2018 started better than it went on, but has still been a pretty good year for me. After a number of full MS requests and revise-and-resubmits, my time-travel novel is now out with another batch of literary agents, and I’ve (just!) started my Antarctic-set novel after finishing Tim Clare’s incredibly helpful Couch to 80k podcast series. I bought my first flat, in Newcastle, and started my Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at Queen Mary University of London. I finished the manuscript of my first academic monograph, A Progressive Education?, and have received the final set of edits, which are very constructive and useful. I travelled to France and also finally fulfilled a long-held dream by returning to the US, where I spent five years of my childhood, travelling to Providence, New York, Boston and my old home city, DC.
In less impressive but personally satisfying goals, I have learnt how to bleed radiators, put together many pieces of flatpack furniture, and how some bits of Newcastle connect together. I have watched 32 new films this year (my goal was 50, but never mind), trying to address my habit of rewatching the same things over and over. I’ve pretty much kept my New Year’s resolution of exercising four times a week, focusing on swimming and yoga (my other New Year’s resolutions didn’t turn out quite so well).
I’ve made a list of 30 books I want to read in 2019, and am going to highlight a few 2019 releases I’m particularly excited about:
Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams ed., A People’s Future of the United States (February 2019). This collection of short speculative fiction, riffing off the title of Howard Zinn’s 1980 A People’s History of the United States, which attacked glorified ‘manifest destiny’ interpretations of American history, showcases stories that ‘challenge oppressive American myths’. With contributions from N.K. Jemisin, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Charlie Jane Anders, Omar El Akkad and more, it sounds fantastic.
Lisa See: The Island of Sea Women (March 2019). I’ve enjoyed a number of See’s earlier novels, which tend to foreground close female friendships (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is set in nineteenth-century China, China Dolls in WWII America). The Island of Sea Women focuses on two Korean female divers, Mi-ja and Young-sook, over several decades, beginning in the 1930s.
Nell Freudenberger: Lost and Wanted (April 2019). I’ve actually never read anything by Freudenberger, but her latest sounds irresistible. The protagonist is a theoretical physicist, Helen, who starts receiving calls and texts from a friend who’s just died.
Ted Chiang: Exhalation (May 2019). Chiang’s previous collection of SF short stories, Stories of Your Life and Others, was incredibly imaginative and intellectually engaging, so I’m expecting no less from this new collection. Highlights include a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad encountering a portal through time, and an alien scientist making a startling discovery.
Chia-Chia Lin: The Unpassing (May 2019). I’m intrigued by this debut, which follows an immigrant family of six struggling to make ends meet on the outskirts of Anchorage, Alaska. Lin has already published a number of short stories.
Colson Whitehead: The Nickel Boys (July 2019). After the success of The Underground Railroad, Whitehead’s next novel will be eagerly anticipated by many. I was disappointed by one of his earlier books, Zone One, but am still keen to read this, which follows two boys sentenced to a reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida.
Téa Obreht: Inland (August 2019). I loved Obreht’s debut, The Tiger’s Wife, so much; it’s my favourite of all the Orange/Baileys/Women’s Prize for Fiction winners that I’ve read. But it’s been so long since 2011, and I was delighted to hear that she finally has another book coming. Inland sounds EPIC; it’s set in the Arizona Territory in 1893, focusing on the collision between a frontierswoman, Nora, and an outlaw, Lurie. Obreht, according to her publishers, ‘subverts and reimagines the myths of the American West, making them entirely – and unforgettably – her own.’
I hope you’ve all had a lovely New Year!
The Rest of the List
Leftover from 2018
George Sandison ed.: 2084
Nina Allen: The Rift
Meg Wolitzer: The Female Persuasion
Clarissa Goenawan: Rainbirds
Jeff Vandermeer: Annihilation
Rebecca Loncraine: Skybound
Sally Rooney: Normal People
Rachel Kushner: The Mars Room
Anna Burns: Milkman
Allegra Goodman: The Chalk Artist
Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah: Friday Black
Robin Talley: Pulp
Marie Lu: Warcross
Tayari Jones: The Untelling
Joseph Camara: The House of Impossible Beauties
Uzodinma Iweala: Beasts of No Nation
Evie Wyld: The Bass Rock (September 2019)
Ellen Feldman: Terrible Virtue
Robin Oliveira: Winter Sisters
Emily Bernard: Black Is The Body (January 2019)
Samantha Harvey: All Is Song
Richard Powers: The Echo Maker
Lisa Ko: The Leavers