This week’s Top Ten Tuesday on The Broke and the Bookish is: Top Ten Favourite Authors. It’s difficult to narrow this down. It’s easy to confuse a favourite book with a favourite author – but loving an author means loving more than just one of their books. Usually. Except occasionally when you read a book and you love it so intensely that you will be forever grateful to that author for sharing it even if they never write another word. So my list includes a little of both. (It also exceeds the allotted ten, sorry!)
The first book I read by John Irving was A Prayer for Owen Meany, which I read in grade 11. It wasn’t an easy read – I remember there being a few times I nearly gave up. Though I don’t remember the details of the book (it’s been more than 15 years, after all), I remember the feeling of it. I remember how it stuck with me, how it inhabited my mind for years after I finished it.
Irving has an ability, rare amongst even the best authors, to very slowly tease out a story so you don’t notice at first as it begins to shift. Until at some point you realize the book you are reading now is a very different book from the one you thought you were reading in the first chapter. This is a book that is twisted and gnarled, one that should make you feel incredibly uncomfortable (and probably does, if you’re honest), but the story progressed so slowly that you didn’t notice it happening. His stories creep up on you, then hit you over the head with a sledgehammer. I haven’t read all of his books, but I’ve read most of them, and I will always be in awe of his ability to subtly and irrevocably shift the way a reader looks at the world.
I’m a big fan of absurdism and magical realism. In trying to explain why I love Tom Robbins’ books so much, I need to first explain how I read.
When I’m reading a book (and probably when you are too), my mind conjures up a sort of film that plays in my mind. It could look very much like the world I live in, it could look like a country I’ve visited, or it could look like a place that only exists in the imagination. It could be shades of grey with inclement weather (London), a mossy, earthy palette of greens and browns (books set in my part of the world) or it could, like Tom Robbins’ books, take place in vivid colour.
This is what I love about his novels – both his settings and characters are incredibly vibrant. Not only that, but they’re quirky, interesting and full of witty quips and one-liners. My all-time favourite of his books is Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates.
Neil Gaiman is just one of those people. He has an amazing mind, he writes beautifully, he crosses between genres and even between mediums seamlessly, and he is as interesting in person as he is on the page. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t gotten along with all of his books. But he’s still one of my all-time favourite authors because the ones I love I absolutely love.
I love reading travel memoirs. The combination of imaginary travel and personal experience makes for a more interesting read than straight-up travel guides. And if you get an author with Bryson’s wit and sense of humour, also much more amusing. I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve burst into embarrassing laughter in a public place while reading one of Bryson’s books. One of his books, A Walk In the Woods, is actually slated to become a movie – but I’d recommend reading it (and all his other books) anyway! My favourites: Notes from A Small Island and In A Sunburned Country.
I mean, of course. This woman created our (because I know I’m not alone here) favourite magical world, a cast of characters more beloved than most real people we know, and a story that managed to get better and better over the course of its 7-book series. She then switched genres and audiences completely, with a new series of hard-boiled detective books. Is there anything she can’t do?? I’m guessing no.
In the way that J.K. Rowling’s books marked the childhoods of recent generations, Roald Dahl’s books marked mine. I can’t even remember which of his books I experienced first – my parents read all of them to me, most multiple times. But Matilda is one of my favourites, and one that I think every book lover relates to strongly. I know Dahl’s got a reputation for being a not-so-nice guy, and that’s caused a lot of people to feel like they can’t love his books as much. I gave it some thought and decided to hell with it – his books are brilliant. They made me love reading, and they stretched my creative landscape in new and wonderful ways. Whatever he did in his personal life doesn’t change that. So I stand by my love of his work.
Don’t let his popularity or the fact that you can find his books in grocery store checkout lines fool you. Crichton is an excellent writer. I loved Jurassic Park, of course, but honestly my favourite of his books are the ones that didn’t get as much attention and weren’t made into blockbuster movies: Travels and The Great Train Robbery. Travels is a selection of stories from his days as a medical student and his adventures around the world (varied and fascinating). The Great Train Robbery is his account of working on the film by the same name with Sean Connery.
Allende’s work is full of intense imagery, and addictive stories that pack an emotional wallop. They’re the kind that, once begun, demand to be finished. Nevermind sleep, nevermind food, nevermind any social commitments you might have had. Her best-known work is House of the Spirits, but I started with Eva Luna.
Coupland is from my neck of the woods, but surprisingly I hadn’t read any of his books (despite having seen them around for years) until my husband recommended them to me when we first started dating. Coupland’s work is quirky, often experimenting with topics and formats, and with a focus on the Vancouver area, which he calls home. And if you’re considering visiting it and want a book that shows you the real Vancouver, warts and all, check out his book City of Glass – which is an insider’s view that includes the things locals associate with home: fleece, Greenpeace (and environmental activism in general), trees, ferries, whales and grow ops.
Authors I think will become favourites (either they’ve only released one book, or I’ve only read one so far but it was fantastic):
I finished reading A Little Life last week, and I am still recovering. It’s been years since I’ve read a book whose characters came to inhabit my subconscious so thoroughly that I felt as if they were walking beside me through my days as I read. This book tore my heart into shreds again and again, before running over it with a Mack truck. And yet, I have no regrets about reading it, and recommend it without hesitation.
The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow was an unexpectedly beautiful book. Though the magical realism had some familiar tinges (think Isabel Allende), any resemblance to other books I’ve read ended there. Leganski has a unique voice, and her characters were heartbreakingly real. She’s working on her next book,and I’m anxiously waiting to get my hands on it!
If I Fall, If I Die was one of the first books I read this year, and I already know it will be one of my favourites. It’s the story of a young boy whose mother is agoraphobic. He has spent his entire life since he can remember locked inside his house with her, until one day he steps outside. And nothing bad happens. From there, he begins venturing further and further afield, eventually attending school and making a few friends. It turns out this is just the beginning – things are about to get a whole lot more exciting for our young protagonist. The story is by turns thrilling, painful and tender. Definitely one to add to your TBR, and would make an excellent book club read. Full of interesting points to discuss.
This post has taken the better part of a day to finish, so I’m going to call it there (extra two authors and all). I know I’m going to remember other authors I should have included once it’s published, but there’s definitely a good start here! Who made your list?