Successful Reading Experiments: 2021 Edition

I read a lot.  Forty to fifty just-published books a year that I review for the U.K. website, Audiobooks of prize-nominees and winners. And books that have been out a while picked by my mystery readers book club. And a few books that have nothing to do with crime or espionage or the Dark Side.

Here are a half-dozen authors, debutantes and established, that I “discovered” last year. Maybe you would enjoy them too.

Two New Jersey writers who not only write with style and precision, they offer a nice dose of humor are Bill Baer, who has two books in his New Jersey Noir series, and experienced writer but new-to-novels Fabian Nicieza, with Suburban Dicks.

The unlikely team of characters in Chris Brookmyre’s The Cut—an elderly woman who spent her career devising grisly stage makeup for horror films and a young Black guy who’s the consummate horror fan—were a delight to chase around Europe with.

If you asked, I’d say I’m not a horror fan, but Stephen Graham Jones’s The Only Good Indians presented horror in a way that made it work for me. One of the best books I read last year. (If you can, listen to the audio version, narrated by Shaun Taylor-Corbett. Genius.) Jones has a number of others, including My Heart is a Chainsaw, which NPR picked as a best book of 2021. Will have to get to that!

Liz Moore’s Long Bright River, nominated for a number of prizes, is the painful story of two sisters—one a cop, the other a drug addict—and the corners they’re forced into. She has more where that came from too.

About once a year, I scrub sentimentality out of my brain with the caustic prose of authors like Cormac McCarthy. The book that accomplished that job this year was Australian author Paul Howarth’s Dust Off the Bones. This year, maybe his Only Killers and Thieves.

Did you find a favorite new author last year?

4 thoughts on “Successful Reading Experiments: 2021 Edition

  1. Vicky, I admire that you can read so many books. I fall asleep after about a page. So I’ve discovered Audiobooks in a big way…I’ve been listening to books when time permits for a few years now. I’ll happily look into your list above. Thanks for being the reviewer that you are. You make them sound very worthwhile! Keep up the great work.

    • If a book isn’t good (that is, for me), I don’t review it. I think almost any book could appeal to someone. Tastes vary. I, for one, am not a big fan of cozy mysteries, yet I know many people who read them by the dozen. That’s just me.

  2. I would say Jason Beech stands out for me. When I read his first book: City of Forts I couldn’t quite figure out his writing style. Once I discovered he was from Yorkshire, England, everything clicked into place. He brings English quirk to the middle America story and it all works.

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