Every year brings an abundance of delectable new titles to cram your bookshelf but 2021 promises to be an especially fruitful one, considering that many books scheduled for release this year were delayed due to Covid-19, and hence pushed back for publication in 2021. Here’s a curated list of just a few of the many Australian books to look forward to.
Michael Mohammed Ahmad bounced on to the literary scene with the ferociously passionate The Tribe. His pugilistic follow-up, The Lebs, was further evidence that he’s a writer utterly unafraid to rip apart the strictures of ethnic stereotypes. The Other Half of You (June, Hachette) may reveal a softer side. As his publisher puts it: “This deeply moving story passed from father to son will break hearts and then mend them all over again”.
Ever since her sparkling debut, her memoir Unpolished Gem, Alice Pung has worked across essays, nonfiction, middle-grade fiction and young adult fiction. One Hundred Days (June, Black Inc) is her highly anticipated first novel for adults. Once again Pung will address matters of class, gender and race in this story about a teenager who unexpectedly falls pregnant and the resulting fallout from her overprotective mother.
After a well-received short story collection, The Love of a Bad Man, and a novel, Beautiful Revolutionary, Laura Elizabeth Woollett’s The Newcomer (July, Scribe) continues to dissect crime and its aftermath. It’s about a real-life murder on Norfolk Island and Woollett’s interest remains not so much on the psychology and charisma of the killers but on their victims.
Briohny Doyle’s playful and inventive debut was the speculative cli-fi This Island Will Sink, while her nonfiction Adult Fantasy traipsed over the tricky socioeconomical terrain of millennials navigating adulthood. Her next novel, Echolalia (July, Penguin Random House), is about “grief, responsibility, and the unthinking damage we do to each other and our environment”.
Jennifer Mills will also release another novel, The Airways (August, Picador), an intriguing-sounding queer ghost story set in Sydney and Beijing. Mills has a long publication history but her Miles Franklin-shortlisted novel Dyschronia and its anxious drama about ecological collapse has brought her most acclaim.
Gunk Baby by Jamie Marina Lau (April, Hachette) is set at a shopping complex and its suburban surrounds and follows Leen, who has opened up a massage and ear-cleaning business just upstairs from new minimalist chain store. It follows Lau’s surreal experimental debut Pink Mountain on Locust Island and promises to be just as inventive.
Jesustown by the journalist Paul Daley (Allen & Unwin) traverses black and white politics and is set in a mission town in northern Australia. It’s about frontier violence and the clash of European anthropology, religion and values with traditional Indigenous culture in the mid-20th century.
Also in fiction
Love Objects by Emily Maguire (April, Allen & Unwin); River of Dreams by Anita Heiss, (May, Simon and Schuster); Car Crash by Lech Blaine (March, Black Inc); The Tribute by John Byron (July, Affirm); A Room Called Earth by Madeleine Ryan (July, Scribe).
Sam van Zweden’s Eating With My Mouth Open (February, NewSouth Books) will be worth digesting. It’s a series of interconnecting essays covering mental health, body politics, food and memory. Food, explains Van Zweden, a reformed dieter and enthusiastic diner, “comes freighted with meaning about risk, morals and what makes a ‘good’ body”.
Don’t be fooled by the title of Stan Grant’s latest offering. With the Falling of the Dust (February, HarperCollins) may sound gentle and poetic but the book is about nothing less than the challenges facing the world and how to avert crisis. From geopolitical shifts, global pandemics and economic depression to white supremacy, Islamist extremism and the rise of China, Grant weaves personal experiences into a wider narrative of international politics, history and philosophy.
Following on from the success of his first book, One Hundred Years of Dirt, a multi-generational memoir tracking violence and poverty, is Rick Morton’s My Year of Living Vulnerably (March, HarperCollins). In it, Morton further excavates his own life as he tries to rediscover love after being diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder.
Santilla Chingaipe’s Black Convict (July, Picador) presents an investigation into convicts of African descent transported to the Australian penal colonies. It’s a story of empire, slavery and modern Australia.
Emotional Female by Yumiko Kadota (March, PRH) is a memoir that recounts the author’s time as a young, surgical registrar who herself was hospitalised after having to work 70-hour weeks. It’s an exposé of sexism in the medical fraternity and the cost of burnout among its practitioners.
Bri Lee’s 2018 book Eggshell Skull interrogated the justice system for victims of sexual assault. Her forthcoming Brains (mid-2020, Allen and Unwin) picks apart the prejudices of elite educational institutions, and the idea that knowledge is power.
Also in nonfiction
Buried Not Dead by Fiona McGregor (February, Giramondo); The Believer by Sarah Krasnostein (March, Text); A Kind of Magic by Anna Spargo-Ryan (July, Picador); Cop This Lot anthology, edited by Tobias McCorkell (May, Scribe).
Angela O’Keeffe’s Night Blue (May, Transit Lounge) revisits Jackson Pollock, his wife, Lee Krasner, and the cultural legacy surrounding the purchase of Blue Poles by the Whitlam government in 1973.
As Swallows Fly by LP McMahon (March, Ventura Press) is about the intertwined lives of Malika, a disfigured Pakistani orphan, and Kate, the Melbourne surgeon who helps to reshape her life.
Born Into This (March, UQP) is collection of stories from a young Tasmanian Indigenous author, Adam Thompson, addressing themes of identity, racism, and heritage.
Tussaud by Belinda Lyons-Lee (April, Transit Lounge) promises a “Gothic delight of mysterious mansions, grimy London streets, stage magicians, wax-work automatons, secrets and subterfuges”.
Look out for new releases from the following blockbuster authors: Viet Thanh Nguyen, Max Porter, Joyce Carol Oates, Paul Beatty, Kazuo Ishiguro, Colson Whitehead.