The Best New Books Of 2024: What Our Writers & Editors Can’t Wait To Read This Year

By Julia Gessler
Viva
The best new books of 2024 span from poetry to fiction. Collage / Julia Gessler

The most hotly anticipated books of 2024 are sensitive, magical and hectic — and will possibly change the way you live.

Learning what books are releasing soon is inevitably like reading the menu at a restaurant your friend told you about: you linger, you hedge your bets on names

According to the pre-release fodder for Asako Yuzuki’s Butter, her novel, translated by Polly Barton and out in April, will be “delicious”. It’s one of the books I’m most looking forward to this year, with its eye towards the “delightfully weird” and “luscious”, its hopscotching between food and murder — a serial killer named Manako Kajii lures lonely businessmen with her home cooking — and the full weight of that crime addendum: “inspired by a true story”.

Others are on the horizon, poised to circumnavigate this genre of retelling: Salman Rushdie’s memoir, Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder, also out in April, will examine his 2022 stabbing. “This was a necessary book for me to write: a way to take charge of what happened, and to answer violence with art,” he told an audience at Wales’ Hay literary festival last year. Elsewhere, James by Percival Everett (author of the funny, furious whodunnit The Trees), sees Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from the perspective of Jim as he escapes the slave trade.

This month, there have already been books that will knock you out. Patricia Grace’s short story collection Bird Child & Other Stories, a slipstream of myth and memory, for one; Ferdia Lennon’s debut Glorious Exploits, a tale of wayward heroes set in ancient Sicily, for another. We can only hope that the titles below, to be released in early 2024, wield a similar power.

Dead in Long Beach, California

By Venetia Blackburn (Macmillan). Out now.

The premise behind this debut novel sounded like a slightly bonkers way to deal with grief. The protagonist, Coral, finds her brother, Jay, dead from suicide in his apartment. She then proceeds to text his friends as him and there begins the unravelling. AsNew York Times’ book reviewer Megan Milks notes: “If speaking for the dead is an ethical quandary, it’s also a way to love someone.” Sitting in parallel to this deceit is the fact that Coral is the author of her own dystopian novel, Wildfire, the strange alien world merging with her own reality and setting off long-buried trauma in the process. It sounds hectic but also unputdownable. — Dan Ahwa, fashion and creative director

Private Equity

By Carrie Sun (Penguin Random House). Out this month.

Another debut read I’m keen to sink into this year is this memoir by Carrie Sun, which delves into how our working lives can sometimes swallow our personal lives. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Carrie takes us on a personal journey as a graduate at MIT, which eventually led her to a top role working for a leading Wall Street hedge fund, assisting its billionaire founder. Cue self-reflection and questions about the meaning of life and how our work can consume us, as Carrie opens up about how she was eager to impress within a company that valued return on time. A prescient commentary on our relationship with work and, in particular, how people of colour have to work twice as hard to be seen, valued and heard in predominantly white corporate spaces. — Dan Ahwa, fashion and creative director

Feijoa: A Story of Obsession and Belonging

By Kate Evans (Moa Books). Out this month.

I have this little nerdy habit, passed on by one of my very bookish friends, of Wikipedia-ing everything I eat. Though it’s potentially a quirk I could let go of (no phones at the dinner table!), I’ve very much enjoyed the little learnings that each of the pages provides. Enter: Feijoa: A Story of Obsession and Belonging. This book, written by award-winning journalist and nature writer Kate Evans, promises a storied recount of the floral fruit’s history. It’s said to be a sweeping account of the humble feijoa’s travels, through turbulent and surprising times. I’ll pop this little book on my bedside table and leaf through at the fruit peak season — no Wikipedia needed. — Madeleine Crutchley, multimedia journalist

Killer Rack

By Sylvan Spring (Te Herenga Waka University Press). Out this month.

Sylvan Spring, poet and writer, is set to release their first poetry book in about a week (one week!). Works from the poet have graced a few poetry and literary journals, like Sweet Mammalian and Stasis. Each of the pieces that I’ve read cultivates a strong wit and finds earnest vulnerability through serious silliness. Promisingly, the collection, called Killer Rack, has also been enthusiastically blurbed by poetry expert (see: Actions & Travels) and author (see: Audition) Pip Adam, whose work I’m currently gasping my way through. I’ll be making a beeline to Unity to pick this up on release day. — Madeleine Crutchley, multimedia journalist

Look Again: The Power of Noticing What was Always There

By Tali Sharot and Cass R. Sunstein (Hachette). Out this month.

Sometimes a book comes along at just the right time, capturing in an accessible way a big idea that promises to explain the world and change the way you live. I’m very susceptible to this sort of book and while I’ve read enough of them to know they’re generally 70,000 words too long and their life-changing effects if they exist at all wear off quickly, there’s always the feeling that the next one might be the one. And so it is with Look Again, especially since it addresses the idea that life-changing ideas wear off quickly. The essential idea is that doing things differently from the way you’ve always done them will help you live a better life. Do I need to read the book to learn more details I’ll very quickly forget? Probably not, but I do love a telling representative anecdote. — Greg Bruce, senior writer

Amma

By Saraid de Silva (Moa Books). Out in March.

There are a lot of books on my list for 2024, but this is a special one. Set to be a significant release in local fiction this year, Amma is the debut novel from Tāmaki Makaurau-based Saraid de Silva. You may know her as co-creator of podcast Conversations with My Immigrant Parents, an ode to families and the space of geography and time that they have to navigate, and naturally these threads are woven through Amma too. A diasporic, familial narrative (my favourite kind), the book traverses Sri Lanka, Australia, the UK and Aotearoa, from 1951 through to 2018, to tell the story of three women: Josephina, Sithara and Annie, characters we can expect to be rendered with de Silva’s compelling sensitivity and realness. It’s hotly anticipated (and not just by me) and an excerpt from the book even won the inaugural Crystal Arts Trust Prize last year. — Emma Gleason, deputy editor, NZ Herald lifestyle, audience

The Call

By Gavin Strawhan (Allen & Unwin). Out in March.

Richard Osman has announced the Thursday Murder Club is on extended hiatus and Jane Harper appears committed to detective Aaron Falk’s happy ever after. Where does an unashamedly populist and mildly insomniac lover of escapist crime fiction go next? Gavin Strawhan’s The Call is touted as “taut . . . with a shocking ending”. It’s crime, it’s set in rural coastal New Zealand and it won last year’s Allen & Unwin NZ fiction prize. I’m concerned it might be scary but, also, the author’s previous screenwriting credits include Mercy Peak. 10.45pm me can’t wait. — Kim Knight, senior writer

Until August

By Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Penguin). Out in March.

I tumbled down the magical realism rabbit hole in the late 80s with Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera and its aching melancholy still lingers. The Nobel Prize-winning Colombian writer died a decade ago after a long struggle with dementia, so it’ll be intriguing to read his final “lost novel”, Until August, which is being released in March. Described as “an extraordinary and profound tale of female freedom and desire”, it follows a married woman who visits a tropical island each year on the anniversary of her mother’s death and takes a new lover. I’m feeling emotionally devastated by it already. — Joanna Wane, senior writer

The Memo

By Rachel Dodes and Lauren Mechling (HarperCollins). Out in June.

I find I’m far too often drawn to relatively heavy books with subjects that albeit compelling, can be an emotionally rough ride. For some mid-year easy escapism, I’m going to pick up a copy of The Memo by Rachel Dodes and Lauren Mechling. Compared to Sliding Doors, the female protagonist finds a way (a supernatural one) to relive certain episodes of her life, thus discovering what her alternative world could’ve looked like. As someone who likes to ruminate on past decisions, it appeals to my shudda wudda cudda musings. — Anna Sargeant, deputy editor, NZ Herald lifestyle, premium

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