Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2013

toptentuesday-1This week’s topic is all about new authors. Not new as in debut authors but authors that are new to me (and the other readers participating in Top Te Tuesday this week). And this is a fascinating topic. I have never before noticed how many new authors I read during a year. I have a goal for myself to read a book by each of my (five) favorite authors every year so they are not new but I have never counted how many new authors I try out. I am actually very pleased with my result. I have given 23 authors a chance this year. So far! I like that! To me, it says that I’m willing to take a chance and I’m not stuck in reading the same few authors over and over again. And it’s also interesting because the 23 authors are very different. There’s both debuts, classics, non-fiction and more. So what you’ll find below is my list of the Top Ten Authors that I have read this year and that I expect to explore further in the coming years; the best of the 23.
As always, the Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
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  • Toni Morrison. I read Beloved this year and it was an incredible read. I was so blown away by this book. It was such an incredible powerful and heartbreaking book about a mother doing everything, everything, to protect her children. I will definitely read more by Morrison and I’m a bit sad that I have waited this long to read her for the first time.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald. I have postponed reading The Great Gatsby because I watched the movie edition of it starring Robert Redford many years ago and didn’t get it. Not at all. But now I’m apparently the right age for Gatsby because I loved this book too. It was just so good and, again, heartbreaking in all the right ways. Poor Gatsby!
  • Jennifer Egan. Egan’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Goon Squad was the first novel I read this year and it definitely started the year right. I really enjoyed this, all of this, including the powerpoint chapter!
  • Félix J. Palma. The Map of Time was a mad, mad ride. H.G. Wells, Jack the Ripper, time traveling, love, automatons and so much more. It was wonderful and I loved it. I really want to read the next book in this series! and I hope it is just as much fun.
  • Carol Birch. Let’s be honest, Jamrach’s Menagerie is definitely outside my normal comfort zone. But I loved it. The first part when they were chasing the ‘dragon’ and finally caught it, was amazing and the second part with the shipwreck was even better. Really a good book!

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  • Ben Marcus. The Flame Alphabet was a strange book indeed. I’m not sure I got all of it but it was so very different and so very fascinating. A very different book to most dystopian literature. I’m still wondering about those weird listening holes… and all the rest of it. As well as how it must be not to be able to be close to your children because their speech makes you sick…
  • Karen Thompson Walker. The Age of Miracles was the second book I read this year and it was really different and very good. I liked the different take on a dystopian novel and how it also had focus on the fact that life goes on, especially when you’re a teenager.
  • Colm Tóibín. I was so impressed with not only Tóibín’s courage to take on the story of the mother of Jesus and her lack of belief in her son being the Son of God but also with the way he did it. The Testament of Mary is a wonderful novella, highly recommended. And I plan on reading more by Tóibín!
  • Alan Bennett. I absolutely adored The Uncommon Reader and I was so well entertained by it. It had it’s flaws, sure, but it was so very good at the same time. And the ending absolutely blew me away! If this one is typical of the way Bennett writes, I definitely want to explore him further in the future.*
  • Jim Butcher. When I needed something light and entertaining to help me deal with too much work and too little sleep, Jim Butcher was the man to deliver it. I’ve read the two first of The Dresden Files (Storm Front and Fool Moon) and while they are not amazing fantasy, they were good enough to keep me entertained and awake, no easy feat!

* Okay, this is rather embarrassing. Apparently, I read The Clothes They Stood Up In back in 2008 and liked it somewhat … So he’s not a new author. Or is he, when I had completely forgotten having ever read anything by him?

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Ben Marcus: The Flame Alphabet (review)

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I’ve had a strange time with this book. At first, I was disappointed. I had been looking so much forward to it because I loved the idea of the words of children becoming toxic to their parents and all adults. But the novel felt a bit strange, it was difficult to quite grasp what was going on and it felt like Ben Marcus maybe wanted to do much. But then I had time to just sit down and read for several hours and the novel really got under my skin. It was a quiet evening, the girls were sleeping and my boyfriend was also reading a book. At one point, I began having a strong aversion towards the thought that he would start speaking to me. I finished the book in two more sittings and each time, I got the same aversion against speak. I felt like I needed people around me to be quiet – otherwise, I would fall ill. Just like Claire and Sam.

Claire and Sam live together with their teenage daughter, Esther. Slowly, Claire and Sam are getting more and more sick while Esther thrives. After a while they realize that it’s not just them but rather, the entire grownup population who is suffering. It is discovered that they are being poisoned by the words of children. Not only their own children, but all children. This condition really alienates parents and children: ‘We’d grown so accustomed to hiding our feelings around Esther that it seemed easier to just not have those feelings in the first place.’ (p. 102)

Their condition gets so bad that they have to leave their home and leave Esther behind in the neighborhood which is turned into a kind of camp for kids with fences and loudspeakers to keep the adults out. And pretty soon, Sam is on his own, having been forced to leave the much more sick Claire behind.

It’s a book about the power of language. If you imagine how much words can hurt – and then imagine that it manifests itself physically, then you have an idea of what this book is about. Especially since the sickness that these words spread, are hurtful enough to make parents leave their children behind, hardly without a second thought.

I was a bit torn about Esther. Marcus writes that she seems concerned and yet, when she is asked to limit her talk, she starts talking whenever they can hear her and she joins a gang where she runs around shouting – and thereby hurting – adults. Yes, I know she’s a teenager but wouldn’t she care just a little bit that her parents were suffering?

Likewise, I was confused by the Jewish cult, Claire and Sam are members of. They attend sermons in a small hut in the forrest where it is transmitted through cables in the ground. It’s dirty and muddy and often difficult to hear the sermons. They are the only one who know about the hut and they are not allowed to talk to each other – or to Esther – about the sermons and I just didn’t quite get what these parts were all about – although this underground network becomes very important later in the book.

When I began reading this book, I was very confused about the title. What is the flame alphabet? I had never heard of this before but apparently, the flame alphabet is the word of God, written in fire. It’s the Torah. It’s words are all variations on God’s name. But you are not supposed to say God’s name and since all words in this alphabet are variations on God’s name, then that means that this alphabet is off-limit. You are not allowed to use it and this new disease is making sure you don’t go around forgetting that!

Words and language become so dangerous that you can’t even think in words. I don’t believe that you can have a inner life without language, I don’t believe you can even exist if you can’t use some kind of communication – and in this book, every type of communication ends up being hurtful. But still – I’m so impressed and interested by this book – and I love the idea of being able to commit suicide by language or to die by reading – so I’m ready to forgive things that I in a novel of lesser merit and importance would be very annoyed by.

I’m still asking myself whether this is just a discussion of the power of language, an allegory for the condition we all face with information overload in this information society, a critique of religion – or all three? I’m not sure but it’s definitely a book that will cause any reader to think. It feels like such an important book, a book that has something very significant to say about our relationships with each other and our language and communication.

This is a book filled with words, telling the story of how much words can hurt you. It draws you in to it’s own reality so you feel the beginning of the same panic, that Claire and Sam felt when it all began. And this is masterfully done. It is so worth reading. Go read. And read it in as few sittings as possible!

‘To refrain from storytelling is perhaps one of the highest forms of respect we can pay. Those people with no stories to circle them, can die without being misunderstood.’ (p. 265)

  • Title: The Flame Alphabet
  • Author: Ben Marcus
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
  • Year: 2012
  • Pages: 289 pages
  • Source: Own collection
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

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Best of 2012 – Armchair BEA day 2

So … if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know I went nuts back in January, posting post after post about all the exciting new books coming out this year. I mentioned quite a few novels – but I must admit that I haven’t read any of these. I have bought a few of them though and plan on buying more.

That being said, there are of course more books I’m excited about. One of these is a new novel by Mark Helprin. I’m reading his novel Winter’s Tale at the moment and I love it. If the new is somewhat along the lines of Winter’s Tale, I’m going to love it. And it does sound like it so I’m hoping. Here’s the blurb:

Mark Helprin’s enchanting and sweeping new novel asks a simple question: can love and honor conquer all? New York in 1947 glows with post-war energy. Harry Copeland, an elite paratrooper who fought behind enemy lines in Europe, returns home to run the family business. In a single, magical encounter on the Staten Island ferry, the young singer and heiress Catherine Thomas Hale falls for him in an instant, too late to prevent her engagement to a much older man. Harry and Catherine pursue one another in a romance played out in postwar America’s Broadway theaters, Long Island mansions, the offices of financiers, and the haunts of gangsters. Catherine’s choice of Harry over her long-time fiancé endangers Harry’s livelihood and eventually threatens his life.Entrancing in its lyricism, In Sunlight and in Shadow so powerfully draws you into New York at the dawn of the modern age that, as in a vivid dream, you will not want to leave.

Another book I’m really excited about is John Irving’s new novel, In One Year. I’ve just bought it yesterday and since I love Irving and this is supposed to be Irving revisiting some of the themes from A Prayer for Owen Meany and The World According to Garp. Since Garp is my favorite novel and both are amazing novels, I’m really excited about this book. Blurb time:

In One Person is a novel that makes you proud to be human. It is a book that not only accepts but also loves our differences. From the beginning of his career, Irving has always cherished our peculiarities-in a fierce, not a saccharine, way. Now he has extended his sympathies-and ours-still further into areas that even the misfits eschew. Anthropologists say that the interstitial-whatever lies between two familiar opposites-is usually declared either taboo or sacred. John Irving in this magnificent novel-his best and most passionate since The World According to Garp-has sacralized what lies between polarizing genders and orientations. And have I mentioned it is also a gripping page-turner and a beautifully constructed work of art?

Finally, the third book I want to mention, is Ben Marcus’ The Flame Alphabet. I’ve written about this before and I have bought it – or rather, I have had my friend buy it for me, I just haven’t gotten it in my hands yet. It sounds totally amazing and I can’t wait to read it!

A startling epidemic has struck the country and the sound of children’s speech has become lethal. Radio transmissions from strange sources indicate that people are going into hiding. All Sam and Claire need to do is look around the neighborhood: In the park, parents wither beneath the powerful screams of their children. With Claire nearing collapse, it seems their only means of survival is to flee from their daughter, Esther. But Sam and Claire find it isn’t so easy to leave the daughter they still love, even as they waste away from her malevolent speech. On the eve of their departure, Claire mysteriously disappears, and Sam, determined to find a cure for this new toxic language, presses on alone into a world beyond recognition.

Related posts – new books 2012:

Related posts – Armchair BEA:

And here we go again …

You might ask yourself ‘is she ever going to be finished with this?’, and the answer might possibly be ‘no’. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: 2012 looks to be an amazing book year and I keep finding books that are must reads this year. So here we go again … The exciting and different thing about this list, however, is that I don’t know any of the authors featured on it. I’m really looking forward to making their acquaintance. Also I promise that this is the last of these New Books 2012 posts that I’ll do … for now. Now I’ll start focusing on getting some of these books read!

  • Ben Marcus: The Flame Alphabet. What if the words your children says to you are toxic? What if you have to live separate from your children to avoid the harmful effects of their language? That is the premise of this novel and it sounds amazing!
  • Ramona Ausubel: No One Is Here Except All of Us. In 1939, the people of a small Jewish town in Romania tells each other stories to imagine a new and better world and will reality out of existence.
  • Lars Iyer: Dogma. This is the follow-up novel to Spurious which was about two men (one named Lars Iyer) searching for meaning, a leader and quality gin in what they believe to be The End of Times. Both sounds intriguing.
  • Koonchung Chan: The Fat Years. In Beijing’s near future, an entire month disappears. Only a few wonder what happened to the disappeared month. Sounds perfect for my continued China theme reading.
  • John D’Agata & Jim Fingal: The Lifespan of a Fact. (Non-fiction). This examines the differences between accuracy and truth in non-fiction. It sounds very different from anything else out there.

(And at least two of these are coming out already this month!!! Chan Koonchung The Fat Years and Ben Marcus The Flame Alphabet are being published in January!)

Previous posts about new 2012 books