The reading list

Ten upcoming books worth keeping an eye out for this spring and summer

Reading, books, novels

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (May 29)
There is no more anticipated book in sight than the final volume in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, especially now that the film version of volume one, The Girl With the Dragoon Tattoo, has opened in North America. Heroine Lisbeth Salander was to have been the Watson to investigative reporter Mikael Blomkvist’s Holmes in the late Swedish writer Larsson’s thrillers. But, as strong secondary characters often do, Lisbeth—a tattooed, pierced, brilliant, angry, Aspergerian and utterly ruthless computer hacker—has taken over. As Hornet’s Nest opens, she’s under guard in a hospital intensive care ward, waiting to recover sufficiently to go on trial for a triple murder. And plotting her revenge, which, as Larsson’s fans know, will be very nasty indeed.

The Four Fingers of Death (July 28)
Rick Moody, whose 1994 novel The Ice Storm became an Ang Lee film, has been a critic’s favourite for years for his deadly serious brand of comedy. His new novel features a hard-luck writer in 2025, whose novelization of a remake of the 1963 horror cult classic, The Crawling Hand, spins a satirical tale of a returning Mars expedition. Only a single arm, missing its middle finger, comes back to crawl through an American dystopia.

Hitch 22 (June 6)
As only to be expected, Christopher Hitchens’ memoir is frank (much ado about sleeping with future Margaret Thatcher cabinet ministers—male cabinet ministers—while at Oxford), caustic (fair warning given on the dedication page to those “who are such appalling public shits that they have forfeited their right to bitch”), and highly entertaining.

Ilustrado (May 8)
Filipino Montrealer Miguel Syjuco won the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize with his inventive family saga of his native country. A young student attempts to unravel the story behind a once-great writer’s death—and the disappearance of an unfinished manuscript—through poetry, novels, interviews and memoirs, and ends up tracing 150 years of Philippines history.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (June 29)
David Mitchell is a virtuoso of the novel, a writer whose technical brilliance has seen him twice short-listed for the Booker prize. His first novel in four years is set in 1799, in Dejima, the man-made island in Nagasaki harbour that is the both the sole Japanese window on the outside world and the Dutch East India Company’s farthest outpost. As the world back home is turned upside down by the French Revolution, clerk Jacob de Zoet has a fateful encounter with midwife Orito Aibagawa.

Absence of Mind (May 25)
Marilynne Robinson is far from being among the more prolific U.S. writers—24 years elapsed between her first and second novels—but she is one of the best thinkers in American letters. Her new (nonfiction) work is a slashing attack on scientific fundamentalism, not on behalf of religion but of human consciousness and our traditional concept of mind.

Innocent (May 4)
Over 20 years ago Scott Turow virtually invented the legal thriller with Presumed Innocent, which went on to sell more than six million copies; now that novel’s two protagonists return in another epic courtroom battle.

Johannes Cabal the Detective (July 13)
In the first volume of this genre-bending series, the dreadful, but somehow likeable, Cabal—a necromancer who has been aptly described as having “the moral conscience of anthrax”—managed to recover his soul from the Devil. Now Jonathan Howard’s anti-hero is playing Holmesian detective among mass destruction and the resurrected dead.

Tell All (May 4)
An assault on celebrity via a re-writing of All About Eve (plus a fictionalized version of Lillian Hellman’s life) seems almost too obvious for Chuck Palahniuk. But subtlety is not why readers love the author of Fight Club, and his rude send-up of name-dropping and the culture of celebrity worship sounds like vintage Palahniuk.

Empires of Food (June 15)
It not just armies that march on their stomachs, according to this intriguing study of 12,000 years of farming humanity, but entire civilizations. According to authors Evan Fraser (a geography professor at the University of Guelph) and Boston writer Andrew Rimas, all cultures eventually overwork their productive land and the centres of power shift. We are now experiencing the first lurches of another shift.

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