Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Favorite Authors

I am a very picky reader.

It's an occupational hazard for an author, I think; we come to this, usually, because we grew up devouring books, all kinds of books, reading for pure pleasure. But it's also our best education, and when we put that education to use and start writing ourselves, all of a sudden reading isn't only for pleasure. Oftentimes, we start to read with a critical eye; that same unblinking eye we train on our own work, knowing we have to become our harshest critics if we ever want to improve.

Yet we do, still, want to read for pleasure; it's only that it's just a bit more difficult to do so. I buy just as many books as I used to - which is, according to those who live with me, too many - but I don't always finish them all. I have less time now to spend on books that don't immediately pull me in. And I'm not as indiscriminate as I once was; if an author disappoints me, I'm going to be very careful about buying his or her next book.

There are still authors, however, whose work I will automatically buy just because their names are on the cover. I don't need to read the blurbs or the reviews; I don't even need to know what the book is about. All I need to know is that it was written by one of these rare and wonderful, consistently delightful, authors. And I will snap it up, practically run out the bookstore door, and have a difficult time not reading it at red lights all the way home.

Jennifer Haigh is one such author; I just read her latest, THE CONDITION, this weekend and was amazed; I loved her previous two books so much that I grabbed this one without thought. Anne Tyler is another consistently wonderful favorite of mine; she has a new book coming out in January (coincidentally enough, just a week before ALICE I HAVE BEEN comes out) that will be mine. I'm sure I'll wander into a bookstore somewhere to gaze at my book, and leave with hers.

Do you have authors whose books you will buy, must buy, no matter what? I think every reader does. And I know every author aspires to be one of those chosen, beloved few.

And just so you know what kind of company you might be keeping -

Queen Victoria was a devoted fan of ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND when it came out. There is a story - later disputed by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll), although some doubt his veracity - that after reading it, she wrote to Dodgson to tell him so, and to say that she would very much like to read something else he had written.

So he sent her a copy of his Syllabus Of Plane Algebraical Geometry (1860), a mathematical pamphlet he had written as part of his "day job" as a mathematics don at Oxford.

The Queen, we must assume, was not amused.


  1. Queen Victoria must not have known: Be careful what you ask for.

  2. I have very little sympathy for Victoria...from all I have read about her (and I've read a lot) so if she did receive a Mathematical pamphlet from Dodgson...how delightful!

    As I grow older myself and time becomes more fleeting, I find I am like you -- if the book hasn't captured me in it's early stages, it isn't going to. Years ago even if this happened, I'd plow on -- it was on the best seller list therefore it MUST be good, right? Huh!

    I just finished Anne Tyler's "Noah's Compass" and as with you -- anything Ms. Tyler pens is mine. I feel that way about Anita Shreve as well. And there are others.

    I'm sure the other books I bail on are lovely -- for other people. I've learned through life that when people speak the same "reader speak" that you speak, you are never disappointed.