Friday, August 14, 2015

Most Read Authors

Top Ten Authors I've Read the Most Of

This week the folks at The Broke and the Bookish are asking people who their most-read authors are.  The following list are the tops for me but with my wide-ranging and somewhat eclectic reading habits over the years these authors represent less than five percent of all the books that I have read (at least of those I have kept records of).

1.  William Shakespeare

Over the years, since my introduction to Shakespeare with Rome and Juliet in High School, I have read most of the plays and the sonnets.  Some of my favorites are As You Like It, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Coriolanus, Twelfth Night, and Hamlet.

2.  Plato

I began reading Plato in the early nineteen seventies in College, but my reading of his dialogues increased significantly in the nineteen nineties through my participation in The Basic Program of Liberal Education (see also Aristotle below).  My favorite dialogues include The Symposium, Phaedrus, Cratylus, and Gorgias.

3.  Leo Tolstoy

I have read and reread War and Peace several times, but also enjoyed his other novels, novellas, and short stories.  The Death of Ivan Ilych,  The Kreutzer Sonata, and The Cossacks are three of the more memorable of his shorter works.

4.  William Faulkner

William Faulkner entered my life in High School when I first attempted to read The Sound and the Fury.  Decades later after several more readings of this great novel I began to connect with the voices in it.  Over the last couple of decades I have gradually read almost all of his novels and some of his short stories.  Among my favorites, in addition to The Sound and the Fury, I count The Snopes Trilogy, The Reivers, and Go Down, Moses.

5.  Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens is the author who has the distinction of being the first that I read of those included in my top ten.  I still remember carrying my paperback copy of Oliver Twist with me when I attended Boy Scout Summer Camp in 1962.  My reading of Dickens (and about Dickens) has never stopped and I have read several of his novels more than once.  My favorite of all of them is David Copperfield;  while Great Expectations, Bleak House, and Nicholas Nickleby are also near the top of my list.  I believe The Mystery of Edwin Drood is the most underrated of his novels and it should be read by anyone who enjoys mysteries and good writing.

6.  Henry James

The writing of  Henry James is an acquired taste.  It is one to which I have gradually succumbed as my delight as grown with each novel and story that I have read.  Having read almost all of his fiction (and some non-fiction) I would include The Turn of the Screw, Washington Square, and Daisy Miller among my favorites.

7.  Iris Murdoch

I came to the novels of Iris Murdoch while I was in High School reading A Fairly Honourable Defeat when it was first published.  I have continued to traverse her novels and hope to read them all some day.  Some of my favorites include The Black Prince and A Word Child.

8.  Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand came into my reading life when I was in High School and I read The Fountainhead which became my favorite of her novels.  I have read them all including her masterpiece, Atlas Shrugged.  In addition to her novels I have read most of her non-fiction including The Romantic Manifesto, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, and Philosophy: Who Needs It.

9.  Aristotle

Aristotle, like Plato, was a discovery of my college years.  My reading of his works continued and grew into a major project when I began studying in The Basic Program of Liberal Education.  The power of his intellect is evident in all of his writings, but those that I found the most profound include The Metaphysics, The Nicomachean Ethics, On Rhetoric, Poetics, the Posterior Analytics, and De Anima.

10.  Thomas Mann

Thomas Mann is, perhaps, my favorite author, with the appeal of his writing spanning short stories, short novels, and massive novels like Buddenbrooks and The Magic Mountain.  My favorite novel is his last, unfinished work, Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man.  I also particularly enjoy reading and rereading Death in Venice, Tristan, and Tonio Kroger.

Other Significant Authors

Some of the authors who just missed my top ten but whom I have read extensively and enjoy reading include:  Fyodor Dostoevsky,  Joseph Conrad,  Philip K. Dick,  Marcel Proust,  Virginia Woolf, Theodore Sturgeon, Friedrich Nietzsche, and H. G. Wells.


Brian Joseph said...

Great post James. we share so many favorite authors.

Though I would need to give some thought to put together my own list, both Shakespeare and Plato would be very high on mine also.

I appreciate the fact that among others, Philip K. Dick made your near top ten.

Stephen said...

Very impressive! I've not heard of Iris Murdoch. If you were to compose a list of authors who have most profoundly influenced your thinking, would there be a lot of crossover between that list and this?

James said...

Thanks for your observations. While this list represents the authors whose works I have read more than others it is a small portion of my reading. The next group of ten or so that includes Philip K. Dick is in some ways just as representative of my reading interests and experiences.

James said...

Thanks for your comment. You ask an interesting question. I would say the top authors listed above include some, like Aristotle, Plato, and Rand that have most profoundly influenced my personal philosophy of life.
There are authors who also have influenced my thinking profoundly with one or a few books that I have read. A non-comprehensive list of these would include Friedrich Hayek, Thoreau, Victor Frankl, and Marcus Aurelius.
And there are other authors that I found profound in certain areas of my thinking like William James, Milton Friedman, and Dumas. I would have to consider this question much more to consider anything like a top ten list.