The Essential 2016 Literary Calendar
A new year brings new literary promise: new novels, more festivals and debates, new adaptations, spoken word, poetry and graphic novels. As The Skinny discovers, 2016 has everything to offer the discerning bibliophile...
Kicking off 2016, Costa’s Book of the Year adds a little sparkle to this most dreary of months. Keep your eyes peeled for the shortlist announcements a week before the ceremony, which takes place on 26 Jan, when the final winner picks up the coveted £30,000 prize – and, of course, the acclaim.
On 22 Jan, Manchester's International Anthony Burgess Foundation hosts the launch of Jennet Thomas's The Unspeakable Freedom Device – an experimental narrative film and multimedia sculptural installation, which is partnered by the book of the same name. The project explores how affiliation alters meaning and looks at the image of Margaret Thatcher as an 'afterburn' on our collective memory. There will be a screening of the film and a live performance from Simon Bookish, aka Leo Chadburn, who composed the score (7pm, £4, anthonyburgess.org).
Sci-fi fans will be eagerly anticipating the release of China Miéville’s new book, This Census-Taker, by Penguin Random House (12 Jan). A three-time winner of the Arthur C Clarke Award, this guy kicks ass at his genre.
Ushering in the month of love, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies takes a new look at Jane Austen’s classic tale of tangled relationships between lovers from different social classes in 19th-century England. As the title suggests, this film adaptation (of the book by Seth Grahame-Smith) sees our heroes and heroines face a new challenge – an army of the undead! Released 12 Feb.
Once again, Manchester Literature Festival teams up with the Martin Harris Centre for a warm-up event before the full festival later in the year. Together they bring Jeanette Winterson and 2014 Costa Book of the Year prize-winner, poet and naturalist Helen Macdonald to the stage on 29 Feb for a conversation about writing, hawks, Englishness, grief and success. Get your tickets early; this one’s bound to sell out quickly (6.30pm, £10/£8, manchesterliteraturefestival.co.uk).
Elsewhere, Guardian columnist and author of Chavs and The Establishment Owen Jones pays a visit to HOME to talk all things society, the working class, greed and government (11 Feb, 8pm, £15/£13, homemcr.org).
Spring! Daffodils! Lions! As we reach the end of winter, Carcanet Press offers up Chris McCully’s reflections on wildlife, predators and the emergence of homo sapiens in his collection Serengeti Songs. See Tanzania and Kenya depicted like you’ve never seen them before. Also, keep your eyes peeled for events happening all over the Northwest on World Book Day (3 Mar).
Elsewhere, Comma Press releases The Ghost Who Bled by Manchester Writing School lecturer Gregory Norminton on 24 March. Described as ‘achingly sad and boundlessly inventive,’ Norminton’s debut short story collection features deeply insecure time travellers and futuristic body modification cults. The stories promise the ‘historical sensibilities of Andrew Miller' and 'the spec-fic world-building of JG Ballard', 'infused with the morbid ingenuity of Roald Dahl.' High accolades indeed.
Save up your pennies for April, which sees the release of Kate Tempest's first novel, The Bricks that Built the Houses (Bloomsbury, 7 Apr), as well as comedian Sara Pascoe's book Animal: How a Woman Is Made (Faber & Faber) and that titan set to snake queues around bookshops: Winds of Winter by George RR Martin (Harper Voyager).
This month, eyes will be on the 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize (announced 14 May), one of the most prestigious awards for young writers there is, earning the victor £30,000.
A recipient of numerous prizes and awards himself, Simon Armitage is probably one of the most well-known poets today. He has published more than ten collections of poetry and his newest, Pearl, is set for release by Faber & Faber on 5 May.
And speaking of prizes, Nobel Prize for Literature 2015 winner Svetlana Alexievich publishes her essay collection, Second-hand Time, with Fitzcarraldo Editions on 23 May.
Capturing the utopian impulse in 19th-century literature, The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia is the third collaboration between best-selling graphic novelist Mary M Talbot and her husband, the graphic novel pioneer Bryan Talbot. The comic will be published by Jonathan Cape on 5 May. Their first book together, Dotter of her Father’s Eyes, won the 2012 Costa Biography Award.
Also challenging presumptions – and offering a hard-edged variant of the usual literature festival – is Liverpool's Writing on the Wall festival (writingonthewall.org.uk), which returns for a series of debates about war, race and politics. No cookery book discussions to be found.
Sprawling across two months, Manchester Children’s Book Festival offers up a plethora of literary delights (24 Jun-3 Jul, mcbf.org.uk). Its creative director, Carol Ann Duffy, sits on the panel of literary giants that the festival programme rolls out for younger audiences each year.
On 11 Jun, punk poet John Cooper Clarke will be taking to the stage at the Liverpool Guild of Students to wax lyrical about disillusion and disappointment amid a sea of puns and quick wit. Prepare for a raucous, animated evening (7pm, £28.50, liverpoolguild.org).
Tobias Hill’s third collection, Zoo, is published on 1 Jul by Salt. Mixing the urban and pastoral, Hill’s work gives us a poetic exploration of the senses; think poetry mixed with a dash of Japanese culture and dipped in a bit of Edward Hopper.
And, if you fancy reminiscing about a time filled with school uniforms and bedtime stories, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of The BFG hits cinema screens this month.
Culture vultures will know that August sees the Scottish capital transform into a hive of spirited leafleters, lost tourists and hungover comedians, as Edinburgh becomes festival central. If you’re feeling in need of some respite from jokes about imaginary friends and awkward sex scenarios, Edinburgh International Book Festival (13-29 Aug, edbookfest.co.uk) combines commentators and wordsmiths in a thought-provoking exploration of all things language, literature and lore.
Those of you entranced by whodunits, heists and offbeat criminals should head to Bloody Scotland in Stirling, Scotland’s first crime fiction festival (9-11 Sep, bloodyscotland.com). Anticipate a selection of the finest British authors working in the genre, alongside renowned crime writers from across the world.
The Berlin International Literature Festival likewise returns to combine the great and good of the German bookish world with literature from around the globe.
October is a big month for literary folk. The Man Booker Prize will announce its novel of the year, and the entire literary circle will decamp to Gloucestershire for the annual Cheltenham Literature Festival (7-16 Oct, cheltenhamfestivals.com).
A little closer to home, Manchester Literature Festival follows up on its incredible tenth anniversary with the promise of a compelling mix of authors, poets, spoken word performers and musicians, who'll be doing solo appearances, in-conversations and cross-platform events. This year also boasts even more special commissions of new work created especially for MLF (7-22 Oct, manchesterliteraturefestival.co.uk).
It’s time to set your sights overseas, as fast-paced poetry slams are fused with sit-down discussions about form and genre at Shanghai International Literary Festival. Istanbul also celebrates the influence and impact of the written word at the International Istanbul Book Fair (12-20 Nov).
Miami’s reputation may largely consist of perma-tans, muscles and palm trees, but the Miami Book Fair adds a little bit of decorum to proceedings with its typically stalwart programme of literary fun, author dialogues and the biggest releases of the year. What better excuse to escape the British coat-buying weather and encroaching gale-force winds?
Zadie Smith’s collection of essays, Feel Free, promises to be a hit Christmas gift. The book, published 1 Dec by Viking, will be split into four sections: Smith’s views on politics and the news; her views on the media and the arts; a collection of essays she has been asked to write; and finally, a personal collection entitled 'Feel Free.'
For more on the literary scene as the year goes on, be sure to check in at theskinny.co.uk/books