Will independent publishing continue on a roll? Smaller publishers in Ireland and Britain are certainly feeling upbeat. There’s a strong collection of books planned by smaller publishers for this year, and they’ve shared some details of what they’re planning.
Independent book publishing has grown in strength and reputation in recent years, bolstered by Man Booker wins for independent publisher Oneworld, with Marlon James's A Brief History of Seven Killings and Paul Beatty's The Sellout.
This month’s announcement that books published in Ireland are now eligible for the Man Booker Prize may be an opportunity for smaller Irish publishers.
Until now, books published in Ireland were not eligible for nomination for the £50,000 (€56,314) prize because they were not published in the UK; after years of frustration, the rule has changed and Irish publishers can now submit novels for the prize.
We took the pulse of independent publishers and asked some Irish and British small presses to select two of their planned books they are most excited about for 2018.
New Island's Daniel Bolger says: "Irish publishing is amazingly vibrant and innovative just now," and he sees exciting times ahead. Lilliput Press publisher Antony Farrell believes the industry is going from strength to strength and welcomes the Booker change. Irish indie Tramp Press first published Mike McCormack's Solar Bones (which was ineligible for the Booker until it was picked up by Edinburgh publisher Canongate and was longlisted for last year's prize). Sarah Davis-Goff of Tramp is planning two debuts this year (the first in May), which "we're super excited about, but we won't be talking about them properly till next month".
It is the smaller independent publishers that are doing the most interesting and innovative publishing today
Among British independents, Bluemoose Books’ Kevin Duffy says: “With corporate publishing becoming increasingly risk averse, it is the smaller independent publishers that are doing the most interesting and innovative publishing today”.
At Melville House, which this spring is championing British literary fiction, managing director Nikki Griffiths agrees: “While there has been some doom and gloom bandied about recently about the performance of literary fiction in the market, in 2018 and beyond Melville House will continue to make space for and take chances on fiction we believe in; new voices need to be discovered and given a chance to shine. And we will focus on our reactive publishing, the backbone of the company, addressing the volatile political climate. Opinions need to be challenged and voiced.”
Peirene Publisher Meike Ziervogel cites BBC broadcaster and critic Bidisha: “From a humanitarian standpoint and an artistic perspective, Peirene performs an invaluable service by discovering new writers. These voices open our eyes, ears and hearts to a worldly reality in all its profound suffering, joy, community, isolation and complexity.’
Sarah Braybrooke of Scribe UK says 2017 was “a great year for Scribe, as we hit the £1million (€1.13 million) mark in turnover. In 2018 we will turn five, and look forward to many more years ahead of publishing seriously good books.”
Parthian will have been publishing for 25 years in 2018, “so we’re looking back and seeing if it’s all been worth it with the best of our Carnival of Voices series”, says one of its founding partners, Richard Lewis Davies.
Many independents are pushing to expand reach. Last year Myriad joined New Internationalist as “part of a shared strategy to expand, reach wider audiences, push boundaries and embrace diversity. Two of our spring highlights are accordingly bold, game-changing books that explore new ways of seeing the world,” says Myriad Edition managing director Candida Lacey.
Istros Books will endeavour to get the very best of Balkan literature to an English-speaking audience through the small miracle of translation
Christopher Hamilton-Emery of publisher Salt, which is beginning its 19th year in business, says: “The world of British literary publishing can look complicated and challenging, yet it is also filled with opportunity and collaborations that extend, thankfully, beyond the impact of Brexit, reminding us that serious readers will seek serious books to enhance and extend their lives beyond any borders and bigotry”. Susan Curtis-Kojakovic of Istros Books is also aware of the Brexit effect: “Istros Books will continue the good fight despite Brexit, and endeavour to get the very best of Balkan literature to an English-speaking audience through the small miracle of translation”.
In poetry publishing, Pat Boran of Dedalus Press is upbeat, pointing out that according to UNESCO, Dedalus is “one of the most outward-looking poetry presses in Ireland and the UK”. Boran says: “Our list reflects this, with both established and up-and-coming Irish poets together with poets from considerably farther afield in English translation. We see the press as part of the bridge between Irish poetry and the world.”
In the UK, Penned in the Margins (described by poet and playwright Ian McMillan as “bringing together the worlds of experimentalism and performance”), director Tom Chivers says: “Poetry is in rude health with UK publishers posting record sales last year. This year continues our own strong commitment to finding new voices in poetry that defy genre or style and speak directly to readers.”
Below is a taster of what some of the smaller publishers are releasing this year: From a bloody, boozy Irish western to Middle Eastern magic realism, there is something for everyone.
And Other Stories (chosen by acting fiction editor Anna Glendenning)
The Unmapped Country: Stories and Fragments by Ann Quin (January 18th)
The Unmapped Country is a collection of rare and unpublished writing by Ann Quin, a writer who was a key member of the avant-garde scene in London in the 1960s. The collection has been gathered from archives around the world by editor Jennifer Hodgson, and bridges the world of Virginia Woolf and Anna Kavan with that of Kathy Acker and Chris Kraus. Quin has slipped into obscurity in recent years but has continued to influence contemporary writers including Deborah Levy and Tom McCarthy.
Brother in Ice by Alicia Kopf, translated by Mara Faye Lethem (April 23rd )
This is an astonishing semi-autobiographical novel that uses a history of polar exploration to explore the experience of growing up with an autistic brother in the challenging world of post-crash Catalonia. Kopf is also a visual artist and the book is a culmination of a series of visual work which comes out in the photos and drawings. Kopf deservedly won multiple prizes when the book was published in Catalan and Spanish.
Bluemoose Books (publisher Kevin Duffy)
Raising Sparks by Ariel Kahn (June 30th)
The genesis of this book was Ariel Kahn witnessing his best friend being killed in a bus explosion in Jerusalem during the first Intifada. It is Middle Eastern magic realism, as if Gabriel Marcia Marquez were from Jaffa.
Malka and Moshe forge an unlikely bond, revealing a different Middle East and how even the bitterest of enemies can forge a more positive future together by embracing one another’s histories. The possibility of transformation comes from the unlikeliest places. A magical story for our times.
Seaside Special – Postcards from the Edge – Short stories from NW Coastal towns, edited by Jenn Ashworth (May 17th)
Ten stories from award winning writers Andrew Michael Hurley, Carys Bray, Paul Kingsnorth, Kirsty Logan, Peter Kalu and five previously unpublished writers. These towns are not only on the periphery geographically, but economically too: rusted post-industrial holiday resorts, isolated and pushed to the margins. Andrew Michael Hurley, author of The Loney, says: "Places of glamour and squalor, family fun and fear. Places of transience too. The tide creeps in to cover the sands and ebbs away again. The visitors come and go, laughter and violence flare and fade."
Comma Press (engagement manager Becky Harrison)
Banthology: Stories from Unwanted Nations, edited by Sarah Cleave (January 25th)
A collection of specially commissioned stories by writers from the original seven countries affected by Donald’s Trump’s travel ban, this book explores the emotional and personal impact of restrictions on movement through a wide range of approaches, from satire to allegory to literary realism. Since its announcement in January 2017, the ban has been contested, revised and re-implemented; a year later, we hope this book’s publication will serve as a timely reminder of the ongoing need for creative resistance in turbulent times.
The Sea Cloak by Nayrouz Quarmout, translated by Perween Richards (May)
Nayrouz Quarmout is a Palestinian author, journalist and women's rights campaigner who we first published in our Book of Gaza in 2014. The Sea Cloak is her debut collection in English and the stories deftly weave the personal with the political to create a compelling portrait of what it means to be a woman in Palestine. We're excited to publish Nayrouz's full collection as she is definitely one to watch: not only are her prize-winning stories fantastic but she is a young, exciting writer whose stories offer a rare, local perspective to a city known as a global news story.
Daunt Books (publisher Željka Marosevic)
Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India by Sujatha Gidla (May 24th)
Like one in six people in India, Sujatha Gidla was born an untouchable. Although most untouchables are illiterate, her family was educated by Canadian missionaries making it possible for Gidla to attend elite schools. At 26 she moved to America and only then saw how extraordinary her family history was. In rich, novelistic prose, Ants Among Elephants tells Gidla's remarkable story, detailing her uncle's emergence as a poet and revolutionary and her mother's struggle for emancipation through education. A landmark book on India, described by the Economist as "the most striking work of non-fiction set in India since Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo".
The Little Virtues by Natalia Ginzburg, translated by Dick Davis (April 19th)
Natalia Ginzburg was one of the most important Italian writers of the 20th century but her work has been out of print in Britain for many years. We are republishing Ginzburg's greatest works: The Little Virtues in April and her autobiographical novel Family Lexicon in September. Ginzburg's memoir The Little Virtues takes little things – shoes, meatballs, money boxes – and turns them into subjects of great significance covering war, exile, writing and motherhood. Her moving style means these essays lose none of their relevance, and Ginzburg's fans include Zadie Smith and Maggie Nelson. Our edition will feature a new introduction by Rachel Cusk.
Dedalus Press (Pat Boran)
Seeing Yellow by Eva Bourke (April)
Empathy, historical awareness and a meticulous attention to detail have long been among the trademarks of Eva Bourke’s poetry. Even in an unremarkable small railway station, the German-born Galway resident is mindful of “the disasters and joys” of the past and those who face them “with nothing but … light luggage”. The title poem recalls the failing Pearse Hutchinson in hospital, his visitor, inspired by Van Gogh, bringing him a bunch of sunflowers for his bedside, “their rough stalks like torches” for the journey ahead.
Monsoon Diary by Joseph Woods (April)
A former director of Poetry Ireland, Woods now lives in Zimbabwe (about which he has written for this paper) but lived until recently in Myanmar. Between the birth of his daughter and the deaths of his parents, the poems in Monsoon Diary attempt to make sense of the world. The poems strike an often elegiac tone, betraying a growing awareness of mortality and the many losses that come with age. But they also bear witness to a country transitioning from dictatorship to democracy. Driving to Delvin, a poem of 84 couplets, breaks into a kind of road movie of spirited and sometimes random association, bringing all the book's themes and ideas together in a celebration of forward motion.
Galley Beggar Press (co-director Eloise Millar)
Lucia by Alex Pheby (June)
In 2016 Alex was shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize for his novel Playthings (based on the life of Daniel Paul Schreber), which received universally glowing reviews. His new novel again takes on mental illness and abuses of power, this time revolving around the life of James Joyce's daughter, Lucia Joyce. It is bleak, relentless and devastating. It tackles misogyny and appropriation (including the appropriation of a female figure by a male author), and every line reads like poetry. The first chapter is available at Galley Beggar Press.
Francis Plug: Writer in Residence by Paul Ewen
We published the first Francis Plug book (Francis Plug: How To Be A Public Author) to runaway success in 2014. It has since become something of a cult classic (Hilary Mantel mentioned it before Christmas as one of her favourite books of all time), so we've been waiting with baited breath for Paul's sequel.
Now a published author, Francis Plug becomes writer-in-residence at the University of Greenwich (this is based on real life – Paul Ewen was actually writer-in-residence there in 2015-16) and the usual calamities ensue. Whereas the last novel was structured around Booker prize winners, this goes full tilt for the campus novel with each chapter revolving around a different classic of the genre and guest appearances from plenty of actual authors.
Istros Books (Susan Curtis-Kojakovic)
Gaudeamus by Mircea Eliade, translated by Christopher Bartholomew (April 25th)
Gaudeamus (let us rejoice) is Eliade's second autobiographical novel about his university years, following Diary of a Short-Sighted Adolescent, described by the Guardian's Nick Lezard as "Romania's Adrian Mole". In this exuberant and touching portrait of youth, Eliade recounts the fictional version of his university years in late 1920s Bucharest. Marked by a burgeoning desire to "suck out all the marrow of life", the protagonist throws himself into his studies: engaging his professors and peers in philosophical discourse, becoming one of the founding members of the student's union and opening-up the attic refuge of his isolated teenage years as a hot spot for political debate and romantic exploration.
Readers will recognise the joy of a life about to blossom, the search for knowledge and the desire for true love. Already an accomplished writer as a young man, this follow-up reveals a keen observer of human behaviour, a seeker of truth and spiritual fulfillment whose path would eventually lead him to become the ultimate historian of 20th-century religions.
Fleeting Snow by Pavel Villikovsky, translated by Julia and Peter Sherwood (May 28th)
From one of Slovakia's most respected authors, this tender and sensitive look at an elderly couple dealing with illness might remind readers of Michael Haneke's award-winning film, Amour.
Pavel Vilikovský's novella Fleeting Snow (Letmý sneh, 2014), depicts the gradual loss of memory of the narrator's wife. The narrator reminisces about their past life and muses on issues from human nature and the soul to names and the phonetics of Slovak and indigenous American Indian languages, in an informal, humorous style whose lightness of touch belies the seriousness of his themes.
The book’s title refers to its recurring central motif; an avalanche whose inexorable descent cannot be stopped once the critical mass of snow has begun to roll, echoing the unstoppable process of memory loss. Five themes, intertwined in passages of varying lengths, are labelled with letters and numbers in a playful allusion to scholarly works and musical compositions.
Melville House (managing director Nikki Griffiths)
Let Me Be Like Water by SK Perry (May 10th)
Young, talented debut novelist SK Perry’s book is beautiful in its simplicity, realism and heart. I fell under its spell from the first page and believe Perry’s style and emotional honesty is unique and refreshing. Set in Brighton, it tells the story of a woman trying to start her life over after her boyfriend dies. Anyone who has lost a loved one will be able to relate. Grief lingers; it is repetitive, destructive. The author gives feeling and life not just to her characters, but to the structure and form of the novel and the vivid descriptive atmosphere the coastal setting allows.
Who's Who When Everyone is Someone Else by CD Rose (April 12th)
This wonderfully humorous and offbeat novel is one for book lovers. It is charming and witty, and the author’s growing cult readership makes it one to keep an eye on. Our protagonist has been invited to a European university to give a series of lectures on forgotten books. The books he speaks about take on a life of their own as his escapades in the unknown city get more confusing and mysterious. Think Wes Anderson and you’re getting close.
Myriad Editions (managing director Candida Lacey)
Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous by Manu Joseph (May)
This stylish and deceptively witty political satire will further establish Manu Joseph’s reputation as one of most engaging and insightful interpreters of our times. With the rigour of lean and unsentimental prose, he weaves a gripping tale set in contemporary India: on the day Hindu nationalists and their controversial leader have won a spectacular election victory, a large apartment building collapses in Mumbai. The rescue operation finds a single survivor trapped under a beam. Crawling through the rubble to administer painkillers, a young medical student finds him mumbling in delirium that two people are on their way to carry out a terror attack. Time is running out and the chase is on. This is a page-turning thriller that poses searching questions about the workings of power and its effects on the ordinary people.
Escaping Wars and Waves by Olivier Kugler (June)
This book powerfully draws the experiences of the Syrian refugees Kugler met in Iraqi Kurdistan and Europe, often on assignment for Médecins Sans Frontières. His evocative portraits and handwritten narratives are peppered with snatches of conversation and images of precious objects: a toilet roll, a tobacco pouch, a mobile phone. We empathise with Ahin, who tells her baby son about the home to which they will return one day, and Rezan, the fashion designer whose breaking point came when he saw the destruction of his neighbour’s orchard. “You can rebuild a house easily, but the trees?” Humane, humbling, and a brilliant example of the growing use of graphic reportage.
New Island Books (editorial director Daniel Bolger)
Heartland by Patrick McCabe (April)
This is a mad, brilliant, fun book – a bloody, boozy Irish western – that doesn’t have a predecessor I know of. A man hiding in the rafters of a dive bar in Glasson County watches a local gang of heavies beat his friend (and accomplice in the ripping-off of Roy Munro). While waiting for their superior to come and finish him off, the story of how he got there and where he ends up slowly comes to light. A bit of a departure, it has Patrick’s trademark dark psychology, simmering violence and emotional torment. This book is a triumph, a redneck sinfonia of rough poetry, humour and humanity by one of Ireland’s greatest and most original writers.
New to the Parish by Sorcha Pollak (May)
An inspiring chronological timeline of personal stories of migration, New to the Parish takes Irish readers on a journey across the globe – from Cameroon to Myanmar, Poland to New York, Nigeria to Venezuela, Iraq to Syria – and back home again. On one level it's the story of various immigrants to Ireland: what they make of it, how they came to be here, where they came from. It's also the story of immigration into Ireland; how that began and how it has changed over the years. Every single person on this earth has a story to tell, and as Hemingway put it: "Any man's life, told truly, is a novel." That is the message which this extraordinary book aims to send.
Parthian (Maria Zygogianni)
Ironopolis by Glen James Brown
In this debut novel by an exciting new working-class voice, Vincent Barr stands at the intersection of three generations of a sprawling council estate marooned on the outskirts of Ironopolis, Middlesbrough’s nickname during its long-gone industrial heyday. An acid house urban Western, Glen experiments boldly with the novel form yet writes an everyman story, and covers a gap in literary representations of working-class heroes.
My Mother's Hands by Karmele Jaio
This is the latest addition to the Parthian Europa Carnivale, a project featuring translated works by female authors from underrepresented languages. Karmele’s debut novel, a Basque bestseller, explores the relationship of Nerea with her mother Louisa and how the latter’s amnesia breaks down the precarious balance of their lives.
Salt (Christopher Hamilton-Emery)
The Chameleon by Samuel Fisher (April 15th)
Now 800 years old, John wants to tell his story. He can become any book, any combination of words – every thought, act and expression that has ever been, or ever will be, written. Samuel Fisher’s debut, The Chameleon, is a love story about books like no other, weaving texts and lives in a family tale that leads the reader into an extraordinary historical journey, a journey of words as much as of places, and a gripping romance.
Missing by Alison Moore (May 15th)
As a translator, Jessie worries over what seems like the terrible responsibility of choosing the right words. It isn’t exactly a matter of life and death, says her husband, but Jessie knows otherwise. This is a novel about communication and miscommunication, and lives hanging in the balance (a child going missing, a boy in a coma, an unborn baby), occupying the fine line between life and death, between existing and not existing. Isabel Berwick, of the Financial Times, says: “She is both gifted stylist and talented creator of a new English grotesque.”
Scribe UK (Sarah Braybrooke)
The Bootle Boy: an Untidy Life in News by Les Hinton (June)
This is the memoir of the man who rose from working-class Liverpudlian roots to become Rupert Murdoch’s right-hand man for five decades. Les Hinton began his career working as a copy boy, quickly rising through the ranks to become one of the most powerful men in news. His story is one of how small businesses can grow into empires, and how one man can come to control the flow of news. He tells it with a frankness and flair that will make this book a must-read for news junkies and fans of Alan Johnson’s memoirs alike.
Felix Culpa by Jeremy Gavron (February 22nd)
This brief and dazzling work of literary fiction from Jeremy Gavron will delight fans of Max Porter and Eimear McBride. Gavron is an award-winning novelist and most recently the author of A Woman on the Edge of Time, a memoir that Julie Myerson called "as brave and honest as it is heart-stopping and gripping". Part detective story, part literary experiment, Felix Culpa follows a writer on the trail of a dead boy, and it is constructed almost entirely from quotes from 100 other works of fiction. It asks questions about whose stories get told in our society and whose words do the telling, revealing that within even our most well-worn tales there lie narratives unseen.
The Lilliput Press (publisher Antony Farrell)
The Cruelty Men by Emer Martin (June)
This new novel by prize-winning author Emer Martin is a sweeping multi-generational view of an Irish-speaking family who moved from Kerry to the Meath Gaeltacht and the disasters that befell their children in Irish institutions. Emer Martin's first novel won the Book of the Year 1996 at Listowel Writers' Week. The Cruelty Men is both poignant and socially relevant as it looks at the ironically named cruelty men who worked for the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
The Ginger Man Letters by JP Donleavy (autumn)
A collection of fictional letters written by the protagonists of Donleavy's much-loved novel The Ginger Man, which sold 45 million copies worldwide. The Ginger Man Letters brings Sebastian Dangerfield to life again in his sparkling correspondence. This collection of letters by the literary giant will delight old and new readers.
Little Island (Grainne Clear)
Rocking the System by Siobhán Parkinson, illustrated by Bren Luke (February 1st; age 11+)
This beautiful and timely book is a celebration of amazing Irish women, published to mark the centenary of women’s suffrage and Irish women’s remarkable achievements throughout the centuries. The subjects range from Queen Medhbh to Eileen Gray, from Constance Markievicz to Sonia O’Sullivan, covering stateswomen, artists, writers, activists and rebels of all kinds, each with an illustrated essay and fact file to inspire young readers. Written by multiple award-winning author and Ireland’s first Laureate na nÓg, Siobhán Parkinson. Sabina Higgins says: “Many battles have been won by these brave women and the unknown heroines who walked quietly alongside them. This book will inspire its readers to play their part in creating a world that is fair, harmonious and equal.”
Bank by Emma Quigley (March 8; age 12+)
Set in a rural Irish secondary school, this hilarious and brilliant story about the rise and fall of a bank set up by a group of teenagers is a clever commentary on the Irish banking crisis as well as a fast-paced and entertaining story. The story begins with a group of 14-year-old school friends who pool their savings to set up a bank, lending out small amounts to other students at extortionate rates of interest to make a few extra quid. They start investing in small companies like a school dating app and the local YouTube celebrity, and these seemingly surefire investments start to backfire.
Peirene Press (publisher Meike Ziervogel)
Soviet Milk by Nora Ikstena, translated by Margita Gailitis (March 1st)
The literary bestseller that took the Baltics by storm will be published for the first time in English. At first glance Soviet Milk depicts a troubled mother-daughter relationship set in the Soviet-ruled Baltics between 1969 and 1989. Yet just beneath the surface lies something far more positive: the story of three generations of women, and the importance of a grandmother giving her granddaughter what her daughter is unable to provide – love and the desire for life.
Shatila Stories by nine refugee writers, translated by Nashwa Gowanlock (July)
This is an amazing and unique collaborative novel by nine Syrian and Palestinian refugee writers living in the Shatila camp in Beirut. It’s the story of two young people: Adam, who has recently arrived in Shatila after fleeing the war in Syria, and Shatha, whose family had to leave Palestine in 1948 and who was born in the camp. Uprooted and unwanted without a home, a country or a future, they try to find happiness and human dignity in an inhumane world. From those living in situations beyond our imagination comes literature that truly defies categorization.
Penned in the Margins (director Tom Chivers)
Natural Phenomena by Meryl Pugh (February 22nd)
Natural Phenomena is the kind of poetry debut that I dream of landing in my inbox. Meryl Pugh writes with an ear to the music of the city; her precise, atmospheric poems map the in-between spaces of east London, where wildflowers break through concrete and birdsong is heard amid police sirens and radio chatter. Already selected by Kayo Chingonyi as the Poetry Book Society's Guest Selection for spring 2018, I predict Natural Phenomena will do very well among readers looking for an eco-conscious, urban alternative to traditional nature poetry.
The Perseverance by Raymond Antrobus (October 1st)
Anyone following the UK spoken word scene over the last five years cannot have failed to notice Raymond Antrobus. The Hackney-born British-Jamaican writer has become a vital presence as a literary activist, educator and the author of compelling, searching poems of memory and identity. Ray is one of the world’s first recipients of an MA in spoken word education from Goldsmiths University. He was also recently awarded a prestigious Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship. These poems speak powerfully, using both historical research and personal reflection to generate haunting lyrics that stay with you long after reading.
Saraband (publisher Sara Hunt)
Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Golden Samovar by Olga Wojtas (January 25)
This year marks the centenary of Muriel Spark's birth, and what better way to celebrate the great writer than this quirky debut, an affectionate homage to The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie? The eponymous Miss Blaine's Prefect is the ebullient Shona McMonagle, a time-travelling altruist who must solve a mystery in 19th-century Russia. If it sounds a bit eccentric, that's because it is. The larger-than-life characters, tricksy plot and wicked sense of humour are all redolent of Muriel Spark's work. Author Olga Wojtas (who attended James Gillespie's High School, the model for Marcia Blaine's School for Girls in Miss Jean Brodie) brings a much-needed comic element and an unforgettable protagonist to crime writing.
Burnout by Claire MacLeary (March 15)
At a time when Weinstein, Westminster and #MeToo are top of the news agenda, Burnout brings the issue of men controlling and exploiting women back home. In the sequel to Cross Purpose, longlisted for the prestigious Scottish Crime Book of the Year McIlvanney Prize, odd couple investigators Maggie and Wilma are back tackling some of Aberdeen's dirtier secrets, and the case of a woman who claims her highly respectable husband is trying to kill her. Burnout is a surprising, gritty, darkly humorous tale that tackles complex social issues in a hugely entertaining way. And it has a lot of heart: Burnout is a paean to friendship, and how people can beat the odds.