Harper Lee, Stephen King, Judy Blume, Candace Bushnell and more
Time Out Dubai staff
July 14, 2015 12:48 PM
Whether you like to download your literature to a tablet or e-reader, or simply stuff your suitcase with a couple of novels, there’s no better time to grab a new read than the summer. We’ve scoured the bestseller lists and forthcoming release schedules to bring you our pick of ten top books to |get your nose into over the coming weeks.
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee Best for: Literature students Pass notes: Harper Lee’s second novel comes a mere 55 years after her Pulitzer Prize-winning debut To Kill a Mockingbird became one of the most critically acclaimed and bestselling works of the 20th century. The novel’s manuscript was discovered last year and its release has been widely labelled the literary event of the decade. Although written before Mockingbird, it details the lives of Atticus and Scout Finch, as well as many other characters from the original. Don’t say: I think I will wait for the film to come out in the cinema; I always prefer the big screen version. Do say: Atticus Finch is a symbol of integrity, tolerance and understanding, who is as relevant to our world and struggles today as he was in the civil rights movement of the ’60s.
Killing Monica by Candace Bushnell Best for: Stylish escapism Pass notes: Less likely to provoke earnest debate, but just as anticipated, is the latest novel from the creator of well-loved city girls Miranda, Carrie, Samantha and Charlotte. It’s incredible to believe that it is two decades since Candace Bushnell’s first novel was published and went on to be a hit TV series, movie franchise and fulcrum of the fashion industry. Subsequent novels, whether they were direct sequels or a new line, never strayed far from the Manhattan world of romance, style and social commentary. Killing Monica is about a wildly successful writer planning to kill off a much-loved character in a novel that has taken the world of fashion, celebrity and New York glamour by storm. Sound familiar? Don’t say: Out of Miranda, Carrie, Samantha and Charlotte, who do you think Monica is? Do say: Monica reflects our current obsession with celebrity in the way Carrie captured the lives of modern fashionistas.
In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume Best for: Nostalgic romance Pass notes: Since long before ‘Young Adult’ or ‘Teenage Fiction’ aisles broke free and started to languorously spread across the entire book store, Judy Bloom was selling novels by the millions. The queen of adolescent fiction walked entire Girl Guide brigade’s worth of young women through their first romances and early heartbreaks with chapters full of teenage angst. What is less known, however, is that Blume also writes novels for fully grown (yet equally needing of emotional escapism) adults. This is her first effort in 17 years for the adult market, and fans are eagerly awaiting to see if the disaster novel-turned memoir ignites old flames or fails to take off. Don’t say: Aren’t her books like Enid Blyton for moody teenagers? Do say: The same subtlety and attention to storytelling that sold more than 80 million books to youngsters will take adults on a sentimental journey of self-discovery.
Bone Clocks by David Mitchell Best for: Epic storytelling Pass notes: David Mitchell, it seems, writes masterpieces. Dense, multi-layered, sprawling, time and place-hopping novels that leap through genres and narratives with a fantastical recklessness. As with two previous novels (Cloud Atlas and number9dream) this generation-spanning tome was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and straddles modern-day England and a post-apocalyptic future where the planet has been ravaged by climate change. The epic novel is told out through six short interconnected stories that revolve around the same individual who is visited by well-known characters from Mitchell’s other works. Don’t say: I wish he could just write a straightforward book with a beginning, middle and end for a change. Do say: Mitchell’s playful subverting of the narrative structure creates novels within novels and the elegance of his prose identifies him as one of the modern greats.
Finders Keepers by Stephen King Best for: Page-turning thrills Pass notes: If he didn’t pen such a personal and fan-affirming foreword as an introduction to each new novel, you’d have to wonder about horror master Stephen King’s relationship with his readers. Misery, Secret Window, Secret Garden and Lisey’s Story all feature psycho fans of acclaimed writers. The themes may be familiar – reader obscures the boundaries between fact and fiction and takes on a murderous approach to literary criticism – but thanks to King’s thrilling prose and gripping narrative this has to go straight onto any ‘must read’ list. Following on from 2014’s Mr Mercedes, this is the second of a planned trilogy about detective Bill Hodges. Don’t say: I preferred him when he just used to write horror stories. Do say: Bill Hodges is the finest King character in more than a decade and will help the best-selling author do to the hard-boiled detective genre what his early creations did to the horror novel.
The Good, the Bad and the Smug by Tom Holt Best for: Laugh-out-loud silliness Pass notes: Despite their love of the surreal and pursuit of absurdity, fans of comic fantasy are no less zealous than those of horror (King), fashion (Bushnell) or nostalgia (Blume). Which is why disciples of Tom Holt are desperate to enter the ludicrous world of Mordak the goblin king. With a cast of characters including elf journalists and goblin spin doctors, this satirical novel examines with a playful irreverence the interspecies struggles when the PR world collides with the fantasy genre. Don’t say: I’m not really into all that childish stuff about goblins, elves and fantasy creatures. Do say: It’s like Middle-earth meets Middle England. If only Gollum had a better PR company he could have opened a very successful jewellery business.
Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins Best for: Plot twists Pass notes: Debut novels tend not to go straight to the top of the bestseller lists and stay there for months at a time. Nor do they often prompt a bidding war between movie studios and see the author making TV and radio appearances around the world while being courted as the next literary superstar. But this is exactly what happened when former journalist Paula Hawkins turned her hand to fiction. The story of murder, intrigue and mistaken identity on the commute to London has already registered millions of sales and you’ll be hard pressed to find a more cinematic thriller this summer. Don’t say: Do you think Paula Hawkins has written this year’s Gone Girl? Do say: Unreliable narrators and a simmering malice are popular themes right now, but nobody does suspense building quite like Hawkins.
The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett Best for: Helpless romantics Pass notes: What if a single moment of chance could change the rest of your life forever? The question isn’t a new one in literature, although it is more common in science fiction than Laura Barnett’s high-concept romance. The idea of a ‘multiverse’ (different parallel worlds of an infinite number of possibilities which spring up depending on the decisions you make) seems ideal for the telling of a love story. The novel follows three strands of a romance with each intertwining and diverging depending on the choices the characters make. What would happen, in other words, if two lovers never met by accident on the bridge? Would they still have met? Don’t say: I don’t believe in fate – you make your own decisions in life and nobody can change that. Do say: This is like David Nicholls’ Us meets Gwyneth Paltrow’s Sliding Doors. It’s the perfect summer romance novel.
How Not to Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg Best for: Creative thinking scientists Pass notes: Maths, science and theoretical physics have never been so popular and the past few years have seen what essentially amount to text books entering into bestseller lists. Why? Because boffins in the labs have worked out what artists have known for centuries – the reading public want to be entertained. Following the Freakonomics model of hiding the actual science inside punchy anecdotes and humorous storytelling, certified maths whizz-kid Jordan Ellenberg enlightens readers to the hidden beauty of mathematics and why it can help you find love, be lucky and succeed in all areas of everyday life. Don’t say: I’ve never been interested in numbers – I am more of a words person. Do say: Maths is the new rock and roll.
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson Best for: Bewildering honesty Pass notes: The truth is often stranger than fiction. This is a theme laconic British writer Jonn Ronson has revisited throughout his career. Whether confronting the American military in The Men Who Stare At Goats or mental health in The Psychopath Report, Ronson is a journalist who never lets the seriousness of a subject get in the way of gentle humour. His attention is now directed towards the 21st century appetite for public shaming and the wrath of social media users when attacking strangers online. In the hands of anybody else it could be a preachy and righteous defence of society, but for Ronson it’s an opportunity to find human stories at the centre of very inhumane worlds. Don’t say: People get what’s coming to them – if they haven’t done anything wrong they have nothing to worry about. Do say: Ronson’s humour and gentle love of the peculiar does more to uncover hypocrisy, corruption and cruelty than any undercover journalistic exposé.
Dubai bookshops Book World by Kinokuniya The 68,000 sq ft store in The Dubai Mall prides itself on carrying more than half a million titles in English, Arabic, Japanese, Mandarin-Chinese and Cantonese, and stocking magazines native to France and Germany as well as the Middle East, China and Japan. It also has a comprehensive online store that delivers to locations across Dubai. The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai (04 434 0111).
Borders You almost have to clamber over the hoard of board games, children’s toys and stationary, but persevere and deep in the heart of Borders you will also find a pretty healthy stock of fiction and non-fiction books. Ibn Battuta Mall, The Gardens (04 434 1925).