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Andrew Donaldson: The Year Ahead in Books

By Andrew Donaldson for the Sunday Times

A week into the new year and the New York Times has boldly declared that Tenth of December, a short story collection by George Saunders published this month, is going to be the best book we’ll read in 2013. Maybe so, but there’s a feast of good stuff coming in the months ahead.

The Childhood of JesusGhana Must GoAmericanahA Delicate TruthWoolThe Shining Girls


In double Booker winner JM Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus, a newly reunited family go on the run when the authorities threaten to take away their only son. It’s out in March.

April sees the publication of two highly-anticipated African novels. Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go is a multi-generational saga about a Ghanaian surgeon, his Nigerian wife and their four children in the US – and how their lives fall apart in a single evening.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah explores familiar territory: a young couple flee the Nigerian military dictatorship and their relationship is tested by time, distance and globalisation.

Julian Barnes’ Levels of Life, described as an unclassifiable mixture of history, fiction and memoir, is another April highlight.

The big event in May is John le Carré’s A Delicate Truth, which hits the shelves 50 years after his debut, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Dark dealings in Whitehall here as the details of a counter-terror operation in Gibraltar are unravelled.

Genre-wise, science fiction gets a welcome reboot with Hugh Howey’s post-apocalyptic Wool trilogy, in which the remnants of humanity are now confined to a claustrophobic subterranean existence. The first volume hits the shelves later this month.

Lauren Beukes’ time-travelling serial killer thriller, The Shining Girls, published mid-year, is also eagerly anticipated, and in August, Margaret Atwood follows Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood with MaddAddam to complete her post-apocalyptic trilogy. In September, to mark the 35th anniversary of his The Shining, Stephen King returns to Danny Torrance, the young boy with terrifying telepathic gifts, in Doctor Sleep.

Another September sequel: Roddy Doyle’s The Guts revisits The Commitments‘ Jimmy Rabbitte, now a family man struggling with the music business and bowel cancer. Another September highlight is Arcadia by Iain Pears – only because it’s not a book at all, but a mobile app.

His publisher says it’s a multi-layered digital story in which characters transcend genres, period, styles and even time. A conventional print version will be released in 2014.

In October, Helen Fielding brings us a new, yet-to-be-titled Bridget Jones novel, and William Boyd, commissioned by the Ian Fleming estate, unveils his new James Bond novel.

The Return of a KingMom and Me and MomThe Serpent\'s Promise


The year’s non-fiction highlights begin with William Dalrymple’s Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, on Britain’s greatest military humiliation of the 19th century. It’s out next month.

In Mom and Me and Mom, published in April, Maya Angelou confronts her relationship with the mother who sent her away to be cared for by her grandmother.

Two releases likely to make headlines in June are Felix Martin’s Money: The Unauthorised Biography – it claims that everything we think we know about money is wrong – and The Serpent’s Promise, by geneticist Steve Jones, which updates the Bible from the point of view of modern science.

History buffs can look out for Max Hastings’ Catastrophe: 1914, an account of the early months of World War 1, out in October, and in September, Simon Schama’s The History of the Jews.

September’s popular culture releases include Courtney Love’s provisionally titled The Autobiography – expect hair-raising tales of sex, drugs and disorder – and Iain Sinclair’s American Smoke, a history of the Beats.

In October, Mark Lewisohn’s The Beatles: The Complete Story, Volume One, is released. Lewisohn is considered the world’s leading authority on the group, and has been writing about them since the 1980s. He insists this is the definitive account. It’s that “Volume One” that bothers me, though.

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