I like a lot of books, but there are also some authors almost never write a book I don’t like, so I’m giving you two lists, whether you like it or not.
- Michael Chabon – I’ve written about him before on my blog. He blows me away with the beauty of his prose. My single favorite book of his is The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which is about two Jewish guys making comic books in the golden age of the genre.
- Margaret Atwood – What do you say about Margaret Atwood? So talented and so prolific an in so many different genres. If I pick one, it’s probably The Blind Assassin, but I could happily pick three or four more.
- Colum McCann – I’m one book away from making it through his entire catalog and I’ve yet to find anything that even hints at being a dud. The most remarkable thing is the way he is able to inhabit radically different characters, gay, straight, male, female, black, white, rich, poor, and on and on and on. Let the Great World Spin is transcendent.
- Barbara Kingsolver – I underestimate Kingsolver sometimes. I think it’s because she’s from Kentucky and her writing feels so much like home that it’s easy to take for granted. There’s nothing flashy about her, but the prose she writes is really beautiful and I love most everything she’s written. The Poisonwood Bible is her best.
- Edith Wharton – My favorite among the long-dead bunch. I met her, somewhat obviously, in college. Whenever I read her, I’m impressed with how deftly she deals with the emotional lives of her characters. My favorite is Summer, which is one of her less well-known titles.
- William Maxwell – Dead, but not long so. I was given a few of his stories in college but they lived in a box until I needed something for a writing class and then I was all whoa. He is more like me than any writer I’ve ever read. When I read his writing, it feels like instructions on how to do exactly what I want to do. The collection All the Days and Nights is my favorite, but you should really read it all.
- Chang-Rae Lee – Lee has written four books and I’ve read three of them, they were all spectacular. His prose is just completely stunning. If you want to pin me down, I’d pick A Gesture Life as my favorite. There is a wonderful sense of justice in his writing that I don’t know if I’ve seen anywhere else.
Other Books I Love (the first five listed almost went into the favorite writer’s list):
- Bel Canto by Ann Patchett – The most clichéd plot ever turned into a wonderful meditation on love.
- The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem – Indescribable. Just go read it.
- The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt – 19th century England! Sex! Fairy tales! Beautiful prose.
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez – I don’t understand how it’s possible to write something like this.
- A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway – Hemingway has been betrayed by his reputation.
- Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson – The name for my other blog is taken from this book, there is a reason.
- All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren – This may contain the most beautiful prose I’ve ever read.
- Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris – His best, and that’s saying something.
- Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri – Lahiri really only does one thing, but she does it very well.
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – This is the great American novel, right?