1. BIG SKY by Kate Atkinson (Penguin Random House)
Few new novels are as eagerly awaited as those of Kate Atkinson, and fans will be thrilled that the shambling detective Jackson Brodie is back. He’s moved to a quiet seaside village but, of course, things don’t stay peaceful for long.
2. NUMBER ONE CHINESE RESTAURANT by Lillian Li (Macmillan)
Lillian Li throws open the doors of the Beijing Duck, a Chinese restaurant in Rockville, Maryland, where the squalls of an intergenerational family blow hot and spicy. It’s been longlisted for the Women’s Prize.
3. GINGERBREAD by Helen Oyeyemi (Picador)
There’s a family recipe at the heart of this inventive story about an unusual mother and daughter in contemporary London and — this being Oyeyemi — more than a dash of the magical.
4. THE CHESTNUT MAN by Soren Sveistrup (Penguin Random House)
Remember the compulsive Danish TV series The Killing? All snow and retro sweaters? The writer of that brings us his first novel, a truly creepy murder mystery set in Copenhagen.
5. MEMORIES OF THE FUTURE by Siri Hustvedt (Sceptre)
This novel has been described as a Pandora’s box of ideas within ideas. It’s an exhilarating, wildly funny, but intellectually rigorous tale set in ’70s New York.
6. TRIANGULUM by Masande Ntshanga (Umuzi)
From one of the brightest new stars on the South African writing scene, a philosophical story covering the recent past of the country and a uniquely imagined near future.
7. MACHINES LIKE ME by Ian McEwan (Bloomsbury)
Audacious as ever, the master’s new novel introduces Adam, one of the first synthetic humans. This is no sci-fi or dystopian novel, though. Rather, it’s a thoughtful examination of what it means to be human.
8. UPHEAVAL: HOW NATIONS COPE WITH CRISIS AND CHANGE by Jared Diamond (Penguin Random House)
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author sets out a brilliant new theory of how and why some nations recover from trauma and others don’t. Lessons here, surely, for South Africa.
9. TALK OF THE TOWN by Fred Khumalo (Kwela Books)
Hot on the heels of his wildly successful historical novel Dancing the Death Drill comes a lively collection of stories that plunges into past and current township life. Khumalo again proves to be a wise and waspish commentator on the world around us.
10. LUCKY PACKET by Trevor Sacks (Kwela Books)
Meet Ben Aronbach, 12 years old and a lapsed Jew in a small Transvaal town, struggling to find his way. Author Imraan Coovadia calls this poignant and warmly humorous work “one of the best novels in years”.
11. LANNY by Max Porter (Faber)
There’s a loud buzz building about this novel, the follow-up to the bestselling Grief is the Thing with Feathers. Lanny is a fey little boy living with his parents in a fashionable commuter village near London; a village that hides a vicious soul. When Lanny vanishes it turns into a “hideous ecosystem of voyeurism”.
12. SALTWATER by Jessica Andrews (Jonathan Ball Publishers)
Twenty-five-year old Andrews is all over the Ones To Watch lists for this debut, which was won in a frenzied four-way auction. It’s described as a “tenderly evocative story” about a young graduate trying to shape her life.
13. THE LAST ELEPHANTS by Don Pinnock & Colin Bell (Penguin Random House)
The elephant population in Africa is being decimated, with latest studies showing two or three are killed every hour for their ivory. This magnificent compilation gathers photographs and commentary from researchers, rangers and conservationists, with a foreword by Prince William. It is both an homage to the elephants and a call to action.
14. 100 BUSHVELD TREES by Megan Emmett Parker (Struik)
Use the winter days to bone up on your bush knowledge, and learn to identify a range of indigenous trees. Parker picks out the most common trees you’re likely to encounter, cuts out the botanical jargon, and focuses sharply on what is too often just background scenery. You’ll be telling a Weeping Boer Bean from a Waterberg Poora-berry before you know it.
• From the May edition of Wanted 2019.