Turnaround’s Most Anticipated Books of 2021

Dear Reader, 2020 was a terrible year, and though we hope 2021 will be better, we would be lying if we said it wasn’t off to a rocky start. But as the UK enters into yet another lockdown, here at Turnaround we take solace in the fact that one thing the new year will bring is new books from our fantastic and hard-working publishers.

Spanning upcoming releases from January to July, here are just a few of the things we’re most excited about. Including new Jedi adventures, unapologetic queer romps, moving graphic novels, and insightful non-fiction. Plus thumping good reads from Turnaround newcomers Silver Sprocket, Weatherglass Books, and Cipher Press. Along with a long-awaited return from hiatus for Dodo Ink. And remember, bookshops still need your help. So if something catches your eye do them the biggest favor and pre-order from your local.

Ben recommends…

Star Wars The High Republic: Into the Dark by Claudia Gray (Disney-Lucasfilm Press, 9781368057288, £14.99, February 2020)

2020 was a pretty crappy year all-round, but it wasn’t so bad for Star Wars fans. From a new season of The Mandalorian to The Clone Wars grand finale, plus more series & film announcements that you can shake a womp rat at. And now for the first time since the sequel trilogy was first announced we are getting an all-new Star Wars era to explore, the High Republic. Claudia Gray’s Into the Dark is the third book to be set during this era, and promises an adventure into the unknown in the wake of a hyperspace disaster, leaving a team of Jedi stranded on a mysterious abandoned space station. Claudia’s Star Wars: Bloodline was an absolute treat, and she’s easily one of the strongest authors in the Lucasfilm stable house, so I’m dying to read this one.

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That Full Moon Feeling by Ashley Robin Franklin
(Silver Sprocket, 9781945509568, £12.99, February 2020)

A new addition to the Turnaround family is Silver Sprocket. An excellent indie comics publisher at the bleeding edge of the small press scene. That Full Moon Feeling is the latest offering from lesbian comics creator Ashley Robin Franklin, a completely fab sounding witchy rom-com where a witch and a werewolf go on three disastrous dates. This little book of horrors sounds and looks adorable, and as a big fan of Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam I am absolutely ready for more domestic queer fantasy.

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COMA by Zara Slattery
(Myriad Editions, 9781912408665, £18.99, April 2020)

Continuing their tradition of ground-breaking, thought-provoking graphic novels, Myriad Editions are kicking off their 2021 slate with Zara Slattery autobiographical COMA. Diagnosed with rare and life-threatening infection in 2013, Zara was made to undergo a 15-day drug induced coma to save her life, in which she experienced terrifying and vivid nightmares. The emotional and mental intensity, both on her and her family, are illustrated here in this graphic memoir. First shortlisted for the Myriad First Graphic Novel Competition in 2018, the art looks exquisite, and I have little doubt that this will prove to be a powerful, moving debut.

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Eleanor recommends…

Second Nature: Scenes from a World Remade by Nathaniel Rich
(MCD, 9780374106034, £22.99, April 2021)

In this new collection of ecological reportage Nathaniel Rich asks what it means to live in an era of terrible responsibility. The question, he asserts, is no longer ‘how do we go back to the old world?’, but ‘what do we create in its place?’.

The New York Times article that makes up the first chapter of this book, on the contamination of a town by an unscrupulous chemical manufacturing corporation and the legal fight for justice after the fact, was adapted to the film Dark Waters in 2019, and its focus on the social, legal, and ethical consequences of our seemingly unfettered power over the natural world typifies the stories found in this volume. Rich is one of the leading ecological writers of our time, known for his contributions to The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The New York Review of Books as well as the well-received Losing Earth: The Decade We Could Have Stopped Climate Change (2019). Second Nature feels like required reading as humanity’s mastery over the natural world begins to seem like our only way to reverse or mitigate the destruction we have caused. Cheery stuff!

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North Korea – Like Nowhere Else: Two Years of Life and Photos from the World’s Most Secretive State by Lindsey Miller
(September Publishing, 9781912836802, £17.99, May 2021)

Lindsey Miller lived in Pyongyang between 2017 and 2019 and, as the wife of a diplomat, experienced a view of North Korea that few Westerners ever have. Her photographs are collected here, along with observations from her time in the country as she ran the Pyongyang marathon, watched the 70th anniversary of the Korean Workers’ Party celebrations, shared drinks with North Korean train conductors, and travelled around the country with, uniquely, no government minders. This glimpse of North Korean life and everyday happenings behind the headlines looks to be a fascinating read.

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Zenith by María Medem
(Centrala, 9781912278251, £23.00, July 2021)

Under an ever-present orange sun illuminating a desert landscape, two artisans meet every day for lunch and a chat. Both are sleepwalkers but experience the phenomenon in different ways, and one day one wakes up to a horrifying discovery. Created by Spanish artist María Medem, who you may recognise from Bombay Bicycle Club’s Eat, Sleep, Wake album cover as well as her illustrations for The New York Times, this stunning, evocative graphic novel reminiscent of Moebius and Georgia O’Keefe is coming in early July. Considering the first edition sold out in a month and a half, take this as your 7-month advance warning to act fast for a copy of this beautiful book.

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Anouk recommends

The Adventures and Misadventures of the Extraordinary and Admirable Joan Orpí, Conquistador and Founder of New Catalonia  
by Max Besora, translated by Mara Faye Lethem
(Open Letter, 9781948830249, £14.99, February 2021)

Let’s be honest, the extraordinary title is at least half the reason I picked this book. It’s so long it takes up a third of the cover! The real star of the show though is translator Mara Faye Lethem, who managed to wrangle this sprawling faux-historical Spanish romp into a breathtaking English translation. A book that is both a good story and an incredible feat of literary translation? Sign me up.

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The High Rise Diver by Julia von Lucadou, translated by Sharmila Cohen
(World Editions, 9781912987160, £12.99, May 2021)

Pressure to perform, conform, and self-optimise: we’ve all been there, perhaps more so this year than any other. Born out of the author’s frustration with her own working life, The High Rise Diver is a piercing investigation into the capitalist ideology behind these toxic ideas of performance. You’ll have to wait a bit longer for this dystopian novel to hit the shelves (thanks, Covid), but it’s shaping up to be a hell of a ride.

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Stone Fruit by Lee Lai
(Fantagraphics, 9781683964261, £29.99, May 2021)

A deep dive into vulnerability, love, heartbreak and family bonds, Stone Fruit is one of the most sophisticated debut graphic novels in recent years. It follows a queer couple as they navigate their relationship falling apart, the only remaining link between them their young niece whom they take on excursions. They seek solace with their respective family, trying to repair broken bonds and learning something about themselves in the process. Beautiful and heartbreaking – a classic in the making.

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Skye Papers by Jamika Ajalon
(The Feminist Press, 9781952177965, £15.99, June 2021)

Skye Papers is a Black, punk, queer coming-of-age story about London’s 90s underground art scene, exploring the fraught, dystopian reality of state surveillance. Jamika Ajalon offers a snapshot of an art scene spearheaded by people of colour under threat from police and state, and asks questions of personal autonomy and queerness. At once dreamy and punchy, this is another brilliant Amethyst Editions book.

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Jenn recommends…

Sterling Karat Gold by Isabel Waidner
(Peninsula Press, 9781913512040, £12.99, June 2021)

I’ve loved everything Isabel Waidner has written and so I’m goofy with excitement to read Sterling Karat Gold. The novel follows aspiring writer Sterling who is arrested without having committed any crime and plunged into a terrifying world of bullfighters, football legends, spaceships, and Google Earth tourists. It’s pegged as ‘Kafka’s The Trial written for the era of gaslighting’, which sounds completely brilliant.

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Cold New Climate by Isobel Wohl
(Weatherglass Books, 9781838018122, £10.99, April 2021)

I’m always excited when a new indie press launches, and Weatherglass Books’ first book sounds so good. Described as ‘unafraid and uncompromising’ by Katherine Angel, Cold New Climate follows Lydia, who arrives back from a trip to Greece to find her much-older partner has fallen in love with someone else. Her life in disarray, she faces a future in which nothing is certain, reconnecting with her partner’s teenage son in a way that shocks and devastates all three lives. Drawing on the wider political climate, Wohl’s novel asks big questions about the ways we choose to live our lives.

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Variations by Juliet Jacques
(Influx Press, 9781910312773, £9.99, June 2021)

Variations is a collection of short stories charting transgender lives in the UK from Oscar Wilde’s London to the present day. In light of rampant transphobia in the UK and ignorance of trans histories, Variations feels like a really important book that’s arriving at just the right time. Written in an innovative mix of forms, including film scripts, academic papers, memoirs, and blog posts, I’m excited to read this one.

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The Service by Frankie Miren
(Influx Press, 9781910312872, £9.99, June 2021)

Another banging novel from Influx Press, The Service is a ‘powerful and challenging novel’ about sex work, women’s bodies, relationships, privilege, and power. It follows three women; Lori, a sex worker living in fear of losing her small daughter; Freya, a student who works as an escort, and Paula, a journalist who campaigns against prostitution. After a shock change to the law, with brothels being raided by authorities, lives are fractured, and all three women are inevitably drawn into each other’s orbit.

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Trauma: Essays on Art and Mental Health by Various
(Dodo Ink, 9780993575877, £10.99, January 2021)

This is Dodo Ink’s first non-fiction title and it looks incredible, timely, relevant. Trauma is an anthology of essays about mental health by a range of acclaimed authors including David Lynch, Neil Griffiths, Kirsty Logan, Juliet Jacques, and Alex Pheby. The essays featured are both political and personal, from the raw to the reflective, and explore topics such as grief, anxiety, insomnia, and abuse.

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Liam recommends…

Future Feeling by Joss Lake
(Soft Skull Press, 9781593766887, £12.99, June 2021)

Andrea Lawlor endorsed Future Feeling on Instagram, and that was enough for me. But in case that’s not enough to convince, we can look a little deeper. Future Feeling is speculative and sci-fi and strange – and so, so trans. Set sometime in the not-so-distant-future, it follows Pen, a trans man obsessed with watching holograms of Aiden Chase, who’s transition into picture-perfect masculinity has gone much smoother than his own. When a hex he’s aimed at Aiden bypasses him and sends another young trans man into the trans emotional purgatory in his place, Pen and Aiden must team up to retrieve him. Honestly, I’m beside myself with excitement for this one. I wish I were reading it right now.

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100 Boyfriends by Brontez Purnell
(Cipher Press, 9781916355378, £9.99, May 2021)

Okay, I’m cheating a bit here because I’ve actually already read 100 Boyfriends. But, my friends, it bangs. It’s filthy. It’s hilarious. It will make you long for human contact and reminisce fondly (or cringingly, depending on your mood) on the times you have been a total chaotic mess. 100 Boyfriends lures you down an alleyway with a wink and a cheeky comment, and then quietly, unexpectedly, comes for your heart. I love it so much.

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Found Audio by N.J. Campbell
(Two Dollar Radio, 9781937512576, £10.99, July 2021)

I love a novel that plays with formatting. From the footnotes in Confessions of the Fox, to Hazel Jane Plante’s Little Blue Encyclopedia (For Vivian), to Jeff Jackoson’s A-side / B-side manoeuvre in Destroy All Monsters, my general feeling on the subject is yes, thank you, hook it directly into my veins please. So I’m very excited for Found Audio. The gambit here is that a historian and analyst have acquired the audio cassettes of an adventure journalist’s obsessive pursuit of a legendary and puzzling ‘City of Dreams.’ The novel takes the form of ‘the complete archival manuscript of the mysterious recordings accompanied by Singh’s analysis’, and it looks brilliant. I’m ready for it now.

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And for even more books to be add to your TBR piles, check our 2020 Staff Picks for Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Graphic Novels, for everything you might have missed.

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