The conclusion to a Booker Award-winning trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, a visit from Margaret Atwood, the 25th Jack Reacher novel and a version of Harry Potter in te reo – these are what book-lovers have to look forward to in 2020
Margaret Atwood's follow-up to The Handmaid's Tale, The Testaments, was one of the publishing sensations of 2019. The much-decorated Canadian author will visit New Zealand next month to talk about her life and her books, which include 18 novels, poetry collections, non-fiction works, children's books and essays.
Her visit precedes the first big literary festivals of the year. Samesame but different 2020 is on February 12-15, celebrating LGBTQI+ writers who aren't unafraid to push boundaries in all genres.
The 2020 New Zealand Festival of the Arts in Wellington has expanded its writers' programme to three weeks and features an eclectic line-up of local and global authors including Booker international prize-winner Jokha Alharthi, Wild Swans author Jung Chang and Joy Harjo, the first Native American to be appointed US Poet Laureate. That starts on Saturday, February 22.
Next month, announcements will be made about who's coming for the Auckland Writers Festival in May.
When it comes to books themselves, one of the most eagerly awaited will be Hilary Mantel's third and final novel in the Thomas Cromwell trilogy, which began with Wolf Hall, followed by Bring up the Bodies. Both won Booker Prizes; fans have waited eight years for the final instalment, The Mirror and the Light, which is out in March. Will it be a Booker hat-trick for Mantel?
At home, the long-list for our own Ockham New Zealand Book Awards is announced on January 30, capping off a surprisingly busy month. Why busy? Because several publishers are releasing some of their biggest titles of 2020 in the first month of the year.
Hachette is talking up Jeanine Cummins' American Dirt, about the perils of a single mother attempting to illegally cross the US-Mexican border, with crime writer Don Winslow describing it as The Grapes of Wrath for our time.
Other picks for January and February include new releases from Marian Keyes (Grown Ups), Isabel Allende (A Long Petal of the Sea), Anne Enright (Actress) and Eimear McBride (Strange Hotel), who stunned the literary world first with her debut A Girl is a Half-formed Thing and the 2016 follow-up The Lesser Bohemians.
Meanwhile, My Dark Vanessa, by Kate Russell and acquired in an astonishing seven-figure deal, is also laying claim to the title of hottest read of 2020. It's the story of "psychosexual manipulation between a teenager and her English teacher" and what follows their years-long affair.
On the local front, J.P. Pomare took out the best first novel gong at the 2019 Ngaio Marsh crime writing awards for his acclaimed Call Me Evie. Pomare's back with a fresh offering, In The Clearing, about a girl called Amy who lives and has only ever known life in the clearing. She keeps her head down, pleasing the elders and doing her bit to ensure the community remains happy and stable – until a mysterious stranger arrives.
Wellington-based H.G. Parry's The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep has received rave advance reviews with Kirkus saying, "Parry knocks it out of the park ... Just plain wonderful." It sounds magical, with a protagonist, Charley Sutherland, who can bring characters from books into the real world.
His older brother, Rob - a young lawyer with an utterly normal life - hopes that this strange family secret will disappear with disuse so he can be discharged from his duty of protecting Charley and the real world from each other. When literary characters start causing trouble in their city, making threats about destroying the world, Rob realises there's another who shares Charley's ability.
Next month, Rajorshi Chakraborti, the Ockham long-listed author of The Man Who Would Not See, releases Shakti described as a feminist superhero epic. Chakraborti's been touring India as part of the release publicity for his latest novel.
Acclaimed poet Hera Lindsay Bird raves about Freya Daly Sadgrove's work. We get to see just how good Daly Sadgrove is when Victoria University Press releases her debut collection of prose-like poetry, Head Girl, also next month.
Dame Fiona Kidman's This Mortal Boy won every major New Zealand book award going last year; her latest, All the Way to Summer, comes out in March to mark her 80th birthday. It's a collection of previously published and new stories that explore love and longing and maintain Kidman's unflinching look at the lives on New Zealand women – their desires, illicit liaisons and unconventional love affairs.
Nicky Pellegrino was the biggest selling New Zealand fiction author of 2019. Her next book, Tiny Pieces of Us, is out in March and may be taking her in a fresh direction. It's the story of Vivi Palmer, the recipient of a heart transplant who is asked by the donor's mother to help find all the other people who have tiny pieces of her son.
In Night of All Souls, Wellington-based author Philippa Swan plays around with the life and times of writer Edith Wharton in what's described as a "clever, high-concept novel and cautionary tale about online fame", where Wharton is at the centre of a modern-day mystery about words from the past.
In May, another of our other most popular writers returns. House of Sorrow, the follow-up to Deborah Challinor's powerful From the Ashes, is set in Sydney around Kings Cross as the Vietnam War begins.
March, April and May also see the release of an offbeat love story from American novelist Anne Tyler (Redhead by the Side of the Road) and a new historical novel from Rose Tremain – made a Dame in the UK New Year's Honours – called Islands of Mercy. It takes readers on a journey from the story of a young trapped in the confines of an English tearoom in Bath to an eccentric British "rajah" in the rainforests of a tropical island via the slums of Dublin and the transgressive fancy dress boutiques of Paris.
Look out, too, for Gulliver's Wife by best-selling author of The Laceweaver, Lauren Chater. In her latest book, Chater re-imagines the story of Gulliver's Travels from the point of view from the woman he left behind – his wife.
Fellow Australian author Sophie Hardcastle – who's won much praise for her two YA novels – returns with Below Deck. The novel has been likened to Normal People and sparked a huge bidding war, in keeping with Hardcastle once being named one of the under 25s "nailing it".
Two-time Booker Prize finalist Sebastian Barry's A Thousand Moons is out in March. Set in Tennessee following the American Civil war, it's the story of an orphaned Lakota child raised by unconventional parents John Cole and Thomas McNulty, who were the stars of Barry's book Days Without End.
Robert Webb – whose autobiography How Not To Be a Boy was a best seller – turns his hand to fiction with a time-travelling story of love adventure. Webb's debut novel, Come Again, is out in April.
Elena Ferrante's Lying Life of Adults was released in Italy in November; the non-Italian reading world gets the English translation in June.
The first half of 2020 serves crime and thriller fans particularly well. Gregg Hurwitz has a new Orphan X book out (Into the Fire), Harlen Coben's back (The Boy from the Woods) and look out for Kathy Reichs' A Conspiracy of Bones, her 19th novel featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan and her first in six years. Say what you like about A.J. Finn – and plenty has been said – The Woman in the Window isn't going away. A best seller for two years, it's due to reach a whole new audience when the movie, starring Amy Ryan, is released.
Lee Child puts out his 25th Jack Reacher book this year while some of Penguin Books' top-selling crime and thriller writers – Jo Nesbo and James Patterson among them – return. Look out, too, for new historical fiction from Robert Harris and adventure from Clive Cussler.
In recent years, Australian crime writers have been consistent top sellers. Word is that Jane Harper is working on a fourth novel to be released in the second half of the year, while fellow Australian Gabriel Bergmoser has already attracted a buzz for his debut, The Hunted, which doesn't appear until June.
Set on a lonely, deserted highway, deep in the Australian badlands, it's touted as "pure white-knuckle suspense – a cardiac arrest of a novel, matching the adrenalin of Lee Child with the creeping menace of Wake in Fright". The film rights are already sold; Faber has the UK rights and – to date – it will also appear in France, Bulgaria, Holland and Germany. Not bad for a young, debut novelist.
In 2018, Trent Dalton was the young Australian novelist on the rise. His next book, All Our Shimmering Skies, is out in July. It's Darwin, 1942. Japanese bombs are about to start falling - but Molly Hook, the gravedigger's girl, is already on the run for her life.
Meanwhile, fans of epic historical fiction will be on tenterhooks waiting for the September release of Ken Follett's The Evening and the Morning, a prequel to the Pillars of the Earth, which, in the 30 years since its publication, has sold a staggering 27 million copies. In 997 CE, the end of the Dark Ages, one man's ambition to make his abbey a centre of learning is the catalyst for a grand journey of ambition and rivalry, death and birth, love and hate.