Despite predominantly reading fiction, every six months or so I will go on a nonfiction binge, exploring a subject that interests me. Past obsessions have included the Golden Age of Magic, Game Theory, Origins of Colours (mainly just to confuse Amazon.com's suggested reading algorithms). These bursts of interest fade as quickly as they came, as my retention of knowledge is notoriously lame.
One of my areas of interest, which I explored a couple of years ago, was chess. Now I have to come out and say that I don't particularly like chess, and the idea of playing it fills me with some dread (all that planning ahead...). But the idea of the evolution of chess, and its almost mythic properties, was something that fascinated me. In the course of exploring this interest, I stumbled across one of the most engrossing pieces of nonfiction I'd ever read, namely David Edmonds and John Eidinow's Bobby Fischer Goes to War, a riveting account of the lead-up, duration and aftermath of American chess wunderkind Bobby Fischer's and soviet world champion Boris Spassky. It is a fascinating and thrilling story, even for those not interested in chess. It's hard to get these days (only available as an import title in Australia), but keep your eyes out in second-hand shops.
Anyhoo, reading that book gave me an insight into what an interesting/insane personality Bobby Fischer actually was, and Murdoch Books are bringing out this biography in February and I, for one, am very much looking forward to reading it.
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Did I just say that The Pale King was 2011's most anticipated literature release? What we talk about when we talk about anticipated is Haruki Murakami's 1Q84, which I have been awaiting for quite a while now. It's fair to say that the first time I read Murakami (in my case, A Wild Sheep Chase), it was like nothing else I'd ever read. And, despite bingeing on his fiction perhaps a little too much afterwards, I am REALLY looking forward to this book. It's out in September (look, it even has an ISBN now!) and I shall be first in line. I don't think I'll be alone. On their first day of publication in Japan (two volumes printed simultaneously -- here it will be a single volume) they sold out their first print run, reaching sales of one million copies in a month. It will be interesting to see the splash it makes in English-speaking countries.
And, because I'm getting tired of writing in the Brisbane heat, and, if you're like me, you just prefer lists anyway, here are some more titles I'll be watching out for in 2011:
The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht (April) - For a debut novelist, she has received praise from the likes of Colum McCann, Ann Patchett and T.C. Boyle. Should be big.
There is No Year by Blake Butler (May) - For pure literary hipness, you need to be seen with this book. Blake Butlerwrites for the irrepresibly cool/unintelligible blog HTMLGIANT, and blows us away with his short fiction in The Lifted Brow and in this book. Can't wait to see what he'll do with the novel.
Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta (July) - Dana Spiotta wrote one of my favourite books EVER, Eat the Document, and I can't wait to read this one (despite the infuriatingly small amount of detail about it available).
And as always, some will succeed, some will fail, and others will come out of nowhere to capture our imagination. Here's to 2011!