20 of the best books to delve into in 2020

From Colum McCann and Hilary Mantel to Nick Hornby and Rachael English, there are plenty interesting reads on the way over the next few months, writes Marjorie Brennan.

20 of the best books to delve into in 2020

From Colum McCann and Hilary Mantel to Nick Hornby and Rachael English, there are plenty interesting reads on the way over the next few months, writes Marjorie Brennan.

1. American Dirt

Jeanine Cummins (January)

A suspenseful, harrowing and heartbreaking exploration of the human cost behind the border crisis, this timely novel tells the story of Lydia who must flee her comfortable life in Mexico with her young son and join the terrifying ‘la bestia’ freight train in search of a new life in the US.

2. Motherwell

Deborah Orr (January)

Sadly, this much-anticipated memoir will serve as an epitaph of sorts for Deborah Orr who died last October, aged just 57.

Orr blazed a trail through London’s journalism scene and in more recent years was a fierce and funny presence on social media. This reflection on her youth inScotland is characteristically piercing, funny and honest.

3. Apeirogon

Colum McCann (February)

McCann’s acclaimed back catalogue, including the sublime Let The Great World Spin, means this book comes with a guarantee of quality, but the advance word on this novel suggests a level of ambition we may not have encountered yet from the Dublin native.

It explores the Palestine-Israel conflict through the unlikely friendship of two men from either side.

Eimear McBride (February)

Expect something out of the ordinary from the author (pictured above) of the acclaimed A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing.

McBride’s third novel follows a nameless woman’s journey through a series of hotel rooms, which reflect aspects of her lifeand self.

6. The Mirror And The Light

Hilary Mantel (March)

There’s eagerly anticipated and then there’s the maniacal fervour that comes with the arrival of a new book by Hilary Mantel.

Mantel’s sweeping series on Thomas Cromwell already encompasses bestsellers Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, and The Mirror and The Light, out in March, deals with Cromwell’s final years.

Spoiler: it doesn’t end well for him.

7. A Thousand Moons

Sebastian Barry (March)

Barry’s Days Without End entranced readers with its lyrical rendition of the American West and two men who fall in love amid the carnage of the native American genocide.

John Cole and Thomas McNulty return in AThousand Moons, in which Barry continues his exploration of identity and dislocation.

8. My Dark Vanessa

Kate Elizabeth Russell (March)

In this Me-Too era take on Lolita, the titular protagonist must re-evaluate her schoolgirl relationship with a teacher when new information comes to light, almost two decades later.

An explosive and challenging read, this is sure to polarise readers as much as the Nabokov classic continues to do.

9. Our Little Cruelties

Liz Nugent (March)

Nugent is queen of the pacy page-turner and her latest is sure to be no different. Brothers Will, Brian and Luke are in constant competition growing up — a rivalry which ends up with one of them dead.

10. Exciting Times

Naoise Dolan (April)

The buzz has been building around this debut novel from Irish writer Dolan for quite a while, with the Sally Rooney comparisons flowing thick and fast.

Protagonist Ava teaches English to the children of the Hong Kong elite, while navigating her relationships with non-committal banker Julian and earnest lawyer Edith. Millennial cynicism smartly rendered.

11. As You Were

Elaine Feeney (April)

Feeney is one of Ireland’s brightest literary talents and her debuter novel comes with an inventive premise, featuring at its centre a young property developer with a terrifying secret which she confides to a magpie.

12. The Ratline

Philippe Sands (April)

Sand’s previous book, East West Street, interweaved the author’s family origins in eastern Europe with the Nuremberg trials following World War II.

In this book, based on the gripping podcast of the same name, Sands tracks a Nazi provincial governor as he tries to escape justice after the war — helped by a growing friendship with the Nazi’s son,who still believes his father was a good man.

13. The Cutting Place

Jane Casey (April)

Casey is one of the leading proponents of Ireland’s flourishing crime fiction genre and has won a legion of devoted fans with her Maeve Kerrigan series.

In the latest instalment, the indefatigable detective sergeant tackles toxic masculinity and domestic abuse when she probes the murder of a young journalist.

14. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Suzanne Collins (May)

The taut and thrilling Hunger Games books were among the last decade’s top sellers, spawning a hugely successful movie franchise and launching the career of Jennifer Lawrence. In this prequel Collins revisits the world of Panem, 64 years before Katniss Everdeen took up her bow, and centres on the competitors of the 10th Hunger Games.

15. Nothing But Blue Sky

Kathleen MacMahon (May)

This is How It Ends by the Dublin-based former journalist was a deeply affecting and beautifully written meditation on grief and loss. In her latest novel, a husband discovers there’s no such thing as a perfect marriage when he must confront his wife’s secrets after her death.

16. Love

Roddy Doyle (May)

One of Ireland’s best-loved writers returns with this humorous and poignant examination of friendship and the meaning of love. Former drinking buddies Davy and Joe meet up for a pub crawl as old memories resurface to comfort and haunt them.

17. The Lying Life of Adults

Elena Ferrante (June)

Speculation continues to swirl over the actual identity of the author but die hard fans will only be interested in getting their hands on this English translation of Ferrante’s latest novel, which was published in her home country of Italy in November, with fans queuing up to buy copies at the stroke of midnight.Reviews suggest readers won’t be disappointed.

18. Curtis Sittenfeld (July)

Details such as the title of Sittenfeld’s new book are thin on the ground, but that won’t matter to the many fans of her finely drawn portraits of contemporary American life, from Prep to Sisterland.

What we do know is that the new book takes Hillary Clinton as its inspiration; this echoes the criminally under-rated American Wife, which was based on the life of Laura Bush.

19. Just Like You

Nick Hornby (September)

Hornby may now be better known as a screenwriter in some quarters — he adapted Brooklyn and Wild for the screen — but his first novel in five years will kindle interest among those who fell in love with the effortless charm of his earlier books such as HIgh Fidelity.

Just Like You is being flagged as another astute analysis of relationships, but with an added layer of complexity added to the mix: the swirl of the Brexit referendum forms the background to the narrative.

20. Ghosts

Dolly Alderton (October)

The Times columnist and podcaster’s witty memoir Everything I Know About Love was a huge word-of-mouth hit, so expectations for her first novel will be high.

It follows food writer Nina, whose huge success online is not mirrored in her increasingly fragile reality.

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