Once upon a time, I earned a Master's Degree in Literature and was a Professor of Literature and Composition. I had a wonderful time writing my Master's Thesis about Children's and Young Adult Literature, and I considered earning a Ph.D. so that I could continue to pursue the written word, including British, American, Latin American and other Global Literatures, Children's and Young Adult Literature, all types of genres and occasionally even poetry. But life takes you in unexpected directions, and so now I am working for a non-profit agency (you can read about that on my other blog, A Little Bit of Wonder). Although my job keeps me too busy to post as many book reviews as I would like, Recommended Reading is a place where I can continue to share my literary discoveries and knowledge as time allows.

Please note that I post reviews for books that I recommend reading, just like the blog title says. This means that I typically won't post a review for a book that I completely dislike. This isn't because I shy away from making negative comments, but rather because I don't want to waste your time or mine (I won't even bother to finish a book if it's not any good). For more on this, see the explanation of my Rating System.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My 26 Favorite Authors, Part One

A bit of an explanation: this post is inspired by the Weekly Geeks Challenge for Saturday, April 23, which asks participants to come up with a list of their favorite authors A to Z. This is easier than the task of narrowing down my selection to just one or two authors – how can an avid reader realistically be expected to have just one favorite author??

I’ve set some ground rules for myself, though. In order for a writer to truly qualify as one of my favorite authors, in most cases I have to have read many (if not all) of their works, and loved almost all of their novels. J.D. Salinger, for example, did not ultimately make my list because although I LOVE Catcher in the Rye (and have re-read it at least six times), I never could finish Franny and Zooey or Nine Stories. So Catcher in the Rye qualifies as one of my all-time favorite novels, but Salinger doesn’t make it on to the list of my favorite authors. I’ve made an exception in a few cases, for writers such as Jonathan Safran Foer and Marcus Zusak, who have only each written two or three novels total, and for a couple of authors that I am just now discovering – but I can tell that I will come to love them.

So without further ado, I give you Part One of a list of authors that each have several gems that have mesmerized me, therefore qualifying them as my favorites (from amongst many other distinguished writers and novels…).

A for Alvarez, Julia: Alvarez tends to write haunting, poetic stories about Latin American women, connecting historical tales with present day situations. Some of my favorites include In the Time of the Butterflies, In the Name of Salomé and Saving the World. I didn’t enjoy How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents quite as much, and I haven’t read Yo! She has also written several Young Adult novels that I am eager to read.

B for Brian Jacques: I wasn’t really into genre fiction when I was a kid, so I am just now discovering Jacques’s adorable novels about heroic mice from Redwall Abbey and Mossflower country. I’ve started with Redwall (review coming later this week) and I can already tell that these are destined to become some of my favorites and will be read out loud to my kids someday. I’ve ordered myself copies of Mariel of Redwall and Pearls of Lutra; if anyone wants to recommend any other particular novels from the series, I’d love to heard which are your favorites!

C for Charles Dickens: When I was earning my Bachelor’s degree in Literature, I was under the impression that I didn’t enjoy reading “dead white men” – my affectionate name for everyone from Shakespeare to Flaubert. Of course, I had never really tried to read the classics, and I am so glad that I eventually picked up Dickens! Not many people are as fond of Hard Times as I am, but plenty of people love that monster Bleak House – and I enjoyed both immensely. I also love the wonderfully creepy Great Expectations – that old woman wearing that rotting wedding dress for years and years, leaving that rotting wedding cake to grow mold and raising her ward to torture men as revenge for being jilted at the alter… I think it’s the most creative of all Dicken’s novels. I also enjoyed A Tale of Two Cities, but never could get in to David Copperfield. But I still want/need to make time to read The Pickwick Papers…

D for Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: I grew up watching the BBC movie versions of Doyle’s famous sleuth, which starred the incomparable Jeremy Brett, and I must admit that I’m a huge fan of Robert Downey Jr. as a younger, even quirkier incarnation of Holmes. But there’s something about reading the original stories that is thrilling in a different way… Some of my favorite stories from my last re-read include "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle," "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet," "The Naval Treaty," The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Valley of Fear, "The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge" and "The Adventure of the Red Circle."

E is for Erdrich, Louise: It took me a few tries to get into Erdrich – I wasn’t that fond of Love Medicine or The Bingo Palace, to be quite honest. But the haunting narrative of Tracks and the unusual story of a woman living as a male priest amongst the Native Americans in The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse captured my imagination. I really enjoyed Tales of Burning Love and Four Souls, and now I can’t wait to read The Plague of Doves, Shadow Tag, The Painted Drum, and some of her Young Adult novels, which have been compared to the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

F is for Foer, Jonathan Safran: Although he’s only written two novels, both Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Everything is Illuminated totally rocked my world, as did the bizarre but hysterical film version of Illuminated, which stars Elijah Wood. Both stories are modern day quests, but each novel has a distinct flavor, as one is about an eleven year-old-boy whose father was killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks and the other is about a young Jewish-American who travels to the Ukraine with the hope that he will be able to locate the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. Both are completely amazing, but I have to admit that I have yet to make time for Foer’s non-fiction books.

G is for Geisel, Theodore Seuss: I can read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish out loud to a group of children in under two minutes. And that’s all I have to say, right? I really don’t think I need to explain why everyone should love the Doctor.

H is for Haruki Murakami: Many of Murakami’s novels are quite frankly a head-trip, and of those, I enjoyed The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle the most. My favorites of his novels include some of his more traditional (“normal” ?) books, such as Norwegian Wood, Kafka on the Shore, and South of the Border, West of the Sun. But don’t get me wrong – you should have the experience of reading A Wild Sheep Chase, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, and his other more trippy novels as well.

I is for Isabel Allende: I first fell in love with Allende when I read House of the Spirits, her most epic novel to date that I am aware of, which is often compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude because of its scope and elements of magical realism. I’ve since only read a few of her other novels, but I found Zorro to be extremely entertaining and Daughter of Fortune to be fairly absorbing. I’ve also read a select number of her short stories, and my favorites include the amazing “Two Words,” “And of Clay We Are Created,” and “Phantom Palace” from The Stories of Eva Luna. She has many more books that I’d like to read, particularly her latest novel Island Beneath the Sea.

By now, you're probably getting a feel for how incredibly eclectic my tastes are. Come back later in the week for Part Two of my 26 Favorite Authors: Letters J through R…

This post participates in the Weekly Geek Challenge for Saturday, April 23. Write a list of your own and link up!

1 comment:

  1. What an absolutely cool idea!!! I share Alvarez, Brian, Charles, Doyle, Erdich, and Giesel! 6 out of 9! Excited to see the rest!


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