Books 2020: What you could be reading

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Reading illustrationImage source, Alamy

It may be the era of the box-set binge, but many of us are still finding time to enjoy books.

In the UK alone, sales of adult fiction, non-fiction and children's print books have remained healthy over the past 12 months. Before the Christmas boost, they were up 1% to 191.5 million copies sold, according to market analysis firm Nielsen.

Meanwhile, Nielsen predicts a sales increase of audiobooks of 15% to nine million recordings. Ebooks, however, are estimated to be down 10%.

To whet your appetite for the books out in 2020, we've picked a selection of adult titles in different genres. Hopefully you'll find something to enjoy.

Fiction by established best-sellers

Utopia Avenue - David Mitchell

Image source, Alamy

The author: A twice Booker Prize-nominated author, Mitchell's work includes Cloud Atlas, The Bone Clocks and number9dream. He has also translated (with his wife) two books on autism by Japanese writer Naoki Higashida and contributed to the Netflix series Sense8 and the next Matrix movie.

The book: Utopia Avenue is Mitchell's first full novel since The Bone Clocks in 2014. It recounts the meteoric rise and plummeting downfall of a British band in 1967 London, set against a backdrop of riots, drugs, love, sex, madness and death.

Published 2 June.

The Mirror and the Light - Hilary Mantel

Image source, HarperCollins

The author: Mantel won the Booker Prize for the first two novels in her epic story of Thomas Cromwell, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. In May, she said of the closing chapter in the saga: "This book has been the greatest challenge of my writing life, and the most rewarding; I hope and trust my readers will find it has been worth the wait."

The book: The Mirror and the Light traces the final years of Cromwell, the man who rose from nowhere to become one of the top advisors to Henry VIII. Mantel's story is of the fierce and tragic conflict between royal will and Cromwell's vision of a modern nation.

Published 5 March.

Hamnet - Maggie O'Farrell

Image source, Murdo Macleod

The author: O'Farrell is the best-selling author of novels including After You'd Gone, The Distance Between Us and The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox. In 2010, The Hand That First Held Mine won the Costa Novel Award. Instructions For A Heatwave was shortlisted in 2013, as was This Must Be The Place in 2016.

The book: Set in 1596, Shakespeare's son Hamnet - whose name inspired the celebrated play - goes in search of help for his gravely ill his twin sister. Their mother is a long way away and their father is away working. Neither parent knows one of the children will not survive the week.

Published 31 March.

Just Like You - Nick Hornby

Image source, Paris Taghizadeh

The author: Hornby is the author of novels including High Fidelity, About a Boy and Funny Girl. His recent marriage break-up novella State of the Union accompanied his BBC TV shorts series. Non-fiction includes Fever Pitch, and he wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplays for An Education and Brooklyn.

The book: As we've come to expect from Hornby, his latest story is both personal and universal. Just Like You gets to the heart of what it means to fall surprisingly and heavily in love with someone who seems totally unsuitable.

Published 17 September.

Strange Hotel - Eimear McBride

Image source, Sophie Bassouls

The author: McBride made her name with her award-winning debut A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, about a young woman and her complex family relationships. Her follow-up The Lesser Bohemian was about a relationship between a young student and a 38-year-old actor.

The book: Even the plushest hotel room can lack soul, but for the nameless female protagonist, each holds complex memories - many painful. As she travels from country to country and room to room, we discover what has transpired or might transpire within their walls. Will she ever be ready to go home?

Published 6 February.

Contemporary fiction

The Girl with the Louding Voice - Abi Daré

Image source, AMP

The author: Daré lives in the UK but grew up in Lagos, Nigeria. As a child, she questioned how it was that housemaids in her country were subjected to such desperate lives. She hopes her novel will give her protagonist - and others - the identity and dignity they deserve.

The book: Adunni is a 14-year-old Nigerian who is adamant she wants an education. But her broke father sees her as means to an end - making money. Adunni is sold to an old man. Tragedy then leads to her being secretly sold as a servant to a wealthy Lagos family. Adunni is repeatedly told that she is nothing, but she remains convinced that sheer determination will see her break free.

Published 5 March.

The 24-Hour Cafe - Libby Page

Image source, Natalie Dawkins

The author: Libby Page's debut novel was the "uplifting" The Lido, about residents who rally together to save their local pool from closure and the land being used for luxury flats. It became a best-seller and is to be made into a film.

The book: Page again focuses on the value of community. Inspired by her local café, Page tells of best friends Hannah and Mona, who are waitressing despite being artistically trained. They may dream of a different life, but around them every type of existence is played out by the individuals who walk through the door.

Published 23 January.

Seven Lies - Elizabeth Kay

Image source, Sceptre/Charlie Hopkinson

The author: Kay started her career as an assistant at Penguin Random House. She is now a commissioning editor who writes in her spare time.

The book: Jane vows to tell you the whole truth about her relationship with her best friend Marnie. They've been very close since children but now their friendship is teetering because of lies told by Jane, one by one increasing in severity as Jane's possessiveness of Marnie turns to obsession. How did things get so bad and where will they end?

Published 16 April.

Saving Missy - Beth Morrey

Image source, Gerrard Gethings

The author: Morrey is the creative director at RDF Television, where her credits include Channel 4's The Secret Life of Four Year Olds and ITV's 100 Year Old Drivers.

The book: On the eve of her 80th birthday, Missy Carmichael finds herself isolated and desperately lonely. She has no friends and grieves for a family she has lost or alienated - and she knows it's all her own fault. But a chance encounter with two very different women dangles the possibility of a better life - if she will let it happen.

Published 6 February.

Come Again - Robert Webb

Image source, Harper Collins/Matt Crockett

The author: Webb is known for his comedy collaborations with David Mitchell on the TV hits Peep Show and That Mitchell and Webb Look. In 2017 he wrote his coming-of-age memoir How Not To Be A Boy, recalling the comedy and tragedy of his early life.

The book: Webb takes on a love story - with a twist. Part Time Traveller's Wife, part Peggy Sue Got Married, it tells of Kate, who's bereft following the death of her love-of-her-life husband Luke. One day she wakes up to find she's 18 again in body but still her more mature self in mind. It's the day she met Luke. Knowing what she does about their future, does she walk away or try to re-enact their story and maybe this time save Luke?

Published 5 March.

Crime and thriller fiction

The Thursday Murder Club - Richard Osman

Image source, Getty Images

The author: The all-round mega-brain is the creator and co-presenter of TV quiz show Pointless and has hosted Two Tribes and Richard Osman's House of Games, along with being creative director for TV production company Endemol.

The book: Osman has a fascination with tales of intrigue, so his first novel is a murder mystery in the classic Agatha Christie style - with a tongue-in-cheek tinge of Midsomer Murders thrown in. Take four bored OAPs in an all-too peaceful Kent village who meet each week to "investigate" unsolved murders. But they get a jolt of reality when a real suspicious death lands on their doorstep. Have the foursome got the gumption to solve the crime?

Published 3 September.

The Holdout - Graham Moore

Image source, Orion/Matt Sayles

The author: Moore is a New York Times best-selling novelist whose previous works include The Sherlockian and The Last Days of Night. He also won a Golden Globe and an Oscar for best adapted screenplay for The Imitation Game, the film about Alan Turing starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

The book: Moore's story comes from his own experience of being the "holdout" on a jury - the one member who disagrees with all the others. Here the disappearance of a 15-year-old heiress seems cut and dried - her teacher is the villain. But then pipes up juror Maya Seale, who persuades the others to vote not guilty. Scoot forward 10 years and one of the jurors has been found dead, with Maya the prime suspect. But is she being made to pay for her earlier actions?

Published 20 February.

The Recovery of Rose Gold - Stephanie Wrobel

Image source, PenguinRandomHouse/Simon Way

The author: Wrobel hails from Chicago and worked in advertising until she moved to London. She started a creative writing course and by the end of it had completed this book.

The book: The story revolves around the complex Munchausen syndrome by proxy. It follows Rose Gold who, after being poisoned by her mother for 18 years, still decides to take her in after she finishes five years in prison. Mother Patty seems genuinely to want reconciliation. But Rose is not now easily fooled.

Published 5 March.

Historical fiction

Miss Austen - Gill Hornby

Image source, Century/Robert Harris

The author: The sister of Nick Hornby and wife of novelist Robert Harris, she wrote the best-selling novel The Hive, as well as All Together Now, featuring contemporary stories of groups of women and the emotional politics underpinning their relationships. She also wrote a biography of Jane Austen for children.

The book: Hornby takes the intriguing story of Jane's sister Cassandra, with whom she had a deep and complex relationship. Set in 1840, 23 years after Jane's untimely death, the story focuses on Cassandra's search for a cache of letters written by Jane and which hold secrets Cassandra doesn't want revealed. As she reads them, she pieces together buried truths about her sister. In real life, Cassandra burnt the letters, which has troubled and divided academics to this day. Hornby offers a possible reason why.

Published 23 January.

The Foundling - Stacey Halls

Image source, Manilla/Ollie Grove

The author: Halls is the author of The Familiars, set in 1600s rural Lancashire. It was imbued with folklore, in particular the legends and fears around witches and the Pendle witch trials of 1612. In her writing, Halls uses true historical events to explore the treatment of women.

The book: It's mid-1700s London. Bess Bright returns to reclaim her illegitimate daughter Clara, who she left at London's Foundling Hospital six years earlier. But Clara has been taken away, and Bess must find her. Meanwhile, a young widow who has not left her house in a decade is persuaded by a doctor from the hospital to hire a nursemaid for her daughter. In doing so, her carefully buried past threatens to resurface and destroy her future.

Published 6 February.

The Ninth Child - Sally Magnusson

Image source, Hodder/Derek Prescott

The author: The daughter of journalist, historian and Mastermind host Magnus Magnusson, Sally is a broadcaster herself and a familiar face as a former host on BBC Breakfast and Songs of Praise. Her writing includes non-fiction and children's books, and her debut novel was The Sealwoman's Gift, the story of a 17th Century Icelandic woman trafficked to Africa to be a slave.

The book: In 1856, Isabel Aird is pregnant despite having given up hope of becoming a mother. She and her doctor husband move to the Scottish Highlands - also there are Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, who is again pregnant and exhausted by motherhood. Lurking in the shadows is Robert Kirk, a mythical character who is said to stalk the Highlands searching for an innocent soul to swap for his own. Not surprisingly, Robert's sights are on Isabel and Victoria.

Published 19 March.

Image source, AFP

Celebrity memoirs

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Clockwise from top left: John Bercow, Dame Jenni Murray, Alicia Keys and the Jonas Brothers
  • John Bercow - Unspeakable: The rumbustious former Speaker of the House of Commons makes his comeback with a forthright memoir of his time in the hotseat. Published 6 February.
  • Jonas Brothers - Blood: The US pop-rock trio known for the hits Burnin' Up, Tonight and Sucker chart their rise to stardom, break-up and reunion. Published 17 March.
  • Dame Jenni Murray - Fat Cow, Fat Chance: The BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour doyenne recounts her long struggle with her weight in a society where skinny is supposedly the ideal. She also looks at how to become comfortable with appearance, the social effects of increasing obesity and why "fat shaming" isn't a hate crime. Published 25 June.
  • Alicia Keys - More Myself: Billed as "part-autobiography, part-narrative documentary" from the US singer-songwriter who brought us Fallin', Girl On Fire and Empire State Of Mind. Published 31 March.
Image source, AFP


Dear Life: A Doctor's Story of Love and Loss - Rachel Clarke

The author: Clarke gave up a career as a TV journalist to retrain as a doctor. She's now a hospice doctor, specialising in palliative care, and frequently writes about the healthcare system for newspapers. Her previous book was Life in My Hands: A Junior Doctor's Story.

The book: A memoir about caring for people on the edge of death. Though indisputably a time of sorrow, Clarke tries to show that in the face of death can be found the things that really matter in life, including the strength and compassion of which we are all capable.

Published 16 January.

Joy at Work - Marie Kondo

Image source, Macmillan/Konmari Media Inc

The author: The self-made "tidying consultant" shot to fame with her mantra that a tidy closet leads to a happy life. She wrote the global best-seller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying and bagged her own Netflix show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

The book: Still feeling out of sorts even though your home is now all boxed and labelled? Well, Marie now suggests your job may be the problem. Written with Scott Sonenshein, an "organisational psychologist", the book espouses re-evaluating the way you work.

Published 7 April.

Slay in Your Lane Presents: Loud Black Girls - Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené

Image source, Alise Katrina James
Image caption,
Elizabeth Uviebinené (left) and Yomi Adegoke

The authors: Adegoke and Uviebinené wrote the acclaimed Slay In Your Lane: The Black Girls Bible, a "self-help" guide offering black teenagers and women the advice they would have liked to have received themselves.

The book: An anthology featuring essays from established and emerging black British female writers. They were asked to focus on what the future holds - a post-Brexit/Donald Trump world, but one where there is also more opportunity for black women to thrive.

Published 25 June.

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