Anticipated fiction big hitters include Elektra (Headline, Apr 28) from Jennifer Saint, whose debut Ariadne is on Waterstone’s shortlist for 2021 book of the year and whose follow-up continues the trend towards the retelling of Greek mythology for a contemporary audience.
“Ariadne is our fifth bestselling hardback for the whole of the year in fiction,” explains Bea Carvalho, head fiction buyer at Waterstones. “Considering the number of high profile authors who had books out in 2021, she’s only been beaten by Richard Osman, Sally Rooney and Kazuo Ishiguro.
“Greek retellings have been really popular recently, particularly putting female-centric spins on those familiar tales for a modern audience.”
Popular fiction favourites
Richard Osman’s third book in his Thursday Murder Club series is due out in September and is as yet untitled – but huge sales are anticipated considering that his second novel, The Man Who Died Twice (Viking), did even better than his successful first instalment.
There’s a novel collaboration between singer Dolly Parton and bestselling thriller writer James Patterson called Run Rose Run (Cornerstone, Mar 7), which is bound to attract plenty of publicity. It’ll be the usual rollercoaster ride Patterson creates in his fiction, but this time sales should go through the roof with the help of Parton’s huge fanbase.
Book stands will be awash with Again, Rachel (Penguin Michael Joseph, Feb 17) popular Irish author Marian Keyes’ follow-up to her hit novel Rachel’s Holiday.
“The House Of Fortune (Pan Macmillan, Jul 7), Jessie Burton’s sequel to The Miniaturist, which won book of the year three years ago, sees a return to 18th century Amsterdam and will be a key title in historical fiction,” Carvalho adds.
Literary leading lights
Of the literary heavyweights, Margaret Atwood’s new collection of essays, Burning Questions (Chatto & Windus, Mar 1) is likely to be a winner, says Carvalho. The essays cover everything from a financial crash to the rise of Trump and a pandemic. From debt to tech, the climate crisis to freedom; from when to dispense advice to the young (answer: only when asked) to how to define granola.
Other big leads include To Paradise from Hanya Yanagihara (Picador, Jan 11), following on from her hugely successful second novel A Little Life. This one’s a trio of stories, all set in New York City 100 years apart, offering three alternative versions of the American dream.
“A Little Life was a cult classic and remains a bestseller, so a new standalone is the one booksellers are keen to get their hands on,” says Carvalho.
“In that category we also have Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart (Picador, April 14), following on from his 2020 Booker Prize-winning Shuggie Bain. The book acts as a companion, another tale of tender souls in tough places and what it’s like to be young, gay and in a working class community in 1980s Glasgow.”
Ali Smith has also written Companion Piece (Penguin, Apr 7), a follow-up to her Seasonal Quartet. “She’s covered everything from Brexit to Covid and the migrant crisis and this one aims to pull it all together, reflecting on the last turbulent few years,” Carvalho explains.
Race and identity
“I think there are going to be more books deconstructing the empire in the wake of Empireland: How Imperialism Has Shaped Modern Britain by Sathnam Sanghera and in the wake of Black Lives Matter,” says Caroline Sanderson, associate editor of trade publication The Bookseller.
“One to watch is White Debt by Thomas Harding (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, Jan 6) about the Demerara slave uprising that partly led to the total abolition of slavery.”
News stories so often lead to in-depth accounts and one to watch is His Name Is George Floyd by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa (Bantam, May 26), both reporters for The Washington Post, telling Floyd’s personal story within the context of America’s troubled race history.
It features fresh and exclusive reporting as well as unparalleled access to Floyd’s family and the people who were closest to him.
In fiction, The Love Songs Of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers (Fourth Estate, Jan 20), a story of race and love in America, has already been published in the US to great acclaim – it was an Oprah Book Club pick – and this debut is gathering much interest here.
“There will also be books about the climate crisis and sustainability. That has to be a growing trend and we all have to get on board. A book I’m looking forward to is Birdgirl (Jonathan Cape, Jun 30), a nature memoir by climate activist Mya-Rose Craig , who is famous for her ornithology,” says Sanderson.
Bonnie Wright, the Greenpeace ambassador who played Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter films, has written Go Gently: Actionable Steps To Nurture Yourself And The Planet, her guide to changing your habits to live more sustainably (Greenfinch, April 19).
Waterstones is anticipating big sales from Pandora by Susan Stokes-Chapman (Vintage, Jan 27). “It’s historical fiction set in Georgian London so it blends that narrative with the Greek myth of Pandora, playing into that trend for mythology retelling,” says Carvalho.
Netflix has already snapped up the rights to romcom Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband? By Lizzie Damilola Blackburn (Viking, March 31), which sees a 31-year-old British Nigerian, a single south Londoner with a career in the City, who suddenly needs to find a plus-one for her cousin’s wedding.
And if you’re looking for new cosy crime, you may want to bag a copy of popular vicar The Rev Richard Coles’ first foray into this genre with his debut novel, Murder Before Evensong (Orion, Jun 9). TPN/PA