It’s always a pleasure to find a new author whose work you enjoy, but how do you find them in the first place? Word of mouth is probably the most reliable. Family and friends who share similar tastes are often a good source. I appreciate a friend lending me a dog-eared copy of a favorite book. I take their enthusiasm with me and dive between the covers hoping to be transported to a new world. The majority of the time I’m right there with them and I’m happy to recommend the book to other friends. Occasionally, I’m disappointed. The book doesn’t live up to my expectations, however, I think that is more often than not because the book was overly praised by a friend. It made me expect perfection, and lets face it, no book is perfect. I’m guilty of overpraising a book myself. I’ve been singing the wonders of one of my favorite books, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Lani Taylor, for the past year. But a friend recently told me she thought it was just okay. Mea culpa. It’s a wonderful book, but I’m afraid I enjoyed it so much I probably made it sound like the second coming. It’s like falling in love. At first you can’t get enough and you have to tell everyone about it until they are sick of listening to you. I’m looking forward to reading Lani Taylor’s next book Days of Blood and Starlight, the sequel which is due out in November. I promise to be more reserved in my recommendations for it if it’s as good as I hope it will be. It’s a shame to ruin a book for someone because you’ve overhyped it.
I forgot to mention. I originally found Lani Taylor through a Twitter lead—another possible place for finding a new author, though be careful of people praising their own books. Make sure the recommendation is from a reliable or unbiased source.
Librarians and book sellers are helpful in suggesting new authors—if they are experienced. Too often salesclerks in bookstores (the ones that remain) don’t know their stock beyond the latest best sellers. I recommend going to an independent bookstore, a place where the staff are invested in their stock, and not to a big chain, when you’re on the hunt for something new to read. Librarians are more reliable—it comes with the job description. Be prepared to name some authors whose work you enjoy, the type of genre you’re looking for, the type of voice you like—fun, lots of dialogue, thoughtful, dark, etc.—so they can get a feel for your tastes. You have to help them narrow down the choices.
I put book reviews last. I do read them and I have found authors that way, but too often the book doesn’t live up to the review—probably the hype problem again. I’m also a genre reader. I like mysteries, humor, and science fiction, besides children and YA books. I also read some nonfiction—history, art, and archaeology. But for the most part I like escapism. I don’t like dark, dystopian type of books that make me want to slash my wrists by the time I’m done because the world is a horrible place. Those kind of books tend to get reviewed more than the lighter-hearted, fun, talky books I enjoy, so I don’t rely heavily on the Sunday paper review section. (Side note: I do enjoy darker, thought-provoking stories but not as often.) That said I have recently discovered a new author through reviews, and been reminded of an old author whose work I had forgotten about. John Scalzi’s new book Redshirts was a joy to read. Besides being fun and a delightful satire on science fiction TV shows, I found it thought provoking. It made me laugh hard and tear up during some very moving emotional moments. It has stayed with me and I often find myself thinking about it even though weeks have passed. When I looked to see what else he had written, I was surprised to see five other books I had already read of his. I first discovered his books a number of years ago and read everything he had written at that time. Then I had to wait for him to write something new. I missed his next book, because I had forgotten about him by then. I’m so glad I saw the review of Redshirts and rediscovered an old favorite. I also read his Fuzzy Nation which came out last year. I enjoyed it too, but his latest is the one I’ll happily go back and read again. I won’t forget his name in future.
The new author I discovered in reviews is probably one a lot of you already know about. Donna Andrews writes the perfect cozy full of whacky southern characters. The title of her latest book, Some Like it Hawk, caught my eye and I read the review. It sounded fun so I gave her a try. I loved it. The main character is a blacksmith/artist and she’s one of the organizers trying to save her town from foreclosure by the greedy client. A lone county clerk has barricaded himself in the basement of the town hall in protest and has been there for a year, aided by townspeople in the know through a tunnel from the bandstand to his underground lair. And, of course, a body shows up outside his barricade which makes it look like the clerk did it. But he was busy trying out a new role playing game with one of the townspeople at the time of the murder only he can’t use his alibi because then the greedy client would know the town was in cahoots with him and the sheriff (who is also in on the tunnel scam) would have to arrest half the populace for conspiracy to defraud said greedy client. Meanwhile forensics on the murder is being gathered by the county expert who has claustrophobic issues and can only negotiate the tunnel wearing a gorilla suit. You get the picture. It’s the kind of crazy plot and characters I thoroughly enjoy. I was delighted to discover she has written so many books and I quickly consumed the first book in the series. I’ve got three more on hold at the library and will pick them up today to consume on a cozy afternoon on a cool fall day. I’ll have to get a Starbucks to complete my orgy of enjoyment.