Wednesday, December 03, 2008

There’s a First Time for Everything

It’s easy to get stuck in reading ruts, to always turn to the same sorts of books and same authors you’ve enjoyed before. In fact, publishers like it when you do just that. But there’s much to be said for exploring across literary lines, seeing what else is out there. Which is why I finally joined a book group in my neighborhood (none of the other members of which typically read crime fiction). It’s also why I am particularly proud of myself when, at the end a given year, I find new names and types of books on the list of what I’ve read during the preceding 12 months.

Now, Brian Lindenmuth over at Observations from the Balcony has invited me to share some of my author “discoveries” from 2008. Picking up on a post at Blog of the Fallen, in which the writer lists the authors he read for the first time this year, Lindenmuth has started a meme along the same lines. He explains:
Rules are simple.

1) List the authors that were new to you this year, regardless of year of publication.

2) Bold the ones that were debuts (first novel, published in 2008)

3) Tag some people
Hmm. It isn’t clear from those instructions that I’m supposed to confine myself exclusively to naming fiction writers, or crime-fiction writers--so I won’t. After combing the shelves of my office, and then looking through the boxes of volumes I haven’t yet found space to display, I’ve decided to compile two lists. The first one is of novelists whose work I read for the first time in 2008, along with the titles of the books that introduced me to them. Debuts works are in boldface, and the asterisks denote crime or thriller fiction.

John Babbington Williams (Leaves from the Note-book of a New York Detective)*
• Tony Black (Paying for It)*
• Selden Edwards (The Little Book)
Thomas Eidson (Souls of Angels)
Anthony Flacco (The Hidden Man)*
Lawrence Goldstone (The Anatomy of Deception)*
John R. King (The Shadow of Reichenbach Falls)*
Richard Kinzmann (Salamander Cotton)*
• Stieg Larsson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)*
• Jeffrey Lent (In the Fall)
• Daniel Mason (The Piano Tuner)
Ian McEwan (Saturday)
John McFetridge (Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere)*
Claire Messud (The Emperor’s Children)
Shepherd Rifkin (The Murderer Vine)*
Jose Saramago (Blindness)
• Tom Rob Smith (Child 44)*
• Michael Stanley (A Carrion Death)*
• Ian Vasquez (In the Heat)*
John Vernon (Lucky Billy)
John Williams (Stoner)

I’ve been somewhat liberal with the rules here; not all of the debut works I have boldfaced came out in 2008. And Babbington’s book is a collection of short stories first published in 1865. However, I don’t think I can stretch things to include another new discovery, “A.A. Fair,” who was really Erle Stanley Gardner writing under a pseudonym. This was the first year in which I read one of Fair’s Bertha Cool and Donald Lam novels, Top of the Heap--and enjoyed it enough to buy a stack of other entries in that series.

In addition, here’s a list of the non-fiction writers to whose books I was first introduced during the past year:

Scott W. Berg (Grand Avenues)
Howard Blum (American Lightning)
Julia Keller (Mr. Gatling’s Terrible Marvel)
Matthew Goodman (The Sun and the Moon)
David Greenberg (Calvin Coolidge)
Gary Krist (The White Cascade)
Jane Mayer (The Dark Side)
• Barack Obama (Dreams from My Father)
Paula Uruburu (American Eve)
Alan Weisman (The World Without Us)

Whew! With that done, allow me to invite some other folks to participate in this meme exercise. Consider yourselves tagged, guys:

Ali Karim
Elizabeth Foxwell
Ben Boulden
Linda L. Richards
Scott D. Parker
Vince Keenan

I look forward to seeing what you all have to offer.

Does anybody else have new author discoveries from the past year to share? Consider the Comments section of this post open for business.

FOLLOW-UP:Initiations,” by J. Kingston Pierce (The Rap Sheet).


Dana King said...

Some of these writers won't be new to anyone but me, but that's what happens when you come late to a party.

This year's discoveries (for me, at least) were:

Richard Price, FREEDOMLAND
Declan Burke, THE BIG O
Mark Billingham, IN THE DARK.

Kerrie said...

I blogged mine at