Most Anticipated Books of 2019

If nothing else, there are some intriguing books to look forward to in 2019. Here follows an incomplete list of what’s caught my eye in fiction, poetry, and narrative non-fiction.


615NlimlFvL._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_Fever Dream was an eerie, suspenseful page turner I recommended to everyone, so it’s welcome news that the year is opening with a collection of short stories from Samanta Schweblin. Mouthful of Birds “has the feel of a sleepless night” says the blurb, and “every shadow and bump in the dark takes on huge implications, leaving your pulse racing and blurring the line between the real and the strange.” I’m looking forward to more unsettling, tension-filled writing translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell. Riverhead Books


412ptMeoKrL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Valeria Luiselli wrote about her experience as a translator for undocumented migrant children in the essential read Tell Me How it Ends. This new work of fiction, Lost Children Archive, appears to draw on this experience. Here’s what the blurb says:  “A family in New York packs the car and sets out on a road trip. A mother, a father, a boy and a girl, they head south west, to the Apacheria, the regions of the US which used to be Mexico. They drive for hours through desert and mountains. They stop at diners when they’re hungry and sleep in motels when it gets dark […]

Meanwhile, thousands of children are journeying north, travelling to the US border from Central America and Mexico. A grandmother or aunt has packed a backpack for them, putting in a bible, one toy, some clean underwear. They have been met by a coyote: a man who speaks to them roughly and frightens them. They cross a river on rubber tubing and walk for days, saving whatever food and water they can. Then they climb to the top of a train and travel precariously in the open container on top. Not all of them will make it to the border.” – Fourth Estate 


41glvamLa7L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Max Porter‘s Grief is the Thing with Feathers introduced a rare new writing voice in its beautiful, lyrical tale of grief in a single father family visited by a crow. As humane and charming as it was moving, and best read in one sitting. In his next book, Lanny depicts the inhabitants of a village not far from London. “This village belongs to the people who live in it and to those who lived in it hundreds of years ago. It belongs to England’s mysterious past and its confounding present… Chimerical, audacious, strange and wonderful – a song to difference and imagination, to friendship, youth and love.” Faber
51w02nirQZL._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_The third part of her seasonal quartet, Ali Smith‘s Spring is light on blurb, telling us “Spring will come. The leaves on its trees will open after blossom. Before it arrives, a hundred years of empire-making. The dawn breaks cold and still but, deep in the earth, things are growing.” I enjoyed the preceding books and look forward to seeing the hope and new growth of spring  mingle with Smith’s witty portraits of people and their relationships impacted by our tumultuous contemporary world. Hamish Hamilton


My fellow Nasty Woman Nadine Aisha Jassat has had a couple of years filled with all the benchmarks of emerging success. Here’s a great short story selected by the British Council. Her first full length poetry collection is out in March. Let Me Tell You This “is a vital exploration of racism, gender and the sustaining and restorative bonds between women, told with Jassat’s searing precision and lyricism. Her poems seep into the reader, and deliver a punch to the chest.” It’s the poetry collection I’m most looking forward to in 2019. 404 Ink




41u20sbZgNL._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_ Don’t just take it from me – Eimear McBride says “Utterly magnificent. Raw, thought-provoking and galvanising; this is a book every woman should read.” I’ve admired Sinead Gleeson‘s thoughtful articles and first book of essays Constellations covers art, illness, ghosts, grief and our very ways of seeing. As for the title, it comes from these lines: “I have come to think of all the metal in my body as artificial stars, glistening beneath the skin, a constellation of old and new metal. A map, a tracing of connections and a guide to looking at things from different angles.” I predict there will be a lot of buzz around this one when it’s out. Picador


41q0d-+gFeL._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_This writer is completely new to me, but the cover and blurb resonate. Jessica Andrews‘ debut Saltwater tells the story of Lucy, who grew up in working class Sunderland and struggles to cope with university in London. “Lucy’s transition to a new life is more overwhelming than she ever expected. As she works long shifts to make ends meet and navigates chaotic parties from East London warehouses to South Kensington mansions, she still feels like an outsider among her fellow students. When things come to a head at her graduation, Lucy takes off for Ireland, seeking solace in her late grandfather’s cottage and the wild landscape that surrounds it, wondering if she can piece together who she really is.” Exploring mother-daughter relationships and class identity, I’m intrigued to read this contemporary addition to working class writing by women. Sceptre

1536744880193The first novel published by indie upcomers 404 Ink, Animals Eat Each Other by Elle Nash had a great reception on its release across the pond. The blurb says “Animals Eat Each Other sees a young woman with no name embark on a fraught three-way relationship with tattoo artist Matt and his partner Frances, a new mother. She finds herself balancing on a knife’s edge between the promise of what-ifs against isolation in the present’s strict rules, examining the wreckage of love and how we can lose ourselves in it.” Publishers Weekly called it “A complex, impressive exploration of obsession and desire.”


411U3LhzqGL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_One of the best collections of poetry I’ve read in recent years was Ocean Vuong‘s Night Sky with Exit Wounds, both tender and impactful. His first novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, “is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born — a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam — and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity.” Vuong has previously published a poem of the same title. Penguin

31mZ6NW1h7L._SY346_Another fellow Nasty Women alumni, Zeba Talkhani‘s first book is out this year, and in The Past is a Foreign Country I’m eagerly anticipating settling down to read her thoughtful documentation of growing up in Saudi Arabia. The blurb says “Talkhani offers a fresh perspective on living as an outsider and examines her relationship with her mother and the challenges she faced when she experienced hair loss at a young age. Rejecting the traditional path her culture had chosen for her, Talkhani became financially independent and married on her own terms in the UK. Drawing on her personal experiences Talkhani shows how she fought for the right to her individuality as a feminist Muslim and refused to let negative experiences define her.” Sceptre


41VP8ltQ5RLAnyone who knows me well will have heard me absolutely rave about Treats by Lara Williams, a short story collection I had the joy of working on and one of my all time favourites for how it picks up on the subtle nuances of contemporary life and dating with a feminist inflection. Her debut novel Supper Club is a secret society for hungry women. Women who are sick of bad men and bad sex, of hinted expectations to talk less, take less, be less. So they gather after dark and feast until they are sick. They drink and dance and roar. And, month by month, their bodies expand. At the centre of the Supper Club stands Roberta – cynical yet anxious, precocious and lost. She is seeking the answer to a simple question: if you feed a starving woman, what will she grow into? This is a story about the hunger that never goes away.” Lara Williams is one of our best emerging writers and this book is a 2019 highlight. Hamish Hamilton

Jemma+Neville+-+December+2018Jemma Neville has been documenting the street she lives and works on, fascinated by its history and the lives of her neighbours. Her debut book Constitution Street “considers what real life stories from neighbours on one street in Leith reveal about today’s constitutional crisis in an age of anxiety. Part memoir, part social history, part exploration of a new constitution for the day we live in, Neville’s debut encourages a reclamation of human rights practice as something that belongs to each of us, too important to be left solely to politicians and lawyers.” When I guest edited the site Bella Caledonia in 2018, I asked Jemma to tell me a bit about her project. 404 Ink

eviewyld-e1500549757598-400x400Long anticipated, Evie Wyld‘s next novel The Bass Rock is out this year. It “will explore women’s experiences over time, by telling the stories of three “distinct” women in three different times that will intersect and dramatise “why something ‘only being in your head’ is the most terrifying thing of all”. The novel’s characters include a woman from North Berwick in 1590, who stands accused of being a witch and is “frightened by her own mind”; a woman moves to a large house in a “haunted landscape” in North Berwick to take care of her new husband’s two sons, both traumatised by the recent death of their mother; and a 21st century novelist travelling in the south of France to research a ghost story her parents told her when she was a child.” Jonathan Cape