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The 2016 Literary Guide

A month-by-month roundup of books to look forward to this year.



Print books are back.

That’s what everyone thought when 2015 saw an increase in print book sales for the second consecutive year. E-book sales were falling and Amazon had opened a physical bookstore. Books were saved.

Then someone looked closer at the numbers and realized the increase mostly was because of the growing popularity of adult coloring books.

So with that in mind, here are some promising books — with words — coming out this year — some options to consider when you’re picking up that next edition of “Ocean Animal Patterns.”


Pulitzer Prize-winning Elizabeth Strout has a new novel already getting rave reviews: “My Name is Lucy Barton.” It’s a story of family and forgiveness, and one hopes it will get the miniseries treatment from HBO like her “Olive Kitteridge.”


Richmonder Patrick Dacey has the endorsement of George Saunders as one of his “favorite young American writers.” His debut story collection, “We’ve Already Gone This Far,” features common characters of a fictional working-class town.

Alexander Chee’s brilliant journalism and essays bode well for his novel, “The Queen of the Night.” The protagonist is a soprano of the 1860s Paris Opera: There’s betrayal, romance, intrigue and everything you’d expect of the setting.

Scarily young Brazilian writer Raphael Montes (he was born in 1990) has his English-language debut with “Perfect Days,” a psychological thriller earning him comparisons to Patricia Highsmith.


Boris Fishman, who won Virginia Commonwealth University’s Cabell Award this year with the delightful “A Replacement Life,” releases his second book, “Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo.” The title alone is enough to inspire anticipation.

Annie Dillard, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” narrated the natural world outside her then-home in Roanoke, has a new collection, “The Abundance: Narrative Essays Old and New.”

And Dana Spiotta returns with more contemporary Los Angeles realism in “Innocents and Others,” about two best friends who grow apart but both became filmmakers.


Virginian Kathleen Grissom’s 2010 historical novel, “The Kitchen House,” was a grass-roots bestseller and book club favorite. Fans finally will have a sequel in “Glory Over Everything.”

Harrisonburg native Maggie Stiefvater releases the fourth and final installment of her best-selling Raven Cycle series. As anticipated by certain corners of the Internet as the belated “Game of Thrones” book, “The Raven King” will conclude the young-adult fantasy tale of boarding school students in the fictional Virginia town of Henrietta.

Norwegian Karl Ove Knausgaard issues “My Struggle: Book Five” the second-to-last of this autobiographical series that’s convinced people to read a six-volume autobiographical series. And Marie NDiaye’s 2013 French novel “Ladivine” will be out in English. It’s a family saga of racial identity that has received enormous praise.

Also in April, National Poetry Month, “Then Come Back: the Lost Neruda” will have newly discovered work by the Chilean Pablo Neruda. They’re translated by poet Forrest Gander, who grew up in Virginia and attended the College of William and Mary.

Four years after her death we will have the “Collected Poems (1950-2012)” of Adrienne Rich. It will trace the evolution of one of America’s most important poet’s work. Claudia Rankine wrote the introduction.

And Tyehimba Jess releases his long-anticipated second book, “Olio.” Like his first, “Leadbelly,” it promises to weave poetry and history in an exploration of overlooked African-American musicians.


“Zero K,” the 17th novel of literary statesman Don DeLillo, is about a billionaire struggling with his morality. Expect philosophy masked as fiction and a healthy paranoia about the future.


Emma Cline’s debut novel, “The Girls,” is being compared to Jeffrey Eugenides and Jennifer Egan, which is a dream pedigree of influences.

And Annie Proulx, best known for her short story that became the movie “Brokeback Mountain,” returns to novels with “Barkskins” — an 800-page story of wilderness and greed.

July and Beyond

Charlottesville author Emma Rathbone releases “Losing It,” a coming-of-age novel about a 26-year-old virgin who goes to visit her spinster aunt.

Jonathan Safran Foer is set to publish his first novel in 11 years. “Here I Am” will take place in Washington, where Foer grew up.

Lexington native Robert Goolrick has a book coming out set in a 1969 hippie commune in the Shenandoah Valley. Plus, the movie based on his best-selling “A Reliable Wife” might finally see theaters.

Wishful Thinking

Nell Zink, who grew up largely in Virginia, in interviews for 2015’s “Mislaid,” mentioned having written another book in less than a month. That novel, “Nicotine,” is said to be out this year.

Jennifer Egan and George Saunders, in conversation with one another for The New York Times last year, mentioned working on novels set in the past. Would that they arrive in 2016.

I’m also crossing my fingers that the first movie, a science-fiction film, written by spouses Zadie Smith and Nick Laird, comes out this year. Both are novelists, among other writerly pursuits, but this is their first screenplay. S

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