There is a palpable mood of foreboding and anxiety around the bookshelves in 2019. From grim warnings about climate change and rising pollution; startling studies about the impact of demographic trends; and — of course — Brexit and all its possible meanings and consequences, there is a lot to fret about when looking down the list of what awaits readers in 2019. But before anyone gets too miserable — and, besides, pessimism and alarm has long been a mainstay of the publishing industry — look at it another way: challenging times can also make for interesting, even great writing. Some of the biggest names in English-language novel writing have looked to the big, often scary issues facing us and used them for their work. We are now seeing the results. John Lanchester kicked off the year with The Wall, a dystopian vision of Britain in the near future. It tells the story of young conscripts sent to guard a wall erected around Britain after a climate catastrophe to keep out the “others”. T...

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