Downside to this time of year: the intolerably and indeterminately miserable weather. Upside: there are loads of fantastic books being released, the very best of which you can find out more about below…
The return of an underrated detective
The Burning Room by Michael Connelly
US author and former crime reporter Connelly is one of the biggest names in crime fiction, and his detective, Harry Bosch, sees his 17th outing in this book. But that doesn’t mean the author, or his creation, is anywhere close to muttering a Roger Murtaugh-like "I’m too old for this sh*t". The Burning Room sees Bosch with a new partner as they investigate a murder that took a decade to finally kill the victim (via blood poisoning, in case you were wandering). If you’re not yet familiar with Connelly’s understated police procedural thrillers, there’s no better time to pick one up, as a nine-part TV series, Bosch, based on the books, is set to arrive on Amazon Prime Instant Video early next year.
The unsexy sex book satire
Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk
From the man who gave us Invisible Monsters, Choke and, of course, the brilliantly carnal Fight Club, we now have killer sex toys. Well, sort of. Chuck Palahniuk’s 15th novel tells the tale of billionaire tech genius C Linus Maxwell (better known as ‘Climax-Well’) who invents a line of sex toys he can use to control the world via female orgasm. But Fifty Shades Of Grey this isn’t. Palahniuk might have described it as “an absolutely pornographic book”, but his stark middle finger to the rise of chick lit/’mummy porn’ is probably the unsexiest book you’ve ever read. Instead, you won’t know whether to laugh or cry at this satirical take down of fashion, fame and our need to need everything.
The Man Booker prize winner that took nearly a decade to write
The Narrow Road To The Deep North by Richard Flanagan
Flanagan burned five drafts of his sixth novel before settling on this version – which netted him this year’s Man Booker Prize. Set over 50 years, Narrow Road… unfolds against a Second World War backdrop, focusing on the life of Dorrigo Evans, a surgeon who leads captured Australian soldiers in a Japanese POW camp working on the Burma Death Railway line. Dorrigo has to protect his men from human-rights atrocities, sickness and the Japanese officers’ crazed ideology. But Flanagan’s protagonist’s story goes beyond the war – Dorrigo’s life before and after matters just as much, as he struggles to adjust to his postwar public honours and failed love affairs. Flanagan, who co-wrote the screenplay for Baz Luhrmann’s Australia, dedicates the book to his father, prisoner 335, who worked as a slave labourer to the Japanese.
The old pro putting the ‘pro’ in prolific
Revival by Stephen King
He might be known as a prolific writer, but even by his standards, King has surpassed himself – Revival is his second book in six months, and his fourth in two years. Set in white picket fence US, the story follows the lasting bond between a young boy named Jamie and the town’s new charismatic reverend, Charles Jacobs, who is set to transform the local church. But after Jacobs is banished for cursing God and religion following a family tragedy, Jamie is left alone to fight his demons. He flees town and plays in bands across the country, but by his mid-thirties has become a heroin addict. Jamie and Jacobs are eventually reunited – and their friendship soon becomes a hellish pact based on a secret obsession. Beginning in 1962 and spanning across five decades, King’s 55th novel examines addiction, fanaticism and the afterlife.
The Scarily Prophetic Orwellian Sci-Fi epic #1
The Peripheral by William Gibson
"The book is extreme nature," William Gibson told ShortList recently. "It’s more seriously posthuman than most fiction I’ve written before." If you’ve ever read one of his cyberpunk thrillers, this sentence won’t come as a surprise. It’s been 30 years since his first novel Neuromancer, in which he coined the term ‘cyberspace’, predicted drones and reality TV long before we had anything resembling it. Now, after setting his previous three books in the present day, The Peripheral is a return to the future. Well, two futures, to be exact. The first follows Flynn Fisher a few decades in small-town US, while the second jumps generations to disgraced publicist Wilf Netherton in post-apocalyptic London. “The people are very much like us,” says Gibson, not very comforting when their worlds are full of organised crime. A thrillingly complex whodunit, but the future isn’t bright.
The Scarily Prophetic Orwellian Sci-Fi epic #2
The Book Of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
Michel Faber’s first book in 12 years might confuse rabid fans of The Crimson Petal And The White, for this is no lusciously drawn historical novel; there are zero Victorian prostitutes eating flaky pastry and telling moustachioed magnates what’s what. Instead, The Book Of Strange New Things is a creepingly claustrophobic story set in an apocalyptic future. Christian pastor Peter Leigh leaves his wife Bea to become a missionary on newly colonised planet Oasis, via the machinations of shadowy organisation Usic. The journey through space leaves him ill; the Usic base is a strange, sterile environment. When Peter meets the Oasis natives he’s surprised by their friendliness. Some of them even speak English, with a scratchy, reedy accent. The more time Peter spends with them, the more he loses touch with his wife – and the increasingly horrifying goings on back on Earth…
The romcom That it’s OK for men to read
Waiting For Doggo by Mark B Mills
Yes, this is a book with a dog in it. But chase away any visions of Marley & Me or Lassie Come Home right now: this dog – the titular Doggo – is almost hairless, loves Jennifer Aniston and provides a large portion of laughs in a novel that has an eyebrow-raising amount of funny lines. Dan – a 30-year-old Londoner who works in advertising – is forced to take ownership of Doggo after his girlfriend walks out on him. He is far from fond of the animal, but the dogs’ home won’t take Doggo back without neutering him. Dan feels he can’t do that to the mongrel, so ends up keeping him – the dog eventually returning the favour by helping him to find a new girlfriend. While there is romance, and comedy, it manages to stay just the right side of saccharine-sweet Richard Curtis territory.
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