Will Gore

The best novels to read this year

The best novels to read this year
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There will be many great new novels published this year, but, sadly, even in lockdown, not enough time to read them all. Here are just a few that might be worth adding to the reading pile: 

Mother for Dinner by Shalom Auslander 

This is the novel I’m most looking forward to this year. Shalom Auslander’s Hope: A Tragedy is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read, telling the story of a frazzled family man living in a rural US town whose life is made even more stressful when he discovers an elderly Anne Frank hiding in his attic. The premise for this long-awaited new novel, which comes just the nine years after Hope: A Tragedy, is equally as delicious - or perhaps not, as it’s about a man whose mother’s dying wish is for him to eat her. Published on 04/02/2021 

Monument Maker by David Keenan 

David Keenan is one of the wildest and most invigorating British writers currently putting word to page. 2019’s For the Good Times followed a bunch of IRA thugs who were as obsessed with Perry Como as they were with caving people’s skulls in. Last year, he published Xstabeth, another crazed trip of a novel. This time Leonard Cohen was hurled into the mix along with Russia, strip clubs, moral philosophy and golf. Keenan maintains his prodigious output with another new novel coming in June: Monument Maker is apparently going to be “an epic set around France’s great cathedrals”, but that will only be the half of it, I’m sure. Published on 10/6/21 

Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout 

Elizabeth Strout’s previous novel Olive, Again, was a successful sequel for her beloved heroine Olive Kitteridge. Strout is now bringing back her other trademark character Lucy Barton in Oh William! The recently widowed Barton reconnects with her first husband, and goes on to recount the blissful and difficult times they spent together. Strout is a phenomenal writer and Oh William! promises to be another sharp but tender novel. Published on 23/9/2021 

Image: Penguin Random House

The Death of Francis Bacon by Max Porter 

Lanny, which wrapped a mystical English folk story around a narrative about a missing child, was my favourite novel of 2019, and its author Max Porter has followed it up with a short piece inspired by the life, work and death of Francis Bacon. Porter creates vivid, unsettling worlds in his books, so the fact he’s been drawn to Bacon makes total sense, and I’m excited to see how the great artist has fired his imagination. Published on 7/1/2021 

The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen 

The Sympathizer was a superb genre-spanning book about the Vietnam War as experienced by a South Vietnamese intelligence officer/undercover communist agent. It was published in 2015 and deservedly won Nguyen a Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The Committed picks up where that story ended, with our anti-hero attempting to rebuild his life in Paris following time spent in a re-education camp. The Sympathizer captivated me completely and I’m intrigued to see if The Committed can live up to its brilliance. Published on 04/03/2021 

Image: Black Cat

The Survivors by Jane Harper

If you are looking for a thriller to get the year started, look no further than this new one from best-selling author Jane Harper. Tapping into the big crime authors can seem daunting for a newcomer due the fact so many write long-running series. The Survivors is a standalone, so presents no such problem, and Harper can be relied upon if you are after a gritty, gripping page-turner. If you do want to get into a crime series in 2021, stick with Australia and go for Chris Hammer – his excellent Martin Scarsden series is only two books down (Scrubland and Silver), with the third, Trust, out on January 7. The Survivors is published on 21/1/21 

The Night Always Comes by Willy Vlautin 

The influence of American writers such as Raymond Carver, John Steinbeck and Denis Johnson on Willy Vlautin’s stories about troubled men and women trying to scrape by in dusty and devastated corners of contemporary America is clear. However, Vlautin, a musician as well as an author, is far more than a tribute act to literary greats. He crafts beautiful sentences, evokes place superbly and has an infectious sympathy for his downtrodden characters. His previous book Don’t Skip Out On Me, which told the tale of a wannabe boxer, was a melancholic marvel, and I’m hoping of more of the same from The Night Always Comes, about a Portland woman struggling to find the money to buy the home that will secure her family’s future. Published on 6/4/2021 

Outlawed by Anna North 

Whether it’s on the page or on screen, I’m a sucker for a Western, so, I’m keen to read this new one from Anna North, which the pre-publicity suggests does bold things with this most macho of genres. A young woman called Ada fails to have a child after a year of marriage. In order to avoid being hung as a witch as a result, she leaves her hometown and goes on the run. She quickly falls in with the Hole in the Wall gang, whose charismatic leader has hatched a plan to create a haven for women cast out by society. Published on 28/1/21