November 12, 2004

A list of authors

I'm sitting here in my living room, looking up at my bookshelf. My eyes fall upon the Tolkien, and I have the thought, "huh, I bet those are the oldest books I own, or rather, the books that have been mine the longest, at least of those that are still on my bookshelf." Looking around to confirm this, I realised that perhaps 95% of my books follow a pattern: I got started on an author, and then bought or at least read everything they wrote. And I find that for a lot of them, I can remember fairly specifically who or what exactly got me started on that author....

Douglas Adams didn't write that many books, but the man practically engendered an entire mythos. My first introduction to his writing was actually his interactive-fiction adaptation of Hitchhiker's Guide for Infocom; I think I played that while we were still living in Oak Lawn, or certainly not long after we moved to Palatine. I actually read the first book in eighth grade, checked out of the paperback fiction shelf in Ms. Brandt's reading classroom. I don't think of this as literature for the ages, but there are enough snickers whenever I use the number 42 in my classroom that I know high school kids are still reading it.

Piers Anthony I got started on my sophomore year, at IMSA. Mike McLawhorn was raving about how great Xanth was, including a lot of great puns. I seem to recall reading Man from Mundania out of order, though I don't know if that was the first one I read or not. In any case, I did work my way through that series and moved on to pretty much everything else the guy ever wrote---I think he's over a hundred books now. I still say, the Incarnations of Immortality series was excellent but for the most part his writing after 1980 was significantly inferior to his earlier stuff, before he became a hack. That said, the Xanth series is well-aimed at its audience, and I remember when Josh Nordstrom (a friend of the family, wonder where he is now) was having a hard time getting motivated to read in late junior high, it was my suggestion of the Xanth series that got him over the hump and interested in reading. Chalk one up for Mr. Anthony.

Isaac Asimov is one of those authors I keep saying I should read. I have a bound copy of the I, Robot stories that I still haven't gotten to. I've never read the Foundations series. But I do have several Black Widowers collections that I've read. Those are good.

Marion Zimmer Bradley is one of the few authors I really can't remember when I started. I don't think Mists of Avalon was the first thing I read, although I know I did read it around my junior year of college. Perhaps it was from a reference by Mercedes Lackey (who got her start writing for MZB's Sword and Sorceress anthology series). But I do know that my first Darkover book was Darkover Landfall, sometime during college, and I proceeded in chronological order according to the mythos, not according to when they were published, and this made for some really bizarre forward referencing and detectable but incomprehensible foreshadowing.

Orson Scott Card wrote Ender's Game in the late 80s, and I'm moderately sure I heard about it around then. But I didn't read it until I was in grad school, at which point I proceeded to work my way through all his stuff, including the implicitly and explicitly Mormon stuff, which was certainly interesting.

Agatha Christie is a great author to like, because her books are available at every library and used bookstore, and they read really quickly. I know we read Ten Little Indians in seventh grade, and that might have been the first. Every now and then I have a craving for a good mystery, so I try to keep two or three unread Christie novels in stock.

Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park put him on a lot of people's radar when the movie version was released in 1993, and so it was with me. I read Jurassic Park the summer after I graduated from high school, right around the time we took a trip to Lake Kabetogama in Minnesota's border waters. It wasn't actually during the trip, though, because I definitely remember my dad was reading it during the trip. :)

Greg Egan is an author I like but haven't read much of yet. I hadn't ever heard of him, but then during the 2002 CS recruiting weekend, a prospective named Ryan Newton, and me, and my housemate Hilary were sitting in her room having a great 2am conversation. At some point, he started going on about how great this Greg Egan guy was, and it stuck in my mind; a few months later I was in a bookstore and saw Diaspora. And in fact, Greg Egan is indeed pretty good.

Raymond Feist I started reading during my junior year of college, working my way through the Riftwar saga. I think it was Shalom that put me on to that one. Reading his stuff is completely maddening, because there are tons of characters, and as generations pass the children get named after uncles and grandmothers and friends of the family, which may reflect reality but makes it really hard to keep everyone straight! I made my way through to the Serpentwar saga before losing interest. Maybe I'll pick it up again, although I think I'd have no hope at all of keeping everyone straight now.

Alan Dean Foster writes a lot of standalone novels. My first exposure to him was Quozl, which remains one of my all-time favourite books, and I'm pretty sure it was Al Kinsella raving about it that put me onto it, though I could be wrong. I then continued to read a new ADF book about every other year before going on a big kick late in grad school.

Terry Goodkind. Which one of you was responsible for starting me on him? I'm pretty sure I read Wizard's First Rule around my third year of grad school, and it was good enough that I got dragged along through the next four books in the series, which take place over the course of about six days and go nowhere at all. Auuugghghhh.

John Grisham is nothing at all like Michael Crichton, but they share the same niche in my brain. The Firm came out about the same time as Jurassic Park, and I read both during the summer after graduating high school. Although, if I recall correctly, I didn't see The Firm until after I read the book; I seem to remember being disappointed at the movie's ending, which seemed like a copout. I do know my mom was reading it at the same time as me, and I think she was about a hundred pages in when I started, so her bookmark sat there while I stole the book and read it myself. :) For years, Grisham's books provided me with predictably mediocre airplane reading (his latest is always on sale at the airport bookstores), but eventually it just got so bad I gave up.

To be continued...

"A large part of the public likes the conservatives' theme music. Now they will be tested on whether they like the lyrics." --Barney Frank

Posted by blahedo at 10:43pm on 12 Nov 2004
*raises hand* I'm probably responsible for Goodkind, and he's dragged me along too. Unfortunately he's gone off the right-wing deep end. (I've actually had a lot more fun reading Bruno the Bandit because it spoofs the whole series.) Posted by Larathia at 11:43pm on 12 Nov 2004
I actually defended Goodkind a while back thinking that he wasn't that bad. I'm re-reading his Sword of Truth series now, and I have to admit it is pretty bad. There are things that just don't make sense (i.e., who would voluntarily give up fire in a medieval society; how would you cook?), things that are just too reminiscent of Robert Jordan (in some cases, that's too kind - there are HORSES with the SAME NAME), and things that are just stupid and/or poorly written. The really sad part is that I will continue to finish out the series of the books I own, just because I started reading them again. Posted by David at 12:11pm on 13 Nov 2004
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