Do you dream of world where Brexit never happened and Donald Trump is not the most powerful man in the world? If so, William Gibson’s novel Agency (Viking, January) entertains just this possibility. But don’t get your hopes up.

It’s no utopian wonderland, rather a speculative thriller that moves between California in 2017 and London 100 years hence. Its protagonist is an "app whisperer" called Verity Jane who is hired by a dark web start-up to investigate a sly "digital assistant" called Eunice. Gibson, a percipient writer, coined the term "cyberspace". A definition appears in his 1984 novel Necromancer: "a consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation..." Sound familiar?

If you prefer to keep your head in the unnerving tragi-comedy of the real world, you might prefer yet another expose of President Trump’s administration. In A Very Stable Genius (Bloomsbury, January) Washington Post journalists Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig draw on three years of reporting to document this most sinister and bizarre of Whitehouse incumbents. And it’s coming at the right time, in the aftermath of the US House of Representative’s decision to impeach The Donald.

Machiavellian might be a suitable adjective to describe Trump, along with another recently elected leader. I’ll let you guess who. Those who want to know more about the man behind the word, however, should pick up Alexander Lee’s new biography of Niccolo Machiavelli himself. Machiavelli: His Life and Times (Picador, March) shows this Florentine diplomat, poet and philosopher as more than the man who wrote The Prince, his treatise on nefarious realpolitik.

Around the time Machiavelli was leaving his mark on Renaissance Italy, Thomas Cromwell was doing much the same to early 16th century England. Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light (4th Estate, March) is the most-anticipated novel of 2020. The final book in her Cromwell trilogy opens with Henry VIII waiting for his longed-for male heir to be born in the months after the "spring bloodbath" of 1536, when Ann Boleyn was beheaded; it ends four years later with Cromwell’s gruesome fate, and no lack of narrative irony.

From one Cromwell to another: a century after Thomas Cromwell commanded the court of Henry VIII, Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army hounded Charles II out of England. Linda Porter’s new book Mistresses (Picador, April) takes a fresh look at Charles’ reign through the many women who shared his bed. Porter shows how each woman – from Nell Gwynn, "history’s most famous orange seller" to Moll Davis, who bore the last of the king’s 15 illegitimate children – influenced the politics and culture of the day. It’s an interesting approach: after all, we all know that rulers act out of personal satisfaction as much as political sense.

In 2019, the country had its fair share of Royal scandal, and not just in the new series of The Crown. Prince Andrew’s association with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein came about through his friendship with Epstein’s equally creepy partner, Ghislaine Maxwell. Now in hiding, Maxwell has spent her life surrounded by rich, powerful men, like her notorious father, the media tycoon Robert Maxwell. John Peston’s Fall: The Last Days of Robert Maxwell (Viking, July) looks at the days preceding Maxwell’s death. He was found floating in The Atlantic near the Canary Islands after disappearing off his yacht, The Lady Ghislaine.

For a different sort of life story, of a more humane man, turn to Hermione Lee’s authorised biography of one of our finest living playwrights. Tom Stoppard: A Life (Faber) is published in October. "The book tracks him from his family’s escape from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia and on to his leap to fame with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, his marriages and children, and his constant writing, rehearsing and transatlantic travel." On the biography front, Deborah Orr’s posthumous memoir Motherwell (Weidenfeld) is released in January. Orr, who passed away in October from breast cancer aged 57, was a witty, intelligent and pioneering journalist and editor. Motherwell explores her complex relationship with her mother and the town she found herself escaping over and over again throughout her life.

One of Hermione Lee’s previous subjects was Virginia Woolf. Ali Smith is perhaps the most Woolfian of Scotland’s novelists. Her early novel Hotel World even begins with an allusion to Mrs Dalloway: "...what a fall what a soar what a plummet...’ Smith’s seasonal tetralogy of Brexit novels comes to an end with Summer (Hamish Hamilton, July). A counterpoint to Smith’s high season might be Andrew O’Hagan’s next novel, Mayflies (Faber, September), set during the same month but 34years ago in 1986. It follows a bunch of music-obsessed teenagers desperate to escape a Scottish town during the Miner’s Strike.

Graham Swift’s Here We Are (Scribner, February) also travels back in time, to the heyday of Brighton Pier. It follows three members of a theatre troupe: a whizz magician called Ronnie, his assistant Evie, and Jack Robinson – as in, "before you can say" – the compere. Expect what happens behind the curtain to be as thrilling as what happens in front of it. Also in February, Aravind Adiga publishes Amnesty (Picador). Dhananjaya Rajaratnam is an undocumented immigrant working as a cleaner in Sydney. On the verge of establishing a new life for himself, a murder throws his life into turmoil again.

It’s a platitude, yet no less true, to say some big commercial publishers are too risk averse when it comes to cutting-edge fiction. So, it’s worth looking into some gutsy independent presses. In the autumn, Galley Beggar publish James Clammer’s debut novel, Insignificance. It takes us into the mind of a plumber who suffers from Capgras Syndrome: "the condition in which someone comes to believe that a person close to them has been replaced by an imposter." Clammer describes his own style as High Plebeian. I like the sound of that.

In July, the not-for-profit press And Other Stories republish Ann Quin’s Three. Little known now, Quin was at the forefront of the 1960s taboo-breaking avant-garde. Three concerns a young couple who spy on their lodger, S. When S dies, leaving behind a trail of paperwork, it turns out that S has been spying on them.

The spy who is spied-upon is also the theme of Simon Okotie’s detective novel After Absalon (Salt, January). It is the final instalment in his trilogy about down-at-heel detective Marguerite and the case of the London Mayor’s missing transport secretary. The publisher assures me that it’s a novel "packed with inaction". It already sounds better than some crime fiction. In this regard, and for a laugh, see Malcolm Pryce’s The Corpse in the Garden of Perfect Brightness (Bloomsbury, March). Expect nostalgia, steam trains, and a "train detective" on the case of his missing mother, who may have been shipwrecked off the coast of Java. Pryce is known for his hardboiled noirs set in...Aberwystwyth. In a previous life, he was a yacht hand and the "worst aluminium salesman in the world". He wrote his first book, Aberystwyth Mon Amour, on a banana boat bound for South America. Now that’s a man who knows how to live.

Kapka Kassabova has had a similarly intriguing life. She grew up in Communist Bulgaria, moved to New Zealand in her late teens and now lives in the Scottish highlands. Her last book, Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe, was a wonderful combination of travel writing, history, and reportage. Her new one carries on in a similar vein: To the Lake: A Balkan Journey of War and Peace sees her explore political and family history around two lakes in northern Macedonia. Other genre-defying books from Scotland include Gavin Francis’ Island Dreams (Canongate, May) and David Farrier’s Footprints (Fourth Estate, March). Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils takes the long view. Word on the street is that we’re living through the Anthropocene, which seems to mean that humans have colonised every last corner of time and space. Farrier looks ahead 100,000 years to show how human-made objects, like nuclear waste and plastic, could provide future generations an insight into how we ruined the planet for them.

In all seriousness, one way to tackle climate change is to reform agriculture and our management of the land. Patrick Laurie has worked for the Soil Association and run conservation projects on farmland. Native: Life in a Vanishing Landscape (Birlinn, April) is about his life with a herd of Galloway cattle on his family farm in Galloway; it also doubles as a history of how the erosion of rural traditions and customs have impacted the landscape. Laurie’s previous book was on The Black Grouse, and fellow bird-fanciers will have their sights on Wilson’s Ornithology and Burds in Scots (Scotland Street Press, February). Alexander Wilson was a radical weaver from Paisley who, at the turn of the 19th Century, travelled across the American continent, writing and illustrating its bird life. This beautiful edition of his drawings comes with accompanying poems in Scots written by Hamish MacDonald, The National Library of Scotland’s first Scots scriever.

Finally, many will remember 2018 as The Year of Spark (that’s all I remember about it). Back then, Birlinn republished a stylish edition of Muriel Spark’s complete works to celebrate the centenary of her birth. To mark 2020, the centenary of Edwin Morgan’s birth, Birlinn’s imprint Polygon will release themed selections of the poet’s best work, introduced by the likes of Jackie Kay and Liz Lochhead. One of the titles is Menagerie (March, 2020). Michael Rosen introduces Morgan’s animal-themed poems, among them The White Rhinoceros, The Bearsden Shark, and, of course, The Loch Ness Monster’s Song, which opens with the immortal lines: "Sssnnnwhuffffll?/ Hnwhuffl hhnnwfl hnfl hfl?/ Gdroblboblhobngbl gbl gl g g g g glbgl."