Flick ahead: new books for a new year

Greg Baxter.

Greg Baxter.

 

BOOK PREVIEWS 2010:Not surprisingly, how to get the world out of recessionary waters is among the hot topics of books to come this year. But there is a lot more to look forward to besides. ARMINTA WALLACEoffers a selective guide

ECONOMICS

How to get the world back in the black is – not surprisingly – a recurring theme for next year. In The Big Short (Allen Lane, March) Michael Lewis asks how did the crisis start, was it avoidable, and who can we blame? In The New Capitalism (Hodder Stoughton, March) the BBC’s business editor, Robert Peston, asks whether any of us really understand the state of play, while Philippe Legrain travels the world to observe for himself how global economies are shaping up – and suggests how we can improve matters – in Aftershock: Reshaping the World Economy After the Crisis (Little Brown, May). Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2001, explains in Freefall: Free Markets and the Sinking of the Global Economy how the current crisis has a “made-in-America” look about it (Allen Lane, this month). In Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy (Princeton University Press, June) academic and former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund Raghuram G Rajan argues that the global financial crisis can’t just be blamed on a few greedy bankers; serious flaws in the economy are also to blame – and a potentially more devastating crisis awaits us if they aren’t fixed. In Losing Control: The Emerging Threats to Western Prosperity (Yale University Press, May) economist Stephen D King suggests the decades ahead will see a major redistribution of wealth and power across the globe that will force consumers in the US and Europe to stop living beyond their means.

Books which may be required reading for everyone in Ireland in 2010 include: Designing a Strategy for Economic Recovery (Blackhall Press, April), edited by Stephen Kinsella and Anthony Leddin, focuses on constructive proposals and aims to show both the scale of the crisis and the range of available remedies. Contributors include Colm McCarthy, Brendan Walsh and Ronan Lyons. And in What Did We Do Right? Learning from Ireland’s ‘Miracle’ (Blackhall, Feb) Michael O’Sullivan and Rory Miller have assembled essays which look at the legacy of the dreaded Celtic Tiger.

LITERARY FICTION

Novels from Joseph O’Connor, Hugo Hamilton and Roddy Doyle lead the Irish charge. The Dead Republic (Cape, April), the final instalment of Doyle’s trilogy which began with A Star Called Henry, brings the story up to the 1950s and beyond; O’Connor’s Ghost Light (Harvill Secker, June) also begins in the 1950s, with an elderly Irish actress making her way through the wind-blown streets of London to a job at the BBC. Hand in the Fire, by Hugo Hamilton (4th Estate, April), tells the story of a Serbian immigrant who comes to Ireland and strikes up a troubled friendship with a Dublin lawyer – a spectacular friendship that comes under increasing threat. Michael Collins’s Midnight in a Perfect Life (Weidenfeld Nicolson, March) is about a writer and his wife who are trying for a child using IVF. Room, by Emma Donoghue, (Picador, August) features a young woman and her five-year-old son who live in a locked room. Told from the child’s point of view, it’s the Irish novelist’s response to various kidnappings including the real-life Fritzl family horror story. Aifric Campbell writes about the break-up of three friends in The Loss Adjuster (Serpent’s Tail, Feb); Mary O’Donoghue, a Hennessy award fiction winner, makes her novel debut with Before The House Burns (Lilliput, March); in Besotted (Picador, March) Joe Treasure writes about twin brothers who return to Cork from Thatcher’s Britain while the overweight hero of Paul Murray’s tragic comedy Skippy Dies (Hamish Hamilton, Feb) is passionate about aliens. And in The Secret Dublin Diaries of Gerard Manley Hopkins (Brandon, Feb), Robert Waldron recreates the voice of the English poet, who spent his final months teaching Greek in UCD. Meanwhile The Tree of Seasons, the magical fantasy novel Boyzone singer Stephen Gately was working on when he died comes from Hodder Stoughton, foreword by Elton John (April )

Solar (Cape, March) finds Ian McEwan trying his hand at comic writing; its hero is a balding, philandering physicist who unexpectedly finds himself in a position to save the planet. The Pregnant Widow (Cape, Feb), Martin Amis’s first novel since he has taken to teaching creative writing in a high-profile way, opens in a castle in Italy in the 1970s – which sounds idyllic but, knowing Amis, probably isn’t. Philip Pullman clearly isn’t aiming to get into the Vatican’s good books with The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (Canongate, April), billed as part novel, part history, part fairytale; Andrew O’Hagan, meanwhile, ventures into canine psychology in The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, And Of His Friend Marilyn Monroe (Faber, May). Poet Ruth Padel makes her fiction debut with Where The Serpent Lives (Little Brown, Feb), set in London and rural India, and Rose Tremain is off to France for Trespass (Chatto, March), set in the Cevennes. In Trezza Azzopardi’s The Song House (Picador, May) a young girl gets a job cataloguing a composer’s music collection.

Australian Peter Carey’s Parrot and Olivier in America (Faber, Feb), an improvisation on the life of Alexis de Tocqueville, is a picaresque novel based on the adventures of two old-world characters in the new world. On the American scene, Don DeLillo has a scholar who was once a war advisor making a movie in Point Omega (Picador, March) – and DeLillo is crossing the pond for the UK publication to promote this one – while Chuck Palahniuk’s Tell-All (Cape, June) also visits the madcap world of movie-making. The 2008 Nobel winner JMG Le Clezio’s Desert (Atlantic, Feb) is set among the tribes of northern Africa; Andrei Makine’s The Life of An Unknown Man (Sceptre, August) follows a lovesick Frenchman through St Petersburg; Amos Oz begins Suddenly In The Depths of the Forest (Chatto, Feb) in a village where a mountain demon has stolen all the animals away; and Thomas Trofimuk’s Waiting for Columbus (Picador, Feb) begins when a man arrives at an insane asylum in Seville claiming to be the famous explorer. Among novels from Asian writers are The Surrendered, by Chang-rae Lee an epic of legacies from the Korean War (Little Brown, May); Wendy Law-Yone’s The Road to Wanting (Chatto, April), the tale of a boom town on the China-Burma border, and Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen (Hamish Hamilton, March) by the Chinese American poet Marilyn Chin. Manu Joseph’s Serious Men (John Murray, June) is a comic novel about contemporary India.

BIOGRAPHY

On the 400th anniversary of Caravaggio’s somewhat mysterious death, the television art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon reappraises his work as well as his rambunctious life in Caravaggio (Allen Lane, July). According to Lyndall Gordon the family of the poet Emily Dickinson was pretty dysfunctional, and in Lives Like Loaded Guns (Virago, Feb) she tells the tale of the family’s adulteries, betrayals, and the mother of all feuds, which lasted for three generations. Wendy Moffat’s EM Forster (Bloomsbury, April) is billed as the first biography to be based on full access to all the novelist’s private papers and diaries, while The Life of Irene Nemirosvky, by Olivier Philipponat and Patrick Lienhardt (Chatto, March), recreates the life of the French writer who died at Auschwitz in 1942. In James Joyce (Weidenfeld Nicholson, June) Gordon Bowker concentrates on the inner landscape of the author of Ulysses. Literary success can be a fleeting business, as two books about the once-popular American novelist Pearl Buck remind us. Hilary Spurling’s Pearl Buck in China (Profile , March) focuses on a childhood dominated by a fanatically religious father and the deaths of all her siblings, while in Pearl of China (Bloomsbury, May), Anchee Min offers a fictional retelling of the story.

In their everyday lives, philosophers can – thankfully – be as foolish as the rest of us, and in Voltaire (Profile, April) Ian Davidson finds the great French writer in jail, infatuated with Frederick the Great and in love with watch-making. March sees the publication of Suzie Mackenzie’s authorised biography of Gordon Brown (Bloomsbury), while Nelson Mandela’s life before his imprisonment on Robben Island is the subject of David James Smith’s Young Mandela (Weidenfeld, June).

Did you know that of all his would-be assassins it was the daughter of an Anglo-Irish Lord, The Honourable Violet Gibson, who came closest to changing the course of history when she shot Mussolini in April 1926? Frances Stoner Saunders tells her story in The Woman Who Shot Mussolini (Faber, March). Stranger from Abroad: Hannah Arendt, Martin Heidegger, Friendship and Forgiveness, by Daniel Maier-Katkin (Norton, April), is a portrait of the complex relationship between these lovers and titans of 20th-century thought.

Meanwhile many readers will remember the late Irish Times music critic from 1955-88, Charles Action, who is now the subject of a biography by Richard Pine called Charles (Lilliput, June).

CURRENT AFFAIRS

With an election year looming in the UK – if not closer to home – anxious eyes will be scrutinising Andrew Rawnsley’s The End of the Party (Viking, Feb). The Observer journalist is so tuned in to the ups and downs of New Labour that he has been accused of bugging No 10 Downing Street. Back on our own patch, the former taoiseach Garret FizGerald promises new material as well as lots of personal recollections in Garret Light: Tales from the Political Frontline (Liberties Press, summer/autumn).

Sami Zubaida argues that the reason we get the Middle East all wrong is that we look at it through Islam-shaped spectacles. He explores its multi-faceted identity in Beyond Islam: A New Understanding of the Middle East (IB Tauris, July). The lighter side of the region, meanwhile, comes to the fore in Neil MacFarquhar’s The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You A Happy Birthday (Perseus, May), in which the New York Times’s UN bureau chief indulges his love of the Middle East and its peoples. It’s well on its way to becoming the world’s fifth most populous country – but what do we really know about Pakistan? Declan Walsh puts us right in Inshallah Nation (Bodley Head, April).

The tumultuous birth of South Africa is the subject of Dominique Lapierre’s A Rainbow in the Night (Da Capo Press, March), and Jonathan Watts wonders what will happen to the rest of us When A Billion Chinese Jump: How China Will Save the World – or Destroy It (Faber, June). In War Games (Viking, April), the Dutch war reporter Linda Polman argues that warmongers, the humanitarian aid industry and the media are locked in a terrible cycle of mutual support.

Dave Eggers has turned his attention to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath in Zeitoun (Hamish Hamilton, March), about a New Orleans couple and their horrifying story. And judging by the title of Niall Crowley’s Empty Promises: Bringing the Equality Authority to Heel (AA Farmar, March) Crowley probably isn’t being complimentary about his subject.

GREEN ISSUES

This year’s crop of eco-books brings grim news on almost every front. According to Peter D Ward in The Flooded Earth: Our Future In a World without Ice Caps (Perseus, June), the widespread flooding of the past couple of months is nothing compared to what we face as global sea levels rise in the coming decades. Clean drinking water, meanwhile, is on the brink of extinction.

How much water does it take to make a cup of coffee, asks Tony Allan in Virtual Water (IB Tauris, March). The shocking answer is 140 litres; rising to 11,000 for a pair of jeans.

The biggest elephant in the green room – the exponential increase in human population levels – is addressed by Fred Pearce in Peoplequake (Eden Project Books, Feb). The BBC reporter David Shukman, meanwhile, admits to having been a green virgin when he got a job as environment correspondent. Now a major eco-convert, he aims to convert the rest of us in Reporting Live From The End of the World (Profile, April). In Eating Animals (Hamish Hamilton, March), the author of the hilarious novel Everything Is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer, is out to persuade us all to turn vegetarian. If he succeeds, we’ll all need The Irish Gardener’s Handbook (O’Brien Press, March), in which veggie grower Michael Brennock gives tips on producing fruit, veg and herbs from our own little patches.

HISTORY

Norman Stone’s personal history of the Cold War, The Atlantic and Its Enemies (Allen Lane, May), opens in the winter of 1946 – “a catastrophe of ice and snow”.

Norman Rose, meanwhile, looks at the Middle East in the critical years between 1945 and 1948 in A Senseless, Squalid War (Pimlico, June). Famine, disease, snakes and crocodiles greeted the Allied troops who advanced into Burma during the second World War; Frank McLynn tells the story from the point of view of the four commanders – among them Louis Mountbatten – in The Burma Campaign (Bodley Head, June).

Oliver Bullough’s Let Our Fame Be Great: Struggle and Survival in the Caucasus (Allen Lane, March) focuses on the vast swathe of Europe which links Turkey to Iran and the Crimea to the Caspian Sea.

Closer to home, a number of books address the Troubles, of which that by former Northern Ireland editor of The Irish Times Ed Moloney, Voices from the Grave (Faber, Feb), will probably create the biggest stir. Billed as a shocker, it gives the stories of two former paramilitaries – one republican, one loyalist – and their role in some of the most appalling violence of the Troubles.

Alan F Parkinson concentrates on one extraordinary year in the life of Northern Ireland as he records the oral testimony of a wide range of respondents in 1972 and the Ulster Troubles: ‘A Very Bad Year’ (Four Courts Press, April).

And in its “short history” series, Gill and Macmillan has Gordon Gillespie giving an authoritative overview: A Short History of the Troubles will be published in March.

The story of one of the most important engagements of the Easter Rising is told by Paul O’Brien in Uncommon Valour: 1916 the Battle for the South Dublin Union (Mercier Press, Feb).

CRIME/THRILLER

Declan Hughes is among the brightest stars in the Irish crime firmament, and City of Lost Girls (John Murray, April) is the fourth in his superb Ed Loy series. A new John Connolly novel is always a cause for rejoicing, and in The Whisperer (Hodder Stoughton, June) Charlie Parker finds himself on the border between Maine and Canada, where all sorts of strange things are smuggled across.

There’ll be a new Benjamin Black (aka John Banville), Elegy for April from Picador (Oct) and the fourth in Brian McGilloway’s Borderlands series featuring the likeable Inspector Benedict Devlin, meanwhile, is called The Rising (Macmillan, April). Real-life detective Gerry The Sheriff O’Carroll makes his criminal debut with The Gathering of Souls (Liberties Press, June). Another new name to the Irish scene is Niamh O’Connor; her debut, If I Never See You Again (Transworld Ireland, April), sees Detective Jo Birmingham pounding Dublin’s meanest streets.

In Sugar Hill (Atlantic, June) Reggie Nadelson’s cool-dude investigator Artie Cohen finds an elderly Russian woman dead in a dilapidated hotel. On compassionate leave after his wife’s death, DI Thomas Lynley still manages to get entangled with a body in Elizabeth George’s This Body of Death (Hodder Stoughton, June). There are new books, too, from Adam Creed (The Willing Flesh, Faber, May), Michael Harvey (The Third Rail, Bloomsbury, April), and Louise Welsh (Naming the Bones, Canongate, March).

Move over Wallander, says psychotherapist Camilla Ceder, who aims to replace Henning Mankell’s lugubrious hero with her own Inspector Christian Tell in Frozen Moment (Weidenfeld, July). The new book from songwriter, economist and winner of the prestigious Nordic Glass award, Jo Nesbo, is The Snowman (Harvill Secker, March). Meanwhile, Wallander really has moved over: Henning Mankell is bringing out a political thriller featuring Judge Birgitta Roslin, The Man from Beijing (Harvill Secker, Feb).

MEMOIR

Antonia Fraser lived with Harold Pinter from 1975 until his death 33 years later. Now, in Must You Go? (Weidenfeld, this month), she bears testament to their famous union while Patti Smith recalls her friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe when they were young – and often hungry – artists in Brooklyn in Just Kids (Bloomsbury, Feb). Some seriously classy scribbling is promised in Rupert Thomson’s This Party’s Got To Stop (Granta, April) as the literary novelist analyses the effect of his parents’ deaths on himself and his siblings while Michael Greenberg has attracted serious praise in the US for his Beg, Borrow, Steal (Bloomsbury, Feb), a cautionary tale of how to survive (or not) as a writer. Alan Simpson, a senior investigating officer in the killing of the Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, reveals the truth behind the headlines in Duplicity and Deception (Brandon, April). An insider view of Irish-American politics is promised by Niall O’Dowd in An Irish Voice (O’Brien Press, March) which recalls his rise from emigrant house painter to confidant of the Clintons.

Greg Baxter was born in Texas, but has lived in Dublin for the past 10 years: A Preparation for Death (Penguin Ireland, July), his memoir, is set against the backdrop of a Dublin moving quickly from boom to bust and features portraits of the people closest to the author – including his Austrian grandmother who narrowly survived the second World War. Brendan Cardiff, a Dubliner who worked with the European Commission, tells his story in Roots and Routes (Liffey Press, Feb). And the Clare All-Star hurler, charity activist and media personality Tony Griffin finds himself Screaming at the Sky (Transworld Ireland, May).

TRAVEL

It’s no longer seen as green to actually go anywhere – even if we had any money to go with – so we may well be tucking into travel books with a vengeance instead. Travels (Profile, June) is a collection of pieces by Paul Bowles, ,some never published before, and photographs from his own archive. An eccentric guide to the wonders of Germany is on offer in Simon Winder’s Germania (Picador, Feb), while Graham Robb does much the same thing for Paris in Parisians (Picador, April). Robert Mugabe-land has been something of a blank spot on the travel map, but Philip Barclay’s three years there in the British diplomatic service gives him a strong background from which to write Zimbabwe (Bloomsbury, June), which is described as “part travelogue, part political exposé”. Peter Godwin, who also grew up in that benighted country, managed to slip back in 2008, and writes about it in The Fear (Picador, May). Michael Jacobs buckles up for a 5,000-mile trek from the Caribbean to Tierra del Fuego in Andes (Granta, May), and the author of the brilliant River Town, Peter Hessler, is back on the Chinese trail in Country Driving: Lost Behind the Wheel in China (Canongate, March). Finally, if you are staying at home next year get yourself some new boots and a copy of Joyce’s Dublin: A Walking Guide to Ulysses (Lilliput, June), in which Jack McCarthy goes step by step through Joyce’s city.

LITERARY CRITICISM

Did Shakespeare really write his own plays? James Shapiro’s Contested Will (Faber, April) interrogates the most celebrated Shakespeare sceptics, from Freud and Henry James through to Orson Welles and Derek Jacobi. The crime writer Elmore Leonard, meanwhile, has some advice for budding literati in 10 Rules of Writing (Weidenfeld, March). In Between the Sheets (Duckworth, May) Lesley McDowell looks at literary love affairs, asking why,for instance, Sylvia Plath stumbled into a marriage that drove her to suicide . The creator of Peter Pan, JM Barrie, was a keen cricketer, and his wasn’t just any old team – it boasted Arthur Conan Doyle, Jerome K Jerome, AA Milne and PG Wodehouse. Kevin Telfer traces their exploits in Peter Pan’s First XI (Sceptre, May). And in Globish ; How the English Language Became the World’s Language, Robert McCrum (Viking, May) sets out to explain how it all happened.

Pat Walsh’s Patrick Kavanagh The Leader: The Poet, the Politician and the Libel Trial (Mercier, Feb) examines the 1954 legal case that became a public sensation with the poet suing the magazine The Leader over an unsigned profile of him and in which John A Costello, lead barrister for the defence, fatally undermined Kavanagh’s case.

Louis MacNiece’s letters – to everyone from TS Eliot to Antony Blunt – are collected by Jonathan Allison (Faber, May), and Richard Kirkland is the editor of The Poetry of Medbh McGuckian (Cork University Press, March).

NATURAL WORLD

Fans of David Henry Thoreau should watch out for John Lister-Kaye’s At The Water’s Edge: A Personal Quest for Wildness (Canongate, Feb), in which the Scottish naturalist writes about a walk he takes every day from his home in the Highlands to a local loch. Donal Magner’s Stopping by Woods: A Guide to the Recreational Forests of Ireland (Lilliput, June) is a comprehensive guide to more than 300 woodlands, North and South, including maps, photographs and documents, making it another must for Irish nature-lovers. And Out of the Earth, edited by Christine Cusick (Cork University Press, July), is a volume of essays which offers a series of eco-critical readings of Irish literary and cultural texts from fiction to drama and the visual arts.

Charles Emmerson argues that the north of our planet is more idea than reality in The Future History of the Arctic (Bodley Head, March) while in Gardening Women (Virago, May), the gardener Catherine Horwood traces the lives of her horticultural colleagues from 1500 to the present day.

SHORT STORIES

Colm Tóibín’s collection of stories The Empty Family comes from Viking in October and there are new collections from Amy Bloom (Where The God of Love Hangs Out, Granta, March) and James Kelman (If It Is Your Life, Hamish Hamilton, April).

Ordinary folk in extraordinary situations are the subject of Tim Gautreaux’s third collection, Waiting for the Evening News (Sceptre, March), while Apparition Late Fictions (Cape, Feb) is the title of the first volume of stories from the poet and essayist Tomas Lynch. Louise Stern is the fourth generation of her family to be born deaf, and her debut collection Chattering (Granta, June) is all about people who have that particular disability; Michele Roberts’s Mud (Virago, May) gets down and dirty with a series of stories about sex and love.

SPORTS

Next summer’s – sigh – World Cup in South Africa has inspired an unusually varied crop of soccer books, of which Michael Henderson’s 50 People Who Fouled Up Football (Constable, May) looks like a must-read. A journalist who was once a fan, Henderson has – like so many of us – been completely turned off by the excess wealth and blithe cynicism of the modern game.

Mark Chapman takes a light-hearted look at footie’s more irritating features in Why Oh Why Does Gallas Wear Number 10? (Bantam, April) while Steve Bloomfield examines the socio-political context of, and the build-up to, the World Cup Finals in Africa United: How Football Explains Africa (Canongate, May).

And – oh dear, how cruel is this? – Declan Lynch revisits the glory days of Jack Charlton and Italia 90 in Days of Heaven (Gill and Macmillan, March). Way to go, Declan. Rub it in, why don’t you?

HEALTH

What with the forecast that by 2020 depression will be the world’s second biggest killer, after cardio-vascular disease, psychotherapist Gary Greenberg’s Manufacturing Depression (Bloomsbury, March) looks set to put the cat among the pigeons with his claim that it’s a phoney disorder, invented by drug companies to sell pills. The mind coach and neuro-linguistic programmer Brian Colbert aims to teach us Irish how to lead a more fulfilled life in The Happiness Habit (Gill and Macmillan, March) and Tony Humphreys and Helen Ruddle seek a greater understanding of the psychology of illness in Compassionate Intentions of Illness (Cork University Press, April). In Neurodiversity: Discovering the Extraordinary Gifts of Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia and Other Brain Differences (Perseus, May), Thomas Armstrong offers a radical perspective which sees many neuropsychological disorders as part of the natural diversity of the human brain. Meanwhile autism activists Polly and Jon Tommey have some down-to-earth advice for parents in Autism: A Practical Guide To Improving Your Child’s Quality of Life (Piatkus, April). And finally, why can’t we resist those pesky snacks – muffins, bags of crisps et al? Because food manufacturers have hijacked our brains by delivering the perfect packages of fat, salt and sugar, says David A Kessler. He broke his own addiction to the stuff, and wants to help us do likewise in The End of Overeating (Penguin, April).

IDEAS

We all imagine that gender equality was done and dusted in the 1960s, so one of the most startling themes to emerge from the 2010 lists is whether feminism actually made any headway at all in the real world. In Living Dolls (Virago, Feb), Natasha Walter deplores the pressure on young women to define themselves through relentless waxing, tanning and airbrushing, while in The Equality Illusion (Faber, March) Kat Banyard says it’s rubbish to speak of equality in a world where women are paid 17 per cent less than men and domestic violence causes more deaths and injuries among women than cancer or traffic accidents. Stuck in a nine-to-five office job, Alison Walsh is wondering whether she’s really any better off than her mother – an Aer Lingus air hostess forced to give up her job when she got married – or her granny, a leading light in the Irish Countrywoman’s Association. She tells their story in In My Mother’s Shoes (Pan, Feb).

The excesses of rampant consumerism come under fire in two books with the same title: Renata Saleci’s Choice (Profile, June) argues that too much of it can induce anxiety and guilt. In her version (Choice, Little Brown, April), Sheena Iyengar wonders whether our desire for it is innate or dictated by culture. Derry-born Michael Foley explains how wellbeing is undermined by the age we live in in The Age of Absurdity :Why Modern Life Makes it Hard to Be Happy (Simon Schuster, Feb) while psychotherapist Adam Phillips has discovered the joys of yin and yang in On Balance (Hamish Hamilton, July), which examines the notion of equilibrium. In On Evil (Yale, May), Terry Eagleton contests the idea that evil is too outmoded a concept for the modern age and asserts that it’s no mere medieval artefact but a real phenomenon in our contemporary world.

Mark Steyn takes an irreverent look at the Obama administration in After America: The Death of the American Idea (Perseus, Feb), which says the new President isn’t so much African-American as Scandinavian in his approach.

And here’s the best idea I’ve heard in ages: let’s ditch po-faced old St Patrick – purveyor of Roman rule, celibacy, hierarchy and all the rest of it – and adopt St Brigit, the woman formerly known as Bishop Brigit, as our patron saint. Mary Condren leads the way with Brigit: Goddess, Saint, Muse (New Island), which offers aspiritual landscape for the 21st century.

COMMERCIAL FICTION

Is it just me, or are there a lot less of these books around than there used to be? There are a few real goodies in store, however, including Rules for a Perfect Life (Penguin Ireland, June), another slice of delightful madness from the author of the wonderful Demented Housewife series, Niamh Greene.

Fab and funny is the order of the day in Claudia Carroll’s If This Is Paradise I Want My Money Back (Transworld Ireland, this month) while Liz Lyons’s debut, Barefoot Over Stones (Transworld Ireland, Feb) is a tale of love, loss and friendship. For those of us who have been there and survived, Marita Conlon-McKenna’s Mother of the Bride (Transworld Ireland, March) is a must-read; brides of the mail-order variety, meanwhile, are the subject of Moonlight in Odessa by Janet Skeslien Charles (Bloomsbury, Feb).

MUSIC

In The Music Instinct (Bodley Head, Feb) Philip Ball investigates the reasons why music moves us in so many ways – from nursery rhymes to rock and roll. Speaking of rock and roll, one of the coolest rock writers ever, NME’s Nick Kent, unpicks the positive and negative aspects of the 1970s in his book Apathy for the Devil (Faber, May); while the outspoken Echo and the Bunnymen singer-songwriter Ian McCulloch tells all in Silverfish (Bantam, May). In Collected Pieces (Weidenfeld, July), Rob Young has gathered together essays about the enigmatic musical genius Scott Walker. And Harvey Sachs explores the enduring genius of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony – a magisterial statement of humanism that speaks to us now more than ever, he says – in The Ninth (Faber, May).

The importance of Irish music-making in England is the subject of Sean Campbell’s Irish Blood, English Heart (Cork University Press, May), which uses case studies of such musicians as John Lydon, Shane MacGowan and Morrissey to highlight the ways in which second-generation Irish have contributed to popular culture in the UK. Whatever you do, don’t miss Hooleygan, by Terry Hooley and Richard Sullivan (Blackstaff, March), the story of how Hooley – staunch Prod turned social activist – set up a record shop called Good Vibrations in Belfast, followed by a record label of the same name. It’s an inspirational tale of punk, bankruptcy – and drinking sessions with Bob Dylan and Phil Lynott.

SCIENCE

According to Anil Ananthaswamy in The Edge of Physics (Duckworth, April), the “darling” of the sciences has become hopelessly mired in theory. He travels from the Andean desert to the Antarctic ice shelf in search of the mad and unlikely experiments which might put it back on track – and the people who are conducting them.

The nature of mind is still one of the hottest topics in neuroscience, and the bestselling author of Godel, Escher, Bach, Douglas Hofstadter, joins forces with Emmanuel Sander to investigate The Essence of Thought (Perseus, May). They argue that there’s one central mechanism which represents the nature of mind – the human ability to make analogies.

Hugh Aldersey-Williams looks at how the chemical elements are woven into our culture in Period Tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements (Viking, July) And Why Does E equal MC Squared? And Why Should We Care? ask Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw (Perseus, March) while John Bowermaster dives into humanity’s relationship with H2O in Oceans (Perseus, May), which will coincide with a major new Disney/National Geographic film.

POETRY

Two Irish presses are celebrating anniversaries in 2010. Gallery Press will mark 40 years in the business with major new collections from Ciaran Carson (Until Before After, March) and Derek Mahon (An Autumn Wind, April). Dedalus Press celebrates 25 years with three volumes which review its commitment to the space where Irish and European poetry traditions meet.

Theo Dorgan’s Greek (Feb); Bay of Flags, selected poems from the Spanish poet and director of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Enrique Juncosa, translated and introduced by Michael Smith (Feb); and an anthology of poems by poets who live in Ireland but were not born here, some of whom are being published in English for the first time, Landing Places, edited by Eva Bourke and Borbála Faragó, will be published in March.

Another collection from poets at work in these islands today is Identity Parade: new Irish and British poets (Bloodaxe, March), edited by Roddy Lumsden.

The Fullness of Time is the title of a new selected poems from Gerard Smyth (Dedalus, April); there are also collections from Anthony Cronin (The Fall, New Island) and Tom MacIntyre (Encountering Zoe, New Island). King of Country (Blackstaff, April) is the first collection from the Portadown visual artist Howard Wright, joint winner of the Richard Ellmann Poetry Prize in 1998, and free translations of Catullus by some 70 Irish writers, among them Michael Hartnett and Frank McGuinness, will feature in The Irish Catullus or One Gentleman from Verona (AA Farmar, June), edited by Ronan Sheehan.