james debate
james debate

Friday 26 February 2021

Welcome back to The Ephemeric's 2021 Hot List. This week we will have a look at the most exciting new literature and novels you'll be reading in the coming year.

best anticipated new theatre theatrical production 2020 hot list
The keen eyed among this blog's longterm readers will no doubt have spotted a new addition to our annual Hot List. This is usually the time where I would reveal our most exciting new theatrical productions for the year. However, given the uncertain status of theatre over the next 12 months, such an endeavour would seem to be somewhat pointless. Instead, for this year only, we will replace our annual theatre preview with this super exciting list of 2021's most hotly anticipated books, novels and literature of any kind. If there's one thing this pandemic has been good for, it's catching up on your reading list, so let's just embrace it. Think this should become a regular part of the annual preview? Let me know.

So here it is: your reading list for 2021, our list of the top 10 upcoming releases from the world of literature to keep an eye on this year, starting, as always, with number 10:

10. "Light Perpetual" by Francis Spufford

best literature 2021 novel book light perpetual francis spufford golden hillLight Perpetual marks the sophomore effort from Francis Spufford, the once non-fiction author turned award winning novelist. 

If this author is at all daunted by the famously challenging second novel it's not apparent in the ambition of this follow up: a high concept piece of work that ponders the many what-might-have-beens of life. Light Perpetual imagines the possible futures of five children killed by a German bomb in November 1944. What would those five individuals make of all the incredible changes of the 20th Century, the wonders and tragedies of a world they will never see.

Just the concept is haunting in its own way; an homage to the fragility of existence, the finality of death, and to the unpredictable currents of the world around us. Light Perpetual releases in February. 

9. "Paris is a Party, Paris is a Ghost" by David Hoon Kim

best literature 2021 novel book paris is a party ghost david hoon kim Paris is a Party, Paris is a Ghost (#PIAPPIAG) is the debut novel of American writer David Hoon Kim, inspire by his own time spent living in Paris, studying at the Sorbonne. 

This is the story of Henrik, a young Japanese man adopted by Danish parents and living in Paris, where he aspires to be a translator. When Henrik's girlfriend dies mysteriously, he sets off on an investigation through the city’s seamy underbelly. A darkly comic story about being lost and found in translation, delving into topical discussions on matters such as displacement, exile and desire.

There's a lot of buzz about this debut novelist, whose work has previously appeared in publications such as the New Yorker and earned him fellowships from the Elizabeth George Foundation, among others. PIAPIAG releases in August.

8. "Women and Other Monsters" by Jess Zimmerman

best literature 2021 novel book women and other monsters jess zimmerman
The folklore that has shaped our dominant culture teems with frightening female creatures. Jess Zimmerman's Women and Other Monsters offers a cultural analysis of female monsters from Greek mythology and invites all women to reclaim these stories as inspiration for a more wild, more “monstrous” version of feminism. 

This thoroughly unique concept urges us to re-examine our relationship with cultural tropes and embrace a new image of the female hero.

This makes for an interesting prospect. Ancient mythology with a dash of satire and modern feminism. Coming in March.

7. "Bullet Train" by Kotaro Isaka 

best literature 2021 novel book bullet train kotaro isaka Already a massive hit in his native Japan, Kotaro Isaka's latest novel might just be the next big page-turning craze.

Bullet Train has five contract killers on a bullet train from Tokyo to Morioka, all competing for the same target before the journey reaches its destination. It's a silly, binge-worthy premise with huge potential, and a film deal is allegedly in the works. Upon its original release it garnered awards and rave reviews. Now an English translation is on the way.

Bullet Train will release in English this April. I expect this to be one of the big sellers of 2021.

6. "The Startup Wife" by Tahmima Anam

best literature 2021 novel book startup wife tahmima anamYoung computer programmer Asha Ray starts a tech company with her husband Cyrus Jones. After building an algorithm for a popular social media platform, their careers skyrocket – but it seems Asha's husband begins to overshadow her.

Part romantic comedy, part razor sharp satire of the tech start up scene, The Startup Wife is the latest novel from Tahmima Anam, an author better known for her poignant tales of war and the personal struggles that play out against that backdrop. This more lighthearted subject matter might sound like a departure, but on closer inspection perhaps not as much as it seems. This is, at its heart, a tale of power and societal strife, albeit on a different scale.

The Startup Wife releases in June, and it is already being tipped as one of 2021's must-read pieces of literature.

5. "Project Hail Mary" by Andy Weir

best literature 2021 novel book project hail mary andy weir artemis the martianThis is the latest novel of Andy Weir, best known for The Martian, the award winning novel and, later, award winning film. 

Project Hail Mary ostensibly treads familiar ground: a man stranded in space on his own, with little hope of rescue. It's the Martian, but on a much bigger scale. Existential threats, interstellar travel. A scientific mystery and a dazzling tale of exploration all mixed into one (or so goes the promise). 

The stakes are big, and the drama irresistible. Weir has established himself as one of the more crowd-pleasing names in mainstream science fiction, and this looks to be more of the same.

Project Hail Mary releases in May and will certainly be one to keep an eye on.

4. "Double Blind" by Edward St Aubyn

best literature 2021 novel book double blind edward st aubyn Edward St Aubyn's Patrick Melrose novels sold half a million copies and were adapted into an award winning TV series. He has earned some big-name fans from the likes of Sam Mendes to Jonathan Franzen. The man has some clout and his latest work, Double Blind, sees the author treading exciting new ground.

Double Blind follows a group of three friends through a transformative year that takes readers from London to the Cote d'Azur and Big Sur and tackles big themes such as determinism, inheritance and freedom of will. It promises to be a journey that asks big questions but unfolds into some very personal themes.

Double Blind arrives late March and looks to be one of the year's biggest releases.

3. "Klara and the Sun" by Kazuo Ishiguro

best literature 2021 novel book klara and the sun kazuo ishiguro never let me goKazuo Ishiguro is one of those authors that when he has something to say, one listens. The Japanese-born British novelist is a Nobel Prize winner, whose novels The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go have established him as one of the most celebrated contemporary authors.

His latest, Klara and the Sun, promises more insightful commentary on the human condition. A tale of love narrated by a machine. Klara is an artificial being bought as a companion for a terminally ill 14 year old, navigating the nuances of human emotion from an outsider's perspective.

It's heady stuff, expect to have an existential crisis when this releases in March of this year.

2. "First Person Singular" by Haruki Murakami

best literature 2021 novel book first person singular haruki murakami wells cats A new novel from Haruki Murakami is always reason to be excited. For a long while, he was one of the most exciting authors in fiction. Yet if I'm honest, his recent work has gone off the boil to an extent. Ever since the career culmination that was 1Q84, his later works have amounted to little more than a rehash of some of the author's more satirised tropes. A perfect time, then, for Murakami to make a comeback. His next work, First Person Singular, may just be that comeback. 

With FPS, Murakami is getting back to basics. This is a collection of short stories, all written from a first person perspective (hence the title) meditating on various topics, from nostalgia to music, and baseball. Murakami has often been at his best in the short story format. In classic style, this work will challenge the traditions of the art form and blur lines between reality and fiction. FPS releases in April.

1. "Malibu Rising" by Taylor Jenkins Reid

best literature 2021 novel book malibu rising taylor jenkins reidBut our number 1 most hotly anticipated piece of literature for 2021 is the latest work from perhaps one of the best writers in the business today, Taylor Jenkins Reid

Reid is known for novels such as The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones & The Six (and if you haven't read them, what's wrong with you? Go do so). Her latest work, Malibu Rising, tackles familiar themes of fame, beauty, and human folly. A lavish 1980s setting full of beaches, parties, and (presumably) self-destruction.

Reid's work is endlessly insightful, vividly crafted and just excellent entertainment. Without a doubt this is my pick for the year's most exciting novels. Malibu Rising releases in May.

So there you have it folks: 2021 in literature. Tune in soon for our next instalment of the Hot List, covering the essential new music coming up in 2021!

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