Revealed: My 8 Most Frequently Read Authors
I’m not a big reader of series so it’s been a challenge to reach the magical 10 for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic: Authors I’ve Read the Most Books By.
Maybe I made it too difficult by setting a threshold where in order to make the list, I decided I would limit myself to authors I read as an adult. Plus I had to have read at least five of the author’s works. I ended up with just eight names.
They are a mix of contemporary authors and those from the literary canon of past centuries. Some are authors whose full body of work I would love to read. Others are favourites from past years that have not lasted the course because my reading tastes have changed. I wonder whether this list will change again in the future. Maybe I should repeat the exercise five or ten years from now .
One important thing to mention however. This list is simply a record of authors I’ve read most often, not the authors I consider my favourites. There’s no George Eliot for example. Putting the list together I realised I still have three of her novels to read: Daniel Deronda, Felix Holt and Romola. I sense a little reading project might be in the offing.
By the time I came across Louise Penny’s crime fiction she had already published eight titles in her series set in Quebec. Her setting in the tiny village of Three Pines won me over, as did her protagonist, Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec. She’s published a total of 15 books in the series – 16th is due out later this year – of which I’ve read eight. My favourite? That’s a hard one. I think I’m going to go for How The Light Gets In.
My first experience of Atkinson was via her debut novel Behind The Scenes at the Museum which chronicled the lives of six generations of women. I’ve since gone on to read six more of the the 10 books she’s had published. Some of these were not to my taste (I couldn’t finish Life after Life and really disliked Transcription) but when she’s on form, she’s highly enjoyable. Her Jackson Brodie series of detective novels (adapted into the BBC series Case Histories) is first class and like her many other fans I was delighted when she returned to this series in 2019 after a 11 year gap, with Blue Sky.
There was a time when I lapped up everything written by McEwan. But in recent years my interest has waned significantly. The turning point was Saturday published in 2005 which I found tedious and pretentious. I’ve read seven of his novels. From his early years, I enjoyed Black Dogs and The Innocent. Of his more recent works, my all time favourite is Atonement.
Another author I no longer enjoy as much as I did. I’ve read six of his novels. The best of those from the twentieth century is I think Brazzaville Beach which tells the story of a woman who is in Africa researching chimpanzees. This century, the outstanding novel has been Any Human Heart, a tremendous story of one man’s life; his attempts at a literary career, several marriages and meetings with a host of famous people. Nothing Boyd has published since has come anywhere close to the quality of that novel and the most recent one I read, Love is Blind, was just awful.
If you’d asked me in the 1980s whether Graham Greene was one of my favourite authors, you’d have been met with an unequivocal answer in the negative. He’d been on the syllabus for my final English literature module at university and I had unwelcome memories of having to rush through his books. But time has moved on and I’ve come to more deeply appreciate his work, particularly those labelled his “Catholic novels.” My favourite is The Heart of The Matter which portrays a fundamentally decent man taken down the path to a crisis of conscience and despair.
I’ve barely touched the surface with Zola’s work. I’ve read seven of his novels; Thérèse Raquin, a dark novel of murder and adultery and six of the 20 titles in his Rougon-Macquart cycle. I’ve yet to read one that hasn’t impressed me with its multi-faceted portrayal French society and life in the nineteenth century and its undercurrents of passion and ambition. My favourite is the novel I read first, Germinal, but L’Assommoir, the story of a working class woman in Paris, is a close second.
Like so many readers I was introduced to Dickens at an early age via Oliver Twist. It took me a few decades to warm to him. Yes he can be frustrating (he does so like to digress) and yes his plots are highly dependent on coincidences, but boy can he tell a good yarn. I’ve failed to finish two: Bleak House (I’ll return to it one day) and A Tale of Two Cities). Of the eight novels by him that I have finished, my favourites are Great Expectations (the first encounter by Magwitch and young Pip is unforgettable) and Dombey and Son (especially for its breathtaking scene involving a train).
When I read Jane Austen as a teenager I was puzzled by descriptions of her as a supremely ‘witty’ author. I couldn’t see anything approaching wit in what I was reading. It wasn’t until I read her as an adult that the penny dropped and I fell in love with her writing. I’ve read all her novels bar one, Lady Susan. Last year I read one of her unfinished works, Sanditon, when a new Oxford World Classics edition was published to coincide with a TV adaptation. She’s an author I feel I can return to again and again and still find something new to enjoy. My favourite? I never tire of Pride and Prejudice but the quieter, more thoughtful Persuasion, has the edge.
Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, Discover what other bloggers put on their lists by clicking this week’s blog page
49 thoughts on “Revealed: My 8 Most Frequently Read Authors”
An interesting list. Do you have your book list in a spreadsheet that you sorted by author’s name?
I do have a spreadsheet but I only started keeping that a few years ago so I had to rely partly on memory
Like you I love Kate Atkinson. I love Life after Life, but agree Transcription was not my favourite.
Dickens I have only ever read as part of various English Literature courses, maybe I need to read some as an adult.
Jane Austen can do no wrong in my eyes, I love everything she has written.
I just couldn’t get into Life after Life at all – gave up on it after a while though I know it has a lot of fans.
Having to read Dickens for school/college has turned so many people against him. He is great at storytelling but can be so long winded and dull at times when he gets a bee in his bonnet. Try Great Expectations if you havent read that yet – great story and not much in the way of irrelevant digressions
Thanks, I will definitely give great Expectations a go. x
So interesting!! Like a lot of the other commenters here, I think I’m in the same camp with Austen, but the only other ones that spring to mind are Elena Ferrante and Helen Garner… I think I don’t often “deep dive” on authors, I’m more likely to sample only one or two from their published works, though there are many on my never-ending to-be-read list!
Helen Garner is a name I don’t recognise. What kind of books does she write?
OH, you’re in for a treat! Garner is one of the most brilliant and versatile writers Australia has ever produced. She’s written across a variety of categories and genres: fiction, non-fiction (she’s particularly well regarded for her literary true crime), and recently she’s been publishing collected essays and volumes of her diaries. I’ll try not to gush on and on (though I could!), but I highly recommend her work. Whatever one’s tastes, I guarantee Garner has written something brilliant that would suit them.
I think since I started blogging, I’ve read a lot of Ian McEwan, Anita Brookner and Rose Tremain (although these authors apply pre-blogging as well).
I’m slowly reading my way through Anita Brookner..
I’d have to include Kate Atkinson on a post like this, too. Hoping for news that Big Sky will be adapted for TV sometime although presumably not in the near futire, given social distancing.
There are some inventive programmes being made (like the Alan Bennett monologues) but new drama involving a big crew is going to be off our screens for quite some time I suspect
Atonement was such a good read.
My TTT .
Glad you highly rated this too. I thought the film adaptation was really well done
Interesting! I don’t think I’d know where to begin, though I do know one thing – the author I’ve read most books by *must* be Agatha Christie because I’ve read everything she wrote!!
I’ve read a few by her but not even sure which ones they were because that was so long ago and I can’t be sure which I read and which I just know from the various TV adaptations
Dickens and Austen would make my list too! Some other authors would be Sarah Waters, Georgette Heyer, Agatha Christie, Amitav Ghosh, Salman Rushdie, and more. Maybe I should also do a post on this.
I think you should!
Daniel Deronda should go straight to the top of your tbr list. I think it is a remarkable work.
I think the only thing that has stopped me reading it in the past is that its so huge and therefore impossible to carry on holidays or work trips.
Some of these would make my list too: Dickens, Zola, Austen, Graham Greene, McEwan, but also Trollope, Tolstoy, Margaret Atwood, Balzac and John Banville. I still havent’ finished reconstructing my Books Read Excel file, so while I think there might be more, I’m not sure…
Trollope narrowly missed inclusion my list – I’ve read four and am currently on my fifth.
Interesting that writers from the 19th century figure so much in both our lists…
That’s my go to period for literature. I ind it fascinating how the style of the novel changes so much during the century.
Jane Austen is a perennial favourite
I suspect she will be on many people’s lists for that reason
Of all the Charles Dickens books my favourite is The Pickwick Papers and like you my favourite Jane Austen is Persuasion. As for crime novels I enjoy Anne Cleeves both the Vera and the Shetland series.
I’ve never read Pickwick Papers – one day I should get around to that.
I have read all of Louise Penny’s, but I have an author with 20 titles: Ellis Peters (Brother Cadfael series). It’s tricky, because lots of these books I have not reviewed, but I believe it must be my top
I had no idea Ellis Peters had written so many books in the series. I’ve listened to quite a few as audiobooks and watched a tv adaptation from a few decades ago. The atmosphere is great. The location used in the books is one I’ve been to a few times, you can even take a Cadfael tour though we didn’t have time for that
Several of these would make my list too. Dickens and Austen, of course, but also Boyd and McEwan. Like you I find them both variable and have pretty much given up on McEwan now. I still read new Boyds as they come along with varying degrees of enjoyment, but agree Love is Blind was really pretty poor. Graham Greene was a huge favourite of mine back in my teens and twenties, and I’ve been enjoying revisiting him recently. Brighton Rock has just pipped my old favourite, The Heart of the Matter, but I’d really like to read The Heart of the Matter again just to check…
I’ve pretty much given up on McEwan too – the most recent one Nutshell sounded odd
I read Atonement last year and really liked it. I agree with what you said about Austen’s work. I do not think I truly appreciated her work until I did it again as an adult.
I have similar feelings about Dickens. Yes I enjoyed the stories when I was younger but as I matured it was the social commentary that caught my attention
I had a similar experience with Austen. I was devastated as a teen, because I’d long been looking forward to appreciating Pride & Prejudice and it…was dull. But then at 22 I took a Jane Austen course, and a combination of my age and the awesome professor unlocked the magic immediately. I can’t pick a fave between P&P and S&S, but Mansfield Park is a close third. Persuasion is the only one I never got to. I was saving it, and then…my TBR got in the way.
Yay Louise Penny! 🙌 I loved How the Light Gets In, Glass Houses, and Kingdom of the. Blind.
I haven’t got to Glass Houses yet.
It’s a good one! Enjoy!
Oh…I need to correct my previous comment….Glass House is a standout and Kingdom of the Blind I didn’t enjoy as much (but maybe because I was comparing it to Glass Houses….or maybe it’s because it’s the one she wrote the year her husband died).
I get confused because some of her books have two different titles
Oh? That’s confusing! Carla and I were discussing a NetGalley title last week and realized we were talking about the same book with 2 different titles. I can understand changing the covers but not titles…especially in our international blogging community!
Confusing and expensive! I always bought my Penny novels when I travelled to the States because I loved the covers and wanted a complete set. But then back home I saw some I didn’t think I had so bought them anyway only to find they were same book, different title
Yes…frustrating and expensive!
Kate Atkinson is on my list of most-read authors too. I think I’ve read nearly everything she’s written. And I do love Jane Austen and Charles Dickens.
What’s your favourite Dickens novel?
David Copperfield, definitely. But I’d like to read more. Bleak House has been on my TBR for years.
I got half way through Bleak House but was completely confused by all the characters. Watching an adaptation in the form of a series really helped make the story more clear
I read a lot of series, but I think the authors I’ve read the most have mostly been standalones, which is interesting.
It’s an interesting exercise…