Many new year resolutions concern books, with popular trends frequently the basis for selection. The craze for colouring-in books will last for a while yet and so will the return to favour of print over ebooks – but what should you actually be reading?
A major focus in 2016 will be the ongoing rise of history. Why not set aside time to explore the past? Upcoming books here include Julian Barnes's fictional treatment of Soviet composer Shostakovich and Ben Macintyre's exciting story of the British Army's most elite regiment, the SAS.
Turning to the present, many of us want to understand the big picture behind the fraught daily headlines. Among the writers deciphering the complexities of today's world, star economist Thomas Piketty definitely stands out. Another big picture, again mostly hidden from public view, is the ongoing progress of women towards full equality. Laura Bates is well worth seeking out as the latest in an illustrious lineage of feminist writers.
Read on for five selections from IBTimes UK for your new year reading resolutions.
The Booker winner tackles the tormented life of the Soviet composer Shostakovich
Fresh from Booker Prize winner The Sense Of An Ending, Barnes presents a fictional version of Dimitri Shostakovich's life. The Soviet composer was highly strung – the wrong temperament to deal with Stalin's purges. When his music was denounced by Pravda, Shostakovich packed a suitcase and stood smoking by the lifts in his apartment block, convinced the secret police were coming for him.
Later in life, he was tormented by the question of whether his music would have been better had he not been forced to cater to the taste of a boorish dictator. Barnes writes in short meditative paragraphs, delving into the compromises Shostakovich made to survive and continue creating music. Published January, available to pre-order now.
The star economist offer his reflections on the precarious state of global capitalism
Piketty's best-selling Capital In The Twenty-First Century has been a talking point for intellectuals of all political hues. His thesis is that the returns from the wealth held by the affluent are increasingly dwarfing the wages and incomes of the working population. Without radical interventions, argues Piketty, this growing inequality threatens political stability.
Of course, no one can predict the future, especially in these early stages of the emerging global economy, so we will just have to wait to see if he is right. In the meantime, his next volume is a collection of essays on this precarious economic era of ours, based on his writings for the French newspaper Libération. Published April, available to pre-order now.
Girl Up by Laura Bates (Simon & Schuster)
A rallying call for feminism from the influential author of Everyday Sexism
Bates founded the Everyday Sexism project, which has drawn upon more than 80,000 women's daily experiences of inequality. The project and its eponymous book punctured the complacent assumption that women have equal status to men in public places and work spaces. The reality is the ongoing persistence of serious sexism.
The campaign now has more than 20 international offshoots and Bates has become one of Britain's most influential women. Her new book will expose the pressures produced by false representations of women in the media, as well the ways in which social media is used against them. But it is not all serious stuff: humour is one of Bates's main weapons. Published April, available to pre-order now.
Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler (Vintage, March)
The Taming Of The Shrew rewritten as contemporary fiction by the Pulitzer Prize winner
Tyler's A Spool Of Blue Thread was one of 2015's literary hits. For 2016 she has adapted Shakespeare's The Taming Of The Shrew into a novel for contemporary audiences. It is part of a wider scheme to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, in which major authors re-imagine the plays.
Tyler's contribution will be interesting: her choice for adaptation does not fit well with contemporary sensibilities around relationships. Her version has Kate as the daughter of a scientist who wants to marry her off to his star lab assistant in order to prevent him being deported. Other leading writers participating in the series include Howard Jacobson and Margaret Atwood. Published March, available to pre-order now.
SAS: The Authorised Biography by Ben Macintyre (Viking)
The story of our finest fighting troops by a writer who relishes unveiling warfare's secrets
Macintyre is writing the SAS's first official history. Its publication will coincide with the 75th anniversary of the elite regiment's formation during the Second World War. Macintyre has had full access to the SAS archives, which contain records of many covert operations.
These range from a little known war against communist insurgents in Oman during the 1970s to the very public storming of the Iranian embassy in London in 1980. Macintyre specialises in books about covert operations and espionage. His last book, A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby And The Great Betrayal (Bloomsbury), won widespread acclaim. Published October.