Many of us have felt a more pressing need to find our own corner of heaven over the last two years, and some have found theirs between the covers of a book.
Despite the fragility of the wider economy, £1.1bn has been spent on 128 million books in the UK since mid-March, when market analysts Nielsen resumed their data reporting. That figure is up 9% from the same period in 2019.
The juggernaut that is Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club books has led this drive forward, with both novels dominating the best-seller lists. Meanwhile, 30 of the top 50 bestselling books of 2021 were written by women.
These green shoots of optimism are of course set against a backdrop of continued uncertainty. But with hope in our hearts, let’s look at just some of the new titles for 2022 that might nonetheless give the horizon a rosy glow.
Marian Keyes – Again, Rachel
On and off the page, Marian Keyes’ beguiling affability and fearless honesty about the crappy side of life have won her an army of worldwide fans. Her 15 titles include Sushi For Beginners, Anybody Out There, Grown Ups and her most successful, 1998’s Rachel’s Holiday.
In Keyes’ first sequel, Rachel, the party girl who partied her way into rehab, is back – and sorted. Life’s good. But circumstances and emotions are never that simple, and as ghosts from her past begin to resurface, Rachel battles to hold her nerve.
Douglas Stuart – Young Mungo
Just how do you follow a major award-winning debut? If you’ve got grit, you get straight back in the saddle, which is precisely what Booker Prize-bagging Shuggie Bain author Douglas Stuart has done.
Like his debut, Young Mungo is set in Glasgow, where Stuart grew up, and takes on an unflinchingly tough, and deeply human, storyline. Set against the backdrop of 1980s working-class life, it follows two young men who live in constant fear of revealing they are in love with each other. The threat of violence lurks around every corner. Can they survive? Better still, can they escape?
Jennifer Egan – The Candy House
This is the long-gestating sibling novel to Jennifer Egan’s 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning A Visit From The Goon Squad, which unfolded via 13 interrelated stories and saw Egan time-shifting and genre-bending.
Now it’s 2010 and brilliant tech entrepreneur Bix Bouton develops Own Your Unconscious, a means of accessing every memory you’ve ever had, and sharing them in exchange for the memories of others. Again, Egan spins out the consequences of Bouton’s invention through the linked narratives of multiple characters whose paths intersect over several decades.
Candice Carty-Williams – People Person
In 2019, Candice Carty-Williams’ debut novel Queenie, the story of a troubled young Jamaican woman, became a word-of-mouth hit. It won book of the year at the British Book Awards, where judge Stig Abell described it as “an important meditation on friendship, love and race”.
Now Carty-Williams has applied her deftness of touch to the story of Dimple Pennington, an up-and-coming lifestyle influencer whose own humdrum existence is far from inspiring. Then, a dramatic event brings her four estranged half-siblings crashing back into her life, along with their absent father. Carty-Williams asks: What is the true meaning of family, especially when your dad loves his Jeep more than his kids?
Jessie Burton – House Of Fortune
Jessie Burton has written three best-selling novels for adults, including The Muse and The Confession. But it was historical thriller The Miniaturist, Burton’s 2014 debut, that truly smashed the ceiling. The BBC also adapted it for TV.
It told of young bride Nella in 17th Century Amsterdam, whose miniature replica of her own house begins to mirror real life. This is the sequel, set 18 years later. The Brandt family are facing financial ruin. An invite to a lavish ball brings Nella hope of finding a way out. The ball does set things spinning, but when Nella feels a strange prickling sensation on the back of her neck, she wonders if the miniaturist has returned.
Monica Ali – Love Marriage
After a hiatus of 10 years, Monica Ali makes her return. She’s written four novels but it was her first, Brick Lane (after the London neighbourhood at the heart of the city’s Bangladeshi community), that made her name. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and made into a 2007 film.
Love Marriage again draws on Ali’s Bangladeshi and English heritage. The story explores the challenges that may arise when different cultures try to come together. Young doctors Yasmin Ghorami and Joe Sangster are engaged. But as both families get to know each other Yasmin is forced to question what a “love marriage” – as opposed to the arranged marriages still the norm in her South Asian culture – truly means. Plans are already in the pipeline for a TV adaptation.
Other novels from popular authors on the way include: Beth O’Leary – the No Show (28 April); Wilbur Smith – Storm Tide (14 April) and The New Kingdom (2 September); Mick Herron – Bad Actors (12 May); Sarah Vaughan – Reputation (3 March); Will Dean – First Born (14 April); Gregg Hurwitz – Dark Horse (17 February); and Lynda La Plante – Vanished (31 March).
Amen Alonge – A Good Day To Die
Trainee solicitor Amen Alonge is launching his writing career with an action-packed contemporary gangland thriller set in London. It primarily takes place in one day and revolves around the character known only as Pretty Boy.
He’s returned to the city after 10 years’ absence with just one thing on his mind: revenge. He’s out to make the person responsible for his exile from the London underworld pay. But the hunter becomes the hunted, and Pretty Boy finds himself fighting for survival.
Published on 17 February.
Claire Kohda – Woman, Eating
Here’s one for gothic horror fans – a modern day vampire thriller that also covers race, social isolation, unrequited love and parental loyalty. Musician and book critic Claire Kohda’s debut introduces us to Lydia who is living a miserable existence.
Squatting in London, separated from her vampire mother, she’s desperate to eat the delicious food she sees everywhere but can’t. Her only sustenance has to be blood. Yet Lydia is no Dracula. She is half human. But pigs’ blood is not a readily available commodity. We watch as Lydia battles not only her vampire hunger but also to find her place in the world.
James Cahill – Tiepolo Blue
Academic Cahill’s 1990s story focuses on Cambridge University art historian Professor Don Lamb whose brilliance belies a deep inexperience of life and love. Out of nowhere, he’s forced to leave, and ends up working in a London museum. There he befriends Ben, a young artist who introduces him to the anarchic British art scene and the nightlife of Soho.
It opens his eyes to a liberating new existence. But his epiphany is also a moment of self-reckoning, as his oldest friendship – and his own unexamined past – are revealed in a devastating new light. His life begins to unravel leading to a dramatic fall from grace.
Charmaine Wilkerson – Black Cake
Caribbean American Charmaine Wilkerson’s novel was inspired by her late mother’s legendary rum cake. And the complex 60-year family history behind such a delicacy is the axis upon which her story spins. It tells of estranged siblings who reunite for the funeral of their mother.
She’s left them a puzzling inheritance: a voice recording in which everything the siblings believed about their family is upended. And then, there’s a traditional Caribbean black cake made from a family recipe with a legacy that just might heal the wounds of the past.
Amy McCulloch – Breathless
Amy McCulloch’s experience as an expert mountaineer inspired her “top of the world” crime thriller, her debut novel for adults. It tells of struggling journalist Cecily Wong who is invited to interview famed mountaineer Charles McVeigh, on condition she joins his team on one of the Himalayas’ toughest peaks.
But on the mountain, it’s clear something is wrong. It begins small – a theft, an accidental fall. And then a note. Someone on the mountain has murder in mind and what better place than amidst such desolation and remoteness?
Published on 17 February.
Dolly Parton and James Patterson – Run Rose Run
This one is a bit of curveball. Individually, neither global music star Parton nor bestselling thriller author Patterson is straight-out-of-the-oven. But as a writing double act they are. And this is Parton’s first foray into the world of novels.
The result is a story no doubt inspired by Parton’s background. It tells of a rising singing star, with songs about her difficult past – a past she needs to escape. Nashville is calling but even if she finds fame, the danger behind her might find her too.
Published on 7 March (and there will be a Parton album with the same title too).
Other fiction debuts include: Claire Alexander – Meredith, Alone (9 June); Ryan O’Connor – The Voids (10 March); Rev Richard Coles – Murder Before Evensong (9 June); Dolen Perkins-Valdez – Take My Hand (12 May); Jo Browning Wroe – A Terrible Kindness (20 January)
Sara Davies – We Can All Make It
Dragons’ Den star Sara Davies shares her story of what it took to become one of Britain’s biggest business names, with her company Crafter’s Companion now worth £30m. She recalls how she started by running an enterprise from her university bedroom, followed by years of hard graft, doing whatever it took to achieve her dreams.
But this is not some dry “how to be as great as me” manual. Along the way, Davies lets us into her personal life and presents a warm and witty personality with no fire-breathing to be seen.
Michael Schur – How To Be Perfect
Michael Shur, creator of hit comedy shows The Good Place, Parks and Recreation, and Brooklyn 99, and writer of the US version of The Office, brings us a tongue-in-cheek book about what being a good person really means. It’s not always easy to know what’s good or bad in a world of complicated choices and bad advice, Schur says.
He tries to bring clarity by answering important questions like, “Should I punch my friend in the face for no reason?” Or, “Should I push one person off a bridge to save the lives of five others?” Sticky issues indeed.
Abi Morgan – This Is Not A Pity Memoir
Abi Morgan is one of the most sought-after play and screen writers, whose credits include The Iron Lady, Suffragette, Sex Traffic, The Hour, Brick Lane and Shame. But behind the success, lies a fight for survival.
This is her moving story of her husband’s struggles with illness – illness that led to him being rushed to hospital and put into a coma. It’s also her account of her own battle against cancer and what trauma has taught her about the important things in life.
Adam Kay – Title tbc
Comedian and former doctor Adam Kay, the UK’s best-selling non-fiction author, brings us his follow-up to his hit This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor, which is being adapted into a comedy drama by the BBC, starring Ben Whishaw as Kay.
The book was both laugh-out-loud funny and sad as Kay gave the lowdown on what it’s like to be holding it together while serving on the NHS front line. His still untitled sequel follows in the same vein with anecdotes that recount both hilarious and heartbreaking stories from in and out of hospital.
When The Dust Settles – Lucy Easthope
Professor Lucy Easthope is the UK’s leading authority on recovering from disaster. She’s the one the authorities call when destruction and chaos strike. Her job is to plan for when things go wrong and respond with action and insight when they do.
It’s seen her called to the scene of every major disaster of the past two decades, including 9/11, the 7/7 bombings, the Indian Ocean tsunami and the Covid-19 pandemic. In this candid memoir she introduces us to victims and their families, but also takes us into the government briefing rooms and bunkers, where confusion can reign supreme.
Other non-fiction titles include : Adam Rutherford – Control (3 February); Minnie Driver – Managing Expectations (12 May); Raven Smith – Men (28 April); Bob Odenkirk – Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama (1 March); Edward Enninful – A Visible Man (6 September).