Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Blogger Book Drive Signal Boost: Favorite Authors

Original image courtesy Hieu Le on unsplash

Natalie Patalie, The Happy Arkansan, and Hodge Podge Moments are hosting a virtual book drive for First Book! First Book is a charity that aims to provide books to low income American children. There are loads of studies about the relationship among books in the home, early reading, and later academic (and overall) success. Obviously just the presence of a few books is just a part of the puzzle, but a part is better than nothing at all! Please donate if you can, or just spend a blog post to signal boost. Because when is it not fun to talk about your favorite authors?! (If it isn't, feel free to check out previous prompts: favorite book quotes and and favorite childhood books.)

But on to the good stuff: favorite authors! I have so many, and then there are so many more that I love, and then others that I like but don't love but think are criminally underrated, and so on. Never mind all of the times where I love this or that  book more than life itself, but haven't read anything else by that particular author. Consider this a snapshot of an ever-evolving and fluid list that depends on my mood, the quality of my recall, and the stuff I've recently been pondering.

Today, I'm defining "favorite authors" as "authors whose collected works I want in my someday library; additionally, I've already read a significant portion of said works."

1. Roald Dahl

Image courtesy Wikimedia and the Carl Van Vechten estate

Dahl was probably the first favorite I had on this list. I had an absolute mania for him when I was a kid, but then, who didn't? While he had a reputation for being a fantastic liar, that bad habit seemed to have endowed him with a boundless imagination. His short stories for adults are great, too, and criminally under-read. Plus, did you know he was a spy for Great Britain after his stint in the RAF? And coordinated the invention of a new kind of cerebral shunt? How cool is that? Unfortunately, his well-established antisemitism does a lot to tarnish what would otherwise be a beloved reputation.

2. Agatha Christie

If you were evaluating "favorite" in terms of "number of books owned," Dame Agatha would probably be the best-qualified author in my library. I read Murder on the Orient Express in middle school, and it blew my mind in the way that only things you read as a young person blow your mind. I went through a phase that, while it's cooled off, has never really left me. Even before I found Christie, I had been a pint-sized mystery buff. The Boxcar Children was one of my favorite series, as were the Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew books. While I have fond memories of both of those today, by the time I was a preteen I felt that I had outgrown them. Christie was my introduction to more sophisticated mysteries on a grown-up level. Once I'm done with school and my TIME Top 100 goals, I might make finishing Christie's collected works my next book goal. Because I deserve it.

3. Douglas Adams

Image courtesy Wikimedia and Michael Hughes
On the other hand, if you were evaluating "favorite" in terms of "percentage of complete works owned," Douglas Adams would probably take the cake. Again, like Dame Christie, I discovered Adams in middle school and everything about his writing hits that childhood nostalgia sweet spot, even though it's still entertaining and engaging as an adult. I read a lot of other, more serious science fiction, too, but The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy remains one of my favorites in the SF genre.

4. J. D. Salinger

Is any former disaffected and cynical teenager's library complete without Salinger? Probably not. It took me a couple of tries to get into Catcher in the Rye, but when I did it was like someone was talking right to me. Someone knew me, and it wasn't my best friend or even another teenager, but an adult. I don't think I can possibly overstate how much Catcher affected me; how much hope it gave me that it was possible for a grown-ass adult to relate to me and not treat me either like an idiot or an underling. Out of everything I ever read in high school, the grand triumverate of life changers would be Salinger, Thoreau (whom I love but am not including here because I've only read Walden), and Dostoyevsky. Today my Salinger collection is pretty much complete, including the leaked Three Stories (not to be confused with the recent publication, Three Early Stories, from Devault-Graves).

Every once in a while some YA or teen release would come out with high praise and comparisons to to Catcher specifically or Salinger generally (among others, I recall Arthur Nersesian's The Fuck-Up and Steven Chobsky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower). I gave them a shot but none of them had that same magic.

In fact, I loved Catcher so much that I'm afraid to go back and re-read it. I'm not a teenager anymore, and what teenage me found so engaging and compelling might make grown-up me roll my eyes. I'd rather keep my memory a happy one. I'll read anything else, absolutely, but Catcher stays untouched.

5. Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Speaking of my grand triumvirate: Dostoyevsky. I don't know what else there is to say. His name and reputation speak for themselves at this point, don't they? In the same someday where I finish all of Dame Christie's novels, I'm going to brush up on my Russian and read Dostoyevsky's original words.

6. David Foster Wallace

Image courtesy Wikimedia and Steve Rhodes
First of all, a moment of silence for a soul gone too soon.

With that said, Wallace has been co-opted by hipsters in a such a way that I wonder if I'm not actually a closeted or accidental hipster. I've already got the glasses, after all. But no matter. Infinite Jest was one of the most mind-bending novels I've ever read. His essays are equally complex, memorable, and thought-provoking.

In fact, you may not even realize that you already know a Wallace essay: his "This is Not Water" commencement speech at Kenyon College. I see quotes from it all over the Internet, even including a very glossy, high-quality video.

I suppose I also feel a special kinship with Wallace because we were both philosophy and creative writing double majors and anyone who inhabits that particular Venn diagram overlap is like an instant friend for me.

I could probably go on, but I think six is a good number. As always, I'm a bit disheartened to see how easy it is for lists like these to be tilted in favor of white men. Hopefully attitudes and circumstances in the coming years will make it easier for bloggers to hit gender and racial parity without even thinking about it.

Who are your favorite authors? And don't forget to share (and donate!) to the Blogger Book Drive!


  1. You're the best!!! Thanks for linking up ^__^ I'm also a huge Roald Dahl fan, but it didn't happen until I was an adult. For some reason my mom hates his books so I didn't see much of his stuff when I was a kid. Eventually I learned I was missing out so I finally picked some up, hahah. So glad I did!

    1. Dr. Seuss was the one my mom didn't like when I was growing up, so he is something people get nostalgic for that I'm just like "wut?" But we had Berenstein Bears books, written and illustrated by a couple very much influenced by Theodore Geisel so I don't get it???

      I just love talking about books, man~!