Books to Look Out For in August 2015

Cover image Yes, it’s that time already, and you might think that the publishing industry expects us all to slip our brains gently out of gear given that it’s summer, but there are a few stimulating novels sprinkled through my August choices, the most enticing of which for me is the weighty A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. It’s a bit of a doorstop – just over 730 pages – but that’s what holidays are for. It comes with a great deal of pre-publication brouhaha but nevertheless looks mighty tempting. The novel follows four graduates from a small New England college to New York where they plan to make their fortune: JB is a sharp-tongued artist, Willem an aspiring actor, Malcolm a frustrated architect and Jude – their ‘centre of gravity’ – a supremely talented lawyer. It charts the course of their friendship into middle age, visiting some very dark territory on the way. Irresistible, at least for me, anyway.

Still in New York, Julia Pierpont’s debut Among the Ten Thousand Things sees an anonymously sent box of printed explicit emails, meant for artist Jack Shanley’s wife, opened by their children, precipitating a crisis. In an attempt to repair their marriage, Jack and Deb decide to move, thrusting fifteen-year-old Simon and eleven-year-old Kay into different worlds. The synopsis reminds me a little of Jane Hamilton’s Disobedience published back in the days when email wasn’t far from being a novelty rather than the time-consuming annoyance it’s come to be for so many.

One more American novel, and the reference to Olen Steinhauer as the new heir apparent to John le Carré at the end of the synopsis made me dither as to whether to include it – not really my territory – but I like the sound of its premise. All the Old Knives explores the idea of trust through the relationship of Celia, once a CIA operative, and Henry, still in the game, whose relationship was destroyed when the rescue of a hijacked plane went horribly wrong. Neither can forget what happened and both are determined to get to the bottom of it but can they trust each other? It sounds like a thriller worth reading, but perhaps that’s my old Cover image Spooks obsession talking

There was a time when a new Andrew Miller novel would have been top of my list but I’ve had several disappointments after the magnificent Ingenious Pain. Pure saw him back on form and although The Crossing is set in the present I’m hoping that he’s stayed there. I’m not entirely sure what to make of the blurb but it appears to be a love story about Tim who conceives a passion for Maud ‘who fell past him, lay seemingly dead on the ground, then stood and walked’ but Maud is a loner whose passion seems to lie in the direction of the sea rather than Tim. I think it will be well worth a look, despite its rather perplexing synopsis.

I have to confess that this one’s only here because of my own obsession with the perfect pillow which would, of course, deliver the perfect night’s sleep. Lucy seems to have the same conviction which is why she fetches up in the bed linen department where William works. So far, so possibly clichéd boy meets girl but this is the bit of the blurb which clinched the inclusion of Nick Coleman’s Pillow Man here: ‘William and Lucy are not connected. Yet the pair of them share a terrible memory from the past, the sort of joint recollection that changes with the light, depending on who you were and where you were standing at the time. The question is: what to do with it?It goes on to talk about the ‘difficult metaphysics of bedtime’ – pretentious nonsense or intriguing, either could be true, but I think I’ll give it a try.

Cover image And finally, Haruki Murakami’s first two novels Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 are to be published in the UK for the first time. Both follow the fortunes of their narrator and his friend, the Rat, and it sounds as if many of those familiar Murakami hallmarks were already in place when the novels were written. The first sees the narrator in college drinking and listening to music in J’s bar with Rat, and pursuing a relationship with a nine-fingered girl while the second moves our narrator on three years leaving Rat behind for life in Tokyo working as a translator, living with twin girls and searching for a replica of the pinball machine at J’s. Both novels will appear in the same volume under the title Wind/Pinball which will no doubt be bought by all of us committed Murakami fans, and maybe a few more.

That’s it for August. As ever a click on a title will take you to Waterstones website for a more detailed synopsis. If you’d like to catch up with my July choices, you can find the first hardback selection here, the second here and the paperbacks here.

11 thoughts on “Books to Look Out For in August 2015”

    1. I know what you mean, Helen. It seems to be something of a trend – I’ve a copy of the 900+ page City on Fire squatting on my shelves, due in October.

  1. I recently reviewed A Little Life for Shiny New Books and can’t recommend it highly enough! I’m hoping it will appear on the Man Booker longlist in a couple weeks’ time.

    1. I’ve just looked up your review, Rebecca – that’s a pretty persuasive opening sentence! You’ve sold it to me.

  2. I hadn’t heard of A Little Life until yesterday and then I saw how many people had added it to their TBR on Goodreads and wondered how that could be for such a new book, but you’ve explained it, clearly it’s being heavily marketed. It sounds like it packs an emotional punch, not really my idea of summer reading, though I’m all for a #summerchunkster, I was thinking of following up last summers Testament of Youth, with A Testament of Friendship or something for #WITMonth Women in Translation.

    Thanks for the update, looks like a busy month ahead! Happy summer reading Susan.

    1. A Little Life came out in the US in March, so there’s been time for it to get a lot of buzz in advance of its UK release. I was jealous of so many Goodreads friends in America getting to read it!

    2. Thanks, Claire. I’ll look forward to seeing what you think of Testament of Friendship. Rebecca clearly thinks that A Little Life is worthy of all the Twitter hype. Her Shiny New Books review’s very persuasive.

  3. Adding my name to the fans of A Little Life. I’m 420 pages in and it’s incredible. Please don’t be put off by the hype/time lag since U.S. publication. Unless something goes horribly wrong in the last 300 pages, it’s one of the best – but also the most harrowing – books I’ve ever read. I do wish they’d kept the U.S. cover though, it’s so much more fitting.

    Otherwise, I’ve got a copy of Among the Ten Thousand Things and it looks good. Not sure it’s the right thing for me to be reading at the moment though.

    The Andrew Miller’s got me intrigued – it does mention sea though and that’s one of my key words!

    Not sure what to think about the Murakami. I’m a fan but I’ll hang on to see if it’s worth it, I think. I read that the publishers have ordered a huge initial print run so they obviously think it’s going to sell well.

    Thanks for doing this every month, Susan, I love these posts.

    1. Thanks, Naomi, they’re a pleasure to write! Thanks, also, for the A Little Life Encouragement and I’d agree about the jacket even without having read the book. I’ve a copy of the Miller so I’ll keep you posted on that.

  4. Pingback: Paperbacks to Look Out For in August 2015 | A life in books

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