Extra reading

Shylock Is My Name: The Merchant Of Venice Retold by Howard Jacobson, published by Hogarth.
Shylock Is My Name: The Merchant Of Venice Retold by Howard Jacobson, published by Hogarth.

It looks like 2016 is going to be another bumper year for books, from both debut and bestselling authors, bloggers and established writers creating their own versions of vintage classics. The experts help us sort the wheat from the chaff...


Cathy Rentzenbrink, author and contributing editor of trade publication The Bookseller, says: “In terms of genre, adult colouring books have been massive this year and that trend looks set to continue.”

YouTubers and Instagram stars are also making their mark in the world of publishing, she says.

“So many celebrity tie-in books are now celebrities in the new sense, on YouTube. Zoella (Zoe Sugg) was Girl Online, which knocked David Walliams off the top spot. Her brother Joe Sugg also wrote a book, Username: Evie.

“Increasingly, cookery and lifestyle books are written by bloggers or YouTubers, so that will continue next year. The young talent coming through may have YouTube or Instagram careers.”


Rentzenbrink, whose heart-rending memoir The Last Act Of Love was a huge hit this year, predicts that thrillers will remain as popular as ever.

“There’s a trend where we always want to know what the big thriller is going to be for next year, which started with Before I Go To Sleep, then Gone Girl and The Girl On The Train.

“Next year’s big thriller is going to be The Widow, a debut novel by Fiona Barton (Transworld, Jan), about a woman called Jean whose husband has just died. As the story unfolds, it emerges that her husband might have been a murderer. It’s a cracker.”

She continues: “Our lust for thrillers is never-ending, the page-turners which have a simple premise, like The Girl On The Train. The big Scandinavian authors are still doing well, but I don’t think there’s the appetite for them that there once was.”

Next year will see the 100th anniversary of Agatha Christie’s creation of Hercule Poirot and, after the success of her first Poirot novel The Monogram Murders, Sophie Hannah will be writing another book in the series, Closed Casket (HarperCollins), due out in September.


Anniversaries always spawn a surge of books and 2016 is no exception. Hooks include the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and the 200th anniversary of Charlotte Bronte’s birth.

Caroline Sanderson, associate editor of The Bookseller, predicts: “There’s likely to be a flurry of books pegged to these anniversaries, but among the ones to watch will be The Globe Guide To Shakespeare by Andrew Dickson (Profile, Feb) and The Brontes: A Life In Letters by Juliet Barker (Little, Brown, April), a selection of letters and autobiographical fragments from the three novelist sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne, their brother, Branwell, and their father, the Reverend Patrick Bronte.”

Her pick for the centenary of the Battle of the Somme is First Day Of The Somme by Andrew MacDonald (HarperCollins, April), which she says is the first book to really blame the carnage on British intelligence and leadership.


New titles likely to create a stir will be coming from Jessie Burton, whose debut novel The Miniaturist was a runaway success and whose forthcoming book The Muse (Picador), the story of a young Caribbean immigrant, a bohemian artist and the mysterious painting that connects them across the decades, will be out in July.

Other big names with new novels out in 2016 include Maggie O’Farrell, Chris Cleave, Joanne Harris and the late Terry Pratchett, who with Stephen Baxter completed The Long Cosmos, the last in the Long Earth series. Meanwhile, popular social commentator Caitlin Moran draws up her own ‘Moranifesto’ in her eponymous new book.

Also out in January is acclaimed author Helen Dunmore’s latest novel, Exposure (Cornerstone), set in London in the Cold War Sixties and focusing on a civil servant wrongly imprisoned for spying.

Strongly anticipated debuts include Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain by 25-year-old playwright Barney Norris (Transworld, April), about five people involved in some way in a serious car crash, and how their lives are affected.

And Lisa Owens joins the female fiction genre with her first novel Not Working (Picador, April) about a character called Claire Flannery, who quits her job to find out what her true vocation may be - only to realise she has no idea about how to go about it.

For those who crave literary fiction, Julian Barnes has written his first novel since The Sense Of An Ending won the Man Booker Prize. It’s called The Noise Of Time (Jonathan Cape, May), an imagining of Shostakovich’s life, art, power and politics.

Anna Hope’s debut novel about the First World War, Wake, received great reviews. Her second book, The Ballroom, is a love story about a couple of inmates in an asylum in Yorkshire in 1911 and should do well, says Rentzenbrink.

“It’s an astonishing insight into how we treated people in distress or with mental health issues, just a century ago.”


The repackaging and retelling of classic tales are also still on the rise, Rentzenbrink observes.

“Howard Jacobson has written Shylock Is My Name: The Merchant Of Venice Retold (Hogarth, Feb). It’s part of a scheme where established authors pick a play and write a novel inspired by that play.

“The Borough Press is also conducting an Austen project, where authors are doing a similar thing, but with Jane Austen in mind. Joanna Trollope wrote a contemporary version of Sense And Sensibility, Alexander McCall Smith wrote his own version of Emma, now Curtis Sittenfeld is writing Eligible, which is Pride And Prejudice set in modern-day Cincinnati.”

Rentzenbrink thinks that reworkings of classics by contemporary authors will only increase readership generally.

“People will read Howard Jacobson because they like his books, but others will read it because they are interested in Shakespeare. It’s all potentially expanding the audience.”


Current affairs will be big in the non-fiction sector in 2016, with books on Syria and the refugee crisis coming to the fore, says Sanderson.

“There are, inevitably, quite a few books on the refugee crisis, including The New Odyssey by Patrick Kingsley (Guardian Faber, Jun) and Cast Away by Charlotte McDonald-Gibson (Portobello, Jun),” she notes. “Another one, City Of Thorns by Ben Rawlence (Portobello, Jun), centres on the world’s biggest refugee camp in northern Kenya.”

Sobering memoirs include Lyn Rigby: A Mother’s Story, which chronicles the devastating story of the soldier who was butchered on a London street by two attackers; and Living In The Aftermath by Sue Klebold, mother of one of the Columbine killers.

But there are also more uplifting real-life tales from William Shatner, who gives a personal tribute to Leonard Nimoy, his co-star in Star Trek and friend for 50 years in Leonard: A Life (Sidgwick, Feb), and from Alexei Sayle, whose second volume of memoirs, Thatcher Stole My Trousers (Bloomsbury, Mar), gives an entertaining history of British stand-up.

On the celebrity front, there will be memoirs from Chris Packham; Billy Connolly’s account of his travels in the US with Billy Connolly Tracks Across America, and Joan Bakewell’s musings in Stop The Clocks - Thoughts On What I Leave Behind. Meanwhile, Kate Hudson, Cameron Diaz and Instagram sensation Alice Liveing will be showing us how to lead healthier lives with a variety of wellbeing books out early on in the year.

And if it all gets too much, you can always resort to adult colouring - there are so many coming out, you’ll be spoilt for choice, but bestselling Millie Marotta brings out the third book, Wild Savannah (Batsford, Feb) in her hugely successful series.