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12 January 2024

22 new books for 2024

From a Keir Starmer biography to new fiction by Ali Smith – here are the books to look out for this year.

By New Statesman

Non-fiction

We are Free to Change the World: Hannah Arendt’s Lessons in Love and Disobedience by Lyndsey Stonebridge

In 2019, Stonebridge explained in a New Statesman essay why Arendt’s philosophy, formed under Nazi persecution, was having a resurgence – now that thesis has developed into a book that makes the case for Arendt as the key thinker for our troubled age.
Jonathan Cape, 25 January

Alphabetical Diaries by Sheila Heti

The Canadian novelist, author of How Should a Person Be? and Pure Colour, kept a record of her thoughts over a period of ten years, and then arranged each sentence in alphabetical order, from “Actually, he doesn’t love you” to “Zadie Smith looks good on a stage”. The result mixes the banal and profound to refresh the memoir form.
Fitzcarraldo, 6 February 

The Achilles Trap: Saddam Hussein, the United States and the Middle East, 1979-2003 by Steve Coll 

The Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist follows Directorate S, about the CIA in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with a deeply reported account of how Washington’s continued failure to understand the motives of Saddam Hussein led to catastrophe in Iraq.
Allen Lane, 27 February

Keir Starmer: The Biography by Tom Baldwin 

Instead of Starmer’s planned autobiography – in 2023 he sheepishly returned the publisher’s advance – we will have this authorised biography by the journalist and former Ed Miliband adviser Tom Baldwin. In an election year, it’s a book that will be scoured for insights into the man most likely to be Britain’s next prime minister.
William Collins, 29 February

How the World Made the West: A 4,000 Year History by Josephine Quinn

Josephine Quinn is a history professor at Oxford, and her first non-academic book has a big idea at its heart: that the simplistic way we think about “civilisations”, developed in the Victorian era, is all wrong. Societies do not form or collapse in isolation, she argues, but through encounters and exchanges with other cultures.
Bloomsbury, 29 February

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Who’s Afraid of Gender? by Judith Butler

The American philosopher’s Gender Trouble (1990) was instrumental in exploding fixed notions of gender – now she returns to the fray in a book that examines how the reactionary right has weaponised debates over identity and sexuality. This is likely to inspire heated reviews from across the political spectrum.
Allen Lane, 19 March

Why We Die: The New Science of Ageing and the Quest for Immortality by Venki Ramakrishnan

A Nobel Prize-winning scientist and former president of the Royal Society explores recent leaps forward in molecular biology and our efforts to extend the human lifespan, as well as, crucially the philosophical and ethical questions they raise.
Hodder Press, 19 March

Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder by Salman Rushdie

In 2022 – a decade after Salman Rushdie published a memoir, Joseph Anton, named after the pseudonym he adopted when living under the threat of Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa – a horrific attempt was made on his life. Knife is a detailed, “deeply personal” account of the attack and Rushdie’s recovery, reflecting along the way on violence, art and loss.
Jonathan Cape, 16 April

Metamorphoses: In Search of Franz Kafka by Karolina Watroba

Published to mark the centenary of Kafka’s death, this is an inventive biography that presents the absurdist master as a writer for our times. Dr Karolina Watroba, the first Germanist ever elected as a Fellow of All Souls College Oxford, promises to tell the story of Kafka “through the stories of his readers around the world”.
Profile, 2 May

How to Win the Premier League: The Inside Story of Football’s Data Revolution by Ian Graham

Could a theoretical physicist make a football team better? That’s what happened when Ian Graham began applying data science to Liverpool’s performance in 2012. Here he shares what he has learned and what it means for the future of the game.
Century, 15 August

Q: A Biography of Queen Elizabeth II by Craig Brown

Craig Brown is becoming the nation’s favourite unorthodox biographer, having won prizes for his bestselling books on Princess Margaret and the Beatles. In Q he applies his comic, irreverent eye and kaleidoscopic approach to Elizabeth II.
Fourth Estate, 29 August

Shattered by Hanif Kureishi

After the novelist Hanif Kureishi fell during a walk near his apartment in Rome on Boxing Day 2022, spinal injuries left him unable to use his limbs. From hospital, in Italy and then the UK, he has been dictating missives which family members have been sharing online. His reflections on writing, recovery, sex and the imagination have been shaped into a book that’s likely to be his most vital for years.
Hamish Hamilton, 31 October

[See also: The 20 best books of 2023]

Fiction

The Wizard of the Kremlin by Giuliano da Empoli, translated by Willard Wood

A bestseller and prize-winner when published in France, this novel by an Italian journalist and former adviser to Matteo Renzi is narrated by Vadim Baranov, a fictionalised version of Putin’s long-time spin doctor Vladislav Surkov. It has been highly praised for its economical style and insights into the court of Putin.
Pushkin Press, 18 January

Hagstone by Sinéad Gleeson

In the debut novel by the acclaimed Irish critic and essayist Sinéad Gleeson, Nell is an artist who lives on a remote island that emanates strange, supernatural murmurings. When Nell is invited to create an artwork for the Inions, the island’s reclusive commune of women, her life changes dramatically.
Fourth Estate, 11 April

James by Percival Everett

The American novelist, long admired in the States, gained a wider audience in the UK in 2022 when The Trees was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Now he returns with a mischievous retelling of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, from the point of view of the escaped slave, Jim.
Mantle, 11 April

Enlightenment by Sarah Perry

The Essex Serpent author returns with another novel set in her home county. In Enlightenment, Sarah Perry blends faith and science to tell the story of Thomas Hart and Grace Macauley, worshippers at the Bethesda Baptist chapel in Aldleigh. It’s being billed as Perry’s “finest novel to date”.
Jonathan Cape, 2 May

Long Island by Colm Tóibín

For his new novel Colm Tóibín has made the crowd-pleasing decision to reunite readers with the characters of his 2009 bestseller Brooklyn. Eilis and Tony Fiorello, happily married for 20 years, are living on Long Island. One day, a man with an Irish accent knocks on their door and reveals something to Eilis that makes her question her decisions and turns her thoughts back to her past.
Picador, 23 May

Parade by Rachel Cusk

The author of the Outline trilogy continues her interrogation into the interior world of artists with Parade. This short, unconventional novel uses a multi-timeline approach to tell the many lives of G, its central character.
Faber & Faber, 6 June

Rare Singles by Benjamin Myers

Benjamin Myers, whose Cuddy won the 2023 Goldsmiths Prize, was once a music journalist – a background that no doubt has helped to inform Rare Singles, a novel about a down-on-his-luck singer who is tracked down by a fan. It’s being billed as a “full-throated hymn to the sorrows and triumphs of soul music”.
Bloomsbury, 1 August

Annihilation by Michel Houellebecq, translated by Shaun Whiteside

Houellebecq’s new novel, published in France in January 2022, has taken two years to reach the UK, and he has changed English publishers in the meantime. Set in 2027 in a France that is “in a state of economic decline and moral decay”, it is a doorstopper of a book that mixes family saga and political thriller, and reveals a level of tenderness that Houellebecq’s readers are not used to.
Picador, 19 September

Gliff by Ali Smith

After anatomising Brexit Britain in her Seasonal Quartet and its coda, Companion Piece (2022), Ali Smith offers a literary puzzle with the first of two interlinked books. Gliff is a Scottish or northern English word for a shock or sudden glimpse. In 2025 it will be followed by Glyph, which will tell a second story that’s hidden in the first.
Hamish Hamilton, 31 October

The City and Its Uncertain Walls by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel

During the pandemic, Murakami returned to one of his very early short stories – but his project of rewriting it soon became much bigger. When this book, named after the story, was published in Japanese, it left critics more than usually perplexed. What will anglophone readers make of it?
Harvill Secker, November

[See also: The best New Statesman reviews and cultural essays of 2023] 

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This article appears in the 10 Jan 2024 issue of the New Statesman, The Year of Voting Dangerously