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What to read in 2013
7:00am Saturday 12th January 2013 in NewsXtra
From new releases by John Le Carre and Philippa Gregory to a new take on erotic fiction, Hannah Stephenson talks to book trade insiders about their predictions for the year ahead.
Without doubt, Fifty Shades Of Grey was the book of 2012, whipping up an almost unprecedented frenzy among readers and becoming the fastest-selling paperback of all time.
So what now for the nation's bookshelves or e-Readers? Will 2013 bring something that keeps readers turning the pages at the same rate as the exploits of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele? And has erotic fiction had its day?
According to Cathy Rentzenbrink, new fiction previewer at trade publishing magazine The Bookseller, the answer to the final question is a resounding 'no!'
"Erotica will continue to do well and to feed into other sub-genres, so I think there will be more historical erotica - think Fifty Shades Of Lady Jane Grey - more sci-fi erotica and more sexual content in mainstream novels," she says.
Not only that, but Rentzenbrink's colleague Caroline Sanderson, who previews non-fiction for the magazine, says that the 50 Shades effect will be visible in her category as well - but with a twist.
"We've had Fifty Shades Of Grey and fantasy - it's time to get real about relationships and how they really work," she says.
Infidelity is a subject tackled by several non-fiction books in the spring which Sanderson predicts will gather much attention and will go some way to counteract the fantasy of Fifty Shades to focus on the reality of relationships.
"Turned On by Lucy Dent will be very topical, which is not too reflective. It's all about finding company through online chat rooms and how this woman messed up her marriage. It makes you think of the consequences of spending so much time on social media.
"There's also a book from America called Vow by Wendy Plump, about the fashion of having affairs, which is incredibly thought-provoking, and another called Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, which Oprah Winfrey championed in the US. It's about a woman whose mother has died from cancer and her marriage has crumbled, who walks the length of California on a journey of discovery."
The book, which came out in the US in July and is published in the UK in January, is likely to spark a flurry of interest with the news that Nick Hornby is working on the screenplay for the film, which will star Reese Witherspoon.
The other great success of 2012 was Hilary Mantel's Booker prize-winning historical tale Bring Up The Bodies. Rentzenbrink this has whet our appetite for historical fiction and points to two new titles to look out for: Philippa Gregory's new book The White Princess, about the Plantagenets and due out in August, and novelist Elizabeth Fremantle's debut title Queen's Gambit, which charts the life of Katherine Parr, who outlived her husband Henry VIII.
"It's an exceptional novel. People who have enjoyed Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies will like this one," says Sanderson.
While these titles blend history with fiction, there's also a demand for titles - made popular by book clubs - which cross over between literary and commercial fiction.
"Readers want good talking points. People enjoy reading but they also enjoy talking about reading. You can get a book that's a literary masterpiece but there's not much more to say, whereas if a book makes you think, 'What would you do?' people want to talk about it," explains Rentzenbrink.
"Everybody is looking for the 'sweet spot', a book which captures both markets and has a word-of-mouth factor. Books like The Slap fall into that genre, literary novels which are quite heavy on plot and characterisations."
She names Kate Atkinson's "magnificent" new book Life After Life (out in March) and Maggie O'Farrell's Instructions For A Heatwave, which sees a man tell his wife he's popping out for a newspaper and then doesn't return, as books in this category which are likely to become word-of-mouth hits.
This year sees the 50th anniversary of The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and right on target comes a new book from John Le Carre. A Delicate Truth, due out in May, is about the uncovering of a counter terror operation.
"When the Cold War ended, people wondered what our thriller writers would write about, but all those Cold War novelists are now writing about terrorists," observes Rentzenbrink.
There are anniversaries to mark in non-fiction too. Sanderson predicts a string of books to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's Pride And Prejudice, the 100th Tour de France and the 50th anniversary of the Great Train Robbery.
As for hobby books, even after the Christmas success of Nigellissima and Jamie's 15-minute Meals, the appetite for cookery books looks unlikely to be suppressed in 2013.
"There will be lots more baking books. Delia Cakes is being revamped, there's been a trend towards classy cup cakes, and the Great British Bake-Off followed that," says Sanderson.
She predicts that the next big hobby may be sewing, with the launch of the BBC2 TV series The Great British Sewing Bee, hosted by Claudia Winkleman, to seek out the nation's best amateur needlewoman or man, accompanied by a tie-in book.
"2012 was baking, 2013 we may all be getting our bodkins out," she says.
After the explosion of celebrity autobiographies in the autumn, the first half of next year will be quieter, Sanderson predicts, although there will be memoirs from the singer Suggs, TV presenter Kate Humble, and Amanda Knox, whose conviction for the murder of Meredith Kercher was overturned in 2011.
Long-suffering wives may want to look out for The Astronauts' Wives Club by Lily Koppel in June, charting the accounts of the wives of American astronauts in their heyday of the early Sixties as the women were transformed from shy military spouses to American royalty.
In general, war-lit is on the up again, with novels focusing more on the war in Afghanistan, while Scandinavian thrillers remain popular.
Debut fiction authors to watch out for include Peggy Riley, whose first novel Amity & Sorrow, described as 'The Lovely Bones meets Witness', centres on the eponymous sisters who escape from a cult, while old favourites Clive Cussler, Jeffrey Archer and Jodi Picoult all have new titles out this year.
Look out for Antti Tuomainen's atmospheric thriller The Healer, set in Helsinki, about a struggling poet whose journalist wife goes missing while researching a serial killer known as The Healer.
Whether literary or commercial, fact or fiction, you'll be spoilt for choice in the world of books in 2013.
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