Summer Reading: Novels by O'Brien and Okri and a life of Havel

The new millennium has created a strain of nostalgia in the books out this autumn. Almost everyone is looking back in time. J M Roberts, the author of the best-selling Penguin History of the World, has focused on the 20th century to produce the authoritative guide - The History of the World, 1901 to the Present.

Peter Watson treads a similar path in Terrible Beauty, The Ideas that Shaped the Century (Orion), in which he describes the philosophical breakthroughs, scientific discoveries and artistic movements that have made the century what it is.

If that sounds a little serious, a lighter note comes from pop journalist Nick Johnstone and the Melody Maker History of 20th Century Popular Music (Bloomsbury).

And on a smaller scale, the South African writer Nadine Gordimer takes stock of the century in a collection of personal reflections, Living in Hope and History, published by Bloomsbury in October.

A clutch of elder statesmen take historical themes or figures for their new works. Roy Hattersley turns his attention to the founders of the Salvation Army in Blood and Fire (Little, Brown), while, in A World Restored (Orion), Henry Kissinger analyses the Europe of 1812-1822.

Delving further back in time, Anthony Holden, Prince Charles's biographer, produces what publishers Little, Brown claim is the first popular, mainstream biography of Shakespeare since that of Anthony Burgess nearly 30 years ago. Meanwhile, Simon Schama, the professor/author of the bestseller Citizens, turns his attention to Rembrandt.

Yet the future is also a strong theme. The novelist Umberto Eco, the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould and others engage in suitably millennial Conversations about the End of Time, published by Penguin in September.

And the recent science fad continues with Jacobson's Organ (Penguin), a book on the nature of smell by life scientist Lyall Watson. Dava Sobel follows her international bestseller Longitude with Galileo's Daughter (Fourth Estate), the story of the scientist's illegitimate child. Jane Hawking writes of life with Stephen, the brilliant scientist with motor neurone disease, in Music to Move the Stars, published by Macmillan.

For fiction-lovers, there are new novels from Ben Okri, Edna O'Brien and Michael Frayn, and a collection of stories from Patrick McCabe. Macmillan is publishing what the author Colin Dexter claims is his last Inspector Morse, The Remorseful Day. Jose Saramago, last year's Nobel Prize for Literature winner, sees his latest novel, All The Names, translated by the Harvill Press.

The autumn brings new poetry from Carol Ann Duffy and Anne Michaels, the Orange Prize-winning author of Fugitive Pieces, plus a new volume of collected poems from Craig Raine.

Michael Grade reveals the secrets of his life in television in an autobiography, It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time (Macmillan), while P D James's memoirs, Time To Be In Earnest, are published by Faber in November.

Vaclav Havel, the Czech playwright and politician, the actors Michael Caine and Robbie Coltrane, and pop's Mr Miserable, Morrissey, are among the targets for biographers. Fred Kaplan turns the spotlight on the cultural critic and novelist Gore Vidal in an authorised biography which Vidal has waived his right to see before publication. And the writer Frederic Raphael releases his memoir of Stanley Kubrick, the notoriously secretive film director with whom he worked for 30 years. Expect some insights into Eyes Wide Shut, the movie starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, which Kubrick was fine-tuning when he died earlier this year.

Among publishing's range of the eclectic is the story of the "pop cult city" of Manchester and the tale of the coelacanth, a 400-million-year- old living fossil. Peter Chapman, a journalist and former goalkeeper for Leyton Orient juniors, tells The Goalkeeper's History of Britain (Fourth Estate). Meanwhile, Stephen Glover, the media commentator and former editor of The Independent on Sunday, reveals Secrets of the Press (Penguin). Not too many, we hope.

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