What's on our reading piles? New publications, old favourites to return to, neglected classics, authors we've sampled and intend to read more fully? Here are the choices by ourselves and guests - including some new faces. A big thank you, as ever, to our many contributors - this wouldn't happen without them. We hope you'll find something to entice you here - and don't miss part 2 on New Year's Eve!
Stephanie Butland: I was lucky enough to read an early copy of The Confessions Of Frannie Langton, by Sara Collins, which comes out in April 2019, and it was one of the highlights of my reading year. A dark and beautifully written tale of murder, slavery, sugar and opium, it’s also a historical novel that feels painfully relevant to our times. I felt as though I held my breath through most of it. Gloriously good.
As a fan of Khaled Hosseini, I’m also keen to read his beautiful but devastating Sea Prayer, inspired by the death of a three-year-old Syrian refugee, Alan Kurdi.
Sue Purkiss: I'm looking forward to reading Elly Griffiths' new book, Stranger Diaries. I'm a big fan of her Ruth Galloway series, and this has had great reviews, so I'm sure it's a treat in store.
And I intend to revisit an author I haven't read for many, many years - A J Cronin. He wrote hard-hitting books which often dealt with poverty and inequality in the 1930s, and I'd be interested to see if I still find them as impressive as I did when I first came across them.
Sally Prue: My reading is haphazard and serendipitous, and the classics I haven't yet read are the ones I've been putting-off for half a century, so in some ways it's easier to say what I won't be reading (Proust and Anthony Powell are strong contenders, here). But Zola's Germinal was amazing, so perhaps some more of Les Rougon-Macquart if I happen to come across anything; and of course there's nothing quite as comforting as nestling down with a good old Trollope.
Caroline Pitcher: My mind keeps returning to a novel I read earlier this year, Sugar Money by Jane Harris. Based on a true story, it is told in lilting, rhythmic Creole by young Lucien from Martinique in 1765. He hero-worships his elder brother Emile and insists on joining him on a mission to smuggle back slaves from English owners on Grenada and return them to French friars. The vicious rivalry between slave-owning nations had not really occurred to me before reading this novel. Jane Harris has written a rollicking adventure with a touching sibling relationship, told in Lucian’s charming voice. All this serves to highlight the grisly cruelty and violence of the slave trade.
All my life, over and over again, the same scene, repeating in my mind.
My other project is tackling the Beach House Books – i.e. the accumulation of heaps of novels everywhere in our house, overspilling into the Beach House. I’m putting myself on a book-buying ban once again, and I’m hiding from the world all January.
And the greatest joy is that these books are so (comparatively) heavy that, though both my daughters will devour them during the holiday, at least one is likely to abandon her copy before the flight home. So that’ll be me in the New Year, steeped in delicious, genius Posy. I can’t WAIT.