Randy Kraft’s OC Book Blog: Hot Books for the New Year

Randy Kraft's OC Book Blog

A line-up of fine writers and provocative fiction, and a few non-fictions, coming your way.

By Randy Kraft


Hilary Mantel: The Mirror & The Light

At last! The third in the Wolf Hall series, eagerly awaited, begins in 1536 after the beheading of Ann Boleyn … and the rest, as they say, is history, which Mantel brings to life with her amazing prose and critical eye. Welcome back Mr. Cromwell et al.


Louise Erdrich: The Nigh Watchman

Based on her grandfather’s fight against Native American dispassion from rural North Dakota to Washington, DC, Erdrich returns to her life’s work.


Isabel Allende: A Long Petal of the Sea

Allende’s fiction is sometimes great, sometimes disappointing, but she always brings heart to the story. This one follows lovers/refugees of the Spanish Civil War and I’ve had word it’s one of the better ones.


Jenny Offill: Weather

This fabulous author of Department of Speculation follows with another small novel filled with short passages that, in totality, depict relationships that ebb and flow like the weather and can never be truly predicted. Another gem, if you are willing to go with the flow.


Colum McCann: Apeirogon

One of my most favorite writers returns with what’s being called an ambitious novel having to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Whether or not the novel holds up to his previous award-winning fiction, he is always a pleasure to read. It’s in my hands, so I will report back.


Ottessa Moshfegh: Death in her Hands

The inventive author of Eileen and My Year of Rest and Relaxation returns with a new take on a gothic horror involving a grieving widow coming to terms with a past she may not have recognized as her own. A writer worth following.


Jeanine Cummins: American Dirt

A mother and child flee Acapulco when the drug cartel moves in and destroys their way of life. The story revolves around their harrowing journey north. Timely, indeed, and writers, like Ann Patchett, are calling it the most anticipated book of the year, while Don Winslow called it the Grapes of Wrath for our times. I’m always a little skeptic of such hype, but this is a really important story.


Emma Straub: All Adults Here

A multi-generational novel about a messy family, this emerging writer with two bestselling books under her belt, focuses on relationships, of the younger generational variety.


Anne Tyler: Redhead by the Side of the Road

I frankly prefer Tyler’s earlier fiction, but one never knows what she might do next, and she always tells a good tale, of the older generational variety.


Laila Lalami: Conditional Citizens

For the non-fiction lovers, this wonderful novelist turns her pen to channeling her experience as a Moroccon immigrant into a memoir of displacement. A fine writer tells important truths.


Erik Larson: The Splendid and The Vile

Another non-fiction master, Larson basis this tale on Winston Churchill, using archival documents and diaries. He is at his best turning expository material into great storytelling. (If you haven’t yet read Devil in the White City, read that first discover his talent. )


Rachel Maddow: Bag Man

The MSNBC host and historian revisits the Spiro Agnew political corruption as a way of revealing how easy it can be to pollute politics and how important for all of us to pay attention.


Randy Kraft is a retired journalist, an active book reviewer and fiction writer. She also occasionally teaches and coaches aspiring novelists, and has been the OC Book Blogger on this site since its inception. Born and bred in New York City, Randy resides in Dana Point. Her first novel Colors of the Wheel published in 2014 and her second, Signs of Life, in 2016. In recent years, she has published several short stories in literary magazines and her first collection, Rational Women, was released in 2020. (Maple57Press) www.randykraftwriter.com

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