Art & Culture

These are the best books coming out in winter 2020

Was your New Year's resolution to hit the books? These releases from the likes of Judith Butler, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Ottessa Moshfegh will be sure to provide some readerly motivation.

Ah, January. An exceedingly long, dry and cold month where our hopes of a “fresh start” shrivel as soon as we slide back into our old, less than exemplary habits. Yet for those of you whose New Year’s Resolution was to crack the books in 2020, we’ve got good news: this winter is jam-packed with literary releases that can help you make good on your goal. Whether it’s the latest provocation from Paul B Preciado, the debut novel from New York Times best-selling Ta-Nehisi Coates, or a slice of dark humour (and death) from Ottessa Moshfegh, there *really is* something for everyone. 

An Apartment on Uranus, Paul B Preciado (translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell)

Anyone that’s read Paul B Preciado’s contributions to trans and queer theory, such as Testo Junkie or Countersexual Manifesto, will concede that the Spanish philosopher one of the leading thinkers of today. An Apartment on Uranus focusses on Preciado’s gender transition, examining this experience in conjunction with moments of wider social transition such as the rise of fascism in Europe. With a preface from King Kong Theory author and Preciado’s former partner Virginie Despentes, this promises to be a release that’s personal and provocative in equal measure. 

Released: 15 January by Fitzcarraldo Editions


Your House Will Pay, Steph Cha

Steph Cha is emerging as a major figure in the US literary scene, already with a trilogy of crime novels under her belt and a reputation as a respected literary critic and editor, working for the likes of the Los Angeles Times and USA Today. With Your House Will Pay, which secured a UK release after rave reviews stateside, she interweaves the crime genre with social critique to ask wide-reaching questions about the meanings of judgement and atonement, as well as how communities process grief.

Released: January 16 by Faber


Made in Saturn, Rita Indiana (translated from the Spanish Sydney Hutchinson)

A popular neo-merengue musician, outspoken advocate for LGBT+ rights and widely acclaimed novelist, Dominican writer Rita Indiana has been dubbed the “subversive saint of the Caribbean” by El Mundo. The blistering sci-fi romp Tentacle —  which won the Grand Prize of the Association of Caribbean Writers as La mucama de Omicunlé — was her first novel translated into English, and drew comparisons to Kathy Acker (but with a “tighter narrative grip”) from The Guardian. Her second work to find an English translation is Made in Saturn, a novel exploring the protagonist’s self-destructive tendencies, as well as the meaning of art and national identity. 

Released: January 23 by And Other Stories

The Water Dancer, Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates established himself as National Correspondent for The Atlantic before receiving near-universal acclaim for 2015 non-fiction work Between the World and Me, a meditation on Blackness in the United States drawing on the writing of James Baldwin. Whilst Toni Morrison was amongst the fans of Between the World and Me, Oprah has levelled a comparison between the late author and Coates whilst describing The Water Dancer: “One of the best books I have ever read in my entire life. I haven’t felt this way since I first read Beloved.” A stunning work about resistance, excellence and home, The Water Dancer is set to be one of the best fiction releases of 2020. 

Released: February 6 by Hamish Hamilton


Strange Hotel, Eimear McBride 

In 2014, Eimear McBride positioned herself at the vanguard of the novelistic form with A Girl Is a HalfFormed Thing, a work experimenting with Joycean prose to plant the reader within its protagonist’s quickly evolving teenage mind. What followed was the James Tait Black Memorial Prize-winning The Lesser Bohemians and, now, Strange Hotel, a novel tracing the themes of memory, absence and “home” in different hotel rooms. It’s set to be one of the literary releases of the year, so don’t miss it.

Released: February 4 by Faber


Sex and Lies, Leïla Slimani

In 2016 Leïla Slimani was the first Moroccan woman to win the Prix Goncourt, one of the most prestigious prizes for Francophone literature, for Chanson Douce (Lullaby). With this, she carved out a niche as one of France’s few literary elites with best-seller punch, a reputation which shows no signs of abating any time soon. Her first non-fiction book, essay collection Sex and Lies, will also establish her as a social commentator through its examination of Moroccan politics around gender and sex.

Released: February 20 by Faber

The Force of Nonviolence, Judith Butler

Attention! Queer theorist par excellence Judith Butler is back, this time on a slightly different track. Rather than sticking to her widely anthologised discussions of gender and queerness, the scholar has written a treatise on the potential of “nonviolence” to aid in the global fight for social inequality. Particularly salient is her critique of the prejudiced narratives underpinning western culture, which depict marginalised groups as spectres of violence so as to justify the violence enacted upon them.

Released: February 28 by Verso Books


The Silver Sparrow, Tayari Jones

After winning the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2019 for An American Marriage, Oneworld snapped up the UK rights to Tayari Jones’ 2011 release Silver Sparrow. A tale of secret half-sisters and one’s obsession with the other, it’s an emotionally complex tale of an equally complex family. US reviews praised Jones’ “realistic and sparkling dialogue and we’re excited for this vibrant novel to finally make its UK debut.

Released: March 19 by Oneworld


Postcolonial Love Poem, Natalie Diaz

Mojave poet Natalie Diaz dazzled with the sparse vibrancy of 2012’s When My Brother Was An Aztec, a collection which was described by the New York Times as a “beautiful book”. Her second collection, Postcolonial Love Poem, takes a more ambitious stance: examining the toxic roots of America and its claims to “goodness” whilst planting the seeds for a more positive future. 

Released: April 16 by Faber

Exciting Times, Naoise Dolan

Subject to a seven-way publishing bidding war, Naoise Dolan’s Exciting Times is one of this year’s most anticipated debuts, already receiving acclaim from the likes of Vogue. The novel draws on the author’s own experience of teaching English in Hong Kong and places a bisexual love triangle as its primary preoccupation. With an earlier sketch of the novel published in the Sally Rooney-edited journal The Stinging Fly, comparisons between the two Irish authors are already in the air. However, we’re sure Dolan has a voice all of her own.

Released: April 16 by Orion Publishing Co


Death in her Hands, Ottessa Moshfegh

Nominated for the Man Booker Prize for Eileen, with her stories often spotted in the Paris Review, Ottessa Moshfegh is now of the brightest contemporary voices in fiction. When her second novel, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, came out in paperback in May 2019, it quickly became one of the books of the summer — marrying mass appeal and critical approval (for the most part). Death in her Hands is a return to the dark humour that marks Moshfegh’s work to date, making it sure to hit the sweet spot with established fans.

Released: April 21 by Jonathan Cape

7 January 2020