Hot new reads in 2016, and a New Year's challenge

Happy New Year bookish friends! This is one of my favourite times, when the whole year stretches before us, holding untold victories, joys and, of course, piles of undiscovered books. Who knows where you will find yourself reading this year, or who you'll find yourself reading with! Below is a list of the books I'm looking forward to reading this year. 

Behold the Dreamers - Imbolo Mbue. For a novel that scored a million dollar advance and has been hailed as the next Americanah, the hype surrounding it is understandable. Behold the Dreamers tells the story of Cameroonian immigrants living in New York who see the dark side of the American dream when the 2008 recession hits. Out in April. 

The Girls - Emma Cline. Through her fascination with her magnetic older friend, a young, impressionable girl is drawn into an infamous cult. With comparisons to The Virgin Suicides and the writing of Jennifer Egan, this book is pretty much Amy-catnip! Cannot. Wait. Out in June. 

The Kindness of Enemies - Leila Aboulela - This is a bit of a cheat but I missed the release of this late last year so I've included it. A young woman, disconnected from her Muslim roots, meets an enigmatic Muslim student at the university where she teaches. Their bond allows her to explore her identity, history and inspires her studies. However, when police accuse her student of terrorism, she stands to lose everything she fought to build. This is not only an exploration of identity and relationships, but a sympathetic account of Islam that many Westerners should read. 

The Lives of Elves - Muriel Barbery. The last time I picked up a Muriel Barbery book (The Gourmet), I was awestruck by the magical way she described eating and cooking. This time, she turns her magic to the supernatural tale of two extraordinarily gifted girls who appear out of nowhere in separate villages. Obviously their destinies are linked, and obviously, the balance of the world lies in their hands, but I can't wait to see how it all unfolds. Out in May. 

Easy Motion Tourist - Leye Adenle. Let's face it. Reading thrillers set in London and New York can get bloody boring. Here's to an exciting new thriller set in the heat and bustle of Lagos! British hack Guy Collins is falsely accused of being involved in the murder of a young woman. He is rescued from his bleak cell by Amaka, a blaxpoitation heroine with a saintly streak. Together they uncover the underworld of Lagos, while falling for each other. Out in April. 

The High Mountains of Portugal - Yann Martel. The treasured author of Life of Pi is back with a intricate story that spans hundreds of years of Portugal's history. If you like magic realism, epic journeys and stories with a deeper meaning, this one is for you. Out in February. 

The Ballroom - Anna Hope. In 1911, inside an asylum at the end of the Yorkshire moors, a male and female patient come together in a bright and vast ballroom to dance. The Ballroom is a tale of unlikely love, dangerous obsession and madness, set in the Edwardian era. This sounds like the new Night Circus to me, so I'm all in! Out in February. 

The Widow - Fiona Barton. If you're wondering "but what is going to be the next Girl on the Train or Gone Girl" never fear. I am here to tell you that it's The Widow. So go buy it as soon as it's released so you can be the one to recommend it to everyone else first ;) Out on January 14. It's already pre-ordered, locked and loaded on my Kindle!

Jonathan Safran Foer - Here I am. Jonathan Safran Foer is giving us his first novel in 11 years, a story about a Jewish family, set against the backdrop of traumatic events in the Middle East. Out in September. 

Don DeLillo - Zero K. America's favourite contemporary writer brings us what is being touted as his greatest work. Expect keen social insight, some dystopian themes and a whole lot of modern, ground breaking writing. A good one to toss in front of you while you're sipping your flat white at your local hipster coffee shop. Out in May. 

And now, for a bit of a challenge. While it is always amazing to discover books through lists and through what everyone is talking about, this process does tend to sideline many worthy authors with less luck and marketing budgets. This year, I challenge you to seek out the books nobody is talking about, the ones that happen to catch your eye on the shelf. If I can be greedy, go for our local and African authors, who are publishing amazing, cutting edge stories worthy of international hype. Obviously I will be making an effort to do this in the book lists I create, and many good independent bookstores will take great joy in helping you find the perfect book for your mood. Let me know what you discover! 

Here's to a year of reading!