Anniversaries will dominate books in 2012

Titanic: The Last Night Of A Small Town, by John Welshman, published by Oxford University Press
Titanic: The Last Night Of A Small Town, by John Welshman, published by Oxford University Press
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The Olympics, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and other anniversaries look set to dominate bookshelves next year, along with titles inspired by the recession and a strong line-up of debut authors. Hannah Stephenson leafs through the titles most likely to make a stir in 2012.

Angels, vampires and Nordic thrillers were among the big genres of 2011 - but next year is looking hot for anniversaries.

Industry insiders are predicting a plethora of books pegged to the Olympics, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Charles Dickens’s 200th birthday and other 2012 landmarks, plus a substantial number of first-hand war stories, post-crash novels and, of course, tell-all tales from the celebrities.

“There will be a whole raft of books on the Titanic to mark its centenary in April and one or two which focus on the survivors’ stories, which will be quite vivid,” says Caroline Sanderson, non-fiction specialist at trade magazine The Bookseller. “It will be an interesting year, dominated by anniversaries.”

These include Titanic: The Last Night Of A Small Town, by John Welshman (Oxford University Press, March), which features the life stories of 12 passengers on board.

It’ll be virtually impossible to avoid the Olympics, but those who want a comprehensive guide to the games should look no further than London 2012 Olympic Games: The Official Book, by Press Association Sport (Carlton Books, April), featuring glorious photography and expert analysis of the star athletes and their prospects at the games.

April also sees the 30th anniversary of the outbreak of the Falklands War, which will attract accompanying books, although Sanderson says trends are veering more towards the first-hand accounts.

“The titles will mainly be Boy’s Own-type, which have done really well in recent years. We’ve had literal accounts of Afghanistan and these are very much in that mould,” Sanderson continues.

“There are quite a lot of immediate accounts of what it was like to be in the thick of the Falklands. Those are in demand. But military history remains of strong interest because of our current engagements.”

Falklands first-hand accounts will include Doctor For Friend And Foe: Britain’s Frontline Medic In The Fight For The Falklands (Conway Maritime Press, April). The author, Rick Jolly, was the senior medical officer there, setting up and running the field hospital at Ajax Bay. Meanwhile Scram! The Untold Story Of The Helicopter War In The Falklands (Preface, March) is written by Harry Benson, one of the youngest helicopter pilots to serve there.

Celebrity autobiographies may have lost some momentum in recent years, but there are still some to look out for in 2012, including Pauline Quirke’s Where Have I Gone? (Bantam, March) and a memoir the same month from David Essex, entitled Over The Moon (Virgin). Fans of Andrea McLean, of ITV1’s Loose Women, should look out for her memoir Confessions Of A Good Girl (Pan Macmillan, February), while the new female member of Dragons’ Den, Hilary Devey, reveals much in her autobiography Bold As Brass (Pan Macmillan, May).

New novels from well-known favourites including Scandinavian thriller writer Jo Nesbo, best-selling novelist Tony Parsons and Adrian Mole creator Sue Townsend are among those tipped to be the best-sellers of 2012.

“Crime fiction is continuing to be really big, particularly Scandinavian crime,” says Alice O’Keeffe, books editor of The Bookseller.

Jo Nesbo - the third biggest fiction author of 2011 after James Patterson and David Nicholls - has a new thriller out in March called Phantom (Harvill Secker), starring his Oslo detective hero Harry Hole.

Tony Parsons, king of the bittersweet love story, brings us Catching The Sun (Harper Collins) in July, a topical tale about a family who leave broken Britain in search of a better life in Thailand.

And in Adrian Mole’s 30th anniversary year, Sue Townsend brings us The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year (Michael Joseph, March), about a disillusioned wife who climbs into bed the day her children leave home and refuses to budge.

“In literary fiction, twice Booker-winner Peter Carey will have a new book out in April called The Chemistry Of Tears [Faber & Faber], featuring two interwoven stories.

“Each time he brings out a new book it’s always a big deal,” says O’Keeffe.

Other ones to watch on the literary front include the long-awaited new novel from The Other Hand author Chris Cleave, called Gold (Sceptre, June), which is about sporting rivals, and Irvine Welsh’s Skagboys (Jonathan Cape, April), a prequel to his massive debut Trainspotting, which features all the familiar characters in Edinburgh in the Eighties before they became heroin addicts.

Sales of chick-lit novels have fallen recently, possibly because of the recession, O’Keeffe reflects.

“A lot of women’s commercial fiction was bought from the supermarket by women doing their weekly shop. With everybody having to make cuts, maybe they’re just not adding a book to the weekly shop. I certainly don’t think that the quality of the authors’ writing has gone down.”

As far as young adults are concerned, dystopian (a fictional place or society which is extremely bad) seems to be taking over from vampires, O’Keeffe says.

“Dystopian is very big for young adults and one of the best authors is Lauren Oliver who wrote Delirium, set in a world where love is seen as a disease and everybody is cured just before their 18th birthday.

“The sequel, Pandemonium [Hodder & Stoughton], is out in March and is a genuine young adult/adult crossover, which is quite rare. She has a big following with teenagers and women in their 20s and 30s.”

She continues: “With adult fiction, we are starting to see more books about the post-crash.”

But reading matter to take our minds off the economic crisis remains popular and cookery is going to remain big next year, Sanderson predicts.

“Whatever else comes and goes, there are always cookery books. There’s this real comfort eating fad, especially when things look gloomy recession-wise. There will be a new book from Hairy Bikers and another from the actress Fay Ripley, who won Best Cookery Book 2011 on Mumsnet.”

Biographies of the Queen will abound in the run-up to the Diamond Jubilee.

“There’s one by Sarah Bradford called Queen Elizabeth II: Her Life Our Times [Viking, available now], which should be a heavyweight, and another by Alan Titchmarsh, a devout royalist, similarly called Elizabeth: Her Life, Our Times: A Diamond Jubilee Celebration [BBC Books, May].

“There’s also a new biography of Prince William, by Penny Junor, called Prince William: The People’s Prince, [Hodder & Stoughton, May] so I think we’re going to come over all red, white and blue,” says Sanderson.

In recent years, there’s been a trend towards books about angels, which hasn’t entirely floated away.

Sanderson agrees: “The mind, body, spirit category seems to have fallen off a lot, but the one thing that’s doing well is angels and the afterlife in general.”

Gypsy-themed books may also start to appear in bookshops, thanks to series like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.

Tales Of The Gypsy Dressmaker (Harper Collins, March) is the much-anticipated memoir from Thelma Madine, the dressmaker and breakaway star from Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, the popular TV show.

Don’t be afraid of trying out some debuts either, because there’s a fantastic list of titles by first-time authors coming out in 2012, O’Keeffe says.

Watch out for James Treadwell, Harriet Lane and Charlotte Rogan, whose debut The Lifeboat (Virago, March) is set in 1914 and narrated by a young woman who’s just survived three weeks in a lifeboat on the open sea and is now on trial for the events of those three weeks.

Whether you want to immerse yourself in the Olympics, wave the royal flag or escape to a world of fiction, there’ll be plenty of scope in the book world in the New Year.