayatollahs.
Hope against Hope
By Sheena Wilkinson. March 5th
After publishing Wilkinson’s debut in Little Island’s first year, it is publishing her again a decade later. Hope against Hope is set in Belfast in 1921, against the backdrop of war and partition. Helen’s Hope is a hostel where young women live and work together, a haven of tolerance and diversity in a fractured city. But some people hate Helen’s Hope and its values. Wilkinson’s third historical novel follows Star by Star, Little Island’s bestselling book ever, which won Children’s Books Ireland’s Honour Award for Fiction 2018 and was selected as a BookTrust “future classic”.
To the Island and An t-Oileán Thiar
By Patricia Forde, illustrated by Nicola Bernardelli. May 7th
A beautiful and lyrical picturebook by Galway author Patricia Forde, illustrated by Italian artist Nicola Bernardelli, commissioned from Little Island by Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture. Published simultaneously in Irish and English, the story is based on the myth of Hy Brasil, an island which appears and disappears off the west coast of Ireland. Several Galway 2020 events surrounding this book run through the year, and Galway musician Anna Mullarkey is writing a song about it.
By Niamh Shaw. March
Irish performer, science communicator and STEM ambassador Niamh Shaw – with two degrees in engineering and a PhD in science – is taking a journey she is determined to finish. Along the way she has inspired people to love science as much as she does. Dream Big, a non-fiction account of her journey so far, describes her life through science and personal anecdotes. Her story reminds us we must fight to be the person we are destined to be.
Whatever It Takes
By Tadhg Coakley. June
Set in Cork city, Detective Garda Collins is at war with the leading local criminal Dominic Molloy. Unwilling to accept the human depredation caused by Molloy’s drugs, violence and prostitution, Collins has decided to bring Molloy down, but how far is he willing to go to do so? A tense crime novel (the first in a series featuring Collins) tells the story of two immovable forces colliding. Running out of time before the murder of two teenagers becomes inevitable, and with a traitor in the garda station feeding information back to Molloy, Collins takes his battle to new heights. He is determined to win, whatever the cost.
A Key to Treehouse Living
By Elliot Reed. March 12th
This debut novel is a wildly unique coming-of-age story, says MHP’s Nikki Griffiths, who says it’s been described as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time meets Huckleberry Finn. Narrated by parentless William Tyce, the story unfolds through short alphabetical entries as William records his thoughts and experiences in his own, personal A-Z reference book. He seeks to discover how his mother died (see ABSENCE) and find reasons for his father’s disappearance (see UNCERTAINTY, see VANITY), his exploration taking him into the great outdoors, up trees and down rivers. And while he goes about defining his changing world in his strange little glossary, all kinds of extraordinary things happen to him. It’s an inventive, touching and tender read.
The Age of Static: How TV Explains Modern Britain
By Phil Harrison. May 28th
You can tell a lot about British society by its television. TV writer and cultural critic Phil Harrison dissects favourite shows from the past 20 years, from Big Brother to Downton Abbey, Top Gear to Fleabag, showing how British television reflects and influences its politics, opinions and cultural trends. Discussing economics, race, class, property and the resurgence of right-wing politics, The Age of Static promises an entertaining and comprehensive reckoning with modern Britain.
The Wolf of Baghdad
By Carol Isaacs. January 30th
The Wolf of Baghdad, Carol Isaacs’ beautifully drawn exploration of her Iraqi-Jewish family’s roots and their lost homeland. In the 1940s a third of Baghdad’s population was Jewish but within a decade nearly all 150,000 had fled, been expelled or killed. Transported by the power of music to her ancestral home in Baghdad’s old Jewish quarter, Isaacs encounters the ghosts of her long-gone relatives and explores the city through their memories – initially of successful integration, and cultural and social cohesion – before the mood turns darker with the fading of this ancient community’s fortunes.
Mother: A Memoir
By Nicholas Royle. May 14th
Novelist and academic Nicholas Royle captures the spirit of post-war parenting in Mother: A Memoir as well as that of his mother whose dementia and death were triggered by the tragedy of losing her other son to cancer in his 20s. Before the devastating “loss of her marbles”, Mrs Royle, a nurse by profession, is a marvellously no-nonsense character, an autodidact who reads widely and voraciously, swears at her fox-hunting neighbours, and instils in the young Nick a love of literature and wildlife that will form his character and his career. At once poetic and philosophical, his memoir is also a powerful reflection on climate crisis and “mother nature”, on literature and life writing, and on the links between the maternal and memory itself.
New Island Books
A Quiet Tide
By Marianne Lee. March
A fictionalised account of Irish botanist Ellen Hutchins who lived in Bantry, Co Cork at the start of the 19th century. Beautifully written, with style and empathy, A Quiet Tide captures the essence of a long-forgotten Irishwoman whose potential was curtailed by ill-health, family crises and social convention. A heart-breaking story of hope and resilience interwoven with timely themes of female autonomy, agency and equality that will be sure to spark conversation. Discovered at the Irish Writers Centre’s Novel Fair, New Island believe Marianne Lee’s debut heralds a major new arrival on the Irish literary scene.
The True Story of the Making of Ryan’s Daughter, Dingle 1969
By Paul Benedict Rowan. May
The making of Ryan’s Daughter in Dingle 1969 is shrouded in myth and sensational stories. Hollywood superstars in late-1960s Ireland, the Irish climate, the studio system and one of film’s greatest auteurs all combined into a troubled and fabled production. Fifty years on, Sunday Times journalist Paul Benedict Rowan reveals in fascinating detail why David Lean’s behemoth holds such a unique place in movie history, bringing together exclusive interviews with cast and crew, as well as many stills photographs taken on and off set. Rowan pieces all into a definitive roller coaster account of the making of one of Lean’s last films.
By Jo Kerrigan. March
Thousands of years ago Celtic Ireland was a land of tribes and warriors, but a widely accepted, sophisticated and surprisingly enlightened legal system kept society running smoothly. The Brehons were the keepers of these laws, which dealt with every aspect of life: land disputes; recompense for theft or violence; marriage and divorce; the care of trees and animals. A fascinating look at this ancient system of laws.
Queen of Coin and Whispers
By Helen Corcoran. April
A kingdom of secrets and a game of lies. When idealistic teenage queen Lia inherits her corrupt uncle’s bankrupt kingdom, she brings a new spymaster into the fold, Xania, who takes the job to avenge her murdered father. Faced with dangerous plots and hidden enemies, can Lia and Xania learn to rely on each another, as they discover that all is not fair in love and treason? They must decide not only what to sacrifice for duty, but also for each other.
Parenting the Screenager: A Practical Guide for Parents of the Modern Child
By Richard Hogan. January
Today’s teenagers are growing up in a new digital world, different from that of their parents’ generation. While every generation of parents has to learn how to navigate their children’s first steps into adolescence and adulthood, the environment in which it is happening now is rapidly changing. Technology has interrupted patterns of communication and how teenagers socialise; this has brought with it new challenges for parents. Parenting the Screenager offers parents an accessible and practical manual on parenting strategies from one of Ireland’s leading psychotherapists.
Irish Customs and Rituals: How Our Ancestors Celebrated Life and the Seasons
By Marion McGarry. May
From the author of The Irish Cottage, this book explores old Irish customs and beliefs, particularly those surrounding the major annual calendar events and notable days in the rural folk and religious calendar. It also examines customs and rituals of major life events alongside spirituality, well-being and the supernatural. Irish Customs and Rituals is illustrated by the author’s pen-and-ink drawings and will appeal to all those with an interest in Irish history, folklore, culture and social history.
By Jack Smylie Wild. June
Riverwise, a volume of slow river prose centred around Afon Teifi in west/mid Wales, is a book of wanderings and wonderings, witnessings and enchantments, rememberings and endings. Weaving memoir, poetry and keen observation into its meandering course, it shifts across time and space to reflect the beauty of hidden, fluvial places, and to meditate on the strangeness of being human.
This book stands as a hymn to those fragments of riparian wilderness which on our maps appear as ever-shrinking horns of green amid a white, gridded landscape of human dominance. Riverwise is a clarion call to learn to love and protect the natural world and its waterways.
Hello Friend We Missed You
By Richard Owain Roberts. May
A deeply poignant and bleakly comic debut novel about loneliness, the “violent revenge thriller” category on Netflix, solipsism, rural gentrification, Jack Black and learning to exist in the least excruciating way possible. Its story of depression and death on the small Welsh island of Môn, and of people armed with every social media completely failing to communicate, is far funnier than it has any right to be, says Parthian. It’s also, ultimately, extremely moving. An incredible debut novel from a unique prose stylist.
Snow, Dog, Foot
By Claudio Morandini, translated by J Ockenden. February
Inspired by the author’s real-life encounter with a mysterious hermit, Snow, Dog, Foot is the oblivion of the alps seen through the eyes of Italian hermit Adelmo Farandola. We follow Adelmo through the seasons on the mountain joined by a talkative dog. When the ice thaws and a foot is revealed poking through the snow, Adelmo’s grip on reality starts to slip. Snow, Dog, Foot is the first book translated through the Peirene Stevns Prize (open until January 31st for aspiring Swedish to English translators), and J’s first full length translation.
By Gøhril Gabrielsen, translated by Deborah Dawkin. June
A recent recipient of an English PEN award, this Norwegian suspense drama has been lauded in its home country as “an intense thriller from the wilderness” (Dagsavisen) with an “ending that surpasses every crime novel” (Stein Roll). In northernmost Norway a researcher makes camp in a small fisherman’s hut. She has travelled north to observe the parenting habits of seabirds and waits for her lover to join her. As the days slip by in almost complete darkness, questions start to arise about her self-enforced isolation. Secrets of the cabin, and the past she is running from, are revealed. A thrilling novella that raises questions about motherhood, control and human nature.
Penned in the Margins
By Abi Palmer. April 20th
Already generating excitement from early readers, Abi Palmer’s first book is a hybrid of memoir, creative non-fiction and poetry which challenges preconceptions around chronic pain, disability and the queer body. In Sanatorium, a young woman spends a month taking the waters at a thermal water-based rehabilitation facility in Budapest. Returning to London, she attempts to continue her recovery using an £80 inflatable blue Chinese bathtub. In the space between gravity and weightlessness, waking life and out-of-body experience, we question if water is a means for rehabilitation, or if the narrator is simply dissolving.
The Book of Naseeb
By Khaled Hakim. May 18th
Described by the author as “a Muslim Clockwork Orange”, The Book of Naseeb took publisher Tom Chivers’s breath away with its electric combination of British Asian street slang and language inspired from the Koran. But it is the deeper story that leaves you reeling – an epic struggle for redemption that leads the hero, an idealistic petty criminal, from motorway service stations and West Midlands curry houses to the deserts and mountains of a fictional borderland. Poet and Sufi musician Khaled Hakim’s fiction debut is terrifying, funny, visionary and unique.
The Sleeper Lies
By Andrea Mara. February 6th
The new Poolbeg Crimson psychological thriller from the author of An Post Irish Book Awards-shortlisted One Click. The Sleeper Lies is about Marianne – a woman who lives on her own in the middle of nowhere, and wakes one morning to find footprints trailing across her front garden, right up to her bedroom window. Marianne is a true crime fan and armchair detective, and begins to wonder if there is a link between her online sleuthing and her real stalker.
By Nicola Cassidy. March
Epitomised in song, culture and film, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are Hollywood pin-ups famed for their talent and charisma as dance stars. But long before Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire’s original dancing partner was his sister Adele and although forgotten by history, she was the driving force behind Tinseltown’s most famous dancer and movie star. Historical fiction author Nicola Cassidy follows the early life of the Astaires in a bio-fictional format, from their humble beginnings in Omaha, Nebraska, to their stage training as children, through the Vaudeville and dance hall circuit and finally to Broadway. There Adele shone and throughout the 1920s was more famous than her younger brother Fred, attracting devoted fans, fashion lovers, advertisers and British royalty.
By Nicola Martin. February 27th
Nicola Martin is a fresh and exciting talent who is not afraid to take on the big questions of her generation, says publisher Sara Hunt. How is technology affecting our lives and our mental health? Where’s the line between our offline and online selves? And what would it really be like to live another version of your life? Dead Ringer is an uncomfortably believable page-turner that delves into the dark recesses of the human mind and asks, “What would you sacrifice to live another’s life?”
A Time of Birds
By Helen Moat. April 9th
Finding herself in need of a break, Helen Moat set herself the challenge of a lifetime when she and her 18-year-old son decided to cycle across Europe. Traversing a continent shaped by war and peace, meeting all kinds of characters along the way, Helen reflects on her own upbringing during the Troubles. The birds she spots alongside Europe’s great rivers invoke the spirit of her father and her childhood near the shores of Lough Neagh. A moving and life-affirming celebration of humanity and a meditation on overcoming conflict and trauma.
The Animals in That Country
By Laura Jean Mckay. June
Resonating with the apocalyptic devastation wrought to the Australian landscape recently, The Animals In That Country asks fascinating questions about where the boundary lies between us and our natural surroundings. The story of a hard-drinking woman searching the outback for her granddaughter during an epidemic that renders humans able to understand the language of animals, this is a road-trip thriller stuffed with ideas.
Don’t applaud. Either laugh, or don’t
By Andrew Hankinson. July
The author of the cult You Could Do Something Amazing With Your Life, in which he used an inventive literary style to forensically depict a violent male breakdown, returns with another completely original work of nonfiction. This time Hankinson deconstructs comedy through a series of interviews centred around the legendary NYC club which launched the careers of everyone from Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock to Amy Schumer. Featuring some of the biggest names in the business and exploring their triumphs and controversies, it’s an agile conversation about the perils, pride and politics of modern comedy.
By Cathy Sweeney. March 19th
A woman orders a sex doll for her husband’s birthday. A man makes films without a camera. A married couple take turns to sit in an electric chair. Modern Times, Cathy Sweeney’s inventive debut collection, offers snapshots of an unsettling, dislocated world. Surprising and uncanny, funny and transgressive, these stories only look like distortions of reality. In an episode of Stinging Fly’s podcast, Kevin Barry reads two of Sweeney ’s stories and introduces her work.
By Philip Ó Ceallaigh. September
New stories from Philip Ó Ceallaigh, who is based in Bucharest, Romania and has published more than 40 stories, including in previous Penguin Ireland collections, Notes from a Turkish Whorehouse (2006) and The Pleasant Light of Day (2009). Awarded the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, both collections were shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor Short Story Award. He’s an essayist and translator, including of Mihail Sebastian’s For Two Thousand Years (Penguin Classics). He has been publishing stories with The Stinging Fly magazine for 20 years.
By Sara Baume. March 26th
In this contemplative short narrative, artist and acclaimed writer Sara Baume charts the daily process of making and writing, exploring what it is to create and to live as an artist. Elegantly encompassing images and in itself a significant artefact, handiwork offers observations that are at once gentle and devastating on the nature of art, grief and a life lived well. A glimpse into the process of one Ireland’s best writers, handiwork is Baume’s non-fiction debut, written with a keen eye for nature and beauty as well as the extraordinary versatility Sara Baume’s fans have come to expect.
A Ghost in the Throat
By Doireann Ní Ghríofa. April
In this unusual prose debut, Doireann Ní Ghríofa sculpts essay and autofiction to explore inner life and the deep connection felt between two writers centuries apart. In the 1700s, an Irish noblewoman, on discovering her husband has been murdered, drinks handfuls of his blood and composes an extraordinary poem, Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill’s Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire (described by Oxford University professor of poetry Peter Levi as “the greatest poem written in either Ireland or Britain during the 18th century”). In the present day, a young mother narrowly avoids tragedy. On encountering the poem, she becomes obsessed with its parallels with her own life, and sets out to track down the rest of the story, in a devastating and timeless tale about one woman freeing her voice by reaching into the past and finding another’s.
By Dr Mary McAuliffe. February
A biography exploring Skinnider’s service to her adopted country, Ireland, as active feminist, trade union activist and Irish republican. Skinnider fought during the 1916 Rising in Dublin as a sniper, and was wounded in action. McAuliffe considers the importance of researching and writing political women’s biography, considering the roots of their ideologies, and of understanding their lifelong commitments to activism.
By Dr Ellen Rowley, Prof Finola O’Kane. Autumn
For the past generation, “the Wejchert masterplan” has not been analysed or appreciated and, generally, public and local opinion has misunderstood the architecture in the derogatory terms of “concrete jungle”. This book – featuring rare and unseen illustration and photographs – challenges the often-limited conception of UCD’s architectural landscape. It is an exploration and celebration of the misunderstood and lesser known gems across campus. By understanding and analysing Belfield campus, the university will be better able to plan for a landscape of the future.
The Inland Sea
By Madeleine Watts, March 5th
In the early 19th century, British explorer John Oxley traversed the then-unknown wilderness of central Australia in search of water. Oxley never found it, but he never ceased to believe it was out there. Two centuries later, his great-great-great-great granddaughter (and our narrator) spends a final year in Sydney reeling from her own self-destructive obsessions. She’s working part-time as an emergency dispatch operator, drinking heavily, sleeping with strangers, wandering Sydney’s streets late at night, and navigating an affair with an ex-lover. Reckless and adrift, she prepares to leave.
Written with down-to-earth lucidity and ethereal breeziness, this is an unforgettable debut about coming of age in a world that seems increasingly hostile. Watts explores feminine fear, apathy and danger, building to a tightly controlled bushfire of ecological and personal crisis.
The Other’s Gold
By Elizabeth Ames, April 2nd
Assigned to the same suite during their freshman year at Quincy-Hawthorne College, Lainey, Ji Sun, Alice and Margaret quickly become inseparable. But their bonds must weather threats that come from the dark forests of their childhoods, and beyond – from institutions, from one another, and ultimately, from within themselves.
As they move through their wild college days to their more feral days as new parents, each of the four friends will make a terrible mistake. With one part of the novel devoted to each mistake – the Accident, the Accusation, the Kiss, and the Bite –The Other’s Gold reveals the achingly familiar ways our life-defining turning points prompt our relationships to unravel and re-knit, as the women discover what they and their loved ones are capable of, and capable of forgiving.