Friday, January 28, 2011

Book Blogger Hop: Books I am anticipating this year

Book Blogger Hop
I’m taking part for the first time in the Book Blogger Hop, hosted by Crazy for Books.  This week’s question is:

What book are you most looking forward to seeing published in 2011?  Why are you anticipating that book?”

Talk about a difficult question to answer!  2011, like every other year, looks like throwing up a number of stunning debut novels as well as a solid stream of fantastic new books by established writers.  My ever-expanding virtual TBR list (actually an Amazon wish list) already includes a whole slew of books that are due to be published this year as well as a number of books that were published in the USA last year but will not make it across the Pond for a few months yet.  And it’s still only January!

Quite frankly, I cannot in good faith pick just one book to mention (or, at any rate, the time it would take me to decide would mean this post would not be written until the Book Blog Hop had finished for this week).  So I am going to pick two novels and one non-fiction book.  Yes, I know it says one book – I happily admit to being a big, fat (well, not so fat any more – I’ve lost 14 lbs since Christmas Eve) cheat.  I’m sure no-one will mind too much.

Fiction

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.  This debut novel, to be published in the UK in September, tells the story of the Trojan War from the perspective of Patroclus, the best friend and, according to some sources, lover of Achilles.  The story starts when the heroes meet as boys on the island of Phthia after Patroclus is forced into exile there, having accidentally killed his friend, Clysonymus.  It will take the two princes to the battlefield of Troy and, in the end, to the death of Patroclus at the hands of Hector, son of King Priam.  I’ve always thought Patroclus to be a bit of a berk.  Having persuaded the sulking Achilles to lend him his armour, Patroclus comes over all big time Charlie, charging all the way up to the gates of Troy where he gets a (rather unfair) smack on the head from the god, Apollo, before being sliced up by Hector.  Paddy, Paddy, Paddy.  You really should have remembered something – YOU WEREN’T DIPPED IN THE STYX LIKE YOUR MATE ACHILLES!!!  YOU’RE NOT INVULNERABLE!!!  Whoops, too late.

Anyway, enough rant.  I love the Iliad and the stories of the Greek heroes so I am looking forward to this retelling from a different perspective.  I used to read Mary Renault’s books when I was younger and I wonder whether this will be similar or more “literary”.  Miller’s agent, Julie Barer said this about Miller on the Ploughshares Blog:

“The last time I fell in love with a book out of the blue was The Song of Achilles, a debut novel by Madeline Miller which tells the story of the Illiad and the Achilles legend from the point of view of Patroclus as Achilles' lover. I have always been a fan of Greek mythology and so the query letter caught my eye. I brought the novel home and read it in one sitting without a break (I'm a big on snacking when I read at home and I know I'm falling in love with something when I won't even stop for food). From page one I was completely absorbed by the world she had created, and the way she had seamlessly married Greek legend and mythology with a heart wrenching love story. The minute I finished it I knew I had to represent it, and I couldn't wait to tell every editor I knew about it. You can't manufacture that feeling, no matter how much you might want to love something, and sometimes it's even hard to say why you love this book and not that one. We often use the phrase 'I just didn't fall in love' when rejecting something, and I don't know if authors realize how much we really mean just that.”

Chinaman by Shehan Karunatilaka.  Another debut novel, to be published in the UK in June, this was featured in Waterstones' 11, their list of the best eleven first novels of 2011.  The Chinaman of the title is not a gentleman from the Far East.  It is a type of spin bowling in cricket.  The book’s protagonist is a retired cricket writer who spends the last months of his life being unpleasant to his family and tracking down a spin bowler who has disappeared and who he considers to be an unsung genius.  The novel is not just about cricket but also about modern Sri Lanka and has been described as “one of the most imaginative works of contemporary Sri Lankan fiction”.

I like cricket and am intrigued by its popularity in South Asia and so I am very much looking forward to this one, especially given the previews it has been receiving.

Non-fiction

Civilisation: the West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson.  Whenever I open a newspaper these days, there seems to be another article or opinion piece warning that the West is going to be overtaken economically and politically by the rising superpowers of China and India.  There is also a growing sub-genre of books dealing with the same themes.  Niall Ferguson, one of the UK’s leading historians, the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University and the William Ziegler Professor at Harvard Business School, will enter the fray in March with his new book.

With impeccable timing (as with an earlier book, the Ascent of Money), Ferguson takes us back to 1411 when what would become the West looked backward and impoverished, compared to the flourishing civilisations of the Ottomans, the Aztecs and Incas and Ming China.  He argues that, at this point in time, the notion that the West would come to dominate the world for the next 500 years or so would have been seen as laughable.  And yet, that’s exactly what happened.

Ferguson has identified what he believes are six “killer apps” that the West developed and that the Rest lacked.  His central argument is that it was these things – competition, science, democracy, medicine, consumerism and the work ethic – that allowed the West to get ahead.  He examines whether the West has lost its monopoly (or at least advantage) in these areas and, if so, whether this heralds the end of Western ascendancy.

Ferguson is a great historian and has developed an engaging writing style and an interesting way of looking at history.  His recent books have been accompanied by big-budget documentary series on British TV which are a joy to watch.  I didn’t buy the Ascent of Money until after the TV series and this slightly spoilt it for me so I am going to make sure I get this one as soon as it is published.

I have pre-ordered all three of these to be sure of getting them hot off the presses and posts will follow.

14 comments:

Laura @ I'm Booking It said...

Hopping by!

All three of those sound interesting, and I haven't heard of any of them before.

Southern Fiber said...

Wow, those are all books I haven't heard of yet - I will need to look into them before they are released! Here's my answer: http://www.southernfiberreads.com/2011/01/follow-my-book-blog-friday.html

Howard Sherman said...

The book I’m most expecting in 2011 is by an author I crossed off my “Favorite author” list.

He’s back on that list now.

Who’s the author? Raymond Feist? What’s the book? A Kindgom Besieged.

Hop on over to my website to read all about it – http://www.howardsherman.net

Howard A. Sherman, Implementor
Get Inside a Story
http://www.inthestory.com

Susan said...

I've never heard of any of your anticipated books, but I hope you enjoy them! I'm looking forward to a bunch of YA books as well as a couple of adult ones. Most of them are from series' that I love.

Glad to have found you via the Hop!

dragonflyy419 said...

Wow ... the books you are anticipating sound absolutely fascinating, especially the non-fiction one.

Andrea said...

Just hopping by! Great picks. I am always eager to see good nonfiction books that might interest me. I am a new follower. :)

Reading Lark's Hop Post

Orhedea said...

Hi, am hopping by) A retelling of the Illiad, i'm kind of sceptical

bookdout said...

Hi
Just hopping by and following through.
Some interesting book choices there!

Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
www.bookdout.wordpress.com

Falaise said...

Laura - I'm glad to have brought them to your attention then!

Southern Fiber - I will check out your post as soon as I've finished up replying to comments - thanks for stopping by.

Howard Sherman - Feist has always been a favorite of mine too. I will check out your post.

Susan - thanks for stopping by and for commenting. I really appreciate it.

dragonfly419 - I think Niall Ferguson has a really interesting way of approaching history and he can relate historical events to current times very well.

Andrea - thanks for stopping by and following - I really appreciate it. I will also check your post out.

Orhedea - Thanks for stopping by and for all your comments. I'm not that sceptical about this one as I suspect it is far enough removed to be a "story based on" rather than a retelling.

bookdout - Thanks for stopping by!

LifetimeReader said...

Oooh, I didn't know about the Song of Achilles. Hope I can track down a copy here in the States. Thanks for the heads up.

Falaise said...

Lifetime Reader - glad to have been of assistance. Miller is an American writer so I am pretty sure it will be out there too.

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