Oh, boy. This is a tough one. It sure would be a lot easier to list my top 10 least favorite authors. I will never be satisfied with this list because it tends to change quite often but as of this April 21, 20015, here are my Top 10 favorite authors. Drum roll, please.
1. Virginia Woolf: For those who follow my blog, the inclusion of Virginia Woolf at the top of the list should come as no surprise. She gets the edge for having written two of my favorite novels of all time: To the Lighthouse and Mrs. Dalloway. Will I ever read anything better than these two novels in my life-time? I highly doubt it. Not only was she an astounding novelist, capable of writing some of the most beautiful and mesmerizing prose I have ever encountered, but also a prolific literary scholar and influential feminist who helped to usher in the women's movement during the 1920's. She lived a fascinating but troubled life, battling mental illness which eventually lead to suicide. That reminds me, I recently finished her wonderful first novel The Voyage Out and need to write a review on that one soon.
2. William Shakespeare: The list did not specify that we had to only include novelists. As the most famous writer in the English language, the bard does not need any introduction. I adore his sonnets and his many plays, Hamlet being my all-time favorite.
3. John Keats: Other than Shakespeare, Keats is my favorite poet so it was inevitable that he would show up on this list. It's fascinating to me that he was able to write some of the most brilliant poetry in the history of literature before his early death at the age of 25! The young man was a genius, hands down. There is no telling what he might have accomplished had he lived longer. As I have mentioned many times before, Ode to a Nightingale is indeed, my favorite poem of all-time but his letters also happen to be some of my favorite pieces of writing as well. The correspondence between himself and Fanny Brawne is breathtaking and probably the most romantic display of writing that I have ever read. ****swoons**** Time to go watch the movie Bright Star again for the 100th time.
4. Philip K. Dick: He may not be the most consistent of writers to appear on my list (some of his novels are pretty bad) but in my eyes, he still reigns supreme as the King of Science-Fiction. He is an ideas man and the concepts he comes up with for his stories are nothing short of mind-blowing. He constantly pushes the boundaries of science-fiction, often leaving readers to question the very fabric of reality. Reading PKD is often like stepping into bizarro world that is unlike anything you have ever encountered in literature before. He was a very prolific writer over the course of his life and while his novels tend to receive a lot of his attention, he tends to be underrated when it comes to short-stories: Check out "The Wub,"We Can Remember it For You Wholesale," "Pay For The Printer,"The Variable Man," "Second Variety." In fact, just get your hands on his volumes of short-stories. They are all great. As far as his novels go, A Scanner Darkly, Ubik and Valis are my favorites.
5. Saul Bellow: Another one of those authors who tends to be hit-or-miss but when Saul Bellow is on his game, there are not many writers who can match his sophistication, wit, and effusive writing style that is simultaneously compelling and challenging. I completely understand if his verbose and overwrought prose tends to drive reader's crazy but when he finds the right balance between heavy-handed philosophical discourse and didacticism, he is an absolute pleasure to read. I am still making my way through all of his writing for my "Saul Bellow Project" featured on this blog and Herzog would easily find its place at the top of all-time favorite novels list, right next to Woolf's To the Lighthouse and Mrs. Dalloway. His short-stories and letters have proven to be excellent as well.
6. Ray Bradbury: Everyone's familiar with Fahrenheit 451, which is a great novel in its own right, but Ray Bradbury should be receive a lot more attention for his short-stories. He is the master of the craft in my humble opinion, no one writes better short-stories than him. NOBODY. Don't believe me? Check out his famous collections "The October Country" and "The Illustrated Man." If you are still not convinced, be sure to read some of these stories: "Mars is Heaven!," "The Scythe," "The Lake" or "The Small Assassin." If you are not a convert by then, you might as well give up on Bradbury.
7. Graham Greene: I have been on a mission over the years to read everything by Graham Greene and he rarely disappoints. Some of his early works along with those near the end of his long writing career pale in comparison to his middle period when he was at the peak of his creative talents: The End of the Affair, The Quiet American, A Burnt Out Case, The Power and the Glory, The Comedians and Our Man in Havana are all solid. A lot of his novels have been turned into great films as well. I have been thinking about doing a Graham Greene reading event on this blog for a while now but keep putting it off for some reason or another. He's an author I wish more people would read.
8. J.D. Salinger: I still think Franny and Zooey is J.D. Salinger's best work even though it tends to always be overshadowed by The Catcher in the Rye. His short-stories are also fantastic ("A Perfect Day for Bananafish" is absolutely brilliant). Salinger will always remain a personal favorite of mine for igniting my passion for literature.
9. Guy Gavriel Kay: The only author to appear on my list who is still alive. I have even met him once and he was a really cool, um...guy. His sweeping epics offer a unique blend of fantasy and history that are so absorbing, imaginative, richly detailed and beautifully written. I would highly recommend Tigana or The Lions of Al-Rassan.
10. Jane Austen: I am not ashamed to admit that Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors. To claim that her novels only appeal to women is ludicrous--they can be enjoyed by both sexes. I expected to get some odd looks from people while reading Persuasion on the subway but it didn't bother me. Austen is one of those few authors whose works are always a delight and grow in my esteem upon subsequent readings.
To be continued...
So, who are some of your favorite authors? Please let me know in the comments section!