2018: Books to Brighten the New Year

By Carole Reedy

Despite the conflicts of daily life, we readers can always seek consolation in the hours we spend with our favorite authors and books. This year won’t disappoint. Here’s a sneak preview of what’s to come.

First, though, I’d like to mention a book I read in the last days of 2017 and finished in the first of 2018: Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer, an engrossing novel about the dynamics of Jewish family and what it means to be a Jew. You don’t need to be Jewish to enjoy it! The author’s ability to portray the mystery, angst, and elation of modern life through each of his utterly believable characters is the reason it’s already one of my favorite books for 2017-18.

The new selections presented here for your reading enjoyment and escape in 2018 are listed by month of announced publication. Surprisingly, many of our favorite novelists have written memoirs and books of essays and short stories. Is it coincidence? I’m wondering about the reasons for their choices to write in these genres.

February

FEEL FREE by Zadie Smith (Essays)

I hope this book of essays equals her brilliant novels. Critics say it does.

I AM, I AM, I AM: SEVENTEEN BRUSHES WITH DEATH by Maggie O’Farrell

Our favorite storyteller Maggie O’Farrell tries her hand at a memoir about her near-death experiences. I’ll read anything she writes, so I’ll give this a whirl too. If you haven’t read O’Farrell’s fiction, start with This Must Be the Place or The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox.

WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE? by Marilynne Robinson

Robinson is best known for her novels, Housekeeping and Gilead, as well as her books of essays. Recurring themes are faith and rural life in the US. She’s a winner of the National Book Critics Circle, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the Orange Prize for Fiction, and the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. Her new book of essays is sure to prove equal to her past successes.

March

GUN LOVE by Jennifer Clement

Many of us have admired Clement ever since we read Prayers for the Stolen, the story of women in a remote Guerrero town who try to protect their young daughters from the narcotraficantes who arrive in their window-tinted black SUVs to take the girls away. In this new novel, Clement addresses another troublesome topic: guns in the US.

YOU THINK IT, I’LL SAY IT by Curtis Sittenfeld

You guessed it. Sittenfeld is publishing her first collection of ten short stories after considerable success with previous novels.

April

SHARP: THE WOMEN WHO MADE AN ART OF HAVING AN OPINION by Michelle Dean

It seems like a certain bestseller. Ten of our most adored women writers who have had significant influence on the roles of women and culture in the 20th century take center stage here. Profiles of Nora Ephron, Joan Didion, and the prolific Pauline Kael are included.

MACBETH by Jo Nesbo

The Hogarth Shakespeare Project has been recreating Shakespeare’s masterpieces into modern form since October 2015. Known for his dark Scandinavian mysteries, Nesbo is one of the authors accepting this challenge. Additional titles in the series are written by other top-notch 20th-century novelists: Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn (King Lear), Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler (The Taming of the Shrew), Hagseed by Margaret Atwood (The Tempest), New Boy by Tracy Chevalier (Othello), The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson (A Winter’s Tale), and Shylock is my Name by Howard Jacobson (The Merchant of Venice). Gillian Flynn’s retelling of Hamlet will be published in 2021.

June

FLORIDA by Lauren Groff

Known as the author of Barack Obama’s favorite book of 2015, Fates and Furies, Groff is yet another author turning to the short story genre. This collection is dedicated to her home state of, yes, Florida.

September

MY STRUGGLE: BOOK SIX by Karl Ove Knausgaard

This series, centered around the author’s life, has a huge following throughout the world, and this volume is finally being released in English. A friend and avid reader in Chicago who has dedicated her time to reading Knausgaard’s tomes claims not to love them, but she is glad she has read them.

TRANSCRIPTION by Kate Atkinson

Atkinson mesmerized readers over the past few years with Life After Life, followed by A God in Ruins. So we eagerly await her newest novel. Once again the subject is war, this effort featuring a woman who joins the Secret Service and is haunted by her time even after she moves on to the BBC.

October

  1. OCCAM’S RAZOR by Barbara Kingsolver

Most readers agree that The Poisonwood Bible is Kingsolver’s greatest book and she continues to publish many different types of novels. This latest one peeks into the lives of two families from different eras living in the same house in New Jersey.

Sadly missing from this list is the third Thomas Cromwell novel by Hilary Mantel, the reigning queen of historical fiction, who announced in 2017 that she anticipated a 2019 publication date instead of the hoped-for 2018 date.

Another absent favorite is Jhumpa Lahiri, who these days is dedicating her reading and writing to the Italian language.

There are many more new books to come in 2018 and they’ll be announced right here. Happy reading, friends!

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