Most of you who comment here are avid fiction readers. To misquote an Oscar-accepting Sally Field, “You like novels; you really, really like novels!” As do I. 🙂
But even literature lovers don’t have enough hours in their busy lives to read more than a modest percentage of excellent authors, dead or living. “So many books, so little time,” as Frank Zappa observed. In the back of our brains, we’re nagged by the thoughts of writers unread. Getting to their novels is among our New Year’s resolutions for 2016, 2017, the year 2525*, and H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine year of 802,701 — when the last new episode of The Simpsons finally aired. (*Old pop song reference.)
Heck, I’ve annually read 50 or so novels during much of my adult life, yet there are still countless authors I’ve never had a chance to try. I’m sure most of you have a similar lament.
But with the help of your recommendations, I’ve made a dent in my author no-shows since I began blogging about books in 2011 (and I’ve also read a higher percentage of 20th- and 21st-century writers after years of often focusing on 19th-century ones). Writers I finally experienced for the first time included — among others — Isabel Allende, Paul Auster, Geraldine Brooks, Rite Mae Brown, A.S. Byatt, Eleanor Catton, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, James Fenimore Cooper, Don DeLillo, Junot Diaz, Harriet Doerr, Margaret Drabble, Jeffrey Eugenides, Fannie Flagg, Neil Gaiman, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nikolai Gogol, Nadine Gordimer, Graham Greene, John Grisham, Khaled Hosseini, James Joyce, Anne Lamott, Giuseppe di Lampedusa, Stieg Larsson, Billie Letts, H.P. Lovecraft, Alistair MacLean, Robin McKinley, Elsa Morante, V.S. Naipaul, Patrick O’Brian, Walker Percy, Arundhati Roy, Dorothy L. Sayers, Lisa Scottoline, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Zadie Smith, Wole Soyinka, Colm Toibin, John Kennedy Toole, William Trevor, John Updike, Mario Vargas Lllosa, Robert Walser, and P.G. Wodehouse. (So many names listed, so little time to read a bloated paragraph like this one. 🙂 )
Trying to end the gaps in one’s reading can mean not having the time to reread many of our favorite books and authors — so there’s some downside to ringing in the new. (As in not Lord-of-the-Ringing in the old; I’ve read J.R.R. Tolkien’s terrific trilogy several times.) Also, we may feel pulled to read mostly shorter novels, but I still include medium-long and long-long books in the mix. And we may feel the impulse to read just one novel by an author before moving on to another author, rather than explore a specific writer’s canon for a while. (Okay, okay, I can’t stop reading Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books!)
Authors on my future read-for-the-first-time list? Anne Rice is one; I’m about to start The Witching Hour. I’ll also hopefully get to — among others — Thomas Berger, Octavia Butler, Paulo Coelho, Joan Didion, Stanley Elkin, John Fowles, John Green, Hermann Hesse, Tony Hillerman, P.D. James, John D. MacDonald, Thomas Mann, James Michener, Liane Moriarty, Walter Mosley, Joyce Carol Oates, Terry Pratchett, Ayn Rand (for morbid curiosity reasons), Donna Tartt, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, George Sand, Alexander McCall Smith, and Laura Ingalls Wilder (who should have also written Little Library on the Prairie 🙂 ).
There’s one aforementioned author I’ve read so far only in short-story form: James Joyce and his memorable near-novella “The Dead.” Which means I really ought to try one of his full-length fiction works (Ulysses?). Then again, if I’m not up for that challenge, surely there must be a novelization of TV’s Here Comes Honey Boo Boo…
Which authors are you eager to try for the first time?
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I’m writing a literature-related book, but still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as Ann Landers and “Dear Abby,” and other notables such as Hillary Clinton, Coretta Scott King, Walter Cronkite, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.