Forthcoming Books

Over the weekend, the Chicago Sun-Times ran a summer reading preview in which it asked many of its contributors about books that they were looking for. Darby Dixon III has written recently about the dangers of anticipating new books. And the issue of having too many interesting books to read has caused grumblings even from the most robust readers. It’s not that we don’t want to read these books. We just don’t know when we’ll read them. Speaking for myself, William T. Vollmann’s Imperial sits in the pile, and it looks like it might devour some of the smaller books as snacks. (To give you some sense of the problem, Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist and Richard Powers’s Generosity are 50 cent bags of Doritos by comparison. Is this really fair?)

But you can’t just stick with the tried and true. There are books from emerging authors and small presses that must not be overlooked! There are good books that are being ignored. There are books that don’t stand a chance if everybody’s looking forward to the new Lethem.

This begs the question of whether we should be asking some of these these authors to stop writing for six months so that some of us may catch up on our reading and be fair to all the books. Or perhaps we should ask the federal government to bail out readers so that literary culture can thrive. Then again, it’s possible that we may approach a six month window in which there is nothing particularly worthwhile to read. And then America can be humiliated yet again with another public denouncement from Horace Engdahl that only people like Harold Augenbraum will actually care about. The rest of us will catch up with the backlog.

There’s a new David Mitchell novel and a new Scarlett Thomas novel set for publication in 2010. It just doesn’t stop, does it?

There has to be a solution to all this. And the Chicago Sun-Times is to be commended for its salubrious idea. But I’d like to take the experiment further. Instead of just listening to the experts, what about readers as a whole? If you’ve never left a comment on this website, your time to get conversational has come. What books are you looking forward to this year? Who are the authors that jazz you up? Please know that the answers aren’t limited to literary titles. This is not a snobbish query, but a curious one. Which books are you looking forward to in 2009?


  1. Strangely, pretty much all the books I’m really looking forward to this fall I already have, because they were published in the UK last month: Hilary Mantel’s brilliant Wolf Hall, Kazuo Ishiguro’s frustrating but occasionally great Nocturnes, and A. S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book, which I haven’t yet read.

    I know the number of people who, like me, will order such books from overseas rather than wait is still relatively small, but given how much publicity the UK papers can be counted on to give British authors–and how that publicity travels across the ocean seamlessly–I’m surprised that U.S. trade houses haven’t figured out a way to avoid such a time-lag when they buy U.S. rights.

  2. It’s not just novels either. When it comes to comics, this year brings us new books by Crumb, Mazucelli, Mazzucchelli, Eddie Campbell, Ben Katchor, perhaps even something by Al Columbia, amongst others. Not to mention the recently released Yoshihiro Tatsumi tome.

    How do I fit all of these around the reading alluded to above? I am but one man! We need some kind of time machine, Ed, and we need it now…

  3. oops. Just saw that you’d mentioned the Powers book already. I am blinded by booklust, clearly.

  4. Scarlett Thomas in 2010?? Yea!

    What is the new Eddie Campbell, Woody? I hadn’t heard that.

    I’m looking forward to Paul Collins’ book on Shakespeare, Elizabeth Hand has a YA novel of all things coming out (Wonderwall – from an earlier short story) and Sierra Club books has a NF title on mountaintop removal mining I want to see, “Coal Country”.

    I’m also looking forward to Cranioplekty – a book on Victorian era grave robbing from Unbridled Books and Fossil Hunter by Shelly Emling – the story Mary Hanning.

  5. Colleen, the new Eddie Campbell book is called The Years Have Pants. Essentially it’s a collection of his Alec books from The King Canute Crowd to After The Snooter although it contains some unpublished material and an all-new book to round it all off. It’s published by Top Shelf Comix this September.

  6. Laird Hunt’s RAY OF THE STAR



  7. It’s not that far in the future– next month– but Jonathan Howard’s JOHANNES CABAL, THE NECROMANCER is top-notch.

    Humor and the fantastic are difficult things to balance & Howard’s tone is perfect; the book manages to be continually amusing, yet with moments of creepiness, suspense and thoughtfulness…

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