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2015 books preview: What to read in the new year

Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison has a new

Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison has a new novel, "God Bless the Child," out from Knopf in April 2015. Credit: Michael Lionstar

As we close the book on 2014, it's time to look ahead to the books that 2015 will bring. Here are 15 books, and five trends, we see on the horizon.

BOLDFACE NAMES A new book by Toni Morrison is always an event, so the literati marked their calendars this fall when it was announced that the Nobel Prize-winning author would bring out "God Help the Child" (Knopf, April 21), a novel about childhood trauma and how it ripples into adulthood. Actor David Duchovny, best known to fans of "The X-Files" and "Californication," will attempt to prove his literary bona fides with "Holy Cow" (FSG, Feb. 3), a barnyard epic that just might give Orwell a run for his money. Nick Hornby, beloved by fans of "High Fidelity" and "About a Boy" returns with "Funny Girl" (Riverhead, Feb. 3), the story of a television comedian in London during the Swinging '60s. Readers who grew up with Judy Blume ("Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret") will rejoice to hear that she has written a novel for adults, "In the Unlikely Event" (Knopf, June 2). And the world hangs on every utterance by Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling, so it only makes sense to bring out her 2008 Harvard commencement speech as a book: "Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination" (Little, Brown; April 14).

'LITERARY' FICTION In the wake of Paula McClain's "The Paris Wife," about Hemingway's first wife, and Therese Anne Fowler's "Z," about Zelda Fitzgerald, fiction about authors and their families is all the rage. First out of the gate is Priya Parmar's "Vanessa and Her Sister" (Ballantine, out now), about the siblings who grew up to be the center of the Bloomsbury Group; Vanessa's sister, of course, would become Virginia Woolf, author of "Mrs. Dalloway" and other masterpieces of modernism. Then, Stewart O'Nan shines a light on F. Scott Fitzgerald's dark final years in Hollywood in "West of Sunset" (Viking, Jan. 13). Fitzgerald's friends Gerald and Sara Murphy -- the inspiration for Dick and Nicole Diver in "Tender Is the Night," get novelized in "Villa America" (Little, Brown; July 14), in which Liza Klaussmann imagines the couple's storied life on the French Riviera during the 1920s.

EXPLORING NORTH KOREA The debacle of "The Interview" and the hacking of Sony Pictures hasn't deterred the publishing industry. "A Kim Jong-il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator's Rise to Power" by Paul Fischer (Flatiron, Feb. 3) looks at the late North Korean leader's early stint in the Ministry of Propaganda and a stranger-than-fiction plot to kidnap a South Korean actress and director. (It sounds like a movie waiting to be made -- but never mind.) Then, Blaine Harden revisits the ascent of Kim Il Sung and a high-profile 1953 defection in "The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot: The True Story of the Tyrant Who Created North Korea and the Young Lieutenant Who Stole His Way to Freedom" (Viking, March 17).

A LINCOLN ANNIVERSARY Every year sees a new crop of books about our 16th president, a source of endless fascination for American readers. But 2015 is the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War and the assassination, so prepare for even more Lincolniana than usual. Scholar Harold Holzer brings us "President Lincoln Assassinated!!: The Firsthand Story of the Murder, Manhunt, Trial, and Mourning" (Library of America, Feb. 24), a compilation of newspaper accounts, letters, testimony and eulogies (including a diary entry by assassin John Wilkes Booth). Martha Hodes analyzes the unprecedented national outpouring of grief in "Mourning Lincoln" (Yale University Press, Feb. 24). And in "Lincoln's Body: A Cultural History" (Norton, Feb. 9), Richard Wightman Fox examines how we view the president's ungainly physical presence in life and in death.

INTERNET BACKLASH The digital honeymoon is over. In the spirit of Nicholas Carr's "The Shallows" and Jaron Lanier's "You Are Not a Gadget," comes a new wave of books questioning what the mad rush of online innovations have done to us as individuals and as a society. British neuroscientist Susan Greenfield looks at the impact on the human brain (hint: it ain't good) in "Mind Change: How Digital Technologies Are Leaving Their Mark on Our Brains" (Random House, Feb. 10), while "The Internet Is Not the Answer" by Silicon Valley alum Andrew Keen (Atlantic Monthly Press, Jan. 6) acknowledges the many advantages of the Web for consumers but questions the value for citizens.

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