A little research on how to make my blog more popular in my early days of writing revealed some interesting facts: people are most likely to read blogs on Monday morning. Or on weekends. Or was it in the afternoon, after lunch? There were several conflicting theories, (often accompanied by very convincing diagrams), and in the end I gave up trying to plan my blog entries and just hoped that good writing would be found by good people, (I’m looking at you).
However, EVERYone likes a good list, so I have finally decided to set down a Top 10 of my favourite authors.
Except that my Top 10 lists, just like every personality test I’ve ever taken, will change from day to day, and I almost never manage to stick to just ten.
So here, in no particular order, is the first part of my ‘ten’ favourite writers who you may like to explore.
(Their books, I mean: please don’t molest them if you happen to see them in the street).
Probably most famous for his graphic novel series ‘The Sandman,’ (containing the most amazing mixture of mythology, literary references, fantasy, science and just all round ideas), Neil Gaiman is one of those authors whose every title I have to hunt down and own, from his 1990 collaboration with Terry Pratchett ‘Good Omens‘ to his work with graphic artists from Dave McKean to Japanese legend Yoshitaka Amano. Start with the Sandman collections, then move on to the Douglas Adams-esque fiction. You won’t be disappointed.
This Argentinian short story maestro and poet is a must-read for anyone who cares about literature, ideas, and just all-round good writing. His style is unmistakeable: fantasy, misdirection, Escher-esque whorls and loops that leave you wondering which world he is living in and, at times, which world you are living in. As mentioned previously in this blog, Borges is quite possibly the name most quoted by other authors, a fount of contemporary magical realism. Personally I would recommend reading the complete short stories, but if that sounds too daunting, start with ‘Labyrinths‘, containing many of his most famous tales, from the library of non-existent books to the man who decides to rewrite ‘Don Quixote‘…word for word. The words ‘mind’ and ‘fuck’ often occur quite close together when discussing his work.
3. François-Marie Arouet, aka VOLTAIRE
Certain parts of my French degree were a pleasure, and studying the complete works of one of the most irreverent, iconoclastic humanists in history, a leading figure of the Enlightenment, was definitely one of them. Most famous for his dry adventure tale ‘Candide‘, (which I can’t help choosing to reproduce below, if only for the sweet Chris Ware cover story), it is in fact a slightly dense (if simply rendered) philosophical treatise, (as most of Voltaire’s works were). More entry-level would be the short story ‘Micromegas‘, one of the first ever works of science fiction and a perfect Enlightenment vehicle for displaying both the enormous and microscopically insignificant position of Man in the universe. ‘Letters on the English‘ was also lots of fun.
It worried me at one point that my favourite book was Nabakov‘s linguistic masterpiece ‘Lolita‘, (“the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth…”), and my favourite movie was ‘Léon‘ (aka in the US as ‘The Professional). However, aside from having pre-pubescent girls as their focus, both were also supreme works of art, and Nabakov’s mastery of the English language (not even his first languauge: there are stories that he had trouble stringing a sentence together in spoken English), coupled with a wicked sense of humour, shot him straight to the top of my list of favourite authors. ‘Lolita’ may still be my favourite book, but he has also authored two others which are among my all-time favourites, too: the dark and twisted anti-romantic novella ‘Laughter In The Dark‘ and the awesome ‘Pale Fire‘, a 999-line poem by a fictional poet, with copious notes on the poem made by a colleague of the deceased author who slowly reveals himself to be far more than just a dispassionate critic. One of the fore-runners of post-modernism, and one of the most rewarding, amusing and disturbing reads ever.
These days Prof.Dawkins is best known for his anti-religious stance, epitomised by the best-selling (and excellently argued, whatever you think of his sometimes brusque style) ‘The God Delusion‘ (a fame which has seen him enter the public domain everywhere from Twitter to South Park). However, that has tended to detract from the fact that he is also an extraordinary biologist and popular science writer who, for almost four decades, has written some of the most accessible works on evolution and human nature. His breakthrough book, 1976’s ‘The Selfish Gene,‘ is one of the few books I can say has changed my life and the way I view the world: along with Jared Diamond‘s ‘Guns, Germs and Steel‘, and maybe Steven Pinker’s ‘How The Mind Works,‘ this book leaves you feeling like you understand life better than you did before, and that can surely only be a good thing. Working my way through his other scientific works, from ‘Unweaving The Rainbow‘ to ‘The Blind Watchmaker‘ may have been what first sowed the seeds that led to my becoming a humanist, a Darwinist, and a scientist.
Whaddya think so far? Anyone here you already love, hate, or are now looking forward to reading? Anyone you’re hoping I don’t leave out later in the later part of the list? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!