Books to look out for in 2018

The best fiction and nonfiction from Ireland and abroad – including a top pick in each category




The Other Irish Tradition, edited by Rob Doyle (Dalkey Archive Press, April). Doyle’s provocative reshuffling of the canon places Joyce, Beckett and Flann O’Brien alongside startling and innovative work by Mike McCormack, June Caldwell, Anakana Schofield and Kevin Breathnach; a breath of fresh Irish literary air.

It doesn’t seem so long since Donal Ryan burst upon the Irish literary scene with The Spinning Heart but 2018 will see the publication of his fourth novel, From a Low and Quiet Sea (Doubleday Ireland, March), which reaches from war-torn Syria to small-town Ireland. There are always new names coming along, and Cavan-born Norma MacMaster makes her debut at the age of 81 with Silence Under a Stone (Doubleday Ireland, February). David Park’s Travelling in A Strange Land (Bloomsbury, March) features a family in crisis in a frozen landscape.

Aidan Higgins’s protagonist staggers none too soberly across Europe in Lions of the Grunewald (Dalkey Archive Press, July). There are new novels on the way from Belfast writers Anna Burns (Milkman, Faber & Faber, May) and Sam Thompson (Jott, John Murray, June).

Julian Gough presents an offbeat computer hacker called Colt in Connect (Picador, May). Kit de Waal follows her beguiling debut My Name Is Leon with a love story set among the Irish in Birmingham in 1972, The Trick to Time (Viking, March), and Emer Martin’s The Cruelty Men (Lilliput Press, June) takes a long, hard look at institutional abuse through the fate of an Irish-speaking family.

We’ll have to wait until October for the follow-up to Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent – but it will be worth it, as Melmoth (Serpent’s Tail) was inspired by Charles Maturin’s cult Irish gothic masterpiece Melmoth the Wanderer.

Debut novelists are set to make a big splash next year. Cork-born Danny Denton’s The Earlie King & the Kid in Yellow (Granta, February) is billed as “dystopian saga meets noir thriller with a bit of romance thrown in”. In Orchid and the Wasp (Oneworld, June), Caoilinn Hughes portrays a downwardly mobile family in post-crash Dublin, while in Restless Souls (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, February) by Dan Sheehan, partner of the Orange Prize-winner Téa Obreht, a war correspondent is haunted by memories of Sarajevo.

Three names one might not expect to find on the list of new titles are William Trevor, whose Last Stories is coming from Viking in May; JP Donleavy, whose final novel, A Letter Marked Personal (Lilliput Press, May), is narrated by the founder of a lingerie company; and James Joyce, whose irreverent retelling of Aesop’s fable The Fox and the Grapes, The Mookse and the Gripes, is brought to life with illustrations by Thomas McNally (Lilliput Press, June).

New Irish crime writers are appearing out of the darkness almost every month. Watch out for SA Dunphy’s When She Was Gone (Hachette Books Ireland, March), which takes criminologist David Dunnigan to an Inuit village in the remote north of Greenland, and Thomas Bourke’s The Consolation of Maps (Riverrun, June), the debut from a Dublin-born writer based in Italy. Alistair Campbell teams up with Paul Fletcher for the soccer/IRA thriller Saturday Bloody Saturday (Orion, February). The fifth novel from Morning Ireland presenter Rachael English, The Night of the Party (Hachette Books Ireland, May), is set in a snowbound village in 1982; and in Liz Nugent’s third book, Skin Deep (Penguin Ireland, April) an heiress on the Cote d’Azur finds a rotting corpse in her apartment.

Christine Mangan’s lavish Moroccan thriller Tangerine (Little Brown, March) is already set to become a film produced by George Clooney and starring Scarlet Johansson. Young Adult superstar Louise O’Neill makes her highly anticipated adult debut with Almost Love (Quercus, March).



The Overstory by Richard Powers (Heinemann, April)

Nine strangers are summoned by trees in a bid to save America’s last few acres of virgin forest. Powers’ 12th novel unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fable, from prewar New York to the timber wars of the Pacific northwest.

Will 2018 see an American novelist take the Man Booker Prize for the third year in a row? There are a cluster of contenders. Kevin Powers follows The Yellow Birds with a meditation on love, power and violence set in a ruined plantation house in Virginia, A Shout in the Ruins (Sceptre, May). Amy Bloom explores the sexuality of Eleanor Roosevelt in White Houses (Granta, June).

The final story collection from the cult novelist Denis Johnson, who died last May, is The Largesse of the Sea Maiden (Jonathan Cape, February); and in Don’t Skip Out On Me (Faber, February), Willy Vlautin tells the story of a young Nevada farmhand who is part-Native American. Jesse Ball’s Census (Granta, April) takes a father and son across a nameless country; Joseph Cassara’s The House of Impossible Beauties (Oneworld, February) is set in the transgender club scene in New York.

It may be down to the folks from Down Under to take the 2018 Booker honours – and there are some suitably hefty Aussie names on the spring lists. Two-time winner Peter Carey goes on a high-speed, 10,000-mile race across 1954 Australia in A Long Way From Home (Faber and Faber, January). The Shepherd’s Hut (Picador, June) finds Tim Winton leaving his beloved west coast to set a coming-of-age novel in the Australian interior. At the age of 81, London-born Alex Miller dramatises his own extraordinary life story in The Passage of Love (Allen & Unwin, March). And if Michelle de Kretser’s satirical look at contemporary life in “the lucky country”, The Life to Come (Allen & Unwin, January), travels as well as her 2012 novel Questions of Travel, it may conquer the world.

British novelists are quite capable of striking back, though, in the shape of 2011 winner Julian Barnes, who tells The Only Story (Jonathan Cape, February), and Andrew Miller, who turns to the Napoleonic wars for Now We Shall Be Entirely Free (Sceptre, August). Aminatta Forna’s Happiness (Bloomsbury, April) is set in a hidden London; Patrick Langley’s Arkady (Fitzcarraldo Editions, March) places two kids in a big urban landscape. Jeremy Gavron’s experimental novella Felix Culpa (Scribe, February) is made up almost entirely of sentences from other literary works and RJ Gadney’s Albert Einstein Speaking (Canongate, March) tells of the unlikely friendship between a schoolgirl from New Jersey and the world’s most respected scientist.

There are books coming from big names from around the globe: Michael Ondaatje’s Warlight (Jonathan Cape, May) is set in a London still reeling from the Blitz; Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Neighbourhood (Faber and Faber, May) looks at the troubled politics of Lima in the 1990s; Juan Gabriel Vasquez’s The Shape of the Ruins (Maclehose, May) is a fictional investigation of two political murders in Colombia; and Cesare Pavese’s The Beautiful Summer (Penguin, June) is a love story set in 1930s Italy. The third volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s Seasons quartet, Spring (Harvill Secker, February) follows a father and his newborn daughter for a day. Leila Slimani’s Prix Goncourt-winning Lullaby (Faber and Faber, January) features an ideal nanny – and a dead baby. Unbeknown to their parents, two teenagers leave Oslo to fight in Syria in Two Sisters (Virago, February) from Bookseller of Kabul author Asne Seierstad, and an Indian boy tells his mother’s story in Anuradha Roy’s The Lives We Never Lived (Maclehose, June).

Ever heard of Jin Yong? He has sold 300 million books in China, and the first volume of his trilogy A Hero Born (Maclehose, March) promises a Chinese Lord of the Rings. Other new names to watch out for include Imogen Hermes Gowar, whose The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock (Harvill Secker, January) recreates the upmarket brothels of 18th-century London. The 2015 Frank O’Connor award-winner Carys Davies has a debut novel due (West, Granta, May). Great things are also predicted for Jessie Greengrass’s Sight (John Murray, February) and Things Bright and Beautiful (Penguin, April) from the half-Palestinian, half-Scottish writer Anbara Salam.

On the crime front, those who enjoyed Jane Harper’s twisty The Dry will want to check out Force of Nature (Little Brown, February). A serial killer is striking down Mexican dentists in Name of the Dog, by Elmer Mendoza (Quercus, February). CJ Tudor offers thought-provoking horror in The Chalk Man (Michael Joseph, January) and Emma Healey follows her bestseller Elizabeth Is Missing with Whistle in The Dark (Viking, May). James Patterson, whose thrillers are all written in collaboration with other authors, has outdone himself this time, teaming up with former president Bill Clinton for The President Is Missing (Century, June). Finally, if Jo Nesbo were to rewrite Macbeth, how would it go? “He’s the best cop they’ve got. He’s also an ex-drug addict with a troubled past. When a drug bust turns into a bloodbath it’s up to Inspector Macbeth and his team to clean up the mess…” It’s coming from Hogarth Shakespeare in April.



Conor O’Clery: The Shoemaker and His Daughter (Transworld, May)

O’Clery, an award-winner for his coverage of the Soviet Union when he worked for this newspaper, tells the story of his wife, Zhanna, and her family in this epic yet intimate family memoir.

It looks as if 2018 will be the year of the literary essay. There are big collections coming from three literary superstars: Lorrie Moore (See What Can Be Done, Faber, May), Marilynne Robinson (What Are We Doing Here, Virago, February) and Zadie Smith (Feel Free, Penguin, February). Master biographer Michael Holroyd examines the art of narration in Fact and Fiction (Bloomsbury, June) and Amos Oz addresses the stalemate in the Middle East in Dear Zealots (Chatto & Windus, March). There’s a new interpretation of literature from Javier Cercas (The Blind Spot, Maclehose, May) and advice on which books to avoid from Alejandro Zamba (Not to Read, Fitzcarraldo Editions, April). Everyone, of course, will want to read the new slice of humour from David Sedaris (Calypso, Little, Brown, June).

Tara Westover recalls a traumatic childhood with a radical survivalist father in Idaho in her memoir Educated (Hutchinson, February). The novelist Amy Tan also reveals some shocking truths about her family in Where the Past Begins (Fourth Estate, January). There are explosive interviews as the film-maker David Lynch relives his artistic life in Room to Dream (Canongate, February), Laura Freeman charts her book-propelled recovery from anorexia in The Reading Cure (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, February); the author of Costa First Novel award-winning Tiny Sunbirds Far Away, Christie Watson, revisits her 20-year career as a nurse (The Language of Kindness, Chatto & Windus, May), and the award for the best title of 2018 goes to Rachel Baker for her unflinching MI5 memoir, I, Spy (Hodder & Stoughton, June).

Ahead of the National Gallery of London’s big show On the Wall from June to October next year, Pulitzer prizewinner Margo Jefferson dissects the King of Pop in On Michael Jackson (Granta, May). Another major cultural event in the UK is the Terracotta Warriors exhibition at National Museums Liverpool; Edward Burman examines the most up-to-date theories about these extraordinary artefacts in Terracotta Warriors: History, Mystery and the Latest Discoveries (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, February)

Lawrence Wright travels through Trumpland – and unearths some surprising truths – in God Save Texas (Allen Lane, March). The KGB scholar Amy Knight excavates a campaign of political murder in Putin’s Russia in Orders to Kill (Biteback Publishing, February). How long will the current wave of political populism last? asks Ian Bremmer in Us V Them (Portfolio Penguin, April).

Christopher Hope talks race politics in post-apartheid South Africa in Cafe De Move-On Blues (Atlantic Books, May) and Patrick Winn ventures into southeast Asia’s $100 billion organised crime underworld in Hello, Shadowlands (Icon Books, June).

Rania Abouzeid brings the century’s deadliest conflict to life in No Turning Back: Life, Loss and Hope in Wartime Syria (Oneworld, April) while Dinny McMahon explains why China is hurtling towards economic disaster in China’s Great Wall of Debt (Little, Brown, May). In Lost and Found (Hodder & Stoughton, March), Dublin-born neurologist Jules Montague explains what happens to our identity when our minds go missing.

Books, of course, feed our minds. And as we head into an uncertain political and economic future, there’s plenty of welcome advice on offer. Stig Abell explains How Britain Really Works (John Murray, May) while Natives (Two Roads, June) is a searing polemic against racism in the UK from the musician and founder of the Hip Hop Shakespeare Company, Akala. Helen Pankhurst, the great-grand-daughter of suffragette Emmeline, wonders why equality is taking so long in Deeds Not Words (Sceptre, February); and Jo Swinson offers a much-needed way forward for both genders in Equal Power (Atlantic Books, February).



John Connell: The Cow Book (Granta, April)

John Connell never intended to be a farmer – which is perhaps what makes him such an astute observer of life on his family farm in Co Longford. Here he tells the story of one calving season, and of the cow itself, from ancient bovine worship to modern mechanised herds.

We always have a great appetite for memoirs, and 2018 promises a bumper crop. The Dublin playwright Arnold Tomas Fanning recalls his experience of mental illness and recovery in Mind on Fire (Penguin Ireland, May), while Tony O’Reilly and Declan Lynch’s Tony Ten (Gill Books, April) paints a graphic picture of the effects of online gambling. Yoshiko Oshioda looks back at her journey from Tokyo to Dublin, and her work as an international curator, in Caring for Japanese Art at the Chester Beatty Library (Dalkey Archive Press, January). A family transported from Waterford to the heart of the Ring Gaeltacht is the subject of Catherine Foley’s Beyond the Breakwater: Memories of Home (Mercier Press, April). Two biographical studies of big, big personalities are also on the way from Mercier Press: Paul Gibson recreates a boxing life in The Lost Soul of Eamonn Magee, while in Martin McGuinness: The Man I Knew, Jude Collins assembles personal accounts from people who met the late statesman.

Two decades on from its historic signing in April 1998, Siobhán Fenton looks at the future of The Good Friday Agreement (Biteback Publishing, April). Ahead of the findings from the Commission of Inquiry into Ireland’s mother and baby homes, Alison O’Reilly’s The Great Shame (Gill Books, April) focuses on the Tuam babies scandal. Matchstick Man (Head of Zeus, May) by Julia Kelly, author of two novels, With my Lazy Eye and The Playground, is her moving memoir of living with her artist partner who suffers from dementia. 

Gerard Murphy offers a provocative new take on the revolutionary era in The Great Cover-Up: The Truth about Michael Collins at Béal na Bláth (Collins Press, March). Eva Ó Cathaoir tells more than a thousand secret Fenian life stories in Soldiers of Liberty (Lilliput Press, April). Bryan Fanning’s Migration and the Making of Ireland (UCD Press) is a mammoth account of the immigrant experience, from the Ulster Plantation to Savita Halappanavar and Ibrahim Halawa. Bairbre Ní Fhloinn dives into the occupational language and lore of Irish fishermen in Cold Iron (Four Courts Press, January). Two Irish icons take centre stage in Titanic: Captivating Stories of Her Passengers, Crew and Legacy by Nicola Pierce (O’Brien Press, April) and Waterford Glass: The Creation of a Global Brand by John M Hearne (Irish Academic Press, June). And Terence Dooley, Maeve O’Riordan and Christopher Ridgway go behind the scenes in Women and the Country House in Ireland and Britain (Four Courts Press, February).

An unpublished script by John McGahern is unveiled in The Rockingham Shoot (Faber & Faber, March). Poet Gerald Dawe looks at Irish literature in the world in The Wrong Country: Essays on Modern Irish Writing (Irish Academic Press, August). There’s a cornucopia of Swift in John Wyse Jackson’s Best Loved Swift (O’Brien Press, May) and a peek at Flann O’Brien’s Collected Letters (Dalkey Archive Press, April), while the feminist side of an Irish writer comes to the fore in Leanne Lane’s Dorothy Macardle: A Biography (UCD Press).

After all that reading, you’ll want to get out and about. Get a different view of Ireland with Jo Kerrigan’s study of pathways ancient and new, Follow the Old Road (O’Brien Press, April), or take an urban walk with Gregory and Audrey Bracken in Cork Strolls (Collins Press, March). And if you’re really brave – and searching for a spring project – revamp your living space with Fiona Mc Phillips’s Make the Home You Love: The Complete Guide to Home Design and Renovation in Ireland (O’Brien Press, March).

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