P.D.'s Top Ten Favorite Authors of All Time
Updated: Oct 21, 2019
This week I want to talk about some of my favorite authors. These are people who I feel have influenced my writing in some way or other and all authors that I hold a special place for in my heart. I realize I'm not "up" on the "it" scene right now in books which seems to be millions of independent authors trying to be seen in a sea of books. I'm reading existing works, mostly from the 19th and 20th centuries. I enjoy the stylized writing and the classic fantasy books offer language that seems to draw me in more than modern writers can.
I was born at the tail end of the twentieth century and no one ever explained the concept of time to me in my youth. I had to make some discoveries the hard way. I was lucky enough to be the youngest in a family of five children plus 2 step children that were in the mix here and there so seven of us in total. I had access to A LOT of books and we owned a LOT of books, like boxes and boxes. Too many too count. I was raised that way so I never thought anything of it as a gift of knowledge. It just was. I read a lot of those books. We never had money to buy books. I had a library card instead. I used to take out the maximum number of books each time, ten books. I never read ten books in three weeks but I read some of each of them, or I or I'd take them out from the library again to finish reading them if they struck my as "good." (I don't know what my good is, so don't ask. I only have a sense of it. My definition of good changes frequently and I'm not confidant in it because it seems to differ from the main stream.)
I'm going to introduce each of them and then talk a little bit about what it is that gives them such a special place on my book shelves.
This list includes my TOP TEN favorite 19th and 20th century authors in alphabetical order. I didn't want to pick any ones, twos or threes. I feel they all hold so much weight in my mind when I think of literature that it's impossible to rate them that way. So I just wrote them alphabetically.
The books come from a different time. They existed before we had the sum total of human knowledge at our finger tips. They come from a world where google looked like this;
Because of this we must appreciate that a book had to be read in order for a person to know a thing. Today we need only speak our questions to google and we have our filtered version of the truth immediately.
Consider that as you read my list. Consider the context of the time in which these authors wrote their works, and how they helped to shape our perspective of the modern word in which we live. Consider the limited exposure I would have had to the world of literature having only the Glen Elm Library at the end of my block in 1980s Canada to get more books from. I'm sure I've missed out on some amazing authors because of where and when I grew up not exactly being a thriving metropolis.
This was originally going to be a much longer article. I have the photos of thirty of my favorite authors all cropped and ready to go for this one, but i felt it would be too long so I downsized the list to my top ten to keep it readable in one visit to the sh*tter.
Here's my list;
Ann McCaffrey: My brother gave me a a hard cover copy of the Harper Hall Trilogy when I was a boy. I couldn't have been more than 12 years old. I read it through twice in a row. I fell in love with her fantasy world, Pern, immediately. I got the hots for Menolly and I wanted to ride a dragon more than any other fantasy story had ever inspired me to before. I absolutely loved the fire lizards, they became like pets to me they were so well written. I fought with myself over and over again about the idea of including bards in my current series of novels that were akin to the Harpers of Pern but I felt the depth and breadth of what I could write about with regard to bards in the realm of fantasy was far to immense not to have its own book series and so I wait and dream of when I can finally write down all the bard stories that are rolling around my noggin waiting to be penned all primarily inspired by Anne McCaffrey with special note to the game dungeons and dragons. I never played a Bard but I always had it in my top three choices and just never got around to it. Anne also gave us the idea of Thread-fall, which almost gave her books a science fiction feel as it was something of the universe in which Pern was located. It was a cyclical event where by live organic thread would wind it's way down from the skies and burrow into any living thing it fell on devouring it. I've always had the idea in the back of my mind to write a world with it's own cyclical natural disaster to give to give the planet more character and life in the reader's mind. Anne McCaffrey has been one of my biggest inspirations to write fantasy to date. She only gets the number one spot because her name popped up first alphabetically in the list of authors I downsized to choose from.
Anne Rice: Love her or hate her, she refined the way we think of vampire stories. She humanized vampires in a way no other had before. She turned them from blood sucking monsters into SMART blood sucking monsters. What a terrifying thing to do! Louis and Lestat were beautifully crafted monsters. She turned vampirism into a romantic notion and beautified the beast. Lestat as the villain you have the worst love hate relationship with stole the scene. It's inspired me to add in an island continent inhabited by vampires in my fantasy writing.
C.S. Lewis: I believe the Chronicles of Narnia books were my first exposure to full length young adult fantasy fiction. My mother read them to my older sister and I before bed each night, all seven books. It's such a vast and immersive series for a young child to be introduced to. I believe it helped my brain to develop a better imagination, picturing things I'd never even considered before in my life and allow those new, and unused parts of my brain to develop so they would one day create their own fantasy realms and adventures.
F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby remains one of my favorites and I've read it three times so far. It's a quick read by any standard, even for someone who reads as slowly as I do. It's a fantastically well told story of how bored the aristocracy gets and the trouble they get into when the do. I'm always amazed when I read it at how well Fitzgerald tells a story using so few words. He tells a grand story of opulence gone awry in 218 pages. I aspire to write with such imagination using so few words.
George Orwell: 1984 is one of the most quintessential books of our time and quite possibly one of the most important works of fiction of the 20th century by my measure. Orwell manages to depict, from his own imagination and prophesy, a future (which would now be 35 years ago, 1984,) and creates a world very similar to our own. Shockingly similar. So similar in fact that many venture to say he saw what was coming and tried to warn against it while it could be said that the far right uses his work as a 'how to,' guide. He saw a future of fascism being the primary form of governmental rule. He saw humanity changing the history books to suit the current political climate. HE saw the "Telescreen," in every home with people not only watching it but it watching us at the same time. Watching for any slip of the tongue or even a stray thought that veers off course of the current political agenda and looks to squelch any non-conformity. Without saying so he had imagined the first days of communal thought processing. He saw us tied to the screens and they to us. He missed that they'd be pocket sized, but that's beside the the point, technology was large in his day so that's what he envisioned. He saw a society where the "Thought Police," worked to control how we all think and act. In our society a parallel can be drawn to the "social justice warrior," in the guise of a leftist protester fighting for humanity, but in reality many of these people are simply trying to get others to believe their philosophy, or at least the one they've eaten up, is the only one and the right one morally and spiritually, until it isn't and then they want everyone to believe their new realizations and accept those as reality as well. The REALITY is that people change and evolve and we all think different thoughts both good and bad. We are forever adapting to our environment and bending what we cannot adapt to, to suit our needs, even if it means the destruction of the environment in which we live. Is it only possible for humanity to evolve into a more powerful species by adopting an extreme political view globally as we become one, people rather than many distinct cultures? Why do so many fight it so fervently? Why don't they want to be homogenized into a single minded mass rather than a society of individual, free thinking sentient beings who accept differences as strengths and no longer fear them? 1984 will have you considering such thoughts and many more.
Henry David Thoreau: I don't know if you've ever seen the movie, the Dead Poets' Society, but it's an amazing movie. If you've never seen it, you absolutely have to watch it. It's what birthed my love of classic literature as a boy. I've watched it too many times to count. I got more inspiration to read and write from that movie than from any teacher or parent or friend. Robin Williams was brilliant in the role of Professor Keating. He inspired me to read H.D.T. and I am forever grateful for that. Walden is one of the greatest reads of my life. I can honestly say that it changed the way I look at my life, at nature, at other people and the world at large. It gave me a more firm sense of understanding of what the word, 'home,' means to me. It's not a specific place, but what I make it and it needn't be as lavish as some these days feel they need. Wants and needs have become grossly distorted. Thoreau saw this back in his day and nothing's changed save to say things have become a damn sight worse. I'm not innocent. It's hard for me not to be caught up in wanting this or that but I have the ability to keep it in perspective and this man and his words allowed me the opportunity to learn how to do that.
Hunter S. Thompson: I don't even know where to begin. Most people view this man as a raving, drug addicted lunatic. But he DID write some amazing books and articles. These are the titles I recommend; Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (and watch the movie. You will laugh your head off at his antics portrayed by Jonny Depp.) Fear and Loathing in America, The Rum Diary, (also a movies now, it was OK not as good as the book in my opinion.) The Great Shark Hunt, The Gonzo Papers Anthology (you can buy them separately as well as the anthology is quite expensive.) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas the Movie was my first exposure to Thompson. No one in my family or at school had ever mentioned him to me before that movie came out. I guess he's not as popular of a public figure here in Canada as his writings focused on the United States. But I was always interested in learning more about the U.S. I found it intriguing to live next door to the most powerful country in the world back in the 80s and 90s growing up. Today I find it intriguing to watch the decline in U.S. power as the Chinese rise in economic, political and military power to become a super power, over all, the most powerful country on the planet with the largest standing army. This man wrote editorials about all that as it unfolded and he more often than not hit the nail right on the head. He may have had a warped way of interpreting the world but he also had an uncanny gift for telling it like it was back then, right up to recent times when he took his own life. A tragic end to a tragic life. But his words will live on as one of the greatest American Authors of all time and I as a neighboring Canadian, respect him for his colorful relations of life in America as he matured.
J.R.R. Tolkien: Tolkien is one of my heroes for inventing my favorite genre; Fantasy. I realize there were many authors who wrote fantasy novels and stories before him, but none defined and fleshed out the genre as well as he did. He gave it substance and took it from the realm of fairy tale fantasy to high fantasy and epic worlds. The man in invented the elvish language BEFORE he wrote his books. The Hobbit is my favorite fantasy book of all time. I've read it five times and plan to read it several more before my passing. I only wish Tolkien would have been alive at the same time as me so that I could have met the man and gleaned some of his genius from him. I have a pretty good collection of his works though I haven't read them all yet. I found that although I loved learning the history of Middle Earth that the Silmarilion was tough to get through and so I go back to it from time to time and read a little more. I still have a few others I haven't read yet. I was fortunate enough to find several of his books at a garage sale a few years back. I always like finding books I've been desperately seeking at garage sales or flea markets. Used books feel more like found treasure to me. Especially when you find a book for say 25 cents and it's been something you've been wanting for a long time. it always feels like such a great find. That's how I felt that day, as if I'd just unearthed the arc of the covenant. The Hobbit will forever hold the number one spot in my heart.
L. Frank Baum: In my house growing up, the Wizard of Oz was an annual tradition. We never missed it. It always came on around Thanksgiving in Canada and marked the beginning of the festive season. The flying monkeys were my favorite characters in the story even though they only played a small role. I became so enthralled with Oz that my mother bought me several OZ story books. I enjoyed all the stories even though some of them were a little dark. The world of Oz helped to define fantasy for me as a child and brought it into the forefront of my mind each year as we'd settle in to watch this classic movie.
Terry Brooks: Terry Brooks is my hero as an author. Any author who can ride out the good times of the 70s right through the birth of the internet and the dramatic change that came within the writing industry since is to be commended. He has not only made it through those tough times but thrived while doing it. I have read the original Shannara trilogy and the prequel and I enjoyed every minute of reading those books. Alanon is the perfect guiding force. He's definitely in my top ten for my favorite authors of all time and I plan to read more of his books in the future. I highly recommend the original trilogy and the prequel.
That's my Top Ten list of favorite authors. I know that my tastes are a little dated but these people wrote some of the very best fiction and non-fiction ever written in my opinion. What's your top ten list look like? Tell us in the comments. Are any of these authors on your list as well? Tell me which of their books are your favorites.