The titles and authors to watch in 2006

 

Spotting upcoming themes and trends is always one of the delights of looking through the publishers' catalogues. Here, Arminta Wallace picks some of the highlights, and reports that books on China and a promising batch of Irish fiction are among the many things in store.

The Revenge of Gaia by James Lovelock Allen Lane, February

The other great talking-point of next year is likely to be the debate over this planet's rapidly dwindling energy options. Some 30 years ago, Lovelock came up with the Gaia concept - which regards the earth, not as a lump of dead rock, but as a living organism - and became an eco-hero. Now here he is arguing the case not, as you might expect, against the use of nuclear energy, but in favour of it. Storms will surely follow.

The Sailor in the Wardrobe by Hugo Hamilton Fourth Estate, February

After giving us the superb and eye-opening memoir The Speckled People, can Hugo Hamilton possibly have anything left to tell? Well, maybe. In this second volume, he returns to an eventful year in his youth when a summer job at Dún Laoghaire harbour got him entangled in a bitter sectarian feud between two fishermen. On the other side of Ireland, meanwhile, his German cousin had gone missing . . .

District and Circle by Seamus Heaney Faber & Faber, April

A new volume from the Nobel Prize-winning poet is always a major publishing event, and this collection will take readers from an earlier era up to the eerie new conditions of a menaced 21st century. District and Circle will also contain a number of prose poems and translations.

Quirke by Benjamin Black Picador, September

John Banville had no sooner won this year's Man Booker Prize than he announced he's writing thrillers under a pseudonym. The first, Quirke, is set in mid-20th-century Ireland and America. A Dublin pathologist uncovers a murderous plot at the heart of the Catholic establishment of Dublin and Boston. Entertainment rather than art seems to be the intention this time, but believe us, the writing will be good too.

The Light of Evening by Edna O'Brien Weidenfeld & Nicolson, September

Philip Roth has called her the most gifted woman now writing fiction in English. A new novel from one of the doyennes of contemporary writing is always one to watch.

The Commonwealth of Thieves by Thomas Kenneally Chatto & Windus, June

Australia is just a hop, skip and a jump away nowadays; but when the British government first hatched what it called its "Sydney experiment", the continent was an unknown quantity at the far end of eight hellish months at sea. Kenneally focuses on one Capt Arthur Phillip, commodore of the First Fleet, who was sent to govern the rebellious outpost, and - unusually for the time - became friends with a native Aboriginal called Bennelong.

Mozart and his Operas by David Cairns Allen Lane, January

It seems like only the blink of an eye since the last Mozart celebration - however, 2006 is the 250th anniversary of his birth. Expect lots of tasty stuff on the recording front, plus this new operatic study, written by the Whitbread and Samuel Johnson award-winning biographer of Berlioz.

Mothers and Sons by Colm Tóibín Picador, September

One thinks of him so fundamentally as a novelist it's interesting to note that this new book is a short story collection - his first. But Tóibín watchers will be aware that he has also worked in this quintessential Irish art form for many years, with stories appearing in various publications. Now we have a collection.

The Beauty of Houses by Alain de Botton Hamish Hamilton, May

Having "done" (or, more accurately, patiently unpicked) the topics of travel, status anxiety and other contemporary social obsessions, the reader-friendly philosopher turns his attention to the current craze for decorating, renovating and relocating, asking questions such as "Can beautiful surroundings make us good ?". One of these days he'll "do" reality TV and, with any luck, sink that particular ship for ever.

Matters of Life and Death by Bernard MacLaverty Jonathan Cape, May

His best collection yet, say his publishers; they would, wouldn't they, but then, can you imagine MacLaverty writing badly? These stories embrace all kinds of topics from shocking sectarian violence to a wild-weather whiteout in Iowa.

The Treehouse by Naomi Wolf Time Warner, January

Having asked her father - a well-regarded poet and retired teacher - to help her build a treehouse for her daughter, feminist Naomi Wolf discovered that the same Da had lots of interesting things to say about happiness, the meaning of life and the needs of one's inner artist. This book is an affectionate record of their conversations.

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell Sceptre, May

The new novel from the author of Cloud Atlas is set in 1982 and stars a 13-year-old boy in "the deadest village in the dullest county of darkest Cold-War England". Watch as Mitchell turns this unpromising prospect into a mesmerising fiction.

Stick Out Your Tongue by Ma Jian Chatto & Windus, January

This is the book which got Ma Jian banned in China (see, China again!) in 1987 and set its author on the road to exile, now published in English. A short story collection, it's about a Chinese writer who travels to Tibet, and the extraordinary assortment of people he meets there

Beckett Remembering Remembering Beckett by James and Elizabeth Knowlson Bloomsbury, March

A warm tribute to Beckett in his centenary year, by his biographer, James Knowlson. The book promises to show the reclusive writer's human side by talking to those who knew him best and worked with him most, including the actress Billie Whitelaw and novelists JM Coetzee, Paul Auster and Aidan Higgins. How pretentious is that title, though?

A Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier John Murray, February

Having read the first two chapters of this novel, I can report that it takes a weird and wonderful plotline and creates an extremely striking mood. As the title suggests, it's a story about dead people. Not zombies, mind - proper dead people, who live in a pleasant city halfway between earth and . . . what? Well, that's the question. A fable inspired by the threat of a flu pandemic on our planet, it's already on its way to being made into a movie by Warner Brothers.

The End of the Poem by Paul Muldoon Faber and Faber, March

Not a collection of poems, but a set of lectures, each a variation on the eponymous theme. Do poems have political ends? Is there an "end" in "gender"? The always entertaining and thoughtful Muldoon draws on his own experience as a writer and academic as well as on 20th-century poets, from Yeats and Frost to Pessoa and Tsvetayeva, to illustrate what looks like being a fascinating meditation on the art of poetry.

Twelve Books That Changed The World by Melvin Bragg Hodder & Stoughton, May

What changes the world we live in? Revolution? War? Natural disasters? Yes, all those - and, according to Melvyn Bragg, books. His last outing, a history of the English language, was a genial, informative affair, and this should be more of the same. While you wait, you can try to guess which dozen influential books he has included. Darwin's

Origin of Species, perhaps? Plato? Shakespeare? Oh, and there's a TV series too.

Zoli by Colum McCann Weidenfeld, September

The life of a gypsy poet is the subject of McCann's next novel.

Still Looking by John Updike Hamish Hamilton, February

The inimitable Updike turns his eagle eye on American art in this collection of 18 essays on painters as diverse as Winslow Homer, James McNeill Whistler, Edward Hopper and Andy Warhol.

Enemy Combatant by Moazzam Begg, with Victoria Brittain Simon & Schuster, March

Moazzam Begg is a young British Muslim who was helping to set up education programmes for children in Pakistan when, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, he was arrested and imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay. He spent three years there, much of it in solitary confinement, until he was released early last year without trial, charge, explanation or apology. If this was a thriller, people would say it was unlikely. Unhappily, it's true.

Simón Bolívar - A Life by John Lynch Yale, May

The first major English language biography in half a century of the revolutionary who freed six countries; the intellectual who advocated the principles of national liberation; the general who fought a cruel colonial war - into the bargain changing the face of South American history.

Cold War by John Lewis Gaddis Allen Lane, January

Gaddis has been called the dean of Cold War historians and in this blockbuster the Yale professor will give us a new history - incorporating new information from recently opened Soviet and Asian archives - of the global confrontation between communism and capitalism, the stand-off between two superpowers, each with the capacity to annihilate each other, that defined the second half of the 20th century.

Proust in Love by William C. Carter Yale, June

Harold Bloom has acclaimed Carter as Proust's definitive biographer, which is some accolade. Here he reveals Proust as a man agonisingly caught between the constant fear of public exposure as a homosexual and the need to find and express love. From his disastrous brothel visit to "cure" homosexual inclinations to his affairs with young men from the servant class, the book also gives a glimpse into Proust's gay Paris.

Picador Shots by various authors Macmillan, June

The short story will get another boost - the form has had a few lately with the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award in Cork earlier this year and the National Short Story Prize to be awarded at next year's Edinburgh International Book Festival - with this new series from Macmillan. It will publish a series of single short stories by prominent writers, with a price tag of £1 the idea is that people might buy them in lieu of - spare the thought - a newspaper.

The Year of Henry James by David Lodge Harvill Secker, June

2004 was the year that saw a number of novels inspired by Henry James dominate the book world. Author, Author by David Lodge was one of them. Here he traces the history of his novel from the first embryonic idea in his notebook through the research and the writing - to publication and reception by the public.

He also looks at the phenomenon of a number of books on the subject coming out within months of each other and sees it as a coincidence waiting to happen. The book also looks at genesis, composition and reception in the work of a number of other major writers.

Double Fault by Lionel Shriver Serpent's Tail, May

Shriver's Orange Prize-winning We Need to Talk about Kevin was memorably described by the New Statesman as "Desperate Housewives as written by Euripides". Her new novel looks set to tackle the unusual topic of a marriage between two tennis players with equally disarming directness.

The Wrong Kind of Blood by Declan Hughes John Murray, April

A new name on the Irish crime scene, Declan Hughes is - apparently - going to do for Dublin what Ian Rankin and his Rebus novels have done for Edinburgh. Let's hope he has stocked up on Weetabix. This novel, the first of a three-book deal with John Murray, opens with the gory murder of a brother and a spine-chilling line from the book of Genesis. Good start, you have to admit.

Ludmila's Broken English by DBC Pierre Faber & Faber, March

Another slice of comic madness from the author of the marvellous, multi award-winning Vernon God Little. In this book, Siamese twins are successfully separated in England, while a Russian girl joins an internet brides' website.

After the Neocons by Francis Fukuyama Profile, March

Has Francis Fukuyama changed his colours? Probably not, but the right-wing commentator, author of the classic The End of History, says he has changed his mind, at least about US policy on Iraq.

Here he stresses the need to work with "supranational" institutions and urges the US to place more importance on overseas development.

Will and Me: How Shakespeare Took Over My Life by Dominic Drumgoole Allen Lane, March

In this freewheeling study the new artistic director of the Globe Theatre and Guardian columnist sets out to do for Shakespeare what Alain de Botton did for Proust and Fever Pitch did for football. We thought Shakespeare was already interesting - but anyway.

Animals by Keith Ridgway Fourth Estate, February

If you thought Standard Time was weird, just wait till you read Keith Ridgway's new novel. It's narrated by an illustrator who can no longer draw but who sees animals, ahem, everywhere. A tale of the sudden and apparently inexplicable collapse of a private life.

The Battle for Spain by Antony Beevor Weidenfeld & Nicholson, June

It's back in hardback: the author of the unputdownable histories Stalingrad and Berlin: the Downfall has revisited his first book, a 20-year-old study of the Spanish civil war, but this is an almost totally rewritten version incorporating masses of new archive material.

The Prince of the Marshes by Rory Stewart Picador, April

As a young British diplomat, Stewart was appointed deputy governor of two provinces in southern Iraq. He kept a diary, recording tribal conflicts, assassinations and the battle to put the country back together after the invasion - and this book is the result. Sounds as if he should have been a writer to begin with; his first book, The Places in Between, an account of his journey across Afghanistan in the wake of the US invasion, won several awards.

The Last Friend by Tahar Ben Jelloun The New Press, March

More insight into Morocco in this novel from the 2004 Impac winner; a tale of friendship and betrayal set in Tangier from the 1950s onwards.

Unspeak by Steven Poole Time Warner, February

Guardian writer Poole dismembers a raft of everyday clichés - the War on Terror, the Pro-Life Movement, ethnic cleansing and so on and on and on - which, he says, are not harmless simplifications, but a form of powerful and insidious rhetoric. By silencing potential opposing arguments, they make controversial issues - literally - unspeakable.

Navigations: Selected Essays 1977-2005 by Richard Kearney Lilliput Press, June

A window on the status of Irish culture in the 21st century; partly a selection of previous work but 50 per cent new material as well. He may for the moment be far from our shores as a professor at Boston College but his interest in the state of Ireland is as vigorous as ever .

School's Out by Christopher Dufosse Heinemann, January

The next big French thing? This Prix du Premier Roman winner, which concerns a substitute teacher's relationship with the class of a colleague who has committed suicide, has already been translated into 10 languages. It is billed as "blackly Houellebecqian", which probably means a weird narrative angle and lots of dodgy sex.

The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems by Billy Collins Picador, May

The great poet of the tiny detail is back with a new collection which, as usual, ranges from the scarily insightful to the joyfully silly.

The Glass Room by Kate Holmquist Penguin Ireland, August

A native New Yorker, married to an Irishman and living in Dublin, decides to end her sham of a marriage, setting off a chain of events which cause her to question her identity and face up to the traumas of her past. Holmquist, an Irish Times journalist, takes a wry look at both middle-class life in contemporary Dublin and the world of wealthy bohemian America.

The Secret Life of E. Robert Pendleton by Michael Collins Weidenfeld & Nicholson, April

An academic is in a coma following a failed suicide attempt when one of his students finds a manuscript in his basement; she publishes it, and it is acclaimed as a great existential masterpiece. But is it a work of fiction? And if it isn't, what's the story with the gory murder at its centre? It's good to hear from the dark, edgy Collins again. There are also Irish thrillers to look out for next year from Philip Davison (A Burnable Town, Cape, January), Claire Kilroy (Tenderwire, Faber, June), and John Boyne (A Dangerous Abdication, Michael Joseph, May).

Gethsemane Day by Dorothy Molloy Faber & Faber, February

It seemed the most cruel stroke of fate when this Irish poet died just weeks before publication of her first collection of poems, Hare Soup. Happily there were enough poems for this secondposthumous collection which, though confronting illness and death, sings with survival

Empire of Analogies by Kaori Nagai Cork University Press, June

"Who is Kim, and why is he Irish?" It seems Kipling's Indian stories really do have an Irish dimension, and this new study aims to cast new light on a post-colonial riddle.

An Orange Revolution: A Personal Journey through Ukranian History by Askold Krushnelnycky Harvill Secker, March

A defining moment in recent European history is put under the microscope in this book which also traces the story of the author's family, who paid a high price for speaking out during the tough times endured by the Ukraine in the last century.

Behind the Mask by Thomas Harris Heinemann, March

Ever wondered about Hannibal Lecter's childhood and early years? Where did he get that taste for human flesh? Harris's new novel may solve that grisly puzzle.

In Full Flood: A Memoir by Finbarr Flood Liberties Press, March

Former managing director of Guinness's, ex-chairman of the Labour Court and current chairman of Shelbourne FC and of the Government's decentralisation committee. Not to be confused with Feargus Flood of tribunal fame - come to think of it why doesn't someone sign him up for a book too?

The Tent by Margaret Atwood Bloomsbury, March

This new collection of stories from the magisterial Atwood will feature her own illustrations.