Tuesday, August 23, 2011

30 More Days Book Challenge: Day 14

Well, we certainly ruffled some feathers with our overrated authors list.  I do enjoy a little literary sparring now and again.

Day 14: Favorite Books From (Relatively) Unknown Authors


I will finish with one or two writers that are relatively unknown who I am really high on, but I did want to mention a few others that I love who aren’t exactly household names (yet?).

Amy Bloom has a wonderful book of stories, A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You, that I sometimes will go back to and re-read one or two stories from. Blind is a good starting place if you haven’t read her. If you prefer a novel, the book Away is excellent.  [Bloom is one of my favorite authors for her psychologically astute writing.  It should be; she's a trained psychoanalyst.]

Daniel Woodrell was recommended to me by our late and greatly missed friend David Thompson. I first read the novel Red Tomato, then Winter’s Bone – both are fantastic and original. Winter’s Bone is a good start (and yes it is the novel that the movie was based on). [Winter's Bone always sounds like a "That's what she said" joke.]

Gillian Flynn is such a fun and creepy read. I love recommending her. She only has two books; start with Sharp Objects.

Why isn’t Aimee Bender super-famous? [She gets lost among the dozens of Kardashians?] Start with her best, which is her latest, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, but An Invisible Sign of My Own is excellent too.

Adam Haslett is truly gifted – You Are Not a Stranger Here is one of the finest collections I have ever read. In fact it is probably the best book in the post. [Gianna has no idea which books I'm going to discuss, so assume this comment is directed to her side of the post.]

Rebecca Hunt, Paul Murray and Suzanne Rivecca are all up and comers who are really original. And you all know how I feel about Gail Caldwell, Dan Chaon, and of course Tea Obreht. I won’t bore you by writing about them yet again. But seriously read The Tiger’s Wife.

There are two young writers who most have not heard of that I am sort of in love with. The first I will mention briefly because I have written about her novel in an earlier blog I believe: 28 year-old Haley Tanner’s Vaclav and Lena. I just think she has written a really lovely, fully realized, commercial novel. A great summer read actually.

My favorite young sort of unknown writer working right now is Stefan Merrill Block. He has written two novels – both based on his family. What I love about Block is he that wrote a really wonderful first novel and then came back with a completely different but really excellent second book. His first book was beautiful and touching, his new book is heartbreaking and dark. The Story of Forgetting and The Storm at the Door … you’ll be happy you discovered him.


I feel like there are numerous books I love which fly under the radar and yet not a day goes by without someone walking into a bookstore and complaining that s/he can't find any "good" books.  I feel like I'll never have enough hours in the day to read all of the good books out there.

No book was more beloved by the Random House sales force its season than Thomas Trofimuk's Waiting for Columbus.  Unfortunately, this terrific novel was lost amidst the most incredible fall season I've witnessed since I've worked in books, and with such huge names publishing that year, the unknown author's special book was overshadowed.  The good news is that it's not too late to pick up a copy of Waiting for Columbus, and it's not too late to recommend it to your book group either. 

The story is lovely and mysterious.  A man washes up on short from the Strait of Gibraltar and is taken to a Barcelona mental hospital after he insists that he is Christopher Columbus.  While in the institution the therapists are confounded by Columbus (who also won't wear clothes; I do love nudey head cases), but he begins to tell his story to one of the nurses.  Columbus meets with the Queen, and Columbus falls in love, and eventually Columbus reveals his actual story.  It's a great book.

German children's classic

There's a book that came out several years ago, and I've never actually met anyone else who actually read it.  98 Reasons for Being by Clare Dudman is a brilliant novel of psychological depth...and I don't think it's even still in print.  It's a shame.  The novel focuses on a historical figure, the head of a Frankfurt asylum, and a young Jewish woman committed to his care for nymphomania (Gianna would relate to that....).  In the 1850's treatment for mental disorders involved peppy methods like the application of leeches, but after these conventional treatments fail, the doctor, lacking other options, talks to Hannah.  The reader hears Hannah's thoughts through an interior monologue, and the hospital staff and patients also play roles in the story and doctor/patient relationship.  The doctor, by the way, was an actual person, psychiatrist Heinrich Hoffmann, and he is best known for writing a children's book called Struwwelpeter (Shock-Headed Peter), and Hoffmann's own troubled past and book weave into Hannah's story.  I loved this book.

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