Autumn reads: best new books 2022
It's a bumper season for literature, with new offerings from cult favourites and living legends. Clear space on your 'to be read' pile: these are the best new books autumn 2022 has to offer.
Having immersed us in Shakespeare's tragic personal life in Hamnet, Maggie O'Farrell swaps Elizabethan England for Renaissance Italy. The Marriage Portrait is every bit as captivating, with elegant, lucid prose and an urgent story about a young woman's will to survive. Inspired by Robert Browning's 1842 poem, My Last Duchess, it revolves around the intriguing marriage of 16-year-old Lucrezia de' Medici. O'Farrell steeps a sliver of historical fact in rich imagination and fiction to render a detailed portrait of Lucrezia.
He may have won the Booker for 2017 novel Lincoln in the Bardo, but it is in short stories that George Saunders' talents shine the brightest. His first new collection in 10 years encompasses the full gamut of contemporary experience, with a dizzying dose of subversion. Liberation Day feature 9 insightful miniatures - from a letter written to a grandson during the height of a tangible dystopia, to a system where the most vulnerable people have their memories wiped and are used as political protesters.
Just as spending time in nature can be grounding and healing, so is reading someone else's experience of the natural world - especially when it's captured with this much nuance and beauty. Bestselling nature writer Raynor Winn follows The Salt Path and The Wild Silence with this account an epic walk across Scotland with her husband, Moth. Part travel log, part memoir and part paean to rural ecology, Landlines combines shared concerns over the pandemic and climate crisis with the writer's personal fears over her husband's chronic illness. It's a brooding, sometimes heart-breaking, exploration of nature's strengths and vulnerabilities, which will leave you more inclined to soak up the world around you - even if the local park is as remote as you get.
Charles Dickens' David Copperfield is dragged into the 21st century and re-patriated in America's Deep South. Masterful story-teller Barbara Kingsolver is in her element re-working the coming-of-age saga, at once revelling in the skeleton of Dickens' original and fleshing it out with meaty originality. Titular hero Demon is born in to poverty with nothing but charm and good looks to fall back on. As we follow him through foster care, delinquency, addiction and moments of redemption, it's impossible not to get swept along and to root for this loveable but infuriating lost boy.
Like buses, after a substantial (16 year) wait we have two new Cormac McCarthy books arriving at once. The Pulitzer-winning author of The Road and bonafide "Great American Novelist" turns his trademark taut prose to a literary duet exploring the troubled relationship and shared trauma of siblings Bobby and Alicia Western.
The Passenger is a pacy thriller, where salvage diver Bobby explores a wrecked plane and gets sucked into the missing details mystery of the crash.
Stella Maris is a shift away from McCarthy's distinctly masculine comfort zone. Alicia, his first female protagonist, is a visionary mathematician and a paranoid schizophrenic, whose hallucinations form a cast of characters. The novel is made up of transcripts from Alicia's therapy sessions, allowing us to get fully into her head.
Though each novel is complete in its own right, together two two stories form a conversation and offer different perspectives to the same trauma.
Ian McEwan considers how world history impacts individual lives in this sensitive and expansive account of one man's personal life spanning WWII, Chernobyl, the Cuban Missile Crisis, right up to the Coronavirus Pandemic and global warming. Against this backdrop, protagonist Roland suffers his own traumas and triumphs. McEwan's deft, descriptive prose charts the complexity of growing up and finding one's place in an ever-shifting world.
Kamila Shamsie, winner of the Woman's Prize for Fiction for Home Fire, brings her trademark insight to a friendship that shifts over three decades. From the political volatility of 1980s Karachi, to contemporary London, Maryam and Zahra negotiate their opposing backgrounds and different ambitions - and the bond that keeps pulling them back together.
A high school teenager discovers a portal into another world, where fairy tale creatures are locked in a battle of good versus evil. Together with his loyal dog, Radar, 17-year-old Charlie leads the fight against dark magic. Riffing on the classic hero quest narrative, the story isn't the chilling horror that readers have come to expect from Stephen King, author of It, The Shining and Carrie. Instead, Fairy Tale demonstrates his exuberant imagination and story-telling skills. Sure, there are still some thrills and a bit of gore, but this is an adventure that's safe even for scaredy-cats.
Prolific American writer Joyce Carol Oates is renowned for writing hefty, dark stories that get inside the head of unlikeable characters (most notably, Blonde, the basis for Netflix's controversial Marilyn Monroe series). Babysitter is no different: it revolves around a serial killer who abducts children in 1970s Detroit. But it goes beyond the remit of a crime thriller to explore betrayal, politics, race and redemption.
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