Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I read for the first time in 2020

This week’s theme for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl) is:

New-to-me authors I read in 2020.

There are lots of authors I read for the first time last year, but I have listed here a mixture of some that I loved and definitely want to explore further and some that I’m still not sure about.


1. Robertson Davies – I enjoyed Fifth Business, the first book in Davies’ Deptford Trilogy, so the next logical step is to read the next book, The Manticore. I hope to get to it at some point this year.

2. Dorothy B. Hughes – I loved The Expendable Man, published by Persephone, and am looking forward to reading more of her books.

3. Hella S. Haasse – In a Dark Wood Wandering was another of my favourite books from last year. Her other novels all sound intriguing; I just need to decide which one to try next.

4. Ann Patchett – The Dutch House was a surprise; I hadn’t expected to enjoy it as much as I did. I had previously dismissed her as not for me, but will now have to investigate her earlier books.

5. Matthew Plampin – Mrs Whistler is a fascinating novel about the artist James Whistler and his relationship with Maud Franklin; Plampin’s other books all seem just as interesting!

6. Maggie O’Farrell – I didn’t love Hamnet as much as most other readers seem to have done, but I liked her writing enough to want to give her another chance.

7. Carol McGrath – I enjoyed The Silken Rose, a novel about Eleanor of Provence, and am looking forward to reading Carol McGrath’s next novel about another medieval queen, Eleanor of Castile, when it is published later this year.

8. Georges Simenon – Now that I’ve read Simenon’s atmospheric 1934 novella, The Man from London, I think I’ll have to try his Maigret series next!

9. Joseph Conrad – Lord Jim was my first Joseph Conrad book, apart from an earlier failed attempt to read Heart of Darkness. I don’t think he’s my sort of author, although I could be tempted to try one more, possibly Nostromo.

10. Ethel Lina White – The Wheel Spins is the book on which The Lady Vanishes was based. Although I didn’t love the book as much as the film, I’m now interested in reading more of her work.


Have you read any of these authors? Can you recommend which of their books I should try next?

49 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I read for the first time in 2020

    • Helen says:

      Simenon’s books had never sounded very appealing to me for some reason, but I’m glad I gave him a chance last year. I’m pleased to hear you enjoyed The Blue Room.

  1. cirtnecce says:

    Great review! I added several books to my TBR! I have a copy of the Doll’s House but I have not read it because of similar sentiments, but now I am encouraged to give it a try. Heart of Darkness did not work for me either and I do not think Conrad is an author for everyone; however my heart broke after reading The Secret Agent!

  2. Margaret says:

    I enjoy the Maigret books but some are better than others – there are so many! I’ve started to read The Heart of Darkness at least twice and didn’t get on very well with it. Years ago I watched Lord Jim, with Peter O’Toole in the lead role and loved it – maybe I should try reading that sometime. I don’t think Hamlet is as good as some of her other books – I enjoyed The Hand That First Held Mine, Instructions for a Heatwave and I Am, I Am, I Am, which is a memoir. I loved Mrs Whistler and would very much like to read more of Plampin’s books too.

    • Helen says:

      I do want to try the Maigret books, but I’ll bear in mind that some are better than others. Coincidentally, I came across the Lord Jim film on the television a few weeks after reading it, and although it wasn’t quite the same as the book, it did give me a better understanding of the plot and characters. I might try one of your Maggie O’Farrell recommendations – thanks!

  3. Lory says:

    Well you know I’m a fan of Robertson Davies! I’ve been meaning to read Georges Simenon, hopefully in French. I have a copy of “Le chien jaune” to try.

    • Helen says:

      I’m not convinced that I’ll ever be a Conrad fan, but I’m always happy to give an author another chance and will think about trying The Secret Agent!

  4. whatmeread says:

    I have read almost all of those authors although not necessarily those books. The new ones to me from your list are Matthew Plampin and Carol McGrath. I take that back. I have never read anything by Robertson Davies, but I keep thinking I’ll read him. I’ll have to look at your review again to see if it’s one I might pick.

  5. whatmeread says:

    I forgot about your question. Anything by Ann Patchett is good, I’ve found, although I think I liked The Dutch House best. In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes is good. My favorite Maggie O’Farrell so far is The Disappearing Act of Esme Lennox. If you are interested in Joseph Conrad, you have to read Heart of Darkness. I’ve only read short stories by Ethel Lina White, so I will be happy to read the novel you mentioned. I am only familiar with In a Dark Wood Wandering by Haasse, and that I read a long time ago.

  6. Fran Laniado- Author says:

    I liked The Dutch House but I prefer some of Ann Patchett’s other books. Bel Canto and Commonwealth are favorites. I haven’t read Hamnet yet, but I loved Maggie O’Farrell’s essay collection I Am, I Am, I Am, so I’d recommend that.

  7. Lark says:

    I think the only author I’ve read on this list is Anne Patchett. (Although I didn’t love State of Wonder.) But I’m hoping to read a Joseph Conrad book this year. fingers crossed. 🙂

  8. Karen K. says:

    I don’t read much current fiction but I’ve loved nearly everything by Ann Patchett. (I was supposed to attend a book reading with her last March and was so disappointed when it was obviously canceled.) She’s probably best known for Bel Canto which is wonderful. I also loved Commonwealth, The Patron Saint of Liars, and State of Wonder. If you enjoy memoirs, I highly recommend Truth and Beauty, which is both beautiful and heartbreaking.

    • Helen says:

      It’s good to know you’ve loved most of Ann Patchett’s books, Karen. I think I’ll probably try either Bel Canto or Commonwealth next, but I’ll keep the memoir in mind too. Thanks!

  9. Constance says:

    I think Ann Patchett is very gifted *and* she supports books by owning a bookstore! I couldn’t put The Dutch House down although I didn’t like any of the characters very much. Years ago my grandmother was living in an upscale retirement community she hated and my mother and I kept trying to get her to join the book group. When we saw a flyer saying they were reading Bel Canto, we got it for her and thought it would be the breakthrough to making friends. She loved the book as we had but said, “Oh, it would spoil a wonderful book to have to discuss it with the other inmates.” Which proves some people like to enjoy books in solitude!

    • Helen says:

      I didn’t really care for most of the characters in The Dutch House either, although I thought the book was wonderful. All of Ann Patchett’s other books sound intriguing, but I think Bel Canto is probably the one that appeals to me most. I sort of agree with your grandmother as I’ve never had much interest in joining a real-life book group, but funnily enough I love discussing books with people online!

  10. Lexlingua says:

    In a Dark Wood Wandering looks wonderful. I also remember you reviewing The Expendable Man, think you mentioned it in your top 10 books of 2020? Now I just want to know why he gave that girl a lift? Sigh.

    And coincidentally, I’ve just started on Davies too for Cloak & Dagger, but my pick is What’s Bred in the Bones. A bit on the slower side, but I guess I’ll have to pay attention because that’s where the clues would be!

    • Helen says:

      Yes, The Expendable Man and In a Dark Wood Wandering were two of my top 10 books of last year. I hope What’s Bred in the Bone improves for you soon. Fifth Business was a bit slow to start too, but I ended up enjoying it.

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