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Lush Library Recommends… Anna James’ Books for 2018

January is all about getting excited about what’s to come in the year ahead; and you can barely move at the moment for lists of books or films or exhibitions not to miss in 2018. I’ve been having a look at what some of the smaller independent publishers in the UK have got coming out in the next six months that might not have made it onto your radar yet, and here are the ten I’m particularly looking forward to.

 

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (Serpent’s Tail / January)

Machado is an established essayist and critic, but this collection of short stories marks her debut fiction. Taking in influences from magical realism and science fiction among other genres, the stories explore ideas of female bodies, sexuality and relationships and range from the funny to the sexy to the nightmarish. Already raking in wildly positive reviews, this is one for fans of Angela Carter.

 

Temptation: A User’s Guide by Vesna Main (Salt / January)

Another collection of short stories, this one from Croatian writer Main, these look at ideas of loneliness, passion and obsession and the sometimes gray areas between them. In these experimental stories of different lengths and styles, her characters include a prostitute turned murderer, a self-destructive book collection and a perfectionist dinner party hostess.

 

Felix Culpa by Jeremy Gavron (Scribe / February)

If you’re in the mood for something weird and wonderful, this novella is part detective story and part literary experiment. Made up entirely of fragments of a hundred other books, Gavron has pieced them together to create a story of a writer on the trail of a dead boy just released from prison. An exploration of how stories work, it’s one for readers who are as interested in form as plot.

 

Hotel on Shadow Lake by Daniela Tully (Legend Press / February)

This novel was inspired by a real letter the author’s grandmother received from her twin brother 46 years after it was posted after being held up behind the Berlin Wall. Tully has taken that idea and translated it into the story of a young woman Maya, whose grandmother receives a similar letter which starts to unravel decades of family secrets and takes Maya from her home in Germany to America to uncover the truth.

 

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence (Icon / February)

I have an incredible affection for books about books, and as a former librarian, this one is particularly exciting. Spence is a real-life librarian from the American Midwest, and this book is her writing to her books - from a love letter to Matilda to a break up note to Fifty Shades of Grey. Some are caustic and funny, some are long and lovely, but they’re all beautifully written and will make you think about the relationships you have with the books on your own shelves.

 

The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara (Oneworld / February)

For a small publisher, Oneworld is a big hitter, having published two Man Booker winners in a row (A Brief History of Seven Killings and The Sellout). Their next big hope is this debut set in the underground voguing scene of 1980s Harlem. Inspired by the real people and places from the iconic documentary Paris is Burning it follows a group of gay and trans young people creating the scene’s first all-Latino house.

 

Once We Were There by Bernice Chauly (Epigram Books / March)

Epigram Books is a Singapore-based publisher which only launched its UK imprint last year. This heartbreaking debut novel is set during the protests of the 1990s in Chauly’s native Malaysia, a time and a subject that’s still taboo there. It looks at what happens when the daughter of a journalist is kidnapped, forcing her to confront the secrets of her own city where girls are sold and trafficked for profit.

 

Ants Among Elephants by Sujatha Gidla (Daunt Books / May)

Gidla was born an untouchable in India - one of a range of low-caste Hindu groups or those outside the caste system altogether. In the 1930s untouchables were usually illiterate, but Gidla and her family were educated by missionaries, leading to her attending school and moving to America in her twenties. In this memoir of her own life and modern India she explores the last days of colonial rule, the effects of poverty, and the freedom gained through education.

 

The Recovering by Leslie Jamison (Granta / May)

Jamison’s book of essays about female pain, The Empathy Exams, was one of the best things I read in 2015 so I can’t wait to read this, her exploration of addiction, recovery and creativity. She pulls on her own experiences, as well as the lives of famous addicts including Amy Winehouse and Raymond Carver, to look at the way we tell stories of addiction and the way it intersects with living a creative life.

 

Wrestliana by Toby Litt (Galley Beggars / May)

In his memoir, academic Litt switches between his own life and that of his ancestor William Litt, a seventeenth century poet (and prize-winning wrestler), to explore ideas of fame, growing up and masculinity. Galley Beggars, the tiny publisher responsible for first discovering Eimear McBride’s extraordinary A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, promise a book that is both sad and brutally honest, but also lively and entertaining.

 

Anna James writes for Lush Life as a correspondent – you can find her online, here!

 

 

 

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