Year End Review #1: My best discoveries of 2017


The best authors who were ‘New to me’ in 2017

Today in the first part of my review of the year, I’m going to highlight the new to me authors, several of whom have been writing for years, that have made themselves must-reads for the future.

It’s inevitable, but my first discoveries are three of the  ‘young writers’ shortlisted for the PFD Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Prize, for which I was on the shadow judging panel.

L-R: Claire North, Julianne Pachico, Sara Taylor


  • Claire North is already a well-established young author. While her shortlisted book The End of the Day (reviewed here) wasn’t the panel’s favourite, it is so full of wonderful ideas, that I’m really keen to read more by her – I have The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August on my shelf for starters.
  • Julianne Pachico‘s collection of short stories won the Shadow Panel’s vote. Over the years, I’ve often struggled with short stories, but this collection The Lucky Ones (reviewed here) were so cleverly interlinked and full of gorgeous detail in the writing set against the backdrop of the Colombian drug wars of the 1990s and 2000s, really won me over.
  • Sara Taylor‘s second novel, The Lauras (reviewed here) is a road trip story with a difference. A mother and teenaged child leave home and travel the country putting things to rights, and as they travel Ma tells Alex about the women, the ‘Lauras’, who were important in her life before… We never find out whether Alex is a boy, girl or anything in between – it’s deliberate, and it really doesn’t matter at all! A lovely novel.

Now for three more women authors I enjoyed discovering for the first time:

L-R: Michelle Forbes, Laura Kaye, Virginie Despentes


  • Michelle Forbes‘s second novel Edith and Oliver (reviewed here) was just the kind of historical fiction I enjoy most – involving a magician at the cusp of the cinema taking over from the music hall.  I will be looking out for her debut Ghost Moth as well as whatever she does next.
  • Laura Kaye’s debut, English Animalsherehere (reviewed ) has grown on me greatly since I read it. I described it recently to a friend wanting reading group recommendations as The Archers meets … and there I got stuck. This summer The Archers did feature a strand about migrant workers, although Mirka, the young Slovenian woman who becomes a housekeeper and excellent taxidermist to a country couple is more interesting than her equivalent on the radio!
  • Virginie Despentes may look like one of France’s enfants terribles grown-up, but she’s a bloody great writer. Vernon Subutex 1 (trans Frank Wynne) and reviewed here, is a state of the nation novel with a former record shop owner/producer made homeless at its centre. Unforgiving, but with a hero you can love.

And finally, you could almost consider this pair a double act – they share the same name, have done many events together and even done dastardly things to each other in their own novels! Yes it’s the Nicholas Royles!

Nicholas Royle and …. Nicholas Royle


  • Nicholas Royle (left) has written many academic texts, but An English Guide to Birdwatching was only his second novel. reviewed here. It’s hard to describe, but in true metafiction style features himself and his namesake – and only one will survive! It’s a really inventive book, I can’t call it entirely a novel for parts of it are essays riffing on the nature of birds. Nicholas did a Q&A with me for Shiny on the book, and I loved his answers (read that here).  I must catch up with his first novel Quills.
  • Nicholas Royle (right) has written quite a few novels, notably First Novel which is now on my shelf. I however got to know him through his recent collection of short stories, titled Ornithology. reviewed here. (Yes, the Royles are amazing at this serendipity – or is it?).  This collection of bird-related tales is brilliantly unsettling, strange, twisted – comtemporary weird tales that I loved.

So these are the authors whom I read for the first time this year that I will definitely keep an eye out for, and hope to read more of sooner rather than later.

Who did you discover this year?



9 thoughts on “Year End Review #1: My best discoveries of 2017

  1. Liz Dexter says:

    Ooh, interesting question and I will try to include this in my review of the year. Not reviewing anything about the year until 1 Jan 2018 myself as I have a history of reading great books in this bit of this month!

  2. Rebecca Foster says:

    I’m going to list a few favourite discoveries in my superlatives post on Thursday. I think An English Guide to Birdwatching was the strangest book I read this year! (I’ve read First Novel by ‘the other’ one.)

  3. Simon T says:

    I gave up on the Nicholas Royle novel I started (forget which book, but NR on the left!) and accidentally criticised NR on the right on the basis of it…

  4. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    Interesting how many of your discoveries are women authors! A lot of my new discoveries are reprints of people I’ve never heard of, rather than brand shiny new authors, but it’s still lovely to come across new writers!

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Yes – that’s unusual for me with my (unconscious) bias towards male writers normally. I’ve loved all the books I read by all those above, and discovered many other new to me authors too. These were the stand-out ones.

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