This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic, as set forth by the crew at The Broke and the Bookish, is “all-time favorite authors.”
Since I have, until very recently, been a book fan more than an author fan — meaning I tended not to develop loyalties to particular authors, but to specific books instead — this prompt isn’t so tough for me. Ask me to list my top ten all-time favorite books and, well…it would be a lot harder!
In no particular order, I give you my top ten favorite authors (as of April 2015, at least) as well as the books of theirs I’ve read so far:
1. Margaret Atwood
Of all the authors on this list (and on my shelves, for that matter), I’ve read the most by Margaret Atwood, and I have yet to come across something by her I didn’t like. Of course, some books I’ve liked more than others, but generally she and I get along very well. I especially like her stuff on audio. So far, I’ve read (or listened to):
- Bodily Harm
- The Cat’s Eye
- The Blind Assassin
- The Handmaid’s Tale
- The MaddAdam trilogy (Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and MaddAdam)
- The Penelopiad
- The Robber Bride
2. Robertson Davies
This cult-favorite Canadian author and I met through the recommendation of a coworker at my old independent bookstore job. When she gave it, she told me she didn’t recommend Davies to everyone, but that the people who liked him really liked him. Turns out I’m one of those people! I’ve read a trilogy and a stand-alone novel thus far and have more of both waiting on my shelves.
- The Cunning Man
- The Deptford Trilogy (Fifth Business, The Manticore, and World of Wonders)
3. Kristin Cashore
If I had one bookish wish, it would probably be that Kristin Cashore would write more books. I know, I know…it takes time, respect the art, and all that. But it’s just because I love her writing so much that I want more! Her first novel, Graceling, is definitely my favorite YA book and high on my list of all-around favorites.
4. Jose Saramago
Saramago intrigues me. There’s no other way to put it. He’s delightfully creative in the premises he chooses (the world struck by a plague of blindness? the cessation of natural death?) and incredibly thorough in how he explores each one. I’ve only actually read two of his books, but I’ve been collecting them for years and will someday read them all.
5. David Mitchell
As soon as I dug into Cloud Atlas, I knew I was a David Mitchell fan, whatever else he wrote and however much I liked (or disliked) it. Ask me what my all-time favorite book is and most of the time I’ll tell you it’s Cloud Atlas. I’m in no hurry to tear through Mitchell’s remaining novels; I’ll get to them all in time, savoring each as I go.
6. Barbara Kingsolver
There’s something about the way Barbara Kingsolver writes that I just adore. I got into a bit of what I think it might be in my recent review of Prodigal Summer, linked below. Suffice it to say, I’m slowly making my way through all of her titles.
7. W. Somerset Maugham
Maugham is one of the few classic authors I’ve read enough of to award a favorites status. He has a straightforward way of writing I really like, and at least one character in each novel is always spectacularly developed. Plus, even though I’m not usually much of a short story fan, I enjoy his.
8. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
What first drew me to Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s work was her exquisite novel One Amazing Thing. I declared it my favorite fiction read of 2010, and it’s still among my favorites for its hauntingly beautiful simplicity. I went on to read The Palace of Illusions, which is a retelling of the Mahabharat from the point of view of the five brothers’ wife Panchaali. Whatever Divakaruni decides to write about, she does so cleanly and in a way that draws her reader along for the ride.
9. Patrick Ness
I think I would read pretty much anything Patrick Ness set his hand to. His style can be raw and bold, but he is also able to unearth delicate truths and examine them without crushing them to pieces. I expect to be taken on an intense, emotional journey when I pick up one of his books, and I know it’ll be worth the ride.
- The Chaos Walking trilogy (The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, Monsters of Men)
- A Monster Calls
10. …I honestly don’t know!
Yes, apparently I only have nine favorite authors!
There are plenty of authors for whom I’ve only read one title — but no matter how much I loved that single title, I don’t feel like I can label the author as a favorite until I’ve read more of his or her work.
There are a few I can think of (Nick Hornby, for instance) where I really like their work in one genre but not another (loved The Polysyllabic Spree but didn’t care much for Juliet, Naked in Hornby’s case). Or I like one specific series they did but haven’t branched out beyond that (as is the case with J.K. Rowling).
There are still others whose work I really, really like, but who just don’t quite seem to fit amongst the other nine listed here (Rainbow Rowell comes to mind, much as I’ve enjoyed the three of hers I’ve listened to).
And there is at least one case where I don’t think I’d love the books quite so much if it weren’t for a phenomenal audiobook reader (Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, read by Simon Vance *swoon*).
So I suppose at least for now, my #10 slot is open. I’m sure it’ll get filled soon enough!
A Few Thoughts
With the exception of Kristin Cashore, whose new releases I will block out time to read ASAP and who spaces out my readings by only releasing a book every few years, I seem to like to draw out the reading of my favorite authors’ backlists. Nor do I tend to rush out and buy their latest (again, with the exception of Cashore). It’s almost like I know all their books are going to be good, so whatever comes my way next will be perfect.
I was trying to figure out, from looking at all of these authors and books together, what the most important thing about a book is for me. I think I figured it out: balance. These books don’t have characters that outshine the plot, or writing that overshadows the themes. They’re gloriously harmonious blends of creativity, unique writing, vivid characters, absorbing stories, and intriguing ideas. They evoke places I feel I’ve visited and characters alive enough that I can imagine them living somewhere out in the world. And maybe that’s why I can’t fill that last slot — that’s a pretty high bar to set!
Also of note: Six of the nine authors on my list also have characters I’d like to check in with. Coincidence? Probably not.
Who are some of your all-time favorite authors? What is it you love most about their work?