Here's our stellar pick for high brow and low

Year you’ll want to turn over a new leaf: Julian Barnes is back… and Dolly Parton’s written her first novel. Here’s our stellar pick for high brow and low

  • UK-based literary critics have picked out a selection of must-read books 
  • Categories include crime, debuts, historical and best non-fiction  
  • Dolly Parton has penned her first novel co-authored by James Patterson 

The Last White Man by Mohsin Hamid


A host of our most admired literary novelists return in 2022. Set in 1960s London, Free Love by Tessa Hadley (Cape, January) sees the new spirit of sexual freedom upturn the life of a married woman.

Written once again in ‘real time’, Companion Piece by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton, April) is billed as a ‘coda’ to her much-lauded Seasonal Quartet. Look out, too, for Kamila Shamsie’s Best Of Friends (Bloomsbury, October), which follows a pair of friends from their schooldays in Karachi to stellar careers in London, where their lives are thrown into turmoil by not one, but two ghosts from the past.

Julian Barnes is back in April with Elizabeth Finch (Jonathan Cape), a singular tale about one man’s fascination with his enigmatic teacher — and Julian the Apostate. And Mohsin Hamid, author of the Booker and Folio Prize-shortlisted Exit West, returns in August with The Last White Man (Hamish Hamilton), about unsettling transformations, loss, love and rediscovery that’s likely to earn its author more award nods.

A new novel by Isabel Allende is always a treat. Violeta (Bloomsbury, January) is a typically epic tale following the life of one woman over the course of 100 years of tumult. Meanwhile, fans of Anne Tyler will be delighted by French Braid (Chatto, March), a family saga that takes us from the 1950s to the present.

Glory (Chatto, April), by the Booker-shortlisted Zimbabwean novelist NoViolet Bulawayo, is inspired by the fall of Robert Mugabe, while Michelle de Kretser, arguably Australia’s finest novelist, reckons to electrifying effect with the evils of misogyny, ageism and racism in Scary Monsters (Allen & Unwin, January).

Julie Otsuka’s The Swimmers

And you can expect Julie Otsuka’s The Swimmers (Fig Tree, February) to make waves come prize season: an unforgettable novel about mothers and daughters by a writer of spell- binding talent.

There’s plenty coming this way from America. Louise Erdrich returns in January with The Sentence (Corsair), a bookshop-set, pandemic-era ghost story that promises to be both funny and profound. Either, Or by Elif Batuman (Cape, May), the sequel to Batuman’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated The Idiot, is a typically charming, smart and completely idiosyncratic take on art, life and the gap between.

Lapvona (Cape, June) by the Booker-shortlisted Ottessa Moshfegh is likely to out-weird most things published next year — set in a medieval fiefdom, could it be a work of genius, too?

The Men (Granta, June) by the multi-award nominated Sandra Newman imagines what might happen in a world from which the entire male sex have en masse mysteriously vanished.

Jennifer Egan is perhaps still best known for 2011’s A Visit From the Goon Squad; The Candy House (Corsair, April) is described as its ‘sibling novel’, and asks what happens when our memories no longer belong to us.

Sheila Heti’s fans include Sally Rooney and Rachel Cusk; Pure Color (Harvill Secker, February) is billed as ‘a contemporary bible, an atlas of feeling, and an absurdly funny guide to the terrific (and terrible) things about being alive’.

Take My Hand by the bestselling Dolen Perkins-Valdez (Phoenix, May) meanwhile takes inspiration from a landmark U.S. legal case: a black nurse who makes a shocking discovery about two young girls in her care.


Love Marriage by Monica Ali

The publishing world has been ablaze with excitement about these eagerly-awaited books. In To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara (Picador, January), the author of the bestselling, multi-award nominated A Little Life has written one of the year’s biggest books in every sense: a 700-page epic that spans three centuries and even fast forwards to a plague-ravaged future as it interrogates America itself.

Nearly two decades after her Booker-shortlisted debut, Brick Lane, Monica Ali returns in February with Love Marriage (Virago). A story of two cultures and two people — medic Yasmin and her doctor fiancé, Joe — this is a memorable exploration of modern love and modern Britain.

The second novel from 2020 Booker winner, Douglas Stuart, Young Mungo (Picador, April) is a Glasgow-set gay love story that returns to many of the shocking, brutal, tender themes of Shuggie Bain.

Candice Carty-Williams, author of smash-hit Queenie, returns with People Person (Orion, April) which promises a ‘propulsive story of heart, humour, homecoming, and the truest meaning of family you can get when your dad loves his jeep more than his children’.


Former Archers scriptwriter Janice Hallett has been heralded as an ‘Agatha Christie for the 21st century’. The Twyford Code (Viper, January) is an irresistible-sounding mystery featuring an Enid Blyton-inspired children’s author.

Reputation by Sarah Vaughan

What happened behind the door of apartment number three? The creepy, twisty The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley (HarperCollins, March) will keep you guessing all the way to the end. Notes On An Execution is the second novel by Danya Kukafka (Phoenix, February), author of the international bestseller Girl In Snow. The focus here isn’t Ansel, a death row killer awaiting execution, but three women linked to him and each other.

Reputation (Simon & Schuster, March) is the new mystery from Anatomy Of A Scandal author Sarah Vaughan. Emma is a high- profile MP who launches a campaign to protect women from the effects of online bullying. How does she end up on trial for murder? Catriona Ward follows the smash-hit The Last House On Needless Street with Sundial (Viper, March), a dark, disturbing and deeply twisty tale about the toxicity of the mother-daughter bond.

And last but not least, Whatever Gets You Through The Night (Little, Brown, February) marks the return to adult fiction of Charlie Higson. Set on the sun-soaked island of Corfu, it dives into the darkness beneath the surface of the Mediterranean idyll.


Prize-winning poet Honorée Fanonne Jeffers has already earned comparisons to Toni Morrison for The Love Songs Of W.E.B Du Bois (4th Estate, January): a sweeping, multi-generational saga that moves from the colonial slave trade to the present day, it’s already been an Oprah Book Club pick and a New York Times bestseller.

Julia May Jonas’s Vladimir 

The subject of a 16-way bidding war, Lessons In Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (Doubleday, April) introduces us to Elizabeth Zott: scientist (reluctantly)- turned-1960s TV cook. Nigella Lawson is among those leading the cheers.

Also the subject of heated auctions were Claire Kohda’s Woman, Eating (Virago, March) — expect a literary, millennial twist on the vampire novel — and Maddie Mortimer’s Maps Of Our Spectacular Bodies (Picador, March), a daringly original and heart-breaking novel that tackles terminal illness through the experiences of a dying mother.

There’s no chance that Julia May Jonas’s darkly funny Vladimir (Picador, May) will slip under the radar: featuring an English professor facing allegations of inappropriate conduct, it ‘maps the personal and political minefield of our current moment’.

Charmaine Wilkerson’s Black Cake (Michael Joseph, February) is one of the most feverishly anticipated debuts of the year. Spanning 60 years in the life of one Caribbean/American family, and beginning when estranged siblings are united by a puzzling inheritance, it’s also set to be a major, Oprah- produced TV series.

Generating much excitement too is Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley (Bloomsbury, June), which centres on black teenage sex worker Kiara. Mottley wrote it when she was just 17, inspired by a true-life police scandal.

Slightly less fanfare, but a still considerable buzz, surrounds Jo Browning Wroe’s A Terrible Kindness (Faber, January).

An intensely moving story set in the wake of the Aberfan disaster, it’s set to be one of the more surprising hits of the year.


It’s what the world has been waiting for: the first novel by Dolly Parton. Run Rose Run (Century, March) is co-authored by none other than James Patterson, and tells the story of a singer and star-in-the-making who arrives in Nashville to claim her destiny. Probably the only book this year to have an accompanying album.

One Day I Shall Astonish The World by Nina Stibbe

In Again, Rachel by Marian Keyes (Michael Joseph, February), 25 years after the blockbusting Rachel’s Holiday, Rachel Walsh is so sorted she even gardens.

Then a man arrives to complicate things. Isn’t that always the way? Expect to see The Maid by Nita Prose (HarperCollins, February) everywhere. Sold in 30 countries, and with Oscar nominee Florence Pugh lined up for the film, it’s a contemporary murder mystery with a unique heroine who will appeal to Eleanor Oliphant fans.

Nina Stibbe is one of our most beloved comic writers: One Day I Shall Astonish The World (Viking, April), about the lifelong friendship between two women, will cement that reputation further.


Set in the 16th century, The Bewitching by Jill Dawson (Sceptre, July) promises a powerful and chilling tale of witchcraft and persecution from one of our most skilful and absorbing storytellers.

Moving forward two centuries, Alex Preston’s atmospheric Winchelsea (Canongate, February) introduces us to Sussex smuggler’s daughter Goody, who embarks on a perilous quest for justice after her father is murdered.

Theatres are something of a trend in 2022. Theatre Of Marvels by Lianne Dillsworth (Hutchinson Heinemann, April) tells the story of Zillah, a mixed-race woman treading the boards of the Victorian-era West End, while The Whalebone Theatre by Joanna Quinn (Fig Tree, June) opens in 1928 when 12-year-old Cristabel decides to turn a washed-up whale’s skeleton into a spectacular open-air venue.

Happy reading!

The Gift of A Radio by Justin Webb (Penguin) February


The Gift of A Radio

by Justin Webb (Penguin) February

In this unself-pitying memoir, Radio 4 Today presenter Webb describes growing up in the 1970s with his posh-but-poor, cannabis-growing mother and a stepfather diagnosed by a doctor as ‘stark, staring mad’. Webb never met his biological father — BBC newsreader Peter Woods — although his mum did point him out on TV.

Bullied at his ‘lawless’ Quaker boarding school, Webb believes only his size and skill at rugby — and his love of radio — enabled him to cope.

One Day In April

by Jenni Hicks (Seven Dials) March

Twenty two years later, a mother who lost both her daughters, 19-year-old Sarah and 15-year-old Vicki, in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster looks back at the tragedy — and long battle for justice — that has shaped the rest of her life.

The Palace Papers

by Tina Brown (Penguin) April

Tina Brown was 25 and editing Tatler when Charles and Diana got together. Her staff moved in their circles and snagged all the scoops. Now she explores how the Royal Family has survived since Diana’s death.

Every Family Has A Story

Julia Samuel (Penguin Life) April

Born into the wealthy Guinness family, the 61-year-old psychotherapist became a good friend of Princess Diana, is godmother to Prince George and is believed to have advised Meghan Markle on coping with life in the Royal Family.

Having previously written books on grief and change, she now offers insight into how family dynamics affect our lives, with the aftershocks of love and loss rattling down the generations.

Queen of Our Times Robert Hardman (Macmillan) March

Queen of Our Times

Robert Hardman (Macmillan) March

For the 70th year of the Queen’s reign, royal expert Robert Hardman has written the definitive biography of Elizabeth II, including new interviews with world leaders. Given access to previously unseen papers, Hardman delves deep into the enigma of a woman who is ‘shy but with a steely self-confidence . . . devout, indulgent, outwardly reserved, inwardly passionate, unsentimental, inquisitive, young at heart and committed to the future’. This is a woman who sat stoically alone at her husband’s funeral, then mustered the strength to tell leaders at COP26 that this was their chance to be ‘written in history books yet to be printed’.

Left On Tenth

by Delia Ephron (Penguin) April

Delia Ephron struggled to cope with the ‘sadmin’ after her husband of 33 years died of cancer in 2015. Triggered by frustrated attempts to cancel his landline, the screenwriter of You’ve Got Mail wrote an article about the inhumanity of customer service.

In response — as if from one of her own movie scripts — she received a letter from a man she had dated 50 years earlier.Further correspondence revealed he had also been widowed and the pair were caught up in a whirlwind romance when Ephron was diagnosed with leukaemia.

Based on the letters, emails and texts sent between her bereavement in 2015 and the beginning of her remission in 2018, this promises to be a frank, witty and uplifting memoir.

Be My Baby by Ronnie Spector (Macmillan) March

Be My Baby

by Ronnie Spector (Macmillan) March

The ‘original bad girl of rock’n’roll’ grew up dressing tough and singing loudly to scare away bullies. But she ended up married to one. This traumatic memoir describes how her violent husband and producer Phil Spector controlled her during their seven years of marriage — even threatening to hire a hitman to kill her. She turned to drink and fled, barefoot. John Lennon got her back into the studio, where she sang her way back to sobriety.

Back in the Day

by Melvyn Bragg (Sceptre) May

Now in his early 80s, the gruff-voiced arts broadcaster and author has written his first memoir. It looks back at his youth in Cumbria, raised above a pub and expected to leave school at 15.

It also details the terrifying breakdown he suffered at 13, during which he had out-of-body experiences.

He recovered through reading and became one of the first working-class grammar school boys to go to Oxford.

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