Favorite Authors

I decided to write this blog post because people are constantly asking me who my favorite authors are, and in the moment, I always blank. I am very picky about the term “favorite author”, because I feel like you have to like everything by an author for them to be considered your favorite, and sometimes amazing authors just come up with a total crap book! So I am defining favorite authors as those people who you get super excited about when you hear they have a new book out. Either way, here is a short list of some of my “favorite” authors.

Barbara Kingsolver

I fell in love with Barbara the way most people do, through Poisonwood Bible. I would have to argue, however, that Prodigal Summer and The Lacuna are just as good. Kingsolver’s style is hard for me to describe. “Realistic” does not give her enough credit, while “descriptive” is not accurate either.

Most recently, I finished Pigs in Heaven, the sequel to The Bean Trees. I loved both of these novels. While sorrow and heartache is always present in Kingsolver’s novels, they skirt the outsides, instead of invading the main frame. This is true in these two novels, which follow the story of Turtle, a Cherokee girl who was abused and then adopted by Taylor Greer. The story develops as Taylor fights the Cherokee nation for the right to keep Turtle.

Michael Chabon

I’ve read almost everything Chabon has ever written. I even read his nonfiction account of fatherhood (don’t ask me why). The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and Summerland are both on my list of top 20 best books I have ever read, while The Mysteries of Pittsburgh was hard for me to finish. I love recommending Summerland to people when we are discussing Chabon because very few people know he wrote a YA novel, and that it is SO GOOD. While Kavalier & Clay and Summerland were some of his earlier works, I also love his more recent stuff. Gentlemen of the Road, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, and The Final Solution were all really enjoyable and quick, easy reads. I was conflicted about Telegraph Avenue. It reminded me a lot of Mysteries of Pittsburgh, but the characters were easier for me to connect to and the novel did not drag as much as MoP.

Paulo Coelho

What a dude. Coelho writes about super cool things, like divinity and death and demonism. And other things that don’t start with a D. I think my favorite book by Coelho is Veronika Decides to Die. This is one of three novels written by Coelho that focus on regular people who have something crazy happen to them. In Veronika’s case, she is told she only has one week to live. The novel follows her struggle with the belief that she has not lived her life to the fullest, because she did not know she was going to die. Deep stuff, but a VERY worthwhile read, especially if you are struggling with the idea of mortality. Next on my list of books to read is By the River Piedra, I Sat Down and Wept.

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The Blind Assassin

The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood

YAAAAS. Margaret Atwood is my queen. The Blind Assassin requires a lot of stamina as a reader (so I can’t even imagine what it was like writing it), and I read it slowly over the course of several months (with several breaks). I finished it last week and I am still completely stunned.

This book probably isn’t for everyone. It’s slow-paced historical fiction with a dystopian story-within-the-story. It’s bleak, full of despair, and it’s basically one big sad experience. But in the BEST WAY. Atwood is a brilliant writer, and every sentence is a treat.

There are about five narrative strings in this book, which constantly switch and overlap. I won’t say much, because I think it’s best to go into this book, um, blind. At its core it’s the story of two sisters, Iris and Laura Chase, who grow up in the vague opulence of a manufacturing family between world wars; they’re each grasping for lives of their own. The story-within-the-story is The Blind Assassin, a novel about ill-fated lovers.

The Blind Assassin is a massive, delightful puzzle. And it’ll make you feel things.

-M

The Grownup

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

The Grownup was a nice little treat from Gillian Flynn to help tide me over as I continue to wait for her next book. It wasn’t my favorite from her, but the short story involves a lot of her staples, namely a manipulative, edgy female narrator and a story with dark and twisty turns. There’s a haunted house, fake psychic, and creepy stepson. Flynn is a Queen, so I won’t even say more. It’s a seriously entertaining hour of reading. Do it!

-M

Change of Heart

Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

A convicted murderer on death row who may be a latter-day Messiah wants to donate his heart to the sister of one of his victims in Jodi Picoult’s Change of Heart. PHEW!

Anyone who has read more than one Jodi knows the formula: a researched hot-topic of focus, courtroom drama, someone with a life-threatening illness, twist ending. In this case it was the death penalty and religion, an ACLU lawyer defending a murderer who wants to choose the way he dies, an eleven-year-old girl who is dying of a heart condition, and a twist ending, respectively.

All in all, I found Change of Heart pretty ridiculous. Shay Bourne is a thirty-three-year-old carpenter drifter (okay, really?!) who was convicted of murdering the police officer husband of his employer, June, and her seven-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. Eleven years later, Shay is still awaiting execution by lethal injection. His dying wish is to donate his heart to June’s second daughter, Claire, who is dying from a heart condition. While waiting to be executed, miracles start happening on his cell block – a resurrected bird, water turning into wine, etc. The parallels with Shay’s character to Jesus were so obvious I that I was laughing out loud; I would have appreciated perhaps a more believable subtlety. Other unbelievable things: the fact that the heart of a thirty-three-year-old man is somehow a perfect match for an eleven-year-old girl, and a priest who drives a motorcycle and talks about “hot chicks” with Shay.

There were long-winded dissertations on comparative religions where my eyes glazed over, and I was disappointed that I saw the plot twist coming from almost the very beginning, because usually Jodi is pretty good at surprising me. Still, it kept my attention and interest for the most part. Overall, it was entertaining for its absurdity but certainly not one of my favorites.

-M

Mary Higgins Clark

In my young adulthood, I have recently discovered Mary Higgins Clarke, the Queen of Suspense, and let me tell you, she is a QUEEN. I just spent two entire evenings reading Remember Me. My immediate reaction upon finishing was to scream with delighted laughter and text my aunt, sister and cousin to recommend any MHC they could get their hands on.

I have now read three of her books: A Cry in the Night, Daddy’s Gone a Hunting and Remember Me. MHC is amazing for three main reasons. First, if you have just finished a very serious, tough read (cough cough* Zealot by Reza Aslan), it’s nice to get into something mindless (no offense, MHC) and entertaining. Second, these books are very easy to read. As I said above, it took me just two evenings to finish the 304-pages of Remember Me. Third, she wraps all her stories up with a nice bow. Everything comes full circle and is completely explained, without a hint of doubt. Well, okay there is a hint of doubt (like when the villain with the gun runs away when a witness shows up to the attempted murder). You aren’t left wondering about MHC’s books late into the night, however, because she explains all the terror away.

For someone who is easily scared (see my blog post titled “October: The Perfect Month to Reminisce on the Books that have Terrified me” for reference), this final quality is the most crucial. MHC’s genius plot lines ALMOST allow me to ignore the annoying clichéd parts of her books about love and happiness (gross).

-A