I love discovering new writers. The best way I've found to do that is by taking a chance on an author's first novel or first work of nonfiction. There's something so intrinsically hopeful and yet a bit frightening about reading these books, both on my part (Is this the start of a longtime reading relationship with the writer? Will the promise of that terrific first line carry through to the last page?) and, I trust, on the part of the writer as well (Will readers enjoy the topic as much as I enjoyed writing about it? Will the characters be as real to them as they were for me?).
Often, of course, there's heartbreak ahead: the characters refuse to come alive for the reader, the writing is workman-like rather than transporting, and the topic becomes dull after a chapter or two.
But sometimes, as in the books that follow, the results are pure wonder: three-dimensional characters, a mind-bending plot, and entrée into a subject that set me off in a dozen different reading directions.
Try these books for a taste of what I'm talking about: