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If you’re looking for one of the best new books for 2022 to get stuck into, then you’ve come to the right place. Autumn is when publishing brings out the big guns – a season of big names and big releases across pretty much every genre. Much has already been made of this year’s crop, with new works from literary titans including Stephen King, Ian McEwan, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Cormac McCarthy – The Road author follows up a 15-year hiatus with two new releases this year – recently or ready to hit the shelves.
Equally anticipated are new titles from a slew of much-garlanded women writers, with Maggie O’Farrell’s highly-anticipated follow-up to Hamnet arguably leading the pack.
Here’s our pick of what’s to come from some of the most lauded and bestselling women writers over the coming weeks – and the buzzed-about debut from a brand-new voice.
The best new books for autumn 2022
1. The Marriage Portrait – Maggie O’Farrell (Tinder Press)
O’Farrell’s Hamnet – which reimagined the short life and death of Shakespeare’s son through the grief-stricken eyes of his wife – was a lockdown hit, garlanded with praise, prizes and a vast print run. Can she follow it up with another historic tale based on a little-known figure from history? This intricately detailed, heavily fictionalised ‘what if’ that charts the short life of Lucrezia de’ Medici who died aged just seventeen and only a few years into her marriage, suggests yes. Rumours about her husband’s involvement surfaced almost immediately after her death and O’Farrell gives her imagination full rein to explore what might have been.
2. Best of Friends – Kamila Shamsie (Bloomsbury)
Shamsie’s follow-up to her Women’s Prize-winning Home Fire is a decades-spanning tale of the intense and complicated friendship between two very different women. We first meet them as teenagers in 1980s Karachi when an incident reset the course of their lives, before pivoting to contemporary London. Now both at the top of their very different professional games, their lives and futures have become even more deeply entwined. When the past comes back to haunt them, what could possibly go wrong? Shamsie draws immense pleasure and detail from the novel’s settings, expat culture and the intricate and, at times, conflicting nature of women’s friendship.
3. Our Missing Hearts – Celeste Ng (Little, Brown, 4 October)
For her follow-up to the hugely successful Little Fires Everywhere (adapted into an Emmy Award-winning series by Reese Witherspoon), Ng takes what at first glance appears to be a big swerve – into science-fiction dystopia. Bird, a 12-year-old Chinese-American lives with his librarian father in an imagined near-future US, where fears over the preservation of ‘American culture’ has led to widespread distrust of anyone else. The arrival of a mysterious letter sets the boy on a quest to find his mother, a dissident poet who fled the family three years before. So yes, this is a cautionary tale about power and how easily it can shift and be lost, but it is also – and ultimately – an emotional deep-dive into the resilience of parent-child bond and what it means to be human.
4. Carrie Soto Is Back – Taylor Jenkins Reid (Cornerstone)
Taylor Jenkins Reid has long been a popular author but BookTok made her a superstar. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – published way back in 2017 – spent a year on bestseller lists after fans on the platform promoted it in 2021 (for a time sharing the same space with that year’s release, Malibu Rising). She returns with a new novel about the post-retirement comeback of a former champion tennis player that’s sure to go down just as well with her ever-growing fanbase. In Jenkins Reid’s trademark style, it’s a bighearted, glamorous read full of pop cultural references and interlinked characters from the rest of the author’s novel universe (Soto first made an appearance in Malibu Rising). Frank, funny and emotional. And no, you don’t have to be a tennis fan to be drawn in.
5. Haven – Emma Donoghue (Pan Macmillan)
The latest release from the acclaimed Man-Booker shortlisted writer (for Room) takes us all the way back to 7th-century Ireland and a priest named Artt, who sets to found a new monastery after waking from a prophesising dream. He and two other men of God settle onto a bare island in the Atlantic off the coast of Ireland populated entirely by birds (the very real island of Skellig Michael, on which the remains of an early Christian monastery stand). Atmospheric and vividly told, Donoghue draws a spell around this unlikely setting and the men who attempt to make peace with it. One to read as the nights draw in.
6. The Book of Goose – Yiyun Li (Fourth Estate, 29 September)
Another look at intense female friendship across this decades, Goose tells the story of Agnes and Fabienne from their childhood together in post-WWIII rural France to contemporary(ish) America. In Li’s novel, however, the best girlfriends have become estranged in adulthood – it isn’t until Agnes (now a successful writer) learns of Fabienne’s death that she begins to unpick her truth about their past and the secret at the heart of it. Fans of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan trilogy won’t be disappointed, but the comparison undermines the skill with which Li tells her story, peeling back the layers to reveal the dark truths at the heart of Agnes and Fabienne’s friendship.
7. Lucy by the Sea – Elizabeth Strout (Penguin)
Just a year after Oh William! brought Lucy Barton back into readers’ lives, Strout gives her another outing – this time taking us to Maine, where Lucy’s ex-husband, William, has brought her to from New York to escape ‘the virus’. So, yes, this a pandemic novel (which is now a bone fide genre of its own) – but it is much more than that. A deep, heartfelt exploration of human connection and interconnectedness, family, loss and letting go. Deeply affecting.
And one to watch…
8. All That’s Left Unsaid – Tracey Lien (HarperCollins, 15 September)
Lien’s hotly-anticipated debut (it was sold in a nine-way publishing auction) takes us to mid-1990s Cabramatta, in outer Sydney, Australia, to which young journalist Ky Tran returns following the brutal death of her brother on the night of his graduation formal. With police refusing to investigate what they assume to be another drug-related crime between rival gang members of the town’s Vietnamese Australian community, and her parents too cowed to question why, it’s up to Ky to try to get to the truth about Denny’s murder. Lien – who grew up in Cabramatta herself – wraps this who-and-whydunit in emotional and complex layers that address everything from generational trauma and survivor’s guilt to female friendship. A gripping read.