Welcome to part two of my attempt to share some of my favourite writers with you, some of my favourite readers. For those who missed pt.1, it can be found here, and you should probably catch up on it before you go any further.
Good. Here we go!!…
I can’t remember when I first discovered Haruki Murakami, (who, thanks to years talking about him in Japan, I now automatically call Murakami Haruki, ‘coz that’s how they roll over there, name order-wise), but I think I began with ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.’ After reading everything he has ever released in English, (and a couple of essay collections he hasn’t), this is still (just about) my favourite: the historical, social, magical realism of almost all of his fiction is mind-bendingly, bizarrely readable, (especially if you are into wells, cats, ears so beautiful you can’t take your eyes off them, rural locations and liminality), although his non-fiction can be less accessible. The most annoying thing about Murakami? The fact that his most famous novel, (‘Norwegian Wood‘), is his least representative, and least fun. Skip that, read all the others, and buckle in for a roller-coaster ride of randomness.
This entry is proof of my earlier assertion that these are in no particular order: KV is one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, and someone whose entire back I believe I may well have read. Again, his most famous book, (WWII critique ‘Slaughterhouse Five,’), wasn’t my favourite, (although still a wonderful novel), and annoyingly the book I most enjoyed by him was the first one I ever read, meaning as good as everything else was, it never quite lived up to the first, (although maybe that was just the thrill of reading for the first time someone as sarcastic, critical, science-fictiony, funny and human as Vonnegut is).
Even more annoyingly, I can’t remember whether that first novel was ‘Player Piano,’ ‘Hocus Pocus‘ or ‘Cat’s Cradle.’ Or something else. It has been around a decade and a half since I read most of them, in a reading frenzy midway through university, and I can remember almost nothing about most of them except the style, and the fact that I loved them. But I recently discovered his last work, ‘A Man Without A Country,’ whilst travelling through Mexico, so that is my recommendation. But read everything. They’re pretty short.
(And, in case you didn’t catch it in my earlier blog, now that I have figured out how to embed videos into the blog, you get this hilarious, concise, and genius proto-TED talk from the man himself direct to your eyebrain, to give you an idea of whether or not you’d like his style.)
I love everything Nick Hornby does, (apart from being an Arsenal fan, it goes without saying). As do movie directors, apparently. From his novels, to his monthly articles for The Believer magazine which inspired this blog, to his opening of the Dave Eggers-inspired charity-based Monster Supplies shop in East London…but mainly his novels. And his articles. And…
Hornby seems to write effortlessly, about everyday people and everyday life, from the point of view of football fans, music lovers, women, even children, so there’s something for everyone. My favourite is his second novel, ‘High Fidelity,’ but I would honestly recommend pretty much any of his books, especially the first of the compilations of ‘Stuff I’ve Been Reading‘ articles, ‘The Polysyllabic Spree.’ Go get him!
EDIT: I had the pleasure, honour and luck to interview Nick at an event in London: read about it here.
Possibly my number one in this top ten, (although that title changes daily), Rushdie makes me feel more intelligent, more learned about everything from history to myth to religion to the simple, pure art of story-telling. His essays are amusing and deeply thought-out, but it is in his novels he spreads his wings and soars, (a little too much for many people’s liking, apparently: my favourite, ‘Midnight’s Children,’ is the novel which I hear more people give up on than any other). He may not be for everyone, but for his years spent battling religious intolerance and promoting freedom of artistic speech, he deserves your respect, if not your undivided attention for 500-pages.
A blatant attempt to appear worldly and educated, the Portuguese Nobel Laureate was a borderline entry into the Top 10 due to the fact that, of the half dozen or so of his novels I have read, one was dull, and another was practically unreadable. But that just lets you know the quality of the others, especially his 1997 work ‘Blindness,’ (it’s surely no coincidence that he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998), later made into a slightly disappointing movie.
Saramago writes in what can be seen as either a post-modern or a pre-tentious style, generally shunning everything from punctuation to paragraphs to chapters to capital letters, which is occasionally distracting and sometimes downright infuriating, but what draws me back to him again and again is the way he takes a single, simple idea and stretches it to breaking point and beyond, always with a straight face, (although sometimes a straight face with a tongue in its cheek, and a slight wink). ‘Blindness‘ is a 300+ page thought experiment on how quickly society would degenerate if everyone suddenly turned blind overnight: my second favourite, ‘Death With Interruptions,’ charts the fate of a country which awakes one morning to find out that nobody in its boundaries can die, (which proves to be less fun than it sounds); ‘The Double‘ follows the thought process of a man who sees himself as an extra in a film, and decides he has to track him down; and so on and so forth.
Anyone out there read him?
Before you say it, let me beat you to the punch: I was shocked when I made this list to discover that there is a distinct and glaring lack of female membership. Not a single one in the entire top 10, in fact. Discovering this lacuna in my reading preferences in conversation with a friend recently, I began to wonder why that would be: Do I not read enough female writers? Are there just way more male writers than their counterpart, or is it that men’s writing appeals to me more, (a thought I instinctively flinch from: I am as feminine as the next guy!)
Some of the best books I read over recent years have been by women, (Audrey Niffenegger‘s beautiful and twisted ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife‘; Margaret Atwood, probably the closest to making the list, whose distopian ‘Handmaid’s Tale‘ and ‘Oryx & Crake‘ I adored), but I rarely find authors whose back catalogue I feel I have to devour in the way I do with Vonnegut or Rushdie. Thanks to a recent literary friendship, I have a list of new authors to explore and re-explore, from Anaïs Nin to Joyce Carol Oates, so I hope to readjust this imbalance in the coming months and years.
That said, this isn’t actually the end of ‘My Top 10 Favouritest Authors EVER’ as I have several names still on my Top 10 list who haven’t made it on, (I’ll figure out how to deal with the maths of that later). For now, let me know what you think of the Top 10 to date: who are you hoping to see in the blogs to come? Who can’t you believe made it into the first ten?
Enjoy exploring if any of these names were new to you!