Happy Tuesday everyone! It is the second day of the week already but I hope everyone is doing well and is safe. (Technically it is already Wednesday but let me rush this one a bit, haha) Oh well, Tuesday also means one thing, a Top Ten Tuesday update! Top Ten Tuesday is an original blog meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and is currently being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.
This week’s given topic is New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2021
In 2021, I was able to complete reading 92 books, from 91 different authors. This resets my personal record for the most number of authors I read in a year since I started reading; my previous best was 88 authors in a year in 2020. Of these 91 authors, 65 are authors whose works I am reading for the very first time, which is a number fairly lower than my 2020 figures. Actually, I have already published my list of Top 10 new-to-me authors I discovered in 2021. Nevertheless, for this Top 10 Tuesday update, I will be listing the next 10 new-to-me authors who have won me over in 2021 with their absorbing stories and scintillating prose. Without more ado, here is my list. Happy reading! And have a great day ahead!
Works read: The Sweetness of Water
In 2021, I was able to read 10 of the 13 novels longlisted for the Booker Prize, which is kind of a record because it is a rarity for me to read longlisted works in the same year they were nominated. Nevertheless, of these 10 works, The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris was one of the novels that immediately grabbed my attention. A work of historical fiction, the novel was set in t in the fictional town of Old Ox, Georgia, during the twilight years of the Civil War. The focus of the story are brothers Prentiss and Landry who were due to travel north after recently gaining their freedom as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation. Changing the landscape of the story is the plotline following the romance story between two former Confederate soldiers. The prose was riveting it was hard to believe it was a debut novel.
Works read: A Passage North
The 2021 Booker Prize longlist was brimming with outstanding works and another work that captured my interest was Anuk Arudpragasam’s A Passage North. When I started reading the novel, I barely had any expectations; to be fair, I didn’t set my expectations too high for the 13 longlisted authors because, with the exception of Kazuo Ishiguro, they were all new to me. Within the first pages, Arudpragasam captured my attention. Yes, the novel’s long and winding sentences were tedious but they were also meditative, transporting the readers to the interiors of the Sri Lankan Civil War and how it altered the landscape Sri Lankan landscape. After reading the first few paragraphs, I recognized its Booker-worthy qualities and sure enough, it was announced as one of six works shortlisted for the prestigious literary prize a few days after I started reading it.
Works read: The Fortune Men
Three new-to-me authors. Three works of historical fiction. Three Booker Prize-nominated works. It was without design that I picked three works who share the same elements. It cannot be denied that they have piqued my interest and curiosity in different ways. Somalian writer Nadifa Mohamed’s The Fortune Men was actually one of the first books from the 2021 Booker Prize longlist that I added to my reading list. Justifiably so. The novel relates the story of Mahmood Hussein Mattan. He is a Somali former merchant seaman who settled down in Cardiff, Wales’ Tiger Bay. A story about the miscarriage of justice, focus of the story was his wrongful execution for the murder of Lily Volpert, who was renamed Violet Volacki in the book. It also followed Mattan’s spiritual transformation. Mohamed skillfully captured Mattan’s story.
Works read: No One Is Talking About This
I first came across Patricia Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This when the nominees for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction was announced. It grabbed my attention from the onset but I was still apprehensive about venturing into the American writer’s prose. I was finally convinced to give it a go when it was longlisted, and eventually shortlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize. Her debut novel can be divided into two sections, with the first a deep and realistic diagnosis of our current times, of how dependent we have become on the Internet and social media. It was a bleak picture. The innovative prose of the first half was balanced by the second half in which the novel’s anonymous narrator was reeled back in to reality. The novel was indeed a unique experience and I hope I get to read more of Lockwood’s work in the future.
Works read: The Joys of Motherhood
My deep dive into African literature in 2020, the first time in my reading life, was such an eye-opening one that I decided to have another African literature month in 2021. It was yet again a fulfilling journey as it provided me deeper insights in to Africa. Of the writers I met during the journey, Nigerian writer Buchi Emecheta was one of the standouts. I bought her book, The Joys of Motherhood, without an inkling on what the book was about. What I was not expecting was the deeply personal journey the book provide me. The book, as the title suggested, was about the joys, and of course, pains of being a mother. While it was set in Nigerian society, the book was rife with profound messages. Nnu Ego’s story is one that many mothers can relate to. Motherhood can be painstaking but it can also be rewarding.
William S. Burroughs
Works read: Naked Lunch
Jack Kerouac introduced me to the Beatnik generation back in 2018, when I read his semi-autobiographical novel, On The Road. One of the characters in the novel was inspired by his friend, and fellow Beatnik generation pioneer, William S. Burroughs. However, when I bought Burroughs’ Naked Lunch during the 2018 Big Bad Wolf Manila Sale, I didn’t have any idea of the two writer’s connection. This discovery made me look forward to reading Naked Lunch, which, like On The Road, was about the main character’s adventure. The story was also about William Lee’s substance abuses. However, what made the story compelling was its structure. Rather than providing a straightforward narrative, Burroughs wove the story in vignettes.
Works read: The Push
From my reading experience, I can say that 2021 was a year of great debut novels. One of these outstanding debuts was Ashley Audrain’s. Formerly a publicity director at Penguin Random House, she retired early to tend to her child. It was during this period that she worked on what would be her literary debut, The Push. I can sense that the novel was close to the writer’s heart, not only because it was her debut novel but because it followed the story of a young mother, Blythe Connor. Abandoned by her mother, Blythe was reluctant to become a mother. Her postpartum struggles, especially with her first born, were vividly captured by Audrain. She also took the readers to Blythe’s interiors to gain a better understanding of her. Parts-thriller, parts-mystery, The Push was a scintillating debut novel.
Works read: The Elegance of the Hedgehog
I kept encountering Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog in several must-read lists that it would only time before I will give the book and the writer a try. Listed as one of the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, I was initially not too keen on the book because of its rather unique title. I then decided, might as well give the book a try. After acquiring a copy of the book in 2019, I included it as part of my 2021 Top 21 Reading List. I am glad I did for it was one of my best reads for the year. The story of Renée Michel, the titular hedgehog, who worked as a concierge for an upper-middle class Left Bank apartment building at 7 Rue de Grenelle. Madame Michel was an interesting character but it was the book’s philosophical intersections that kept me hooked into the story.
Works read: Aké: The Years of Childhood
Unlike most writers in this list, I wouldn’t exactly call Wole Soyinka a new discovery. Before 2021, I have already come across the Nigerian Nobel Laureate in Literature, not because I have read one of his works but because I saw his name on the list of Nobel winners. When I came across one of his works, Aké: The Years of Childhood, through an online seller, I did not hesitate to buy the book, which eventually formed part of my 2021 African literature month. Unlike the other books in this list, Aké is a memoir of the writer’s childhood. But even though it was a memoir, I enjoyed reading Soyinka’s childhood exploits. The lyrical storytelling made it seem as though it was a work of fiction. It was a great stepping stone into exploring more of the Nobel winner’s works.
Mirza Muhammad Hadi Ruswa
Works read: Umrao Jan Ada
Capping off this list is Mirza Muhammad Hadi Ruswa, who I came across while randomly browsing through the books on sale by an online seller. The book’s title, Umrao Jan Ada, mystified me and piqued my curiosity, hence, its inclusion in my 2021 Asian literature month. There was something enigmatic about the woman’s gaze. The novel, I would later learn, was widely recognized as the first Urdu novel. The titular Umrao Jan Ada is a courtesan and poet who once graced 19th century Lucknow. Her story was recounted by the author who weaves in and out of the story. The elements of poetry enriched the story while Ruswa’s prose vividly captured the atmosphere of 19th century India. Both converged to provide an immersive read.