Friday, July 9, 2010

You Don't Have a Favorite Author, Redux

Every week, Jenn over at Crazy for Books hosts the Book Blogger Hop--a chance to explore some new book blogs. This week, she asked that participants talk about a favorite author, but we always bristle at that question, like, we think, many readers do. However, in the spirit of good sportsmanship, we don't want to shirk the task, so will instead offer a previous post on the subject (in fact, the very first post here at The Ape).

You Don't Have a Favorite Author

As a proud and pugnacious fanboy of literary fiction, the Ape is often asked THE question question that all of his fellow bibliophiles both love and dread: "Who is your favorite author?"

This seemingly innocuous, even kind-hearted question causes a peculiar paralysis, one born of self-consciousness and existential dread. Because here's a little secret---no one has a favorite author. That's right, you heard it here first; we're all lying when we tell someone that John Steinbeck or Barbara Kingsolver or Toni Morrison or Tolstoy or Austen is our favorite author.

Don't resist; you know this to be true. Can you really say that you always crave Dostoyevsky on the beach? Or Dickens on a long plane ride? Or Margaret Atwood on the subway? Or Hemingway on rainy Sundays or Joyce on a bright September morn? You see what we're getting at here. 

One of The Reading Ape's founding principles is that our tastes are as changeable as the weather and twice as unpredictable. So, we need a stable of go-to authors to attend to our carousel of whim, our revolving door of obsession. So stay tuned as we offer bizarrely specific recommendations for the myriad of reading occasions that comprise our literary lives.


  1. Absolutely love this answer. Now I know what response to give, when I'm asked this same question. I love to read across the board according to mood and preference of the moment. (Hugs)Indigo

  2. Well said! I can't even choose a favorite color, let alone a favorite writer. In fact, I can't come up with a favorite anything, which I hope doesn't signify gluttony!

  3. it hard to choose a favourite writer my change all time ,but always few touchstone writers that I go to for comfort sebald ,waugh,self,okri,wodehouse ,sakifor a few ,stop by on the blog hop all the best stu

  4. Great response. I listed my favorite authors then realized many of my favorite books didn't overlap.

  5. I disagree! I can always, always, always tote Tolstoy around. My purse buying criteria is "yes, but will it hold AK?" Ok, so maybe it's not a "favorite" so much as "something I'm obsessed with".

  6. Though my needs vary and change, I will always answer 'Thomas Hardy.' No matter what I'm doing, where I am, what the weather, I choose Hardy. Ah, my love for him is beyond compare.

  7. Hi, I'm visiting through the hop. Great blog!

    I'm now a new follower. :)

    Hope you can check my blog out!

    Rex Robot Reviews

  8. This is exactly how I would answer this question, too (and, in fact, how I DO answer it when asked). I'm happy to offer an extensive list of favorite authors, often broken out by genre, mood, situation, etc., but I'm completely incapable of naming just one favorite author that fits for all my reading moods.

  9. If we could come up with the "the-kid-has-been-cranky-rough-day-at-work-my-1-hour-workout-got-halved-by-a-plugged-drain-i'm-exhausted-but-want-to-avoid-turning-the-television-on-author", I'd take advice. Unless that is what Dan Brown is for... you'll fall asleep anyway.

  10. I sort of cheated on this question this week, since I have two book blogs (one adult and one for children's and young adults) so I actually picked six or seven authors altogether. I'd need more like a Top 100 Countdown like they do at New Year for the top songs in the Billboard charts.

  11. Indigo- I found this little rant very liberating. Glad you liked it.

    Bibliophiliac- Probably the idea of favorite itself is what I am finding limiting, not just the author element. Probably the only area in which I really have FAVORITES is food.

    Winstonsdad- Thanks for stopping by, I'll return the visit for sure.

    Jane- That's not a favorite...that's a fetish...nicely done.

    Hardy eh? Been awhile for me, though Far from the Madding Crowd was important to me as a teenager for some reason.

    Thanks for dropping by, I'm headed your way in a minute.

    So overwhelm the asker with info is the answer? I like your style.

    I think your favorite author in that situation is "alcohol."

    It's not cheating if the question is unfair:)

  12. Ape - my favorite author is always alcohol.

    Here is a great recommendation that we had last night:

    Dry, unlike the riesling from two visits ago, but very ripe fruit (so you'll like it). You should get toast (like bread) along with pineapple on the nose. Flavor is honey and citrus, bone dry with tons of acidity.

    Off topic... except don't all the greatest authors write under the influence...

  13. Good point. I hate this question, not just because I never know what to say, but because people seem to think they can find out what kind of reader you are from whatever name you give them. So if I say "Terry Pratchett", that means they will forever see me as a fantasy reader, if I say "Agatha Christie" I'm a mystery fan stuck in the past, and if I say Georgette Heyer they will in all likelihood go "huh?" and then dismiss me as a mere romance fan when I explain who she was.

  14. Well put, Ape. Does the same hold for favorite books? I think I do have a favorite book (Sometimes a Great Notion), but (as you say) it would be difficult for me to say that Ken Kesey was my favorite author (though I'm sure I have said that). He was wildly inconsistent over his career.

    Clinton, I remember listening to an NPR interview of Joseph Heller, who answered your question in this way: "No author writes while he's drinking, and anyone that tells you differently is a liar." Not sure if it's true, but I thought it a great response.

  15. Patrick and the Literate Man, the Heller comment is great. Thanks! I'd like to hear the interview (for more than just the quote you included). Do you recall, was it recent? Do you know which show?

  16. Found it (Heller interview) from 1998:

    I'm getting old when I remember someone dying recently and it was 11 years ago.

  17. You and me both, Clinton. It seems like I heard that interview just yesterday. Thanks for finding it again. Now if I can just figure out how to play it ...

  18. What a great answer. even late to the post, I just love it :)
    e-Volving Books