One of the joys of reading is the discovery of new authors. Not only do you enjoy the book in front of you, but also the anticipation of more to come.
Right now I am reading a first-time novel by Damian Dressick, an Appalachian writer. It is titled 40 Patchtown and is about coal mining during Prohibition. Growing up in eastern Ohio, the novel reminds me of the stories about strikes, ethnic communities, scabs, and bootlegging that my wife and I heard from relatives with roots stretching between Johnstown, Pennsylvania and Youngstown, Ohio. It captures the desperate struggles of people to eke out a living in this era.
Goshen Road was a similarly delightful discovery. Set in the hollows of West Virginia, it centers around two sisters and the multi-generational struggle their families faced making a living. Bonnie Proudfoot is an Athens, Ohio-based author who I look forward to hearing more from.
Another recent find was poet Kenneth Steven whose book of poetry is titled Iona. It is exquisite writing about the “thin place” of the island of Iona. Poets have this capability in a few words to gesture toward larger realities, or at least open our eyes to the world we see but do not observe. Only since Mary Oliver died in 2019 have I learned of her capacity to open our eyes to the world, to ourselves, and to the transcendent. Devotions is a rich retrospective of her work that gave me weeks of delight.
Ngaio Marsh was a mystery writer once classed with other “Queens of Crime” like Agatha Christie and Margery Allingham. A friend of mine put me on to her work and her Inspector Roderick Alleyn. A number of her books have recently been released as inexpensive e-books and I’ve found her books great diversions. Likewise, just as the pandemic began, I discovered the writing of Louise Penny and her Chief Inspector Gamache. Through many of those quiet evenings, last fall and winter, I curled up with her books and have read the first eight. She has created a fictional village in Canada everyone wants to visit, despite all the murders, and a Chief Inspector of great depth who makes the books worth reading just to keep company with him.
Amor Towles A Gentleman in Moscow was a find. I did not think you could make thirty years confinement in a Moscow hotel interesting. The subtle humor, insight, and humanity that runs through this story drew me in. I’ve just ordered a copy of Rules of Civility, an earlier novel. Erik Larson spins fantastic non-fiction tales. I recently read Thunderstruck, which brings together Marconi the inventor and an unprepossessing homeopathic doctor fleeing a particularly grisly murder. His Devil in the White City and The Splendid and the Vile are on my TBR list.
I had the rare privilege not only to read Compassion (&) Conviction by Justin Giboney and Michael Wear, but also to interview Justin. They helped launch the AND Campaign working to overcome our polarized conversation and both the book and the interview brought me needed encouragement during the dark time of the U.S. elections last fall. Herman Bavinck was another theologian who sometimes engaged in politics, working alongside his more famous friend, Abraham Kuyper. James Eglinton’s Bavinck is a penetrating study of the life and theology of this Dutch Calvinist who wrestled with maintaining Calvinist orthodoxy while engaging modernity.
I read a number of theological works, but two writers new to me have stood out over the last few years. One is John Webster, whose Holiness introduced me to this theologian. It is a readable and deep study of the subject with trenchant remarks about the proper work of theologians. Fleming Rutledge wrote one of the best theological works of the past ten years with her The Crucifixion, which I read during Lent of 2019, subsequently picking up several of her other works.
I’m sure some of you are thinking, “so he just found out about such and such.” While some of those I’ve mentioned are genuinely new authors, most are just new to me. I learned about them from others who have already loved their work and I hope this post does the same for you. I’ll leave you with two things I’d genuinely love to hear about in the comments:
- What new authors have you discovered that you think the world needs to know about (no self-promotion please!)?
- What new writers about baseball have you found, for that niche of readers like me who like America’s pastime? I’m still looking for my baseball book of the summer!