We’ve Got Their Number: Our Most-Read Novelists

When I recently finished Past Tense, the latest page-turner starring Jack Reacher, I realized that I had now read 20 of Lee Child’s 23 great Reacher books. Which made me wonder, have I ever read that many novels by any other author?

So I scoured my list of books read, and my memory, to try to figure out which authors I had spent the most time with during my life. Of course, some writers pen longer novels than others, but I was looking strictly for number of books.

My first thought turned to Charles Dickens, because I took a college literature course in which the students read nothing but him. It turned out that I’ve read 14 Dickens novels, with a few of them perused pre- and post-college. Among my favorites? David Copperfield and The Pickwick Papers.

But I’ve actually read more books by Stephen King, not surprising given how prolific a writer he is. Fifteen of his novels, with my favorites Misery and From a Buick 8, among others. Actually, Misery might go under the category of “most intense” rather than a number-one favorite.

John Steinbeck? Thirteen of his novels read, with The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden the ones I liked best. Also 13 for Colette, with my favorites The Vagabond and Claudine at School.

I’ve read all 12 of Willa Cather’s novels, enjoying My Antonia and The Song of the Lark the most. Twelve for Margaret Atwood, too, with my preferences including The Robber Bride and Alias Grace. And 12 for L.M. Montgomery, including my favorite-ever YA novel — Anne of Green Gables — as well as various Anne sequels and the sublime stand-alone novel The Blue Castle.

With 12 a popular number here, I’ll add J.K. Rowling. I’ve read her seven Harry Potter books as well as The Casual Vacancy, and am now in the middle of the fourth title (Lethal White) in her excellent crime series written under the Robert Galbraith alias. I’ve also read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, but that’s a theater piece. I’m just doing novels here, not plays, short-story collections, nonfiction, etc.

Some of my other most-read authors (and some of my favorite novels of theirs) include Alexandre Dumas, 10 books (The Count of Monte Cristo and Georges); Sir Walter Scott, 10 (Old Mortality and The Heart of Midlothian); Martin Cruz Smith, 10 (Gorky Park and Rose); Jack London, 9 (Martin Eden and The Sea-Wolf); Cormac McCarthy, 9 (Suttree and Blood Meridian); Fannie Flagg, 8 (Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café and The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion); and six authors with seven apiece: Henry James (The Portrait of a Lady and The American), Barbara Kingsolver (The Poisonwood Bible and Prodigal Summer), Herman Melville (Moby-Dick and Pierre), Erich Maria Remarque (Arch of Triumph and The Night in Lisbon), Mark Twain (Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court), and Emile Zola (Germinal and The Beast in Man).

Then there’s Jane Austen, 6 (Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice); and these novelists with five apiece: Honoré de Balzac (Old Goriot and Eugenie Grandet), James Fenimore Cooper (The Deerslayer and The Last of the Mohicans), Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov), George Eliot (Daniel Deronda and The Mill on the Floss), Aldous Huxley (Brave New World and Point Counter Point), W. Somerset Maugham (Of Human Bondage and The Razor’s Edge), Leo Tolstoy (War and Peace and Anna Karenina), Jules Verne (Around the World in Eighty Days and Journey to the Center of the Earth), H.G. Wells (The Time Machine and The First Men in the Moon), and Edith Wharton (The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence).

Looking over my list so far, I’m embarrassed that there are no authors of color listed, though Dumas and Colette had some black ancestry. But I’ve read anywhere from one to four novels apiece by writers (my favorite books of theirs in parentheses) such as Isabel Allende (The House of the Spirits), James Baldwin (Go Tell It On the Mountain), David Bradley (The Chaneysville Incident), Octavia Butler (Kindred), Junot Diaz (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao), Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man), Buchi Emecheta (Second Class Citizen), Alex Haley (Roots), Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God), Jhumpa Lahiri (The Lowland), Gabriel García Márquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude), Terry McMillan (Waiting to Exhale), Toni Morrison (Beloved), Walter Mosley (Devil in a Blue Dress), Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things), Zadie Smith (White Teeth), Wole Soyinka (The Interpreters), Alice Walker (The Color Purple), and Richard Wright (Native Son), among various others.

Well, I guess I’ve never read more books by a writer other than Lee Child. He and has Jack Reacher character are highly addicting.

Which novelists have you read the most, in number of books?

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest weekly piece — about the 2020 Democratic presidential field and a hometown astronaut’s unfortunate association with Trump at the State of the Union address — is here.

107 thoughts on “We’ve Got Their Number: Our Most-Read Novelists

    • Thank you, Bill! 🙂 And I’ve read a lot of your great writing (in book form, blog form, etc.). But I’ve only written two books at this point — many fewer than you — while doing many columns and blog posts, I guess.

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  1. Dave I have to start with Rabindranath Tagore, besides being a Poet for which He won Nobel Prize in 1913, he was a prolific writer. In his lifetime he wrote several Novels, numerous short stories, essays , and what not.

    Somerset Maugham , I read so many of his Novels in my teen years.
    The razor`s Edge, Moon and Sixpence, The Painted Veil,

    A.J. Cronin, The Citadel, The Keys of the Kingdom.both were made into movies perhaps acted by Gregory Peck.

    Several of Agatha Christie mystery Novels.

    Several of Lee Child`s Jack Reacher mysteries, the last one was too much to handle, the one before I thought was one of his best.The Midnight Line, we saw a kind and compassionate Jack.

    Used to love James Patterrson`s Cross mysteries, read so many of them, now I don`t read anymore of his books, perhaps more than once a month a book is out.

    Then there is Walter Mosley, love his books set in early days.

    Now trump is occupying my mind and not reading much , getting entangled with his constant lies every second of a minute.

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    • Thank you, bebe, for naming all those great authors you’ve read a lot of! I imagine John Grisham is in their somewhere, too. 🙂 Tagore was indeed incredibly prolific, as were most of the other writers you mentioned.

      I’ve only tried one James Patterson novel and didn’t like it, and now he has other people help (at minimum) write his books. So it’s understandable that you’ve lost some interest in his work.

      Trump’s next TV show (unlike “Truth or Consequences”) will be “Lies and No Consequences.”

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      • Oops John Grisham, how I could forget him !
        I read a few pages of his latest and returned in spite the book was number one in nyt for 8 or 9 weeks, it started with a murder and that would fill the pages.

        Lies and consequences, hope the liar pays fo it dearly soon 😠

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          • My friend in Nashville before the liar declared National emergency, said she is having a very bad feeling, and she was right.
            Also she thinks he will lose 2020, let hope for that.😲

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          • My sister wrote me the other day, and while one her best friends loved the Grisham novel, my sister was kind of “meh” about it, which once again proves that we all have different tastes when it comes to everything, including literature. My best friend who can’t abide anything written in the last century or so, was an English major at UNC, Chapel Hill, along with another major, in Psychology, but would only take obscure courses such as Modern Scandinavian Lit, where there might be only 5 or so students in each class. We have so many things in common, but literature isn’t one of them. Which means that she’s never read any Jane Austen — such heresy! One of the times I was staying at her parents’ home, her older brother and I got into a very interesting conversation about Austen’s book “Emma,” which he thought was her best novel. My best friend had to remind me recently that he wrote his thesis for an English Master’s degree on the Bronte sisters. You and he would probably get along great! But he eventually became a quite well-known dermatologist specializing in skin cancer, and I once saw him quoted in a Time Magazine article, which must have been much more lucrative.

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  2. Stephen king’s novel From a Buick 8 takes its title, wikipedia informs me from the Bob Dylan song From a Buick 6– I guess it’s two better!

    But both titles remind me of an old British cartoon, which I cannot now locate: a Buick 6 barreling down a country road at top speed, as seen from the side, where , through its hood portholes, rats are leaping in terror and out of the car.

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    • Didn’t know about that Dylan connection, jhNY. Stephen King certainly uses all kinds of pop-culture references in his work. Two better — ha!

      “From a Buick 8” is the most subtle, low-key novel of King’s that I’ve read. Makes the horror more effective in a way. More often King can be a bit over-the-top in his writing style.

      That sounds like quite a cartoon!

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  3. I was eight when my father’s father died. Besides his stamp collection and a typewriter, I also inherited books, including a set of the “complete” works of Mark Twain, compiled sometime in the 1920-1930’s. It was, evidently, a fairly popular publication; I have seen more than a few volumes from it over the years– cream colored, textured covers with a cameo of Twain embossed on the front. Missing, of course, were some of his self-suppressed stuff, such as “Letters from the Earth”, but there was, nonetheless, quite a lot to read therein, including not a few after-dinner speeches, etc. My mother read us “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, “Huckleberry Finn” and “Puddin’head Wilson” aloud at bedtime, and I took it upon myself to read the rest– a task I completed by 15.

    That’s my problem: I read them all, and one after another, in my most industrious/compulsive sessions, and now, remember too little about what I took in too fast. What I can easily recall: he is one of the funniest and ablest, and among the wisest of all who have toiled at American letters. Amazing to think: three of our finest prose writers out of the 19th century plied their art without benefit of college: Melville, Lincoln and Twain!

    As for prolific writers in the crime fiction category, and my assault on their catalogs, I’ve read all but maybe 5 (or fewer) of the Reacher series, and most of Ross MacDonald’s Archer series. I’ve read at least 7 of Ian Rankin’s crime books, and about the same number of Jo Nesbo’s. My present focus of readerly interest is Donna Leon, who writes detective novels set in contemporary Venice. I think I’ve got about seven of hers under my belt, and thankfully, many more to go– around a dozen. As a young fellow, I read all the Hardy Boys and all the Nancy Drews I could find– and I found them by the bag-full.

    Over the last couple of years I read all of MC Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth detective series, save one. Sadly, by the time I had finished them, I was at least as bored with them as the author had become. If, however, anyone yearns for a sort of B-grade BBC detective show in print, I can recommend Macbeth. Just get out before you reach the last dozen.

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    • Thank you, jhNY! Memorable Twain-works memories. He was indeed prolific, especially when one includes his excellent nonfiction (“The Innocents Abroad,” “Life on the Mississippi, etc.). And I agree — an amazingly good writer, with his narrative prose, dialogue, and so on.

      An impressive list of crime-fiction authors you’ve read a lot of!

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      • 2nd try of posting:
        Dave and jhNY, I agree that sometimes in a long-running crime series, they usually do get a bit boring or tired after a while, when I’ll normally stop and move on to other authors. Among those crime fictions that I haven’t mentioned yet are Cyril Hare, Julia Spencer Fleming, Ngaio Marsh, Donna Leon, Edmund Crispin, Sara Paretsky, Linda Barnes, J.A. Jance, Ellery Queen, Nicholas Blake, Margery Allingham, Susan Hill, Dick Francis, Harry Kemelman, Ruth Rendell, Jonathan Kellerman, Faye Kellerman, Helene Tursten, John Dickson Carr, Jo Nesbo, Alexander McCall Smith, Camilla Lackberg, Lisa Lutz, Robert B. Parker, the great P.D. James, as well as many others (not in special order).

        jhNY, I’m quite impressed that you read Nancy Drew books, while some of my friends thought that I was weird reading the Hardy Boys. My other favorites were the Dana Girls, the Bobbsey Twins, Cherry Ames, Vicky Barr, Judy Bolton, and others. One of my brothers-in-law says when he was dating my eldest sister he’d come to pick her up and I was usually curled up on one end of the sofa reading a book, even if the TV was on (the original multi-tasking!).

        So now I’ve just told everyone that I didn’t have much of a social life, but that wouldn’t be quite true. However, I’m approaching age 70, so that’s definitely a factor. Putting together these books by numbers make me realize how many books I’ve read in my life, so if I’m now in a reading drought, that’s OK.

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        • Thank you, Kat Lit! You’re absolutely right — some crime series can get less interesting as they go on. I haven’t found that to be the case (much) with Lee Child’s 23 Jack Reacher books, or at all with J.K. Rowling’s fantastic four books under the Robert Galbraith name, but I did tire a bit of Sue Grafton’s alphabet mysteries (after four books) and Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels (after three books).

          Wow — what a long, impressive list of author names you offered! (I’ll be trying my first Dick Francis novel soon.) You’ve totally earned a temporary reading drought!

          Last but not least, it’s wonderful when people read novels supposedly aimed at the opposite gender. 🙂 I do that often.

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        • Cyril Hare! I have read only one of his mysteries, a reprint from Dover Books, titled “Suicide Excepted”, which I found to be a well-wrought, if unexceptional sort of drawing-room affair, and enjoyed it for what it is. Below is a quote I saved out of it , as I think it accurately describes political alienation of the working class variety in a timeless fashion:

          “Quite plainly, they did not believe a word of what was being said from the platform, but they were too listless to heckle, and even an incautious reference to the Government’s work for the unemployed produced no more than a few sniggers, which were meant to be sarcastic, but sounded merely melancholy. It was difficult to understand why they should have troubled to attend a political meeting, except from sheer force of habit, so clear was it that nothing that could be said from any platform would ever raise them to hope or even credulity again.”

          Yep, I freely admit having read Nancy Drews, and I did actually try a Cherry Ames book, but it did not take. I did, however, draw on my knowledge of her and her works when I made my little joke during the 2004 elections, lifelong progressive Democrat though I am, as I found it irresistible: Kerry Edwards, Student Nurse.

          MC Beaton writes the Agatha Raisin series also, which have recently been dramatized for television. I suspect the success of that series turned her attentions overmuch, as is so often the case when it’s a contest between the English and the Scots. In such circumstances, it’s the Scots who suffer.

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          • Ha, jhNY, about your Kerry Edwards quip. As much as I loved Cherry Ames, it was a bit mind-boggling that she was able to be a nurse in so many different places, e.g. student, senior, Army, hospitals (2 of them), night, visiting, cruise, rural, country doctor’s, private duty, and my favorite, department store. Those are just the ones on my shelves. My most prized one was her non-fiction First Aid and Home Nursing book I got one at Christmas from my parents. My idea of going into nursing as my career came crashing to a halt when I spent part of a summer vacation as an aide in a nursing home and found out that it’s not the glamorous job I thought it would be, what with the white uniforms and that cute white cap. However, once when I was trying to lift some quite obese woman without legs, but another aide wouldn’t help me until I starting crying. But more upsetting was the woman I was giving a bath to and she asked me to bring in a gun so she could shoot herself.

            Back to something much more pleasant is jhNY’s sharing that Cyril Hare quote from “Suicide Expected.” All of Hare’s paperback books were swept away in one of my many floods, so thanks for sharing that. I think that one can see that on some level in the faces of those people attending Trump’s rallies, who will clap, laugh and chant on cue. Sorry, but that wasn’t pleasant either so I’ll sign off for now!

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            • I just wanted to clarify that I have the utmost respect for nurses, especially since I know there is at least one who comments here regularly. As in any profession, there will be some not so good ones, but for the most part, having so many surgeries and hospital stays, I was quite impressed with the level of care I got from them all. Alas, my only complaint that is they don’t wear cute white uniforms and caps any longer. 🙂 In all of my hospital stays I only asked the nurse manager once to keep one of the hospitalist doctors to stay out of my room completely, which she did. Also it was one of my nurses, not the hospitalists, who actually discovered that in my chart, I had some weird bacterial infection resistant to Vancomycin and should be in some sort of isolation. Oh dear, sorry to ramble on so long, but I get started on books, and then switch gears to other topics, as you well know, Dave.

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  4. Hi Dave,

    I’m a little embarrassed to say that I didn’t realise some of these authors had written so many books. I guess because I’ve only recently discovered some of them and so haven’t quite gotten around to exploring all of their writing. Then there’s something like “Of Human Bondage” which I love so much, I’ve read it three times, and yet somehow never read any other Maugham. Maybe I’m nervous because other books might not be as good, or they might be different and maybe that will be disappointing?

    Anyway, one author that I read a lot when I was younger and was never disappointed with was Stephen King. I haven’t read a lot of his new stuff, and I haven’t loved what I have read, but I still think I can tick off about 40 of his books, though that does include short story collections, and the 8-volume “The Dark Tower”. I’m not sure why, but “From a Buick 8” and “Misery” are two of the books that I haven’t yet read.

    I think my second most read author would be Anne Rice. Again, mostly because of devouring her novels when I was younger. I think the count there is about 20.

    Sadly, I’ve only read one Margaret Mitchell novel. 😦 I’ve also only read the one Lee Child and must admit that I didn’t get the same enjoyment out of it as everybody else does. But I’m so glad to hear that so many people here have such pleasure gobbling up those page-turners. But it makes me wonder, if they’re so good, why have you only read twenty of them?!

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    • Thank you, Sue! Nothing to be embarrassed about. 🙂 Many well-known authors have written a number of not well-known novels.

      “Of Human Bondage” is clearly Maugham’s best novel, but I’ve liked the others of his I’ve read — a lot. “The Moon and Sixpence,” “The Painted Veil,” “Cakes and Ale,” and (mentioned in my post) “The Razor’s Edge.” All of them much shorter than “Of Human Bondage.” 🙂 And all different but still good.

      Wow — you’ve read a LOT of Stephen King! It would be astounding if, after so many books, his newer ones were all as good as his early- and mid-career ones. But I’ve never read a bad novel by him. (Well, “Cell” was close…)

      Anne Rice is also a VERY prolific writer. I’ve read only one of her novels — “The Witching Hour.” Nearly 1,000 pages, but it always held my interest.

      Ha! Good question! I’ve missed three of the 23 Reacher novels because my local library doesn’t stock them for some reason. I suppose I should buy them one of these days.

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      • Dave and Sue, I had a physical therapist sometime in the past five years or so, and we used to talk about books. She had an older brother and her parents were diehard Stephen King aficionados, to the point that they were the only books in their home. Her older brother started to read all of King’s books at age 13, and my PT thought that that if he could do so, then she could as well at age 11. Yikes! I introduced her to other authors, e.g., “Paper Towns,” which she hated the ending to, and “Little Women,” where she hated Amy, who was of course my favorite character. Fortunately, I had gone through all of my approved visits, so I didn’t have to get her to try something new, which she probably wouldn’t have liked either! 🙂

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        • Just Stephen King books? Weird. So many other authors not being enjoyed. If they liked King’s genre, they could have always added to their reading some works by Poe, Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, etc. 🙂

          Sounds like your former physical therapist did NOT like to try new things!

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          • Yes, Dave, it’s more than weird. I almost fell off the PT table when she told me that. I don’t know which is stranger, that her parents only read King, or that she was able to so at age 11! She was quite young, so I’m not sure how many King novels she actually read, but I’m sure it was quite a lot. I think the only one of his many novels I read was “Pet Semetary,” which I did like a lot but I didn’t feel compelled to read anything else that he wrote. I read this while staying with my parents over Christmas some time ago, and then he switched over to Clive Cussler and Dean Koontz, but I think the latter were giving him nightmares, so he finally changed over to Louis L’ Amour and other westerns. My dad also had read a lot of James Michener when he was younger, but I think they became too long for him, something I can relate to! He also passed on to me his love for non-fiction books about the Civil War, especially by Bruce Catton.

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            • Kat Lit, thanks for all the author mentions — some who induce nightmares and some who don’t…

              Maybe Stephen King should write a horror novel about a physical therapist with family members who read just one author. 🙂

              I’ve loved some King novels and felt “meh” about some others. Overall I like his work, but he’s not one of my favorite authors.

              I’ve yet to tackle a long Michener novel (I’ve read the shorter “Caravans” and “Tales of the South Pacific,” both excellent). One of these days…

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            • Well, it happens. 🙂 I think all of us have some kind of gap in our reading; there are just too many authors out there to keep up with every major or relatively major one. And I know you read quite a few authors who are not super well-known in the U.S. Stephen King is about as well known as they come for an American author!

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                • LOL — a “groaning bookcase” indeed. 🙂

                  I guess I’d go with the two I mentioned in my column: “Misery” (King at his most stomach-turning) and “From a Buick 8” (King at his most subtle). I’ll also throw in “The Tommyknockers,” which is entertainingly WEIRD.

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                  • Thanks! I’ll be on the lookout for the Buick one, hoping there are many mpg in the subtlety dept. therein. I had not suspected the author of subtlety before, having seen Kubrick’s “The Shining” and King’s author-approved one. The things I liked least about Kubrick’s turned out to be amplified and more central to the tale in the latter version…

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                    • “…many mpg in the subtlety dept.” — ha! “From a Buick 8” is subtle by Stephen King’s standards, but it’s not exactly late Henry James. 🙂

                      A number of the King-book screen adaptations are, not surprisingly, even less subtle than the source material!

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                • jhNY, although I haven’t read any of the books that Dave recommended, I have absolutely no doubt that he’s right, however I thought I’d also offer my two cents worth of opinion.

                  “The Stand” is one of the best books I’ve ever read, although it is quite lengthy, and gets a bit weird in places. I’m also a big fan of “The Shining’ which isn’t quite as long as “The Stand” but it is still quite chunky, and probably a tad more weird. I found that the Kubrick movie had very little in common with the book.

                  If you’re looking for a novel that you don’t have to invest too much time into, I’d recommend “Gerald’s Game” It has minimal weird, and I found it to be so page-turney that I read it in a single night.

                  Would love to know what you think if you do get around to reading one 🙂

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        • I hope you can get your hands on the other Reachers, Dave, as you obviously have a lot of fun with them. I think I was also about 11 or 12 when I first read Stephen King. A lot of it probably went over my head, but I fell in love with the way King will put you in somebody else’s head. Through my teens and twenties, I knew what I liked, and so I read the same authors, and the same books over and over again. I don’t regret that time, but I’m glad I’ve branched out a bit in my thirties and forties. There are some really great novels out there! I took “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time” from the library last night and read the first third in one sitting. I just could not put it down.

          Despite my love of Stephen King novels, it’s silly to limit what a child is exposed to. If I had kids, I’d encourage them to read anything and everything. Even if they were books that I hated. It sounds like your PT wasn’t really a literature love, Kat Lit. Obviously I don’t understand not loving books, but if you don’t love them, why would you bother? I remember reading an online discussion about “The Hunger Games” and someone wanted a recommendation of something similar. Someone suggested “Nineteen Eighty Four” and the response was something like I don’t want to read random dystopian crap. I mean, why ask for a recommendation if you’re just going to criticise it. And if you’re looking for dystopian fiction, “Nineteen Eighty Four” is going to be pretty much top of the list.

          Sorry, I’m rambling. I’ll stop now.

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          • One of these days my Reacher life will be complete. 🙂

            Great that you started reading Stephen King so young! And, yes, a variety of authors is the way to go at any age.

            “…random dystopian crap” — wow! “Nineteen Eighty- Four” is an amazing novel, as you noted (and “The Hunger Games” trilogy is pretty good, too).

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  5. I wish I had written down or kept better records of the books I’ve read, because this is honestly a very hard question for me! I’d say Edgar Allan Poe is the author I’ve spent the most time with, with Shakespeare as a close second. I’m also a really big Jane Austen fan (but you knew that already hahahaha). These days, I have so many books on my list that I don’t spend as much time as I used to on one particular author, but I am finding that I enjoy Kate Quinn very much, and will probably dive into more of her books when I have time!

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    • Thank you, M.B.! I know what you mean; if it wasn’t for Wikipedia bibliographies, I’m not sure I could have written this week’s post. 🙂

      Poe, Shakespeare, and Austen — an impressive group! I think I’ve read more stories by Poe than by any other short-story writer, plus of course his poems and his one novel.

      And I hear you about wanting to sample different authors. I like to do that, too, though if I find an author I really like I might spend a lot of time with her or his books for a while. 🙂

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          • There is, of late, a theory floating about the etherweb that Poe died of rabies, not alcohol. So leave the dog at home, should you go calling. A bottle of wine, in contrast, is a welcome present from any guest.

            Also: tea was not drunk by Shakespeare, as the beverage became popular in England a half-century after his death.

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              • Just as well, otherwise Ben Jonson might have writ:

                “Drink to me only with thine eyes
                And I’ll not as for Twinings”

                (a company, my teabag informs me, that has been in the tea biz for over 300 years)

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                  • Funny verse you rewrote, jhNY. You can correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t England become addicted to tea when they first started colonizing India? I also think I read from a few of the memoirs about living in Africa and that hot tea was considered a cooling beverage, along with the “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” that the main character always drank something called “bush tea.”

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                    • It’s been a good many years since I read on the topic of tea, but most of what I did read derived from a history of the Opium Wars between England and China, which were not wars so much as attacks on China for the purpose of forcing that nation to accept the importation of opium– a substance banned by the China for centuries.

                      China, at that time (first half of the 19th century), was the world’s largest producer and exporter of tea, for which silver was required as payment. The Chinese at the time had no interest in establishing trade with the English, seeing little attractive in the array of goods on offer.

                      The English, at that time, had a near-insatiable appetite for tea, but did not want to pay in precious metal for drinking it. So, with the help of British Navy gunboats, their opium ( a substance mostly grown at that time in India) enterprising merchants (from the East India Company, I think) began snaking up undefended rivers into the Chinese mainland, where they delivered opium to places where the administrative powers of local government were unequal to the task of preventing the establishment of an addicted population. The profit from illegal sales of opium were used to pay China the silver it required for tea.

                      Eventually, the Chinese attempted to fight back, antique junks and antique cannon being no match for the firepower of England. This resulted in the disruption of the tea trade, which caused further crisis in China and England. The English established a tea growing operation in India first, and later, Ceylon, etc., which they could more easily control.

                      The sacking of the Imperial Summer Palace, where the contents were looted and sent back to England and France by soldiers sailors and official governmental operation is the most famous incident to arise out of the Opium Wars. Today, there is a museum in Paris that still holds a mass of stolen items, and there are pieces in the British Museum dating from that crime.

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                    • “Bush tea” is a South African herbal beverage, now drunk in many other places. I have some here, brought to me by brother after his visit to Capetown– it’s official name is roohibos, but it’s not a variety of tea per se. Makes a bracing, energizing drink, and brews up red.

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                    • Thanks, jhNY, for your history on the tea trade especially having to do with China. I took a course in college about Modern China, but was unaware of the other moments in the English/Chinese history. I do remember feeling sad that I took the course on Modern China along with my best friend at that time, who was of Chinese/American heritage, and I got an “A” in the course when she got a “B” (nothing wrong with that, but I felt a little funny about i.t). We first met in our dorm in my junior year and when I was going back to Minneapolis for Christmas, she put her lovely Jade pendant necklace on me to stay safe while flying. I’ve had a special place in my heart for jade ever since and I’ve got my jade ring on most of the time now. My mother, who also loves Asian things, had my father give her for Christmas one year a gorgeous long necklace of jade beads with a pendant at the end with Chinese gold letters on it. My mother was naïve in some things but in others she could be quite skeptical, so when she and my dad went out to lunch one day to a Chinese restaurant, she asked the server what those letters said, and the waitress said “Evelyn,” which is my mom’s first name, so she was quite content. I inherited this from my mom with all of her other Asian artworks, screens, books, etc. It’d be difficult to go anywhere in my home that doesn’t have something of my mom’s in it. Fortunately my two sisters don’t have mom’s or my taste!

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  6. I’ve enjoyed several of the books on your impressive list – particularly the Tolstoy ones. Regarding a writer of color, you might look at the books by Wil Haygood. The first one of his I read was Showdown, Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination that Changed America. A well researched and captivating story. And he has many others that address black issues including his most recent book, Tigerland, which is the story of a black high school that won the state championship in basketball and baseball in the same year. From his books, one learns a lot about the black experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, thatfoodguy62! Tolstoy is indeed an incredible writer, and I also love some of his shorter works: “The Kreutzer Sonata,” “The Death of Ivan Ilyich,” “Hadji Murat”…

      I’ve heard Wil Haywood speak at a conference! An excellent writer. Unfortunately, in order to have time to read enough novels to “feed” this literature blog, I don’t read nonfiction books these days.

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  7. I highly recommend Walter Mosley. You will quickly become an addict.

    As for reading books by authors of color, a black colleague of mine, who is also a bit of a literature nut said that he detested the work of a popular black novelist.

    “Why so?” I asked.

    “She writes for whites.”

    “I suppose its where the market is,” I replied.

    “Which is why it don’t interest me.”

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      • Thank you, Almost Iowa! I read Walter Mosley’s first two Easy Rawlins books, and liked them a lot. I need to read more. And, yes, bebe, one of the many appeals of those Rawlins books is the way they’re set in the past rather than the present.

        Almost Iowa, you brought up a very important, fraught point with the revealing conversation you posted. Writing “for the market” — for the most potential readers — or writing what one really wants to write at the risk of lower sales or not getting published at all. (Though there’s of course always self-publishing.) A dilemma for many authors of color, and some other writers, too.

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  8. I would say Joyce Carol Oates. The first book was “Because Its Bitter, Because Its My Heart.” Others I am remembering have read (should re-read, its been awhile) include: “Black Water”, “We Were The Mulvaneys”, “You Must Remember This”, “Fair Maiden” and “Zombie.” I have, “Black Dahlia and Other Short Stories ” to read on my book shelf. Safe to say her catalogue is enormous, I have SO many more to read. She is by far one of my favorite authors.

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      • Michele and Dave, I do remember reading a lot of Oates’ work, but I loved her early novels, then she got into things about boxing, which leaves me cold. I did enjoy “We Are the Mulvaneys,” but my favorite book of hers was her memoir about her husband’s death — “The Widow’s Story,” which I loved from many different standpoints. Have you read that?

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        • I haven’t read the “The Widow’s Story,” Kat Lit. It sounds depressingly terrific. The only Oates book I’ve gotten to is her novel “Solstice,” which I liked. I can’t always explain why I read a lot of books by some authors and very few by others. 🙂

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  9. I don’t have exact numbers but I have also read a lot of Stephen King novels and his short story books, getting behind in his most recent works. And reading The Stand should count as 2-3 books based on its length! I’ve read most everything that P.D. James wrote – loved all of her books. I was in a Steinbeck mode one year and couldn’t get enough of him. Like you Dave, Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden were my top picks. I’ve read at least 17 of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series and all but the two most recent books by Richard Russo. I’m sorry to say I haven’t read any Lee Childs novels, but if he can hold your interest for 20 volumes, I must check him out!

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    • Thank you, Molly! Impressive, wide-ranging list! And — ha! — some novels, like “The Stand,” should indeed count as more than one book. 🙂

      I’ve now read four Richard Russo novels (three during the past few months), so I’m getting there… 🙂

      Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher book starts (briefly) in Maine and then spends the rest of its chapters in New Hampshire. I highly recommend all his books, but I realize people don’t have the time to read every author.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. The winner for me is hands down Agatha Christie, who wrote according to Wikipedia, 66 novels and I think I’ve read them all, most of them twice. Do I get extra credit for that? 🙂 I’ve also read all of Dorothy L. Sayers’ 12 crime novels, again at least twice. Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series, 44 books; Jane Austen’s 6 full-length novels (probably each one 6 times); Liane Moriarity’s 8 novels, most twice each; Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s 10 novels in the Martin Beck series, again twice; both Ross MacDonald’s Lew Archer series and John D, McDonald’s Travis Magee series; Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Polifax series, etc., etc. I think I see a pattern developing here and I’m tired of counting 🙂 but suffice it to say that I’ve read a lot of crime fiction through the years and I’ve only scratched the surface of those series. I also like re-reading books that I’ve liked/loved, because it helps me to remember them. The question does remain how I managed to read, re-read all those many books, all the while going to school and working full-time? I know I’ve said before that I’m a fast reader, but still…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Kat Lit! Wow — I’m not sure anyone will top you reading 66 novels by an author (the amazingly prolific Agatha Christie)! And — ha! — rereading does deserve extra credit. 🙂

      Also, an impressive list of other authors you’ve read (and reread) a lot of! Liane Moriarty just missed the cut for me — I’ve gotten to four of her fabulous novels. My local library needs to stock more of her work!

      Crime fiction often seems to come in series, which of course can lead to reading many books by one author.

      Great that you’re a fast reader! And obviously you were diligent in squeezing novels into your busy life when going to school or working full-time.

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      • I know that it even astounds me at times that I’ve read so many books, especially when one factors in the modern fiction, classics, non-fiction, and memoirs I’ve read, along with all the comic books/strips. I took to heart the English teacher I had who said (as I’ve quoted here before) I don’t care what you read, as long as you read something, even comic books.

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          • I am, Dave, but I apologize for the “humblebrag” if that’s the new term for it.
            To me, the most interesting thing is that I have read fewer books since I became disabled/retired than before when I was going to school and/or working full-time. I’ve got a friend who says the same, that we don’t know how we accomplished all that we did, but now we have trouble getting anything done at all, if that makes sense. Perhaps it’s feeling that I can do this tomorrow or next week, or whenever.

            Plus I meant to mention Leo Tolstoy, but I read his works while taking a course on him in college, which of course meant having to read a great many of his works, especially “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina.” I am grateful that I did so, though I’m not sure I’d have done it if it hadn’t been a requirement for the course.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Kat Lit, having read a lot — and so widely — in your life is something to brag about, humbly or otherwise. 🙂

              Interesting point you brought up about being able to do a lot (reading, etc.) when one is already busy. Some kind of adrenaline, energized, momentum, on-a-roll thing. I’ve also noticed that in myself at times. And yes, as you said, when one is not as busy there’s a feeling something can always be done the next day, or after.

              Tolstoy is SO worth reading. I never read him for a course, but on my own, and am glad I did.

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  11. I *must* start reading the Jack Reacher novels, obviously!

    As far as authors I’ve read the most novels by, I’d say number 1 is Dick Francis. Number 2 is probably a tie between Robert B. Parker and Terry Pratchett, although Janet Evanovich might come sneaking in there. I’ve also read most of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone books; at least 15 of them. As you can see, mystery and suspense is a big favorite of mine!

    Some serious honorable mentions would include L.M. Montgomery, Terry Brooks, and Jacqueline Carey.

    And as for the book I’ve read the most number of times, it might be Rilla of Ingleside, the last book in Montgomery’s Anne series, about Anne’s youngest daughter, but as an adult it’s probably Arkady Babchenko’s One Soldier’s War, since I’ve taught it at least once a year for the past several years.

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    • Thank you, Elena! A terrific list of authors you’ve read a lot of — mystery, suspense, and more!

      I read Sue Grafton’s first four Kinsey Millhone books and Janet Evanovich’s first three Stephanie Plum books before deciding I had my fill of those excellent series. (I communicated with Ms. Grafton a couple times on Facebook a year or two before her death — when I mentioned her books in this blog — and she was a very friendly conversationalist.)

      I loved “Rilla of Ingleside” — one of my favorite “Anne of Green Gables” sequels. A pretty dark novel in some ways, with World War 1 such a strong element.

      As for the Reacher novels, I’m hardly objective, but you might very well like them. “Killing Floor” is the first, and my favorite among favorites might be “61 Hours.”

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  12. I’ve read Tagore at least 3 or 4 novels and all his short- stories( that’s what I think) Leo Tolstoy 3 novels and volume of his short stories, Khalil Gibran’s 6 books! Jane Austin three novels, guy de Maupassant 2 volumes of short stories, Marquez four novels, Dickens 3 may be! Shakespeare 6 plays or rather forced to read (😬). I easily get bored with one style although I like to re-read many novels and stories!

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    • Thank you, Tanya! That’s a terrific, varied list! It’s certainly nice to vary the styles of one’s reading — I try to do that, too. 🙂

      I need to read more of Tagore — I’ve mostly sampled his poetry so far. Guy de Maupassant was also a novelist, which I initially didn’t realize. I liked his “Alien Hearts” novel — his last book.

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      • Tagore is great, I want to read more American writers now that I’m in America. I’ve always been found of American poets and story tellers like Sylvia Plath, Adrien Rich, Maya, Anne Sexton… Henry and Poe..
        I must gulp down some novelists too if time permits 🙂 I’m eyeing Fitzgerald’s worksfor some time, I’ve only read The Great Gatsby… would like to read more! Right now reading Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mocking Bird for the second time!
        Growing up in Delhi, I somehow got hold of the movie To Kill A Mocking Bird starring Gregory Peck and watched it over and over again!
        Thanks for mentioning Alien Hearts… would check out 🙂

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        • Tanya, I wish Tagore was better known in the U.S. He deserves to be. I didn’t know much about him until a regular commenter here (bebe) recommended him to me.

          “To Kill a Mockingbird” is such a great novel — and I think the movie version is fantastic.

          My second favorite Fitzgerald novel is “Tender Is the Night.” Kind of uneven, but the best parts are really good. It has more heart than “The Great Gatsby,” I think, though the writing in “Gatsby” is pretty near perfect.

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          • Tagore’s backdrop is Indian nationalism hence was considered more of a nationalist writer. But he has given enormous space to women characters in his novel which I feel is great feet for a writer in early 20 century. His nationalistic vision was more modern and liberal than Gandhi! But he is given less credit in the corridors of-literary intelligentsia!
            Yes Gregory Peck is forever itched in my mind as Atticus. Although his Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn was classic too 🙂
            I must take out time to read “ Tender is the Heart” 🙂

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            • Excellent point about nationalism, Tanya. But I wonder if Tagore being from an Asian rather than a European country — especially during the time that he lived (1861-1941) — also had something to do with his low profile in the U.S.

              Great that Tagore had excellent female characters, and was more modern and liberal than Gandhi!

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              • What my understanding is it’s easier to come to America and be known then being known from outside. Yes Tagore was an Asian but I see very less European writers too who are much known in America apart from English who obviously spoke the same language. Could it be that America being young and progressive country was busy establishing its own culture and literary heritage.
                Also being Colonized by the British, Tagore and many writers from common-wealth spoke directly to the western countries responsible for their imperialism. Many African and Asian writers like Tagore, Salman Rushdie, Naipaul, Achebe, Edward Said are more known in England.
                Where as Latin American writers like Marquez, Neruda, and Derrida due to their anti- imperialism stance speaks more directly of American influence and hence are much more known here. Even I can include Atwood here in the list 🙂

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            • Peck, to my way of seeing things, is at his matinee idol best– and in glorious technicolor!– in the film adaptation of “The Yearling.” It’s a tender, heartbreaker of a movie, and his role therein foreshadows the fatherly decency of Peck’s Atticus Finch.

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              • hmm, I’ve not seen the film adaption of “The Yearling” but I believe you it must be a stellar performance by Peck, Ill try to find the movie and watch it. Thanks for recommending it to me. Gregory Peck was very fine actor!

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                • Never saw “The Yearling” movie, either, Tanya, but I found the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings novel to be fabulous — with an incredibly poignant ending, too. Glad the film did the book justice, jhNY!

                  And I agree — Gregory Peck was a superb actor.

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                  • I would argue– not strenuously, but– that Peck, by way of his own irrepressible sensitivity and remarkable beauty in youth, softened the role of the father in the movie by his very presence in the role, as compared to the father in Rawling’s book. But also: Hollywood will make a movie out the material it uses, even if, in the process, it alters the material a little or a lot. The movie is what matters to moviemakers, especially in the studio era.

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                    • Not surprised, jhNY. Hollywood often slightly or strongly softens characters who are edgy, prickly, not that likable, etc., in the original novel, and someone like Peck (among many other movie stars) can add to that effect.

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          • Tagore, in the early years of the 20th century, was probably better known than he is today. Both WB Yeats and Ezra Pound championed the man and his verse.

            Here’s an the first paragraph of an essay written by Pound at the time (1913):

            “THE APPEARANCE OF “The Poems of Rabindranath Tagore” is, to my mind, very important. I am by no means sure that I can convince the reader of this importance. For proof I must refer him to the text. He must read it quietly. He would do well to read it aloud, for this apparently simple English translation has been made by a great musician, by a great artist who is familiar with a music much subtler than our own.

            It is a little over a month since I went to Mr. Yeats’ rooms and found him much excited over the advent of a great poet, someone “greater than any of us.”

            The rest is available here:

            http://fortnightlyreview.co.uk/2013/04/rabindranath-tagore/

            Liked by 1 person

                • Yep, of course, I needn’t have added this, as bebe had already alluded to the prize in her comment way up . But I am happy to point out that, 106 years ago, Tagore made a proper splash in the pool of literati, and was lauded strenuously by at least two of the giants of 20th century poetry..

                  Liked by 1 person

  13. Impressive list, Dave; do you keep this all written down? I’ve read all 33 Sharon McCone (hard-boiled private eye) mysteries by Marcia Muller. The first one came out in 1977, and the most recent last summer. I’ve loved ever single one and feel as if I know Sharon.

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    • Thank you, Becky!

      I have a list of all the books I’ve read since around 2000 or so; I had to rely on my memory and Wikipedia for the rest. 🙂

      Reading all 33 Sharon McCone mysteries is VERY impressive. I see from Wikipedia that “Edwin of the Iron Shoes” was the first one; hopefully my local library will have it!

      Liked by 1 person

        • My local library does have a good number of paperbacks, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed. 🙂

          I definitely agree that the writing and plots of many authors evolve over time. When they don’t, things can of course get a bit boring. 🙂 Even the somewhat-formulaic Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child (the first author mentioned in my post) gradually added elements such as a more mature Reacher, more social issues tackled, etc.

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    • Becky, at one time I read most of the Sharon McCone books and loved them a lot, but I never made it through all of them. She was a very interesting character, though at some point, such as with Sue Grafton, who I finally gave up somewhere between M & N, I’m not sure why. I’ll have to go back and check out her (Muller’s) latest work, as she is a wonderful writer.

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        • Well, that’s certainly intriguing, Becky. I think the last I read was that she was involved in some long-term relationship, or am I mixing her up with someone else? I haven’t done so, other than the stray short story here and there, is anything by her husband, Bill Pronzini (if I’ve been correct there). Have you done so?

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            • Ha, Becky! Yes, now I remember Hy, but I’ll have to catch up with McCone one of these days, though I think I’ve already been past my budget for this year, though this will be on my mind now. Thanks for reminding me of Muller, because I really loved her novels.

              Liked by 2 people

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