Books may be grand, but book Authors are civilization’s salvation

I was recently asked to name a few of my favorite authors. I thought it would be an easy question to answer… and then I proceeded to over-think the question. What, exactly, does that mean, favorite author? Isn’t it the same as asking what one’s favorite books might be?

After pondering the question for a time, I decided that, no, one’s favorite authors are not the same as one’s favorite books, as there are books that I adore but don’t care for anything else the author has written, and there are authors whom I’ll read regardless of the genre or topic the new book they’ve written is in.

My beginning criteria for favorite authors quickly became those authors whom I’ve read 4+ books from. I made the definition more than a trilogy, as most authors nowadays will be almost forced by the publisher to write a trilogy for the sake of money, and just because I want to know how the story ends doesn’t mean I really liked the author or the writing. I’m also straying away from authors whom I’ve only read one “story arc” from, meaning that just because the series included seven books, that doesn’t mean they’ve made my favorite authors list. While this leaves out the wonderful Harry Potter series, as to date I have had no chance to read any of JK Rowling’s other books or stories, it does provide insight on what I might think makes a good author.

My favorite authors are those whose writing compels me to seek out more of their work, rather than just grabbing the next book in the series. The writing adds to my own soul, if I’m allowed to wax poetic, and I feel the world would be a poorer place without their ability.

And yes, I know I’ve given this question and possible answer WAY too much thought. 🙂

So, here’s my first five. This list is in chronological order of when I first read a book from that author, rather than by if I think they’re the “best”. I hope you find my reading journey from childhood interesting.

Maybe later I’ll write on my favorite book series. It’s also an interesting thought that I can think a particular series amazing/fantastic/must reread many times, and yet never really feel the urge to look up any of the author’s other works. Hmm.

Dana’s Favorite Authors:

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder

I wanted to be Laura for most of my childhood. I had read all of the books in the “main series” by 4th grade, and in 5th grade I gave a presentation on the entire series. In 6th grade I read her biography, and in 8th grade my town librarian helped me to request copies of the articles she had written for the local newspaper in Springfield, MO. In high school I started reading the new books published based on her notes on the lives of her grandparents.

While some of her books discuss Native Americans and African Americans in ways we find unacceptable today, a closer reading of her work shows that she did not agree with everything being said around her, and neither did her parents. She even edited her first edition to correct language about Native Americans that she had not meant as offensive, but later found out it that was. I’ve always loved that about her, that even at nearly 70 she understood that she wasn’t the one who gets to say what’s offensive to oppressed groups. As I grow older, I only learn to appreciate her more.

Isaac Asimov

Image result for Azimov

I’ve read every single work by Asimov that’s been published and is accessible. I even, when I was about 12, started collecting old science fiction magazines that I found at used bookstores so I could read his early stuff. I’ll admit, though, that I’m not a huge fan of the Foundation series.

His short stories are some of the best I’ve ever read, however, and I’ve always emulated my own writing to his. Robbie will always make me cry, and if you don’t like the novelette The Bicentennial Man, then it’s my firm opinion that you don’t have a heart.

Jean Lorrah

Image result for Jean Lorrah

Jean and her writing were crucial to my own development as a writer when I was a teenager. Her Star Trek books are still my all-time favorite, and she’s the first author I had ever written to who responded. She’s the one that really set me down the path of fan fiction, that it was Okay to write about what you love, and her own “fanfics” of Star Trek are still some of my favorite stories ever. Her Savage Empire series is incredible.

Marion Zimmer Bradley

Image result for Marion Zimmer Bradley

I found Hawkmistress! in a used bookstore when I was about 14, and then preceded to harass my local library for more of her work. I zipped through the rest of the Darkover series, and then read Mists of Avalon. I then ate up all of her short stories, and was heartbroken when she became ill. The books printed in the Darkover series since her death are good, but they are clearly not the completed work of Bradley.

One of her essays on writing explained that she thought of Lew Alton as “her own voice”, and that was the first time anyone had told me that I could write in a “voice” that society said was a man’s.

Charlotte Brontë

Portrait by George Richmond (1850, chalk on paper)

I’ve re-read Jane Eyre about twice a year at least since my first year of college, and it never gets old. I’ve read her other three published books – Shirley, Villette, and The Professor. I’ve also read her short stories of the Green Dwarf, but I’ve never been able to access her poetry. I’ve read several biographies on her, and heck, I even re-read her letters added to the front of several of her books, honoring certain literary giants of her day. Her writing is beautiful, and her life was tragic. There hasn’t been a movie version yet that I’ve felt did the book justice, though the version with Samantha Morton and Ciarán Hinds comes close.

Just to point out, many of my favorites here have written what we call “fan fiction” today. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I’m also aware that most of my favorites are women, though that wasn’t by design. Maybe I’ll write another blog soon on that specifically. But for now, I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about these amazing writers. And a little bit about me.

-dlp

Published by

Drs. Dana Pertermann & Mark Neels

Friends, colleagues, and sparing partners, Drs. Dana L. Pertermann and Mark A. Neels collaborate on research in military history, politics, and culture. They are currently both college professors in Wyoming. They blog weekly about the past, the present, and the future of the U.S. and the world.

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