22 Writers Worth Reading (Part 1)

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Every avid reader has a list of writers they’d recommend to anyone who will listen.  These are the writers readers look for every time they visit a book store or keep permanently on bookshelves and night stands.  Every list is different and personal, but also inspiring as nothing piques a reader’s interest more than the possibility of a new favorite author.

In keeping with the idea of 22 Things (see 22 Moments of Gratitude), I combed through my book collection and selected 22 writers that consistently have me turning pages into all hours of the night. They range from literary legends to phenomenal YA storytellers, but they all share the distinction of being great writers who know how to keep a reader engaged with great characters and plot lines. Over the course of two posts, each writer will get a moment in the spotlight along with my favorite pieces of work.

Writers 1 – 11 in no particular order:

1. David Foster Wallace
I’ve written of Wallace on a number of occasions, so its no wonder I thought of him first.  His writing is wholly original in terms of style, humor, and language.  Wallace tackles the truth with a point of view that is brutally honest, but also warm-hearted and humorous.  He’s not afraid to take readers on a journey into less glamorous parts of life, like grocery store lines or the cubicle of an IRS employee.  For that I applaud him and embrace every word.

Favorite Book(s): This is Water and Oblivion

2. Jane Austen
When I visited the British Library for the first time, I left a print of my forehead on the glass that shields Jane Austen’s journal.  No matter how many times I see her delicate handwriting, I am always in awe. Words were her gift and she never gave up on writing for a living – I love that about her.  Austen’s stories and characters are so beautifully crafted, they feel real every time I open her books.  No one can write the heart of a woman quite like Austen.

Favorite Book: Pride and Prejudice

3. Charlotte Brontë
Right next to the forehead print I left for Jane Austen, I left another one for Charlotte Brontë. There’s nothing quite as incredible as seeing the last chapter of Jane Eyre written in Brontë’s script. I almost cried as Jane Eyre is my favorite book of all time (so far).  Brontë’s stories are dark at times, but her heroines embody the kind of strength I admire greatly and strive to possess.

Favorite Book: Jane Eyre

4. Ivan Klíma
I discovered Ivan Klíma when I went to Prague a few years ago.  Klíma caught my attention because he knows the power of an idea and the necessity of voicing that idea. For years, his words were banned in an attempt to silence his view of the world. Communist Czechoslovakia had no tolerance for any truth beyond their own making.  Yet, Klíma kept writing. Word after word, he protested the injustice of suppression. 
The passion, love, and creativity in every human being is not something to be wasted or forgotten.

Favorite Book(s): No Saints or Angels and My Golden Trades

5. Dennis Potter
Potter is best known for his screenplays, but I’m a huge fan of his short novels.  He is a gritty writer, who dares to challenge our view of reality and human behavior.  His main characters are usually twisted and amoral, but his focus on emotion makes them relatable regardless of their faults.  Potter is a magician with original description and storytelling, which makes his work an experience unlike any other.  For example, in my favorite book he tells the story of a character who knows he is a character in a writer’s  novel.

Favorite Book: Hide and Seek

6. John Irving
Irving is an elegant writer that dazzles me with emotional honesty and wordplay.  His stories and characters are quirky, but they always hit upon a greater truth. Irving delves into difficult concepts such as challenging moral standards, societal expectations, and the human condition with engaging prose and sharp metaphors.  The last line of every book always leaves me pondering and questioning the world around me.

Favorite Book(s): The Fourth Hand and Cider House Rules

7. J.K. Rowling
I was very late the Harry Potter party, but once I read the first book I was hooked.  Rowling is the only writer who has ever convinced me to follow a main character who is a child.  Throughout the entire series, I was awed by Rowling’s imagination as she conjured an entirely new world filled with dynamic characters. Hermione felt like my twin and Ron an older brother I wish I had.  And Harry, of course, unexpectedly captured my heart.  Who knew a children’s series could work such amazing magic?

Favorite Book(s):  Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows

8. Stephanie Meyer
My love for Stephanie’s Meyer’s work started with the Twilight series, but it only grows as I read more of her work.  Meyer likes to play with convention and create stories that break all the rules. This is a writer who truly knows the meaning of fiction because she traverses all boundaries as if they don’t exist.  In Twilight, she decided vampires could sparkle when everyone else said “No, they can’t.”  I find that very inspiring and empowering!

Favorite Book(s): Twilight

9. Guy de Maupassant
One of Maupassant’s strengths is his ability to transform a rather simple story into something beautiful with well-crafted imagery and flowing prose. Rather than explore these realms the old-fashioned way through the mind of the character, he creates magnificent and sometimes haunting images of emotion with landscapes, water, and overall atmosphere.

Favorite Book: Bel-Ami

10. Vladimir Nabokov
Whenever I finish reading a Nabokov book, everything somehow looks a little different.  Nabokov likes to explore the darker corners of the human mind and he often dredges up parts of the psyche most people would prefer to ignore.  Many of his characters are extreme personifications of human behavior, but Nabokov paints them so realistically they could be the next door neighbor everyone knows, but would never invite for tea.

Favorite Book: Invitation to a Beheading

11. Peter David
Geek alert! Back in my Trekkie days, (Oh, let’s face it, they never ended), I always looked forward to any Star Trek book written by Peter David.  He portrays the main characters better than most Trek writers and he has a great sense of the overall scope of Gene Rodenberry’s creation.  Every one of his books had me at the edge of my seat with suspense, laughing from well-placed humor, and dreaming of The Final Frontier.

Favorite Book(s): Imzadi and Q-Squared

– – –

Stay tuned for 12 -22!

c.b. 2012

26 thoughts on “22 Writers Worth Reading (Part 1)

    • They are a constant source of inspiration in so many different ways. Like my music collection, the books I keep are diverse in every way imaginable. I like switching things up, because I never know where the next nugget of inspiration might be hiding! 🙂

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    • As part of my 2012 goals, I thought about submitting book and travel pieces to my local newspaper. Both realms are passions of mine and its always best to write what you love, right? 🙂

      I hope you enjoy these writers! Thanks so much for reading!

      Like

  1. This is a wonderful post! I’ve often thought of starting (or finding) a book club whereby people get together not to discuss plots, themes, authors of the same book they’ve all read, but rather to exchange favourite books in order to really expand the love of reading! I will be checking out some of the authors you’ve listed above as I also smile that we share many of the same favourites as well. 😉

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    • I have a wonderful friend who I discuss books with on a regular basis. Whenever I finish reading something good I can’t wait to tell him about it and I’m always anxious to hear about what he’s read. It’s so enlightening and enriching to hear another reader’s point of view!

      I love it that we share the same favorites! Who are they? 😉

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      • Books are meant to be shared for sure! Of your list so far, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, John Irving and Stephenie Meyer are among my faves!

        I wonder how long until YOUR name shows up on someone’s “Top 22 list”? That would be quite awesome don’t you think?!

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    • Maupassant is a treasure I wish I knew about a long time ago. I found him a couple of years back and now I snap up any book or story I can find with his name on it! He writes beautifully and I hope you enjoy his work.

      Aside from “Bel-Ami,” I’d also highly recommend “A Life.” 🙂

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    • Sometimes I think fiction writers tell the truth more often than non-fiction writers. I can’t help but be inspired by that notion, regardless of genre or time period. My reading pattern has always been erratic, but the ride has been nothing short of spectacular. I can only hope the influence of these writers continues to help the development of my own voice. 🙂

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  2. Minority report on JKR, I’m afraid (my friends put my opinion down to jealousy – of her looks and of her success mainly, but I’m actually jealous that she got the bloody Légion D’Honneur!). To be scrupulously fair to her I think she has sufficient talent and a propensity for hard work, but that’s it regarding her qualities as a writer. Add to that the fact that she looks good and has an army of expert advisors in marketing, legal matters, etc. What she offers in her books is spectacle rather than involvement. I hear what you are saying about being able to follow a single child-character through several books, and that may be true, but we are always standing outside, always at a remove from identifying with a character, because we are not allowed to get inside them – young readers can cope with that, they can cope with the inner world of a character, but JKR doesn’t give us that, which is why when a HP book is adapted for the screen all you get to see is Harry smiling, Harry frowning, and Harry losing his temper. It’s too superficial, and that’s there in the writing. We’re left with a series of ‘good ideas’ (‘Diagon Alley’, for example – cute).

    I think that comes out in the films. The films, which are quite entertaining, feed well off the spectacular aspect, and of course the medium lends itself to the ‘arms length’ of audience-to-performance (Brecht knew all about this). But even they are spoilt by the fact that a brilliant array of British actors ham it up out of all proportion. There are only two actors in the whole canon whose charisma shines through (Jason Isaacs and Rupert Grint) and only one of them actually puts in a convincing performance (Jason Isaacs). The best ‘moment’ in any of the films has very little to do with Harry and nothing to do with magic – it’s where Hermione banjos Draco Malfoy with a right hook.

    I think I gave up after the third book. I couldn’t sustain my interest and I found that the series didn’t capture it. I think I would have been embarrassed to read any of them aloud to children. In my estimation JKR has to look up at the other writers on your list – she’s not at the same table.

    Sorry for blogging on your blog. 🙂

    M

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    • You make a lot of excellent points and I do agree with some of them. However, every writer has pros/cons to their work and I try to think of it in terms of whether the pros outweigh the cons. Whatever issues I had with JKR’s style, my connection to Harry made up for it. Do I put her in the same league with Bronte or Austen? No. But I enjoyed her work and I admire her imagination.

      I always love reading your opinions. You never have to be sorry for blogging on my blog. 🙂

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  3. What an amazing array of writers and subjects. Inspiring. You have such a way of hitting the nail on the head and making each book the next one I want to read.
    Thank you, and I look forward to the next list.

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  4. Leila

    Every author can teach us something – plot, character development, scene and location. The authors that inspire us, help us become better. Love the list and can’t wait for the next part.

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    • You are so right! Writers of every style and genre offer something new to learn. Perhaps that’s why they say its important to read a lot during the writing process. 🙂

      Part 2 will be up tomorrow morning! Thanks for reading!

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  5. I can’t agree about Stephanie Meyer (I read the Twilight series, so I’m not just being a Meyer-hater without knowing what I’m talking about!) – she’s able to write a page-turner, no doubt about that, but I dislike the messages behind a lot of what she writes and I find her female characters powerless, not empowered.

    However! I do agree with you on a lot of the other writers here, and there are a couple that I need to check out for sure!

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    • I’m always fascinated by how Meyer’s work is interpreted . . . some people see Bella as powerless while others like myself see her as being incredibly strong. I suppose like any other artistic medium, everyone is going to see it differently. I love that! 🙂

      I hope you find a new favorite writer! 🙂

      Thanks for reading!

      Like

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