Friday, July 25, 2014

Top Ten Authors

Goodreads compiles a list of your most-read authors. Of course, this list only counts the books I've entered into Goodreads. So I'm sure Isaac Asimov or Franklin W. Dixon would make a lifetime list. But these capture the books I've read in the past four years since I've joined Goodreads, plus the ones from the past I've cared enough to list, so I thought it would be mildly interesting to discuss who is on the list and why.

  • Jack McDevitt. He has written quite a number of very good books, and one great one. A Talent for War was the first book I ever read by him (in 2008), and it is brilliant. Other than that, he writes one book a year, usually gets nominated for a Nebula Award (but rarely wins). I always look forward to his books in the fall (especially the sequels to A Talent for War, though none has lived up to it.)
  • Lois McMaster Bujold. All but three of these 16 I've read since May of last year, which is a testament to how good they are. I've mostly read her Vorkosigan novels, which are always very good, but sometimes are amazing commentaries on social structures and personal relationships.
  • Douglas Coupland. I read his first novel, Generation X, in college and was awe-struck. Some of his later work has been disappointing, but he still has the ability to capture an idea so profoundly that it will burrow into my head and stay there for decades.
  • Michael Lewis. I got hooked on his writing when he was with The New Republic in the 1990s. Though justly praised for his financial (Liar's Poker, Flash Boys) and sports (Moneyball, The Blind Side) writing, don't overlook his writing about politics (Trail Fever) or family (Home Game).
  • Naomi Novik. Her Temeraire series starts off with His Majesty's Dragon, which is a really fresh alternate-history fantasy. Later works are uneven, but the series as a whole is strong. The 10 books represent the 8 novels and 2 short stories in the Temeraire universe. I am looking forward to the series conclusion next year.
  • Kim Stanley Robinson. The only author from this list I've actually met; he's a really nice guy. His Mars trilogy is probably his best work, but I've enjoyed most of the books of his that I've read (although I couldn't finish a couple). He sometimes lets his eagerness to explore ideas harm the style of the books.
  • Robert Silverberg. The Majipoor series instilled such a sense of wonder in me when I read it growing up, and it's still magical to return to as an adult. The original trilogy is the rare set of books I am happy to re-read.
  • Ursula K. LeGuin. A fantastic writer, whose work I've mostly come to through my quest to read award-winning fiction. She has written both young adult novels with tremendous depth and adult novels with tremendous depth, and she's done it over a span of half of a century.
  • George R.R. Martin. Aside from the five most-famous books of his (which I love and are the rare books I'll re-read), I have read a couple of anthologies which he co-edited, about 20 years apart. If I could remember what I read in the 1990s better, he might move up the list, though anthologies probably shouldn't count. I have no plans to read any more of his anthologies, though the one stand-alone novel he co-authored, Windhaven, was pretty good.

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