TWO THOUSAND AND ELEVENSIES (PART TWOSIES)

FEBRUARY

Endgame: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Bobby Fischer by Frank Brady

Despite predominantly reading fiction, every six months or so I will go on a nonfiction binge, exploring a subject that interests me. Past obsessions have included the Golden Age of Magic, Game Theory, Origins of Colours (mainly just to confuse Amazon.com’s suggested reading algorithms). These bursts of interest fade as quickly as they came, as my retention of knowledge is notoriously lame.

One of my areas of interest, which I explored a couple of years ago, was chess. Now I have to come out and say that I don’t particularly like chess, and the idea of playing it fills me with some dread (all that planning ahead…). But the idea of the evolution of chess, and its almost mythic properties, was something that fascinated me. In the course of exploring this interest, I stumbled across one of the most engrossing pieces of nonfiction I’d ever read, namely David Edmonds and John Eidinow’s Bobby Fischer Goes to War, a riveting account of the lead-up, duration and aftermath of American chess wunderkind Bobby Fischer’s and soviet world champion Boris Spassky. It is a fascinating and thrilling story, even for those not interested in chess. It’s hard to get these days (only available as an import title in Australia), but keep your eyes out in second-hand shops.

Anyhoo, reading that book gave me an insight into what an interesting/insane personality Bobby Fischer actually was, and Murdoch Books are bringing out this biography in February and I, for one, am very much looking forward to reading it.

SEPTEMBER
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Did I just say that The Pale King was 2011′s most anticipated literature release? What we talk about when we talk about anticipated is Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, which I have been awaiting for quite a while now. It’s fair to say that the first time I read Murakami (in my case, A Wild Sheep Chase), it was like nothing else I’d ever read. And, despite bingeing on his fiction perhaps a little too much afterwards, I am REALLY looking forward to this book. It’s out in September (look, it even has an ISBN now!) and I shall be first in line. I don’t think I’ll be alone. On their first day of publication in Japan (two volumes printed simultaneously — here it will be a single volume) they sold out their first print run, reaching sales of one million copies in a month. It will be interesting to see the splash it makes in English-speaking countries.


And, because I’m getting tired of writing in the Brisbane heat, and, if you’re like me, you just prefer lists anyway, here are some more titles I’ll be watching out for in 2011:

The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht (April) – For a debut novelist, she has received praise from the likes of Colum McCann, Ann Patchett and T.C. Boyle. Should be big.

There is No Year
by Blake Butler (May) – For pure literary hipness, you need to be seen with this book. Blake Butlerwrites for the irrepresibly cool/unintelligible blog HTMLGIANT, and blows us away with his short fiction in The Lifted Brow and in this book. Can’t wait to see what he’ll do with the novel.

Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta (July) – Dana Spiotta wrote one of my favourite books EVER, Eat the Document, and I can’t wait to read this one (despite the infuriatingly small amount of detail about it available).

And as always, some will succeed, some will fail, and others will come out of nowhere to capture our imagination. Here’s to 2011!

TWO THOUSAND AND ELEVENSIES

I love books, and I love lists, so when you can combine the two, even better. And sure, everyone’s got a “Best Books of 2010″ list (except for Chris Flynn, who has compiled an ace round-up of the year’s best short stories) but what really gets me excited is lists about books NOT EVEN RELEASED YET. As a bookseller, there is nothing we love more then getting our hands on the hottest book that either
1) everybody wants (I actually hid the advance copy of Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom” in my bag after I got it), or
2) nobody knows they want yet but yeah I read that a few months ago and it was pretty good but what you really should be reading is… You get the idea.

With the horrific death-screech of Christmas retail almost at an end, I’m starting to cast my eyes into the crystal ball of 2011 publishing, and thinking about the books that are going to excite me most. Here are some that have grabbed my interest in recent weeks.

APRIL:
An Uncertain Placeby Fred Vargas

During one of my numerous and ill-advised trips to a discount book store I stumbled across a crime book called Have Mercy On Us All by some French dude. Read it, loved it, and discovered that the dude was a lady. Fred Vargas is the pseudonym of French author, historian and archaeologist Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau, who has won the Crime Writers’ Association’s International Dagger a record three times, with the 2007 win coming for her astonishingly good book Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand(just about my favourite crime novel ever).I don’t go out of my way to read crime, but the prospect of a new book featuring Vargas’s shambolic-yet-somehow-Zen detective Commissaire Adamsberg is too good to refuse. Plus, this one contains severed feet left in shoes, and Serbian vampire hunters. What more could you want?

The Pale Kingby David Foster Wallace

What can I say about this except I will be killed by a marauding pack of hipsters if I get my hands on an advance copy of this. Literary Journal “nice guy” Ronnie Scott has already admitted to me that if he saw me with a copy of this book before its release date, he would “cut up my pretty face real good” and steal it (the book, not my face). For those of you who can’t wait a moment longer to get a taste, I would suggest you cut up the pretty face of anyone who owns the sold out 6th “Atlas Edition” of The Lifted Brow, which contains within it an excerpt from The Pale King. Or you could read this book to get you good and ready for what promises to be THE international literary event of 2011.

MAY:
Past the Shallowsby Favel Parrett

Favel is a dear friend of mine, but that is about to change. Her brilliant, brilliant book (which I have actually read, after hounding my Hachette rep over and over for an advance copy) is coming out at exactly the same time as mine, and I wish it weren’t, because I want May 2011 to be a literary wasteland, save for one book. Unfortunately for me, Past the Shallows is a haunting, lyrical story set in the unique coastline of Tasmania, teaching us of the boldness and fragility of growing up. If you like the writing of Tim Winton, you will love this book. And just look at this freaking gorgeous cover:


Part Two of my 2011 picks coming sooooon…..

But until then, what 2011 books are YOU looking forward to?