While the year could be full of unexpected surprises from previously little-known authors, here are some of the bigger names who’ll be presenting new work this year.

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Lit Life

While we’re still dusting off the edges of a bright new year (seriously, you should see how tidy my desk is right now), let’s take a look at a few upcoming 2019 books on my radar. While I’m hoping the year will also be full of unexpected surprises from previously little-known authors, here are some of the bigger names who’ll be presenting new work this year.


Black Leopard, Red Wolf” by Marlon James (Penguin Random House, Feb. 5). This is the first novel in the planned “Dark Star” trilogy, described by its publishers as an African “Game of Thrones.” Intrigued yet? James, author of the Man Booker Prize-winning “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” begins his saga with a simple premise: a mercenary, in an ancient city, is hired to find a missing child. (James will appear at Seattle Public Library and Ravenna Third Place Books on Saturday, Feb. 16.)

Bowlaway” by Elizabeth McCracken (HarperCollins, Feb. 5). It’s been a long wait for this one. McCracken, author of “The Giant’s House” and “Niagara Falls All Over Again,” hasn’t published a new novel in nearly two decades. “Bowlaway” sounds like a charmer; it follows three generations of an eccentric New England family who own an old-school bowling alley.

The Border” by Don Winslow (HarperCollins, Feb. 26). Speaking of trilogies, this is the final installment in Winslow’s powerful, best-selling series about drugs, politicians, cops and crime-lords, which began with “The Power of the Dog” in 2005 and continued with “The Cartel” in 2015. Watch for all three books to find their way to the screen soon.

Exhalation: Stories” by Ted Chiang (Penguin Random House, May 7). Chiang has long been revered in the world of science fiction, where he’s won numerous awards over the past few decades, but many general readers discovered him in 2016, when his short-fiction work “Story of Your Life” became the basis for the movie “Arrival.” This highly anticipated second collection from Chiang, who lives here in the Northwest, includes nine stories, two of which have never appeared in print.

Big Sky” by Kate Atkinson (Little, Brown, June 25). Jackson Brodie is back! The brooding Yorkshire private investigator — hero of “Case Histories,” “One Good Turn,” “When Will There Be Good News?” and “Started Early, Took My Dog” — reappears, after a nine-year absence, in a story set in a quiet seaside town. Atkinson, when not writing gorgeous detective novels, crafts the most elegantly intricate of literary fiction (“Life After Life,” “A God in Ruins,” “Transcription”).

The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead (Penguin Random House, July 16). After winning both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for his surreal 2016 novel about a young woman escaping slavery, “The Underground Railroad,” Whitehead follows up with another novel reflective of a painful period in American history. “The Nickel Boys,” set in Jim Crow-era Florida, follows two black teenagers at an abusive, segregated reform school (inspired by the true — and horrifying — history of the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys).

Lady in the Lake” by Laura Lippman (HarperCollins, July 23). Lippman’s twisty noir “Sunburn” was a highlight of 2018 — and, just like that, she’s got another one coming. This one’s set in 1960s Baltimore, and features a housewife-turned-newspaper-clerk who finds herself investigating a forgotten murder. “She wants to be taken seriously, she wants to see what she can do in the world,” Lippman told me last year, in an interview for “Sunburn” in which I asked her about the book she was working on. “It’s significant that this is happening in the mid-’60s. The rules are changing.”

Olive, Again” by Elizabeth Strout (Random House, Sept. 3). Olive Kitteridge, the beloved heroine of Strout’s 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel (made into an HBO series with Frances McDormand), returns to the page with this sequel, which follows her through the next decade of her life in seaside Crosby, Maine. “It turns out — I just wasn’t done with Olive,” said Strout in a statement announcing the book. “It was like she kept poking me in the ribs, so I finally said, ‘Okay, okay …’”

The Testaments” by Margaret Atwood (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, Sept. 10). I’ll let Atwood’s words about this breathlessly awaited sequel to “The Handmaid’s Tale” stand alone. “Dear Readers,” Atwood wrote in a statement after the book’s acquisition, “Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.”

Agent Running in the Field” by John Le Carré (Viking, October). Now in his late 80s, the legendary British spy novelist (and creator of superspy George Smiley) has a new one out. Smiley reportedly won’t appear in “Agent,” which is set in contemporary London and centers on a young man at the center of political turbulence.


The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations” by Toni Morrison (Penguin Random House, Feb. 12). Author of 11 novels,  a Nobel laureate and a Pulitzer Prize winner (the latter for “Beloved”), Morrison has assembled a collection of her nonfiction writings, including her Nobel speech, a eulogy for James Baldwin and commentary on her own work and that of other artists.

Horizon” by Barry Lopez (Penguin Random House, March 19). Lopez, the visionary author of the National Book Award winner “Arctic Dreams,” reflects on a life spent traveling the world in this new work. Among his destinations: the High Arctic, the Galapagos, the Kenyan desert, Botany Bay in Australia and the ice shelves of Antarctica. (Lopez, who lives in Oregon when not traveling, will speak at Seattle Public Library on March 21.)

The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World” by Melinda Gates (Flatiron Books, April 23). A first-time author but a very familiar name, Gates writes about her experiences with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and about how in order to make a difference to the millions living in extreme poverty worldwide, constraints on women need to be lifted. (Gates will speak at Seattle Arts & Lectures at McCaw Hall on May 9.)

Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination” by Brian Jay Jones (Dutton, May 7). Jones has previously written well-received biographies of Washington Irving, Jim Henson and George Lucas; now he turns his attention to an icon of our childhoods, Dr. Seuss, telling the complicated story of the man behind the rhymes.

I Like To Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution” by Emily Nussbaum (Penguin Random House, May 14). If you’re a regular reader of Nussbaum in The New Yorker, you know that she’s a smart and entertaining voice on all things TV. Now the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for criticism winner has a book out: a collection of new and previously published essays about her long love affair with television.

Last Witnesses: An Oral History of the Children of World War II” by Svetlana Alexievich (Penguin Random House, July 2). The Nobel Prize-winning author of “The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II” turns her attention to children, creating a collage of voices from a European and Russian generation marked by their early experiences of war.

The Witches Are Coming” by Lindy West (Hachette, Sept. 17). The local feminist writer, New York Times columnist and author of the best-selling memoir “Shrill” has a new collection of essays coming this fall, examining patriarchy, intolerance, misogyny and the link between pop culture and politics in the Trump and #MeToo era. As with all of West’s commentary, it promises to be both witty and scorching.