If January is awards season, with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association awarding the Golden Globes to the best of film and television, and the Academy Awards just around the corner, it’s also time for publishers to start hyping the most anticipated novels coming in the early part of the new year.
Critics often debate whether novels reflect the times they are written in, or if they should anticipate the culture yet to come; the truth, like all truths, lands somewhere in the middle, as the best novels do a little of both. Here is a list of some of the most anticipated novels, ones that range from commentary on our world as it is right now to visions of how the world might be in our future.
1. Long Bright River: Release Date - January 7, 2020
One highly touted novel already in bookstores is Liz Moore’s Long Bright River.
Moore, generally considered a literary writer, brings the heft of the great American novel to a story that—just like the best episodes of Law and Order—feels ripped from the headlines.
Long Bright River tells the story of two sisters, one an opioid addict and one a Philadelphia beat cop, whose worlds intersect when the addict sister disappears, and a string of murders begins in the same neighborhood.
2. Dear Edward: Release Date - January 7, 2020
As the author of a novel about plane crashes, I know a little something about the subject. And Ann Napolitano’s Dear Edward, which tells the story of 12-year-old Edward Adler, the sole survivor of a notorious crash that killed his family and 183 others, manages the difficult trick of being both a coming of age novel and a dramatization of how the broken among us can be healed again, even in the aftermath of such horrific tragedy.
3. The Better Liar: Release Date - January 7, 2020
The debut novel by Tanen Jones, The Better Liar, works similar territory, offering a plot that in the hands of a less-skilled author could border on melodramatic. But when a woman hires a complete stranger to pose as her recently deceased sister in order to keep their joint inheritance all to herself, the end result is a thriller that offers the width and breadth of a literary novel with the thrills and twists of classic noir.
4. The Resisters: Release Date - February 4, 2020
If the dominant genre of dystopian work in the 1950s was science fiction, today’s books tend to incorporate equally dark themes, driven by an author’s speculation of what another few decades of global climate change might make of our planet.
Call it Cli-Fi. That’s the case in author Gish Jen’s long-awaited return to fiction, The Resisters.
Despite its title, this is a vision of the future, where half the new country of AutoAmerica is underwater; those with money live on land, while those without live in swamps or on the water itself. When a poor family discovers that their daughter is a baseball prodigy, she finds that sports might be her family’s ticket to a better life.
5. Weather: Release Date - February 11, 2020
Literary darling Jenny Offill, author of the innovative Dept. of Speculation, also contributes to this emerging sub-genre. Offill returns with a small novel about a librarian whose seemingly run-of-the-mill life becomes more concerned with preparing for what she feels is an inevitable doomsday in Weather. Offill’s Lizzie the librarian offers a wry, acerbic commentary on our familiarly fragmented world.
6. Amnesty: Release Date - February 18, 2020
Booker Prize-winning author Aravind Adiga returns with Amnesty, the story of Danny, a refugee from Sri Lanka who has been denied asylum and lives in Sydney, Australia illegally.
Danny, whose Westernized name is short for Dhananjaya, tries to build a new life in Australia working as a cleaner. But when a woman he works for is murdered, and the most likely perpetrator turns out to be another of his clients, Danny must decide whether he can remain silent, or risk telling what he knows at the price of being deported.
7. Real Life: Release Date - February 18, 2020
Weeks before it hits the bookstores, Real Life, the debut novel by Brandon Taylor, has already been named one of the most anticipated books of the year by Entertainment Weekly, Electric Literature, The Rumpus, Paste, Bookriot, and Library Journal.
Taylor’s novel follows Wallace, a young African-American living and working in a seemingly genteel Midwestern university town where he’s studying towards a graduate degree in biochemistry.
This novel questions whether we can ever be truly free from our secrets and our pasts.
8. Valentine: Release Date - March 31, 2020
There’s nothing more encouraging to other writers than a debut author who isn’t fresh out of college. Fifty-something author Elizabeth Wetmore makes her literary debut in April with her novel, Valentine.
In the early hours of the day after Valentine’s Day, a 14-year-old girl appears on the front porch of a West Texas ranch house. She’s been brutally attacked. Set among the backdrop of a mid-1970s oil boom, Valentine tackles issues of race, class, and violence that are the stuff of the best fiction.
9. Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre: Release Date - May 12, 2020
Max Brooks’s Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre offers a horror tale based on one of our most enduring legends, the Sasquatch.
The “firsthand account” offered here is that of a woman who barely survives the book’s events. In the chaos of an eruption of Mount Rainier, survivor Kate Holland’s journals shed light on the untold story of the Greenloop massacre, and reveal Bigfoot not only to be real, but to be terrifying.
10. Antkind: Release Date - May 12, 2020
And finally, one of the most creative writers in Hollywood, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, returns with a new novel, Antkind.
Kaufman, the entirely original voice behind the films Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich, tells the story of B. Rosenberger Rosenberg, a failed academic and filmmaker turned film critic who has discovered what he considers to be the greatest film ever made.
There’s only one problem; the movie, a three-month-long stop motion epic that took its filmmaker 90 years to complete, is destroyed. All that remains is a single frame, leaving Rosenberg as its sole witness.