2019 reading list: Book experts predict this year’s bestsellers
So, what’s going to be hot on the reading lists of book clubs, literary fans and kiss-and-tell aficionados this year?
We quizzed some industry insiders on the books set to make a mark over the coming 12 months…
Several big anniversaries, including the 75th anniversary of D-Day in June and the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, should spawn a raft of books to mark the occasion, predicts Caroline Sanderson, associate editor of The Bookseller.
The big-hitters for the war anniversary may include D-Day UK by Simon Forty, published in May by Historic England, which focuses on the first survey of UK places associated with D-Day – readers can go on their own pilgrimages, if they wish.
Other likely sellers include D-Day & Normandy: A Visual History by Anthony Richards, published by the Imperial War Museum in June, which is likely to produce as official a history as it gets, and D-Day: The Soldiers’ Story by Giles Milton (John Murray), which is already out in hardback and will be available in paperback in May.
Regarding moon landing reads, Shoot For The Moon by Richard Wiseman (Quercus, £20, January 24) is a pioneering study of the ‘Apollo mindset’ which took humanity to the moon, and how we can harness it to achieve the extraordinary in our own everyday lives.
“The author is a professor of psychology, and it features what it is about the Apollo mindset which meant everybody had got this massive ambition to get to the moon, and how you can channel the same principles to change your life,” says Sanderson.
The front-runners of celebrity memoirs and self-help mantras should include Love Island queen Dani Dyer (What Would Dani Do?, Ebury, £16.99, April 4) and Status Quo frontman Francis Rossi (I Talk Too Much, Constable, £20, March 14).
Radio 2 presenter Sara Cox (Till The Cows Come Home, Coronet, £18.99, March 7) also has a book coming about her Lancashire childhood, while the as-yet untitled and much under-wraps autobiography of Sir Elton John (Pan Macmillan) is scheduled for the autumn.
Sanderson is also predicting an emerging trend in real-life stories among those in a variety of professions, following on from the success of books such as This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay and The Language Of Kindness: A nurse’s Story by Christie Watson.
“We’ve seen a lot of books recently about people’s ‘ordinary’ jobs. We’ve had books about being a doctor and being a nurse. The Secret Barrister did really well last year, winning awards,” Sanderson observes.
“The equivalent for this year is The Secret Civil Servant (Headline, £20, March 7), which promises to dish the dirt on what’s really going on in Westminster, notably on the Brexit shambles. It’s carrying on that trend of anonymous writers giving the insider’s knowledge on different professions.
“Continuing the doctors and nurses trend, there’s a really remarkable book called War Doctor: Surgery On The Front Line by David Nott (Picador, £18.99, February 21), a stand-out memoir by a vascular surgeon in the NHS who has volunteered for over 20 years to work in war zones.
“There are several books coming from midwives as well. The overall trend is ordinary people talking about the extraordinary jobs they do, which I think is quite a welcome trend,” she adds.
On the cooking front, veganism is likely to be big, spawning a plethora of associated books.
“Veganism will continue to be massive, following the Bosh! book by Henry Firth and Ian Theasby, which was a massive bestseller. Another Bosh! book called Bish Bash Bosh! (HQ, £20, April 4) looks set to continue to trend, while Joe Wicks has just brought out Veggie Lean In 15, which has a lot of vegan in it.”
And for non-vegans
Sanderson believes Kate Allinson and Kay Featherstone will hit new heights with their book Pinch Of Nom (Bluebird, £20, March 21), taken from their food blog which has 1.5 million users, filled with recipes to help people manage their weight while cooking and eating well. Huge pre-order figures indicate this one will be big.
Continuing the trend of feminist books is Caroline Criado Perez’ Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias In A World Designed For Men (Chatto, £16.99, March 7), which Sanderson says will be one to watch.
“There’s still a strong raft of feminist books. Caroline Criado Perez campaigned for women to be on the £20 note, and her now book deals with systemic discrimination against women.”
Escape to nature
Nature writing is still strong, along with the environment, Sanderson adds, with forthcoming titles including Still Water: The Deep Life Of The Pond from prize-winning author John Lewis-Stempel (Doubleday, £14.99, March 14) and Where The Hornbeam Grows by Beth Lynch (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £16.99, April 18), in which she recalls how she learned to set down roots and garden in a more natural way after moving to Switzerland.
“It’s a two-fold thing – the continuing ‘Blue Planet effect’, with people saying recently about how we’re almost too late. We are so bombarded with news and information and social media is all-pervading. People want to go off grid,” says Sanderson.
Bea Carvalho, general fiction buyer at Waterstones, says: “For us, the biggest one will be the Margaret Atwood sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, which is called The Testaments (Chatto & Windus, £20, September 10). Pre-orders are already fairly astonishing.”
The story is set 15 years after Offred’s final scene in the 1985 original novel.
Other exciting novels being published this year include Ali Smith’s Spring (Hamish Hamilton, £16.99, March 28). The third novel in her Seasonal Quartet, it’ll be a timely state-of-the-nation exploration.
Man Booker Prize-winner Marlon James has another novel coming out this year too, Black Leopard Red Wolf (Hamish Hamilton, £20, February 28), the first in the Dark Star trilogy, which follows the mystery of a lost child and murder. His publisher is billing it as ‘an ancient African Game Of Thrones’.
“Expectations are high following the success of his Man Booker prize-winning A Brief History Of Seven Killings and the critical acclaim he’s had as a result. This one is a different approach for him,” says Carvahlo. “We’re also excited about Max Porter’s new novel Lanny (Faber & Faber, £12.99, MarCH 7), the follow-up to his award-winning debut Grief Is The Thing With Feathers.”
It’s set in a village outside London, where Dead Papa Toothwort listens to the voices rising from the village and is particularly interested in young Lanny, who disappears.
As the year progresses, there is likely to be a buzz around big names including David Nicholls, author of One Day, whose new novel Sweet Sorrow (Hodder & Stoughton, £20, July 11) recounts the story of one life-changing summer for 16-year-old Charlie Lewis.
Zadie Smith’s new short story collection, Grand Union (Hamish Hamilton, £20, October 3) is also attracting attention, while thriller writer Tana French’s new book The Wych Elm (Viking, £14.99, February 21), is her first stand-alone novel.
“It’s an amazing book about a boy growing up in Ireland with his two cousins in a seemingly idyllic childhood in his ancestral home. In the aftermath of an attack in his late 20s, he returns there – and all is not quite as it seems. There’s a discovery of a skull in the garden and suddenly his perfect upbringing is thrown into question,” says Carvalho.
Debut to watch
Waterstones also has on its radar a debut novel called The Binding by Bridget Collins (The Borough Press, £12.99, January 10), which was snapped up after an eight-way auction and is billed as a ‘fusion of history and magic’ from this YA author.
“For a debut, it’s already attracting so much incredible praise, about a boy who gets an apprenticeship with a bookbinder and it becomes apparent that the books that he’s binding are trapping people’s best-kept secrets. Then he discovers one of the books has his name on it. We expect it to be one of the biggest debuts of the year.”