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Some of my favourite authors and books
Member Name: Dryad
Date: 13/03/10, updated on 03/04/10 (138 review reads)
Advantages: None in particular, I just like them.
My favourite authors are a motley crew and owe nothing to 'the greats' I have studied 'literature' at degree level but would never consider picking up a book by one of the lauded authors to read simply for pleasure. I can see the merits of the language and imagery used by these authors, but their world simply does not engage me I'm afraid. I do sometimes enjoy a little bit of Chaucer and Charles Dickens though. My personal classic greats tend to be Science Fiction and fantasy tales.
Now to name and shame some of them; my list will include some specific books which I have loved, but not followed the author slavishly.
The first author I truly loved as a child was Gerald Durrell, he is still one of my heroes, I read My Family and Other Animals when I was about eleven, and then greedily read all of his other books. His view of the world, and specifically the animals with which we share it was so in sync with mine that it was as if he had lived my life for me, but far better than I could have done. His family background was about as far from mine as could be, but my family seemed to share an eccentricity and irreverent attitude which I could relate to. His engaging way of writing about the animals that were his passion filled my heart with joy.
A book which deeply affected me as a child was A Dog So Small by Philippa Pearce. The book is about a young boy who for various reasons cannot have his hearts desire, a dog of his own. His grandfather feeling sorry for him gives him a Mexican picture of a Chihuahua, Chiquitito. Ben so wants a dog that in his imagination Chiquitito lives as a dog so small you can only see it with your eyes closed. The story is well told and has a good ending, not necessarily the soppy ending which children's stories can have, but a 'right' ending. The reason the book touched me so much was because of my own overwhelming, aching desire for a cat (I know it is a 'bit' weird isn't it), which I felt I would never get (due to my sisters severe allergy). I spent months trying Bens methods of creating my own imaginary cat (to no avail). I did get many other little pets to fill the void though, and as I write this I have one of my moggies sitting on my lap having a damn good wash. So a happy ending for me.
An author that I started to read as a teenager is Isaac Asimov. My favourite books are his robot books, and his theories on their design was so thorough and based on sound scientific extrapolation that his ideas have become the (often unrecognised) basis for the portrayal of robots in many science fiction stories and films since. He 'introduced' the concept of 'the three laws of robotics' which were hard wired into the positronic brains (another of his ideas) of his creations, they are:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws
These 'laws' ameliorated humanities fear of having artificial ('frankenstinean;?) life amongst them. Allowing for a great deal of exploration of what constitutes life, and of society with what is essentially 'guilt free' slave labour. Can and should 'anything' with intelligence whether artificial or not ever be enslaved, or treated as second class (NO), does something with intelligence necessarily have feelings too?...(amongst other issues, and generally great stories). I did enjoy his other fiction books too, including the famous Foundation series.
E.E. Doc., Smith is another great favourite science fiction author; I particularly liked his Lenseman Series
Another book which I adore is Dragon's Egg by Robert L Forward. This deals with silicon based life evolving on the superheated surface of a neutron star, the inhabitants individual life span is measured in minutes of our time. The book follows the evolution of the Cheela, and their contact with our species in the short time it takes their 'planet to pass into and from our contact range. It takes us outside the dumb (in my opinion) assumption that life has to be carbon based. This is something I had been wittering about almost since I could read. Certainly since I first read (many many years ago) the presumption life cannot exist on non earth like planets, as they cannot support a carbon based life forms - this 'life can only be carbon based' opinion is now becoming outdated and.... Cough... my, and Mr. Forwards opinion seems to be more accepted than it was when the book was first published. I was so chuffed to find a book which supported and gave my gibberings credence. That book was waved under many a friends nose, with whom I had argued the toss about non carbon based life.
I love love love Douglas Adams, (I seem to have a thing for deceased authors). His blending of science fiction and comedy is in my opinion second to none. I do like his other fiction work, such as Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, but for me The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy a trilogy in five parts is unrivaled. Not the film, or the painfully bad T.V. series - although I did like some aspects of the series simply because it used some of the radio actors to reprise their roles visually. However Sandra Dickenson was an appalling Trillian. The books came after the radio series, and I still have the crackly tape recordings made directly from the radio at the time they were broadcast. Although I must admit I haven't listened to them in twenty years or more (they may be dust by now).
I can't leave out J.R.R Tolkien.. What can I say, no geek's fiction list would be complete without him. An uncle gave me a copy of The Hobbit when I was ten and promised that he would buy me the Lord of the Rings when I had finished it. I was ringing him a week later, I still have both copies and have read Lord of the Rings several times since.
Julian May and particularly the 'Saga of the Exiles' (series), a fantastic science fiction/fantasy, which takes in time travel, and the myths and legends which are woven into the cultures of so many societies.
An author which I turn to when I want a nice easy comforting read with a fairly predictable outcome is Dean Koontz. His early horror books were quite scary in a supernatural/adventure kind of way - well when I say scary, I mean that objectively they are scary, it takes a lot to actually scare me in literature... In real life I'd probably be a wuss! I'm not particularly interested in huge gory kill counts in horror. I like a good and bad adversarial approach, battling with forces outside of the norm, or good old fashioned ghostly goings on. Koontzs' books have unfortunately become increasingly schmaltzy, and although I adore dogs I really don't want the hero to always have a wonderful, exceptional, amazingly fantastic golden retriever. I still read him though, because his style of writing is easy on the eye, with good imagery, and an interesting story. Even though the characters have become increasingly the same people with different names, what I like about Koontz is that he does tie up his endings. Even if that process is often a bit saccharin and long winded. I'm not keen on the type of story that leaves you hanging; I think that the author thinks they are being provocative, and allowing you to continue debating his/her book. I suspect they have tied themselves up in a complex story line and are not entirely sure how to end it themselves.
I'm also enjoying Mo Hayder, and S J Bolton at the moment, they write an imaginative thriller/mystery that keeps you awake to ungodly hours trying to finish the book.
I do enjoy a non fiction book now and then, I'm not keen on biographies or auto-biographies, but will read excepts from them if it is about some one I greatly admire, or find very entertaining. I am quite keen to read Frankie Boyles My Shit Life So Far (sorry about the swearing but that's what it's called). The main types of non fiction books I am likely to go for are history (ancient usually) natural history, or science.
Most of my favourite books and authors are a bit outdated now, this is mainly because I just don't seem to have as much time to really enjoy reading as I used to. I do still read, but it seems to go in cycles where I will devour books for a few months and then not read a single one for a year! I will however read articles, magazines, and book reviews during my 'fallow' periods, sometimes constructing unfeasible lists of 'to read' books for when the bug bites again.
That is probably it for favourite authors. As with other products I'm a bit of a literary tart, in that I read what takes my fancy, and generally have no particular authorial fealty. I'm more of a genre fan I think, and what I want from a book is a tale that takes me away from the kind of thing that you can experience in real life. That is why kitchen sink dramas, and chick lit by and large makes me squirm. I don't want to read about the sort of c**p that I hear my neighbours gossiping about in the pub, or things that my family might be going through in reality, I want my imagination stretched. I want to experience things vicariously that I will never get to experience in my real life. I want to be challenged, excited, thrilled and sometimes lifted above the humdrum and left in awe.
Also published on Ciao as Greenputty
Summary: A few of my favourite authors