Recently, someone asked who my favorite author is. That is not an uncommon question, especially if someone discovers that you are a writer. It’s a completely fair and reasonable question. People who aren’t writers have a favorite author, so surely someone who claims to love reading and writing should have one as well.
I hate that question mostly because I hate my answer to that question. It sounds so pretentious and I hate having to explain it.
The truth is, I don’t have one favorite author. I have a series of authors that are my favorite for certain things. A novel – or any story really – is made of several distinct elements that need to be done well (or at least suitably) for the story to work. I have a favorite writer for all of those elements. Those writers are the ones that have inspired my own writing in those ways.
I thought with this blog post I’ll explain who some of my favorite authors are for the different story elements and why. These authors, for the most part, are classical authors. they are writers who have stood the test of time and their work is still considered masterful after all of these years. You won’t find many modern writers and I think only two of them are still alive.
Also, there are plenty of master writers that I have not read. So I’m sure as I read more, I’ll add more to this list. This is where I’m at right now.
I probably shouldn’t start with this section as you might read it and say “right, that’s all I need to know” and stop reading, but who cares? If I’m forced to pick one writer/author as my favorite overall, I’d give that to C.S. Lewis.
Lewis is a master of story, language, and literature. He writes the kind of books I want to write. He weaves themes into stories so well you don’t realize they are there. His prose is on another level and his voice is perfect for academics or children, depending on who he wants to write for. Out of every writer on this list, I’d probably rather read a new book from C.S. Lewis than any of them.
Leo Tolstoy – I’ve often said that I consider Tolstoy to be the master character writer. Granted, this is based off of two novels: War and Peace and Anna Karenina. But those two books are often regarded as the heights of literature, two of the best books ever written. I’d have to agree with that. Not many other authors can say they have two books in contention for the best novel ever written.
Tolstoy is able to take people so far removed from me and humanize them in such profound ways. I’ve never been to Russia. I don’t know anything about the Russia of the time of War and Peace, yet I ached for those characters. I was so invested in their love lives and their dramas. I couldn’t stop reading it because I loved the characters so much.
Jane Austen – I’ve only read Pride and Prejudice form Austen, so I hesitated including her here, but if that novel is anything to go by, I love the characters she creates. The actual plot of Pride and Prejudice is pretty boring. Nothing really happens. But she dragged me into that story by the diversity and intrigue of the characters. I’m excited to read more from her.
Alexandre Dumas – Hands down, Dumas plots are my favorite in any story I’ve ever read. I first read Dumas’s Three Musketeers series and was gripped through the whole thing. This year, I read The Count of Monte Cristo and it’s definitely near the top of my favorite books of all time. The books are long, but they don’t feel like it because the tension and excitement is there the whole time.
Everything in Dumas’s plots are so connected and weaved together effortlessly. I can’t think of too many holes and if there are holes, I’m willing to overlook them because of how invested in the plot I am.
Arthur Conan Doyle – I mean, right? He’s created so many unbelievable story lines for Sherlock Holmes, he has to be one of the masters of plot. I love those stories and I’m always blown away by them.
J.K. Rowling – This has got to be the most controversial pick in this list, especially considering recent times, but I cannot deny that Rowling’s work crafting the wizarding world is unparalleled in my life. Sure, she’s not creating an entire universe like some fantasy authors are, but the way she took the normal, ordinary world and covered it in so much wonderful magic was impressive. She drew me into this new community, this new universe, and left me longing to visit it.
The world might not be the most detailed and fleshed out in the world of literature, but I’d argue it’s one of the most enjoyable and engaging. To this day, if given the choice, I’d want to exist in the world of Harry Potter over any other literary world I’ve read. And that’s saying something.
Robert Jordan – We’re talking about world building, so of course I have to have a fantasy author. I think Jordan, even over Tolkien, is the best world builder in the history of fantasy. The absolute depth he builds into the cultures, governments, and lore of the world, is unbelievable. Granted, he had 14 books to flesh it out, but the Wheel of Time series is the pinnacle of fantasy world building.
I’m so excited for the Amazon Prime show coming this year.
Kurt Vonnegut – Sometimes a character or a setting can carry a book, that’s not uncommon. Sometimes the world is so great that the characters can be flat and the plot boring and the world carries it (hello, sci fi). Sometimes the plot is so engaging that the characters are stereotypes and the world is common (like thrillers and mysteries). It’s pretty rare that an author’s voice carries the book. But that’s Vonnegut. Just read Breakfast of Champions. That novel has strange, flat characters and almost no plot, but it’s actually good. Because Vonnegut’s wit and hilarious voice carries the novel. People are hit and miss on Vonnegut, but I’ve never seen an author’s voice carry a book the way his does.
Mark Twain – I don’t think I need to explain this all that much. He’s the greatest American author, he’s one of the best writer’s of all time, and his voice is so comforting. It’s like slipping into an easier time and place whenever I read his books. A time that never existed, granted, but he makes me nostalgic for it all the same. I love Mark Twain.
Harper Lee – In To Kill a Mockingbird (which is her only book, I refuse to accept Go Set a Watchman), Lee explores deep, complex themes that are hard and important. But she wraps that discussion in wonderful characters and an engrossing plot. I didn’t expect to like this book and it became one of my favorites of all time. It is a perfect examination of the themes of racism and society.
C.S. Lewis – I’ve talked about him before, but I can’t not mention him here. The way Lewis weaves in ideas and topics into a fun story is unmatched. Everyone knows of the Christian themes in Narnia, but I think this is so much more apparent in his Space Trilogy. He creates such wonderful allegories.
Frederick Buechner – It’s more apparent in his non-fiction, but Buechner has such a command of the English language, his prase is almost poetry. Lyrical, beautiful, perfectly placed. I could read Buechner describing anything at all and love it. Such a wonderful writer, even if his plots and characters are a tad flat. Read his nonfiction.
New Writers Who Might Make the List Someday
In this section, I want to briefly talk about modern writers who might make this list someday, but their writing has not stood the same test of time that the masters have. But I’ve still loved what I’ve read from them.
Celeste Ng – In terms of theme exploration, Little Fires Everywhere blew me away. I loved the way Ng examined such weighty topics in an accessible way. She forced me to think without realizing I was doing it. Can’t recommend that book enough.
Emma Lord – For YA writers, Lord’s voice is the best in contemporary literature right now. It’s so on point with the way teenagers think and speak. It’s light, fluffy, and warm. There are other things about her books that I don’t love, but her voice is one of my favorites in currently working authors.
Anthony Doerr – In All the Light We Cannot See Doerr’s prose is phenomenal. Even if I didn’t end up loving the entire book as much as I wanted to, the prose is exceptional and awe inspiring. I definitely want to read more of his work.
Brandon Sanderson – As the best currently working fantasy author, of course his world building is on another level. Granted, he had practice picking up Robert Jordan’s masterful work, but Sanderson wears the crown well.
Stephen King – I don’t really know where Stephen King fits. Probably plot. But I’ve read more of his books than any other author and he deserves some mention in this list.