A bookworm since I first learnt to read, and an English Literature undergraduate, I thought it was time I wrote a blog post about my favourite thing in the world (besides tea, dogs, travels, and elephants..)
I have conducted a list of a few authors whom I admire, and that I have read more than one book by (there are many amazing novels I have read, but I am yet to read anything else by the same author). For each one I have written a gushing statement as to why I think the author deserves all the praise in the world, and a novel/book by them that I personally would recommend anyone to read.
I hope I can encourage you to discover for yourself these authors, if you are new to them. To me they are amazing writers of different background/genres/topics, and exemplify why literature is on of the greatest inventions of the human mind (in my opinion).
So without further ado…
Quite possible my favourite author of all time. He was a social commentator, and wrote about topics including capital punishment, religion, poverty, the law, class divisions etc. He also went into self exile and claimed Jesus visited him and declared him to be a prophet (which people tend to ignore…). He wrote extensively and passionately about the things that interested him: The Hunchback of Notre Dame is not quite a love story between people, but of Hugo’s love for the grand, Gothic cathedral.
I would recommend: Les Miserables- It’s long, intense, and has an entire section dedicated to the structure of the Parisian sewers, but I find it to be one of the greatest novels I have ever read.
I adore this man. He writes gritty, intelligent, angry novels that bring what is considered the scum of society to the limelight. Drugs, sex and violence are not written glamorously (I have read sex scenes in his books that make me feel physically sick) but with honesty and a dose of what reality is for some. And if you’re a fan of the Scottish accent like me, the dialect is a bonus.
I would recommend: Trainspotting– His most famous and a modern classic, the film is faithful but the book is better.
It took me a while to read On The Road because a bookseller told me it is over-hyped nowadays because it isn’t relevant anymore. I always intended to read it eventually, and with no disrespect to the bookseller but I completely disagree. On The Road is cemented into its era, but to me that is one of the qualities of Kerouac. There’s no point trying to imitate the Beat Generation; what they did was relevant to them and their lives, but you cannot help admiring Kerouac and co, as controversial as they were, because of their desire to learn, explore, and to understand and see the world.
I would recommend: The Dharma Bums- I read it after On The Road and you can draw parallels between the two, but I found Kerouac’s Dharma Bum idol more admirable and interesting. Kerouac brings together Buddhism, friendship and the great landscape of America, and his style of writing is as addictive as his most famous novel.
I have a love for 20th century American literature which shows the real America behind the image of the ‘American Dream’. Steinbeck does a particularly good job with this by writing about the working class, and their personal and political struggles. He doesn’t romanticise the actions of his characters- they don’t become misunderstood heroes. His characters are people, as flawed as the system that left them without homes.
I would recommend: The Grapes of Wrath– Another iconic novel, one that provides a sympathetic account of the families who were victims of the Dust Bowl Migration.
Edgar Allan Poe
Stepping away from the novels and on to the short stories, (and poems), Poe is one of the most iconic Gothic writers of all time. His mystery stories set a standard for detective fiction- influencing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation Sherlock Holmes. I sometimes find that horror which was written about 200 years ago can be disappointing, as in the age of films and CGI we are perhaps not as easily scared nowadays. However Poe managed to sustain the right level of creepy, and created the ideal horror- nothing that is obvious and jumps out at you, but instead leaves you bewildered.
I would recommend: The Tell-Tale Heart– A famous favourite of Poe’s, and like The Raven has been featured in The Simpsons. I have loved since a teacher read it aloud to the class, including making the haunting knocking sound and generally making us students shiver.
To round off the list I have included Wilde, whose novel The Picture of Dorian Gray is brilliant and a definite must-read, but I love him more for his plays. They are usually satirical, poking fun at the uptight Victorian society Wilde was a part of, and they show the brilliance of Wilde’s wit- nearly every line is quotable. Wilde is the kind of person I would have at my dinner table.
I would recommend: Salome– This is one that retells a biblical tale, rather than his usual comedies of society. It is always interesting to read what an author writes that is a step away from their usual territory. Whilst the story is not of his own invention: the imagery, the language and the characters are vivid and intriguing.
A room without books is like a body without soul.- Cicero