BOOKS to look forward to this year
With a bumper crop of books to choose from, Chris Wood selects the 50 most hotly anticipated reads for the year ahead
WITH THOUSANDS OF new books due on the shelves in the US and Britain alone over the next 12 months, bringing readers our 50 most anticipated titles of 2007 is nothing if not daunting. Mountains of catalogues have been combed, scores of websites scoured, dozens of publishers pestered, and gallons of coffee consumed working late into the night. No stone has been left unturned in the search for what we hope will be this year's best reads.
Of course, it hasn't gone unnoticed that 2007 is a Potter year (the final instalment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is due on the shelves in July) and that Dan Brown is still busily writing The Solomon Key, his eagerly (and long-) awaited follow-up to The Da Vinci Code. The mystery of just when it might appear in bookshops may yet be solved in the coming months.
Others just missing the cut, but worth looking out for are Pope Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth (HarperCollins, March), in which the pontiff promises to share an intimate encounter with Jesus of the Gospels, and William T. Vollerman's Poor People (Ecco, March), the US author's chronicle of his quest to learn about poverty from the impoverished.
Bengali writer Baby Halder tells of her life as a child bride, maid and domestic helper in A Life Less Ordinary (Penguin, May), and Brit-popper Alex James gives us the lowdown on his time as 'the second drunkest member of the world's drunkest band' in Bit of a Blur (June, Little, Brown).
In fiction, in a stunt worthy of the controversial sacked publisher herself, Bridie Clark imagines Judith Regan onto the page in Because She Can (Warner, February), Booker Prize winner Michael Ondaatje sets his latest, Divisadero (Knopf, May), in the American mid-west and France, and Lionel Shriver, who shocked readers with the best-selling We Need to Talk about Kevin, tells of a woman caught between two men and two futures in The Post-Birthday World (HarperCollins, May).
Here are the South China Morning Post's 50 books to watch out for in 2007:
The Infidel: The Story of My Enlightenment
By Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Free Press (February)
The murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Muslim fanatic in 2004 shocked the world and changed the life of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, his collaborator on the film that offended his killer. Born in Somalia, and raised a Muslim, she had made a new life as a Dutch parliamentarian, championing the reform of Islam. Now under 24-hour police protection, she's one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world.
Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic
By Chalmers Johnson
Metropolitan Books (February)
Imperial overstretch is undermining the US, both economically and politically, says author and academic Chalmers Johnson. Drawing comparisons with empires past, he suggests that financial bankruptcy could herald the breakdown of constitutional government in the US - a crisis that may prove to be the only path to a renewed nation.
By Tariq Ramadan
Allen Lane (February)
Named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most important innovators of the century, Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan has a large following among young European and American Muslims. His first book for a wide audience is a biography of the Prophet Muhammad.
With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change
By Fred Pearce
Beacon Press (March)
Environmental journalist Fred Pearce explains why drought may cause the Amazon rainforest to disappear; why huge amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas up to 100 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, could be released by the meltdown of Siberian peat; and why aerosol emissions in India and China could end the Asian monsoon - all a lot faster than expected.
Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts
By Clive James
WW Norton (March)
A compilation of 100 essays in which the Australian polymath offers a study of humanism examining the work of Louis Armstrong, Sigmund Freud, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Franz Kafka, Walter Benjamin, Marcel Proust, Ludwig Wittgenstein and other notable 20th-century philosophers, musicians, artists, humanists and writers.
Taj Mahal: Passion and Genius at the Heart of the Mogul Empire
By Diana Preston and Michael Preston
Walker & Company (March)
Built by Mogul emperor Shah Jahan as
a memorial to his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal's has dazzled all who have seen it down the centuries. In this first narrative history of the Taj, Diana and Michael Preston show how it reflects the magnificent history of the Mogul Empire and also marks its high point.
The Dragon and the Foreign Devils: China and the World, 1100 BC to the Present
By Harry G. Gelber
Harry Gelber tells the story of China's past 3,000 years, taking in the incursions into China of steppe horsemen about 200BC, the Mongol conquests of the 13th century, the arrival of the first European travellers, China's decline after 1911, the Revolution of 1949 and the Tiananmen Square protest of 1989.
Biography: Brief History
By Nigel Hamilton
Harvard U.P. (March)
For thousands of years people have recorded the lives of others. Award-winning biographer Nigel Hamilton traces the evolution of the biography by way of such famous practitioners as Plutarch, Saint Augustine, Samuel Johnson, Lord Byron, Virginia Woolf, Orson Welles and Frank McCourt.
Perfect Hostage: A Life of Aung San Suu Kyi
By Justin Wintle
Aung San Suu Kyi has been at the forefront of a non-violent struggle to restore democracy to Myanmar and dislodge one of the world's most brutal military governments, installed by dictator General Ne Win in 1962. But for most of that time she has either been under house arrest or in prison. Justin Wintle tells her story and the story of her parents and her people.
Einstein: His Life and Universe
By Walter Isaacson
Simon and Schuster (April)
The author of the best-selling Benjamin Franklin, Walter Isaacson has written a major new biography of Albert Einstein, the first since all the scientist's papers became available. In it, he explores how an imaginative, impertinent patent clerk - a struggling father in a difficult marriage who couldn't get a teaching job or a doctorate - unlocked the mysteries of the atom and the universe.
Medusa: The Shipwreck, the Scandal, the Masterpiece
By Jonathan Miles
Jonathan Cape (April)
In June 1816, the Medusa, flagship of a French expedition to repossess the colony of Senegal from the British, set sail. Commanded by an incompetent captain, she ran aground off the West African coast and there was a cowardly evacuation. John Miles recounts the unlikely events that followed.
The Atomic Bazaar: The Rise of the Nuclear Poor
By William Langewiesche
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (May)
William Langewiesche investigates the global threat posed by nuclear weapons as nuclear technology makes its way into the hands of poor nations. He also tells of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the scientist who helped build Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and who peddled nuclear plans to North Korea and Iran, and goes on to examine the chances for nuclear terrorism.
A Farewell to Old Peking: The Destruction of an Ancient City and the Creation of the New Beijing
By Jasper Becker
Oxford University Press (May)
Jasper Becker explores how and why the Chinese buried their history and destroyed one of the world's most fabled cities. He brings to life the emperors, eunuchs, courtesans, and warriors who for centuries ruled from the Forbidden City and shows how ruthless officials
and a nationalistic government set itself the mission to jettison the past to clear space for the future.
God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
By Christopher Hitchens
McClelland & Stewart (May)
Described by The Village Voice as 'America's foremost literary pugilist', journalist and commentator Christopher Hitchens takes on his biggest subject yet: the increasingly dangerous role religion plays in the world. He argues for a more secular life based on science and reason.
To the Castle and Back
By Vaclav Havel
A memoir from writer, dissident and statesman Vaclav Havel, taking in his transition from playwright to politician and emergence on the international stage, first as president of Czechoslovakia in 1989, then in 1993 as president of the newly formed Czech republic.
Maradona: The Autobiography of Soccer's Greatest and Most Controversial Star
By Diego Maradona
Skyhorse Publishing (May)
A poor boy from a Buenos Aires shanty town, Diego Maradona rose to the top of world soccer. Here, he tells of the pressures of being a child prodigy, the infamous 'Hand of God' goal against England in the 1986 World Cup, his roller-coaster seasons in Italy's top league, and the disgrace of his positive drug test at the 1994 World Cup.
Getting Rich First: Life in a Changing China
By Duncan Hewitt
Chatto & Windus (May)
When Ikea opened in Shanghai, thousands descended on the shop picnicking at the tables and sleeping on the beds. Hordes of young people brought their parents along to show them what modern living was all about. Ex-BBC China correspondent Duncan Hewitt looks at the rapid transformation of Chinese society from the viewpoint of those living through it.
God on Trial: Dispatches from America's Religious Battlefields
By Peter Irons
Viking Adult (May)
As the battles between America's creationists and liberals rumbles on, Supreme Court and constitutional scholar Peter Irons investigates the social, political and legal conflicts over the place of religion in US society.
Modern History of Hong Kong
By Steve Yui-Sang Tsang
I.B. Tauris (June)
In a major new history, Steve Tsang tells the story of the cluster of fishing villages that became first an entrepot, and then a vital base for the British in East Asia. Each episode in Hong Kong's history is covered, with the promise of new insights into their historical significance.
Inside the Red Mansion: On the Trail of China's Most Wanted Man
By Oliver August
John Murray (June)
When Oliver August stumbled into the hunt for Lai Changxing, he sensed something emblematic of the changes being wrought on the mainland. Here, he sets out to find the self-made billionaire in the hope that if he can understand how Lai reinvented himself, he will also better understand the tectonic forces transforming modern China.
Yakuza Moon: Memoirs of a Gangster's Daughter
By Shoko Tendo
Oxford University Press (July)
Yakuza Moon is the shocking memoir of 37-year-old Shoko Tendo, who grew up the daughter of a yakuza boss, becoming a child drug addict and girl-gang member. After working as a hostess in a bar and two suicide attempts, Tendo recounts how she finally found the strength to change her life.
Zhou Enlai: The Last Revolutionary
By Wenqian Gao
Public Affairs (August)
Zhou Enlai first came to prominence during the May Fourth Movement and assumed the role of prime minister and minister of foreign affairs with the formation of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Wenqian Gao recounts the life of a man seen by many as having had a moderating influence on the worst excesses of Mao's regime.
God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World
By Walter Russell Mead
US foreign policy expert Walter Russell Mead provides an account of the
birth, rise and the future of the global political and economic system that rested first on the power of Britain,
and now rests on the power of the US.
Julie Andrews: Autobiography
By Julie Andrews
Weidenfeld & Nicholson (September)
Born to theatrical parents in Surrey, England, Julie Andrews was making appearances on stage as a child singer in music halls before she was 10. She went on to star on Broadway in The Boyfriend and My Fair Lady, and in the films Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. Here, she tells her own story.
Fidel Castro: My Life
Edited by Ignacio Ramonet
Allen Lane (September)
For the first time, in a series of interviews, Fidel Castro describes his life from the 1950s to the present day. He discusses his parents, his earliest influences, the beginnings of the revolution, his relationship with Che Guevara, the Bay of Pigs, the Carter years and Cuban migration to the US.
Eric Clapton: The Autobiography
By Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton tells of hanging out with Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan, the Stones and the Beatles, his drug-addled and hard-drinking years, his failed marriage to George Harrison's ex-wife Patti Boyd, the inspiration for Layla, and the death of his four-year-old son in 1991.
Rupert's Amazing (Media) Adventures in China
By Bruce Dover
Bruce Dover, a former editor and executive at The Australian newspaper, delivers an insider's take on how the People's Republic of China and Rupert Murdoch met head-on.
The Castle in the Forest
By Norman Mailer
Random House (January)
In his first major work of fiction for more than a decade, Norman Mailer makes a study of evil in the shape of one of history's most notorious monsters, Adolf Hitler. Imagining the Hitler family into being, he focuses on the dictator's formative years and his immediate forebears. That his central conceit is likely to cause controversy will come as no surprise to Mailer fans.
By Tingling Choong
Nan A. Talese (January)
In her short debut volume, US-based Malaysian Tingling Choong draws on the ancient Chinese creation myth and its story of the battle between fire and water. Fledgling photographer
Nin leaves a corporate job in California to photograph women around the
world. Her journey becomes a search
for the truth about women of fire
and women of water. In each of her stopovers she uncovers the tale of a woman marginalised by her sexuality.
By Natsuo Kirino
Harvill Secker (February)
Two prostitutes are murdered in Tokyo. Twenty years previously both were educated at an elite school for young ladies, and both exhibited exceptional promise. With narration from Yuriko's embittered, unattractive sister and through the girls' journals and diaries, Kirino unfolds their story.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
By Paul Torday
Weidenfeld & Nicholson (February)
Perhaps the most anticipated debut novel by a British author this year, Paul Torday's story is about fisheries scientist Alfred Jones, who finds himself reluctantly involved in a project to bring salmon fishing to the Highlands of the Yemen. The project will change his life, and the course of British political history. The book has been described as 'Yes Minister meets Monarch of the Glen'.
The Song Before it is Sung
By Justine Cartwright
Another novel with a Hitler angle. Having conspired in a 1944 attempt on Hitler's life, German aristocrat Axel von Gottberg and his fellow conspirators were sadistically put to death. Sixty years on, Justine Cartwright's protagonist Conrad Senior goes in search of a film of the execution that was made for the Fuhrer's personal delectation.
The Widow and Her Hero
By Thomas Keneally
Best known for his Booker Prize-winning Schindler's Ark, the prolific Australian author offers up Grace and Leo Waterhouse. Married in Australia in 1943, they were part of a young Australian generation ready to sacrifice themselves to win the war. Sixty years on, Grace remembers with regret what followed.
The Steep Approach to Garbdale
By Iain Banks
Little Brown (March)
This is the first work of literary fiction in five years from the Scottish author of Complicity and The Wasp Factory who also writes science fiction as Iain M. Banks. The Wopuld family have built their fortune on a board game called Empire! Facing a buyout by an American company, they meet at their Highlands' castle to discuss the deal and celebrate a birthday, but all is not as it seems.
7: The Mickey Mantel Novel
By Peter Golenbock
Regan Books (March)
From the outfit that dreamt up last year's aborted O.J. Simpson confessional, which led to the sacking of publisher Judith Regan by Rupert Murdoch, comes an imagined memoir of baseball player Mickey Mantel that's already stirring up controversy. Best-selling sportswriter Peter Golenbock's puts himself in the alcoholic and sportsman's shoes, confessing terrible things.
The Eye of Jade
By Diane Wei Liang
Picador Asia (March)
Beijing private investigator Mei is hired by 'Uncle' Chen to find the Eye of Jade, a Han dynasty artefact taken from a museum during the Cultural Revolution. Along the way she's forced to delve into the dark history of Mao Zedong's labour camps. The second book from new imprint Picador Asia should capture something of the uneasy relationship between China's communist past and its increasingly capitalist present.
By Tracy Chevalier
The author of Girl with a Pearl Earring brings to life Georgian London of the 1790s in Burning Bright. Recently arrived in the capital with his family from rural Dorset, Jem Kellaway falls in with streetwise Londoner Maggie Butterfield. Life takes a turn when the pair become entangled in the life of printer, poet and radical William Blake.
By Marina Lewycka
Fig Tree (March)
Orange Prize shortlisted for her debut A Short History of Tractors in the Ukraine, Marina Lewycka's second novel follows the progress of a group of immigrants to Britain making their way as strawberry pickers and living in two caravans. They must negotiate strict British regulations and encounter exploitative employers and gangsters with guns before each peels off to follow their own destiny.
By Jim Crace
Jim Crace's 1997 novel Quarantine was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and won the Whitbread prize. Described by John Updike as 'a writer of hallucinatory skill', Crace here imagines a barren, lawless US where people have packed their belongings to head east in the hope of gaining passage to Europe. When Franklin stumbles across Mary suffering from plague in a pesthouse above a valley, they form an unlikely bond.'
The Raw Shark Texts
By Steven Hall
There's a buzz surrounding debutant author Steven Hall's The Raw Shark Texts, which is described as a 'psychological thriller about loss and the nature of identity'. Waking up in a place he doesn't recognise and unable to remember who he is, attacked by a force he can't see and confronted with memories he can't ignore, Eric discovers he's being hunted by a psychic predator - a shark.
Roma: The Novel of Ancient Rome
By Steven Saylor
St Martin's Press (March)
Due on the shelves on the Ides of March, Roma marks the end of Steven Saylor's Roma Sub Rosa series. The saga of Rome, the city and its people spans a thousand years, following the fortunes of two families through the invasion of Hannibal, the political struggles of the patricians and plebeians, and the death of Rome's republic with the triumph, and assassination, of Julius Caesar.
The Children of Hurin
By J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien
Painstakingly restored from J.R.R. Tolkien's manuscripts and published for the first time as a stand-alone story, The Children of Hurin follows Turin, born into a Middle-earth crushed by the Dark Lord, Morgoth. Turin's warrior father, Hurin, has been captured and his family is in despair. He refuses to be cowed and gathers a band of outlaws who begin to turn the tide in the war for Middle-earth.
On Chesil Beach
By Ian McEwan
Jonathan Cape (April)
Last year wasn't a good one for Ian McEwan, who was accused of plagiarising Lucilla Andrews' biography No Time for Romance in his acclaimed work Atonement. The accusations drew out many fellow authors in defence of the beleaguered writer, most notably reclusive American Thomas Pynchon, who published a letter of support. On Chesil Beach concerns an anxious Edward and Florence on their wedding night and examines how a word left unspoken or a gesture not made can change the course of a life.
By Graham Swift
Tomorrow comes from the author of acclaimed novel Waterland and the Booker Prize-winning Last Orders. One long midsummer's night, Paula lies awake next to her husband, her two children asleep in nearby rooms, recalling all that has gone before, knowing the day to come will redefine their lives.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
By Mohsin Hamid
Hamish Hamilton (April)
Publishing rights for The Reluctant Fundamentalist were snapped up on the eve of the London Book Fair in March by Hamish Hamilton, and there's been a buzz about the book ever since. This September 11 novel, Hamed's second book (after Moth Smoke), is written from the viewpoint of Changez, a young Pakistani whose sympathies lie with the attackers. It unfolds as Changez talks to a mysterious American operative over dinner at a Lahore cafe.
By Haruki Murakami
Alfred A Knopf (May)
Set in Tokyo during the witching hours between midnight and dawn, After Dark centres on two sisters, fashion model Eri and student Mari, and their encounters with 'night people', including a Chinese prostitute, a burly female 'love hotel' manager and a jazz trombonist. Expect Murakami's trademark humour, psychological insight, metaphysical musings and dreamlike quality.
A Thousand Splendid Suns
By Khaled Hosseini
The Kabul-born author follows his hugely successful The Kite Runner with the story of two women, their family and friendship, and the salvation to be found in love. A Thousand Splendid Suns is set against the backdrop of the wars and struggles that have marked the past 30 years of Afghanistan's history.
The Yiddish Policemen's Union
By Michael Chabon
Michael Chabon's lyrical fiction won him a Pulitzer in 2000 for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Here, in his first full-length adult novel since then, he draws inspiration from Franklin D. Roosevelt's short-lived plan for an Alaskan Jewish homeland.
The Gravedigger's Daughter
By Joyce Carol Oates
National Book award-winner Joyce Carol Oates' latest is the story of an immigrant family desperate to escape Nazi Germany in 1936. They settle in a small town in upstate New York, where the father, a former high school teacher, can find work only as a gravedigger. After a tragedy, Rebecca, the gravedigger's daughter, sets out on a daring odyssey.
By Hari Kunzru
Hamish Hamilton (September)
Everything Miranda knows about her lover, who has been her partner for 15 years and is stepfather to her daughter, is untrue. My Revolution is a story of love, idealism, revolution, and what happens when the past returns to haunt.