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23 of the most anticipated books of 2016

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As we look ahead to what 2016 holds for the book world, here are a couple dozen works that stood out. They may or may not turn out to be the best of what's to come, but they are among the ones that have us most excited in the dark days of January.

"The High Mountains of Portugal" by Yann Martel (Spiegel & Grau)

This imaginative novel of ideas from the author of the blockbuster "Life of Pi'' weaves three tales featuring a young Lisbon resident in 1904 who has lost his lover and his son, a doctor in 1938 who receives a magical visit from his departed wife, and a mourning politician in 1981 Canada who buys a chimp and returns to the tiny Portuguese village of his birth. (Feb.)


"In Other Words" by Jhumpa Lahiri (Knopf)

Written in Italian, Lahiri's memoir, translated by Ann Goldstein, describes how the celebrated writer fell in love with the language during a post-college trip to Florence, moved to Rome years later with her family to immerse herself in Italian, and discovered that with a new language comes a new voice. (Feb.)

"Black Deutschland" by Darryl Pinckney (Farrar, Straus and Giroux )

"What Christopher Isherwood did for Weimar Berlin, Darryl Pinckney ["High Cotton''] has done, more profoundly, for Berlin behind the wall,'' says Ian Buruma about this story of a young gay black man, Jed Goodfinch, who, newly sober, flees to Berlin in the 1980s to escape his hometown of Chicago, live the ex-pat life, and remake himself. (Feb.)

"A Doubter's Almanac" by Ethan Canin (Random House)

Canin ("Emperor of the Air,'' "The Palace Thief,'' and "America America'') follows the lives of math genius Milo Andret from his lonely northern Michigan boyhood to Berkeley, Princeton, and eventually back to the Midwest amid a mounting case of alcoholism and a spiraling career; and Milo's son, Hans, who, like his father, is brilliant at math, highly ambitious in the financial world instead of academia, but still ends up facing his own addiction and need for redemption. (Feb.)


"What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours" by Helen Oyeyemi (Riverhead)

Oyeyemi ("Boy, Snow, Bird,'' "Mr. Fox'') infuses her first collection of short stories with the kind of playful, imaginative, fairy-tale themes that mark her work, in this case revolving around the various uses and meanings of actual and metaphorical keys and locks on the lives and fates of her characters. (March)

"All the Single Ladies" by Rebecca Traister (Simon & Schuster)

The leaping-off point for Traister ("Big Girls Don't Cry''), one of the nation's smartest and most provocative feminist voices, involves statistical data suggesting that a surprising percentage of young American women are not married, and she comes to learn, through vast research, that great social change — temperance, abolition, secondary education — emerged historically in periods when women got options beyond early wedded bliss. (March)

"The Ancient Minstrel" by Jim Harrison (Grove)

Harrison, who proved himself master of the novella with works like "Legends of the Fall,'' serves up a trio full of his trademark humor and insight, including one involving an aging writer wrestling with literary success, an estranged wife, and an unplanned litter of piglets; a second about an eccentric Montana woman yearning for a child who reminisces about staying with her grandparents in London and collecting eggs at their country house; and a yarn about retired detective who investigates a bizarre cult that howls along with howler monkeys at the zoo. (March)


"The Abundance" by Annie Dillard (Ecco)

Dillard, who established her nonfiction credentials over 40 years ago by winning a Pulitzer Prize at the age of 29 for "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,'' blends old and new essays in this latest collection, which brims with the kind of personal, vivid, and singular observations of ordinary life that have marked her career. (March)

"True Crimes" by Kathryn Harrison (Random House)

Written over the course of more than a decade, these personal essays about family from the author of the dark and unflinching memoirs "The Kiss'' and "The Mother Knot'' have been described by James Atlas as "scorchingly candid but also tender." (April)

"Kill 'Em and Leave" by James McBride (Spiegel & Grau)

McBride, musician, best-selling memoirist ("The Color of Water''), and winner of the National Book Award for fiction ("The Good Lord Bird''), turns his attentions to a biography of James Brown, from his sharecropping childhood through the legal armageddon over his estate (that made its way to the South Carolina Supreme Court), finding in the end an American story that touches on the divides of North and South, rich and poor, black and white. (April)

"Eligible" by Curtis Sittenfeld (Random House)

Sittenfeld ("Prep" and "American Wife") takes her turn at retelling "Pride and Prejudice'' with Liz as a 30-something magazine writer in New York who returns to her hometown of Cincinnati to help out after her father has a health scare, discovering both homestead and family falling apart. Cue Darcy, a friend of a friend and local neurosurgeon. (April)


"Zero K" by Don DeLillo (Scribner)

In a work that explores the glory and humanity of everyday living, DeLillo, one of America's finest living novelists, recounts the tale of Jeffrey Lockhart who goes to meet with his billionaire father and ailing younger stepmother at a secret facility where bodies are preserved until medical science can fully restore health and all the promises of life. (May)

"LaRose" by Louise Erdrich (Harper)

After North Dakota deer hunter Landreaux Iron accidentally shoots and kills a 5-year-old neighbor boy, Landreaux and his wife decide to give their own young son LaRose to their grieving neighbors in compensation in this saga of loss and the healing of the human heart. (May)

"White Sands" by Geoff Dyer (Pantheon)

These essays chronicle the gifted and award-winning Dyer's meditations on the meaning of place as he travels to New Mexico, where he picks up a hitchhiker near a prison at White Sands, to Beijing's Forbidden City with a guide who isn't a tour guide, to French Polynesia to experience the atmosphere that inspired painter Paul Gauguin (and later to Boston's Museum of Fine Arts to see the masterpiece only to be told it is traveling), and other locales. (May)

"The Noise of Time" by Julian Barnes (Knopf)


Barnes's first novel since 2011's Man Booker Prize-winning "The Sense of an Ending'' traces the life of the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich amid the oppression of Stalin and the evolution of the Soviet Union and examines the role of the artist in society. (May)

"The Gene" by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner)

The author of a rich, illuminating biography of cancer, Pulitzer-winner Mukherjee offers a similar treatment of the gene, weaving history, social science. and personal narrative, and raising difficult questions about who we are as we grow more adept at reading and manipulating our own genetic futures. (May)

"The Fox Was Ever the Hunter" by Herta Müller (Metropolitan)

Four young Romanian friends near the end of the brutal Ceausescu regime discover that one of them is spying on the others for the secret police in this early classic by the 2009 Nobel laureate, published for the first time in English with the help of Müller's long-time translator Philip Boehm. (May)

"Barkskins" by Annie Proulx (Scribner)

Spanning over 300 years and various continents, the Pulitzer and National Book Award winner ("The Shipping News'') spins an ecological saga of global deforestation revolving around the families of two 17th-century Frenchmen who meet as wood cutters (or barkskins) for a feudal lord in New France. (June)

"Hunger" by Roxane Gay (Harper)

Already having amply demonstrated her skills with fiction ("An Untamed State''), essays ("Bad Feminist''), and a wildly popular Tumblr blog, Gay offers up a memoir that promises to be a powerful, affecting, and honest exploration of her own difficult past along with her struggles with food, weight, self-image, and need for personal sustenance. (June)

"Vinegar Girl" by Anne Tyler (Hogarth)

The prolific Tyler reimagines Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew,'' but in this version the forthright and opinionated Kate, a preschool teacher who is also stuck running her scientist father's household, becomes angry when he solicits her help in an outrageous scheme to prevent his brilliant Russian lab assistant from being deported. (June)

"Commonwealth" by Ann Patchett (Harper)

The early word on Patchett's seventh novel, her first since 2011's touching "State of Wonder,'' is that it will turn on two families torn and brought together by marriage and divorce, subjects that readers of Patchett's 2013 memoir, "This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage,'' suspect she knows a little something about. (Sept.)

"Here I Am" by Jonathan Safran Foer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

From the author of "Everything Is Illuminated'' and, most recently, 2005's "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close'' comes a story of the unraveling of a Jewish family in Washington, D.C., set against the backdrop of series of tragic events in the Middle East that includes an earthquake and an Arab invasion of Israel. (Sept.)

"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)

In the latest offering by the fiercely original MacArthur recipient ("The Intuitionist,'' "John Henry Days,'), Cora, a young slave on a Georgia cotton plantation, yearns to break free of the horrors of her life and plots an escape with Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia. Needless to say, the plan hits some bumps. (Sept.)

Paul S. Makishima can be reached at makishima@globe.com.