October 6, 2010

My Top-Ten Favorite Authors

Well, I am a little late for "Top-Ten Tuesday," but that's okay!  Like my friend, Lisa, over at Bibliophiliac, I am intrigued with the notion of thinking about and listing my top-ten favorite authors, rather than trying to identify my top-ten favorite books (which seems an incredibly daunting task) .  I like doing this periodically too, as my list of favorite authors (and books) seems rather dynamic and changes over time with all of the reading I do.  So, I may revisit this topic a couple of times each year.  I am hopeful that it will record my maturation as a reader.  Finally, I should point out that "Top Ten Tuesday" is an original feature/weekly meme created by the folks over at The Broke and the Bookish.

So, here is my Top-Ten Favorite Authors list.  I am also endeavoring to include an example, or two, of their works of literature that I particularly admire.  This list is in no particular order, and includes--

  1. Homer--  What can I say?  The Iliad and The Odyssey are two of the greatest epic poems known to humanity, and ripping good yarns at that!  I highly recommend the translations by Robert Fagles too.  They are masterfully done, and incredibly lyrical.
  2. Aeschylus--  Aeschylus' trilogy of tragedies, The Oresteia, is stunningly powerful.  This is the story of the House of Atreus of Argos, and its journey from a dark and bleak legacy of treachery and vengeance to the establishment of a process for formal determination and atonement of guilt through the use of a trial and jury--the process that we now know as Justice.  Again, I highly recommend reading the Fagles translation.
  3. Emily Dickinson--  The 'Belle of Amherst' is, in my humble opinion, perhaps the most important American writer to date.  You simply must read her The Complete Poems.  Her poetry is brilliant, powerful and evocative.
  4. John Keats--  Much like Dickinson, Keats is a singular and unique poetic voice; a 'Bright Star' that was dimmed all too soon, with his death at such a young age.  Keats' Complete Poems is a volume that I continually visit.
  5. Jane Austen--  Austen's novels are some of the finest fiction in the English language; and her Persuasion and Emma are my two favorites.
  6. Charles Dickens--  In my opinion, Dickens may have been the Shakespeare of his day.  His stories are steeped in the human experience and have great meaning even now.  I highly recommend his novels, Bleak House and Our Mutual Friend.
  7. Thomas Hardy--  One of my favorite authors!  Hardy's appraisal and characterization of the pastoral human experience in his fiction and poetry is almost unparalleled in my view.  Whether intentional or not, I find in Hardy's poetry and novels the thread that reaches back to the ancient Greek tragedies that binds the story of Human Life inextricably with Fate and Destiny.  Reading Hardy's Complete Poems, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, The Return of the Native, and Jude the Obscure was a transformative experience for me--I just look at Life differently now.
  8. Leo Tolstoy--  For me, Tolstoy's fiction is the voice of what it means to be Russian (similarly, I think that Anna Akhmatova is the 'poetic voice' of the Russians).  In reading Tolstoy's War and Peace and Anna Karenina, the reader cannot help but inexorably become swept up in the passion, pathos, and drama of the heart and soul of the Russian peoples against the backdrop of that great land.  I highly recommend the new translations of these two novels by the husband-wife team of Richard Pevear and Lara Volokhonsky.
  9. George Eliot--  In my view, Eliot is the giant of the Victorian pantheon of writers!  Eliot's fiction is some of the most profoundly important literature that I have ever read.  Like Tolstoy and Hugo, Eliot is didactic, but her teaching, moralizing, and philosophizing flows ever so smoothly from the printed page to the reader's consciousness.  It makes sense and just rings True!  While I love all of her books, my two favorites are The Mill on the Floss and the monumental Middlemarch.
  10. William Shakespeare--  Again, what can I say?  Harold Bloom seems to see a Canon of Literature that is 'Shakespeare-centric' in that all literature revolves around the works of 'The Bard.'  I don't disagree.  Also, I love his sonnets and narrative poems!
Well, there it is; my list of my 'Top-Ten Favorite Authors.'  I'd love to know what you think too.  Take a minute and tell me about your favorite authors and their great works?  Happy Reading!


  1. Cool. I think Aeschylus is my favorite of the Greeks. Keats' poem "Ode to Psyche" is absolutely beautiful. I was glad to see him on your list as well. And, of course, Tolstoy ... I love the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation of his stuff ... very poetic, and not too British like some other translations I've read.

  2. First off, I really love reading your posts... they have an eloquence to them that I have difficulty describing.

    A) I picked up "The Oresteia" on a whim, and now I am glad that I did.

    B) I'm not well versed in the authors above, but the only one I don't seem to agree on is Jane Austen. I have only read "Pride and Prejudice", so that is my excuse for not being a fan. Not only was it formulaic, but it captured nothing going on in history at the time, in the form of a backdrop to the main story. I found the book shallow and hollow, which has made me leery of trying another work by her. I have "Persuasion" and "Sense and Sensibility" on the shelf, so perhaps I will get to one of those... but neither are very high on my list.

    C) I am ashamed to have not read any Tolstoy, especially because I love Russian lit so much. I need to get over my fear of massive thomes.

  3. Thanks for your list. I am adding them to my TBR for sure. I have just recently discovered how great these classics are. Never really had time to read them before. I really LOVE Thomas Hardy. I have started Jude the Obscure and is just amazed.

  4. I came to reading late in life and so I haven't got a well-rounded classics background.

    I never had a chance to finish looking at all the lists last night because I had to go to a meeting (though it looks like I would have missed you if I had) and it ended up being the meeting that would never end. Ha. As I was driving home from said meeting I thought that I should have put Harper Lee on my list since I think that To Kill a Mockingbird is a perfect book. However, I based my list on body of work and I force myself to pick authors that I have read three or more of their books.

  5. Quite the classic list! You are a very well-read individual. I don't know that I'll ever get around to the Iliad or The Odyssey, but I have to tell you that The Mill on the Floss is also my favorite Eliot .

  6. I've only dipped into works of a few of these authors but I'm working on expanding my classics repertoire.

  7. That's quite an inspiring list! I can't say as mine would be tilted so much towards these classic authors if I were to be honest in making my list. I'd include Austen and maybe even Hardy, and I'd add Dickens, but the rest would be more contemporary: Kingsley Amis, David Lodge, Ian McEwan, Philip Roth, John Updike, Saul Bellow, and P.G. Wodehouse. And actually, I'd probably have to bump Hardy to make room for Jim Harrison. Not that Hardy and Harrison are in the same category, but I can't see who else to bump for my old buddy Jim.

  8. @ Rose City Reader--Yeah, I know, my list is weighted toward the classics, but it is my heart-felt assessment of my favorite authors. I have read Amis (father and son), Lodge, McEwan (Ughh!), Roth, Updike, Bellow, and Wodehouse (hysterically funny!). They are all good, but not great, in my opinion; and are certainly not among my faves. Having said that though, I can certainly see how they could be the favorites of others.

    I am quite intrigued with your comparison of Harrison to Hardy. I am not familiar with him, and will definitely check his work out. I have to say that the one contemporary author that nearly made my top-ten favorite authors list was Cormac McCarthy. I think he is very much the modern-day Thomas Hardy in many respects. Anyway, thanks for stopping by, and I appreciate your comments! Cheers! Chris

  9. If I made a similar list, Dickens, Austen, Hardy, and Eliot would probably be on there. There are a lot of Dickens novels that I haven't gotten to yet, though. I'm glad I have them to look forward to!

  10. Amazing authors! I'm reading Bleak House now and loving it! Dickens is so complex and hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time. It's incredible.

  11. A lovely list, of course, but sorely lacking in Americans! What of Ms. Wharton, Mr. Harris? I eagerly await your next "Top Ten" to see if the next several months' worth of reading provokes some jostling among these favorites and those that just missed the cut!

  12. Yes, Ms. AJ, you noticed that, did you? Fortunately I have qualified my list by saying that it was sure to be dynamic and change over time. Do stay tuned. Cheers! Chris

  13. Okay, I have definitely got to introduce your blog to my husband because it sounds like you guys have a LOT in common in this area! He absolutely adores Emily Dickenson, George Elliot, Tolstoy, ancient classics, and more!

  14. Great list. All the writers you've selected are superb. Though I would be inclined to represent some of the high modernists, like Joyce, Proust, and Woolf. The latter two are my personal favorites. Great Blog! I'm subscribing.