Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Top Ten Authors in My Reading Journey

All of us readers have those books that really started us on our way to becoming book lovers. It could be something we read as young children, or it could be a book we picked up in adulthood after years of a reading drought. Or, it could be an author or book that introduced us to a new favorite genre. This week's Top Ten Tuesday puts a spotlight on those books and authors that we credit with our bookishness.

I'll start from the beginning. These are the authors who influenced my reading, who brought me new genres or played a part in making me so thoroughly bookish. I don't claim to still like each of them, but let's suppose this is a thanks. There are other writers I love and have obsessed over, but these are the ones who introduced me to new books, reading styles and ideas. Clicking on the author names will take you to their Goodreads pages.

1. ENID BLYTON - She was the first author I fan-girled over. Her little fairy stories and pixie adventures were not only my introduction to fantasy but also the first books that I read once I grew too old for illustrated stories, "picture books." From there I gradually moved on to her mysteries, the Famous Five series, the Five Find-Outers, the Adventure series and although I was never a big fan of these, the Secret Seven. Anyone who has grown up here remembers the big thing that Enid Blyton was. I'm not sure what kids these days read, but she definitely paved the way for me turning into this book nerd.

2. CAROLYN KEENE - Ah, the Nancy Drew mysteries. It sounds ridiculous now how big a fan I was of these once, considering I don't love mysteries all that much anymore. The plots were almost always rehashed, the Nancy-Bess-George trio was cheesy and stereotyped to the point of being funny, and George was, if you think about it, the exact same boyish girl from Famous Five now grown up. And yet, for the longest time as a kid, I loved these books. It turns out, Carolyn Keene was a pseudonym of a bunch of hired writers. So much for all the "I-want-to-meet-her-and-get-a-signed-book!"

3. J. K. ROWLING - After years of Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and the Three Investigators, along came Harry Potter - and my life pretty much changed. J. K. Rowling took my love for reading and fantasy to a whole new level. Every Harry Potter kid (people who grew up with the series) would know what I'm talking about. The effect the books have had on me is practically indescribable. They turned me from a book lover to a book fanatic. And I'll never stop loving her for that!

4. AYN RAND - I'd just turned thirteen when I read Atlas Shrugged, along with my sister, and fell in love with it. (I know, it wasn't at the age of ten like Rory, but close enough, don't you think?) I then went on to read The Fountainhead, Anthem and We the Living, followed by maybe one of the non-fiction ones - was it The Virtue of Selfishness? - honestly, I don't remember. Somewhere around this time, I also read my all time favourite book - Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I loved all the serious philosophizing that followed with my sister and am still grateful to Ayn Rand for making me bond with her. Oddly, by the time all my friends got around to being die hard fans of The Fountainhead, I was already over that phase.

5. JOHN GRISHAM - The next few years of my life were busy, and Grisham kept my love for reading going strong. The Deathly Hallows came out sometime around that time, and with Harry Potter ending, I was on the look out for something just as addictive. I read a couple of Jeffrey Archer-s, Sidney Sheldon-s, Robin Cook-s, and Robert Ludlum-s but Grisham was the one that stuck. It all started when I saw the Pelican Brief movie on TV one afternoon. I haven't read any of his books in a while now, but once upon a time, he was my favourite author ever, so he deserves a mention, don't you think?

6. TERRY PRATCHETT - Let me skip a few years ahead to when I started this blog. Reading Terry Pratchett and the Discworld series was finally like Harry Potter all over again. I still haven't read the whole series (40 books, are you kidding me?) but that's what I like about it, anyway. Unlike Rowling's Wizarding World, I'll never run out of the magic that is Discworld. I can stretch out my reads over five years, and there'll always be more books waiting. With Terry Pratchett came the love for Neil Gaiman. But because of Good Omens, I'll always count them as one gateway author.

7. STEPHEN KING - Reading The Shining was one of the best decisions of my life. Then came Carrie, It, Cujo, Salem's Lot and a whole load of amazing horror. I'd already dived into a bit of gore with Thomas Harris and King took it to a whole new level. For the following four years, I devoured all books horror, from Shirley Jackson to Peter Straub to William Peter Blatty, till finally last week I decided I'd had enough, at least for the following few years. The Shining remains one of my top favourite reads.

8. A. S. BYATT - Byatt is the only author from these most reading-influencing authors whom I discovered by accident. You know how a book pops out at you at the library and you realize you must read it, though you don't know why? That's what happened with her short story collection, Elementals: Stories of Fire and Ice. I adored it so much, I went back to the library the same day, pleaded to be let in for just a couple of seconds (they were about to close) and brought home the enormous The Children's Book. Byatt is the reason I love mythology, fables and folktales and magic realism.

9. AMITAV GHOSH - Last year, I realized I'd seriously under-read Indian fiction. I was also unfairly critical of it, despite having read literally only three Indian authors. So I picked up a book by Amitav Ghosh, and then another and one more. The Calcutta Chromosome, In An Antique Land, The Sea of Poppies, The Hungry Tide - I loved every book I tried. For the first time, I read Indianness and was delighted at how easy it was to read about something I could visualize than a place never visited that lies across oceans. Sometime last year, I also read Vikram Chandra's Sacred Games, and experienced the same exciting familiarity. Ghosh is the reason I opened up to this range of Anglo-Indian fiction that is fabulous.

10. STEPHEN BOOTH - Who knew getting books for review could be so utterly rewarding? Thank you, Harper Collins / William Morrow. The Cooper and Fry series are a set of heartwarming thrillers (oxymoron?) with the best characterization I've read since Rowling, set in the Northern English countryside. Last October, I read the first mystery, Black Dog, and fell in love with it. I have since bought a couple, delightedly found a few from the series at the library and immersed myself in them. The series has thirteen books (I think?) and the fun is far from over. So there you have the most recent of my author-obsessions.

I would like to specially mention #1 Mark Twain, who led me to scrap the idea that classics are almost always too complicated, over written and boring and #2 Arthur Miller who convinced me I could love reading plays, after all!

Have you read any of these authors? Which authors have been your gateway-authors? Who has most influenced your reads? 

22 comments:

barefootmeds said...

I absolutely agree with J.K. Rowling and Enid Blyton. I never really got into Nancy Drew though, which is strange because I always fancied myself a detective. Anyway. It sounds like I should read more Ghosh! I've only read one of his books.

Priya said...

barefootmeds - I don't know why I was so into Nancy Drew, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't! And Ghosh's books are definitely worth a read. :)

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I wonder how many people would list Enid Blyton as their gateway into books!

Here's my list of You-Can't-Just-Eat-One Books on My Reading Journey!

Priya said...

Hey Deb, thanks for stopping by! Well, I don't know if you mean a lot or a few, but like I said, where I grew up, Enid Blyton was somehow kind of a phenomenon. I had a whole collection of her books (which I've had to give away since) and so did all my friends. :)

chrissireads said...

I absolutely loved Nancy Drew. Enid Blyton was superb too. Great list :-)

Priya said...

chrissireads - Thanks! Glad you agree. :)

Melissa said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog =) Nancy Drew would be high up on my childhood gateway authors list. I devoured all of the old yellow hardcovers that my mom has, then moved onto the newer releases. And Ayn Rand at the age of 10?!?! Holy cow! I'm still scared to read her books, and I'm over thirty! I have had Atlas Shrugged on my shelves for YEARS, but I think I'm just overwhelmed by the sheer size of the book ;) And a big HELL YES to The Shining. It's one of two books that I've ever read (the other being Neil Gaiman's Coraline) that legitimately scared the living daylights out of me. Those shrubs? *shudder* Great list -- thanks for sharing!

booksaremything said...

We really do have some of the same tastes. I agree WHOLEHEARTEDLY about Nancy Drew, and I'm in the same boat of not really liking mysteries anymore. But Ayn Rand?? Well, I guess we can't all like the same thing :) You totally make up for it with the Life of Pi comment though, that's one of my favorites as well.

Priya said...

Melissa - Well, I was somewhere between 12 and 13 when I read Rand, but close enough to ten. I don't think I understood them wholly, retrospectively, I don't think I'd have liked them now and it probably took me months to read them. But I'm glad I did, if you've got it on your shelf, you should read it.
Oh, Coraline was so creepy - the Other Mother and the buttons and the eyes, ugh. *shudders* Don't even get me started on the shrubs and the parties in The Shining. Way, way scary! But also kind of awesome. Thanks for stopping by!

Priya said...

booksaremything - Hey, Ayn Rand was a phase, you know; I'm glad it's over. But then I don't want to un-read the books, either, so I don't know. Life of Pi is genius, of course. Anyway, thanks for stopping by! :)

Michelle said...

JK Rowling and Stephen King both had a big impact on my reading life as well. The Shining is definitely one of my favorites! And Harry Potter definitely introduced me to what it is like to be a part of book fandom. I kind of miss waiting for those books to come out, it was an exciting experience.

Thanks for stopping by My TTT

Liesel K. Hill said...

I was the same way with Nancy Drew! I was just all about mysteries. I graduated to Nancy Drew from The Boxcar Children, and kept reading them all the way up until junior high, at which point I graduated to Mary Higgins Clark. :D I was surprised at first as well when I found out Carolyn Keen was a pseudonym. *sigh* Oh well. :D Great list!
My TTT

DMS said...

I loved all the Nancy Drew books and I adore JK Rowling's Harry Potter series. I have never read Enid Blyton- but after hearing so much about her books- I do have her on my list. :) Thanks for sharing!
~Jess

Nobody said...

I feel as if half of all bloggers included Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling this week, including me! Great list and thanks for stopping by my blog! =)

Priya said...

Michelle - I know, true book fandom - that's what Rowling taught me too. :)

Jess - Oh you have to try her! The stories would sound a bit archaic, especially reading them as a grown up, but her imagination and creativity were pretty inspiring - as a kid, I was convinced she could read children's minds. :)

Nobody - No list I make is complete without Harry Potter; which I think applies to most people. Thanks for stopping by!

Viktoria Berg said...

Oh yes, The Famous Five and Nancy Drew - read them all, over and over! I would also have to mention Star Wars - I got into reading English literature at 13 by wanting more of Luke Skywalker than the films could provide (I blame that cliffhanger ending of The Empire Strikes Back), so I made the lady at our local bookstore find me paperbacks by Alan Dean Foster and such (no internet in 1981). Splinter Of The Mind´s Eye comes to mind.

Priya said...

Hi Viktoria! I read plenty of English books growing up, but hardly watched any movies / series till I was about 12. That may be how I missed out on Star Wars as a kid and it's just been on my to-do(watch) list since. Hopefully I'll get around to it, and then the books. By the way, it's great to find you blogging again. :)

jenclair said...

Oh, my! I was wondering where I'd heard of the Cooper and Fry series! I couldn't remember, but I recently downloaded the first and second in the series. I liked the first so much, I immediately downloaded the second. I'm going to pause before ordering the third; well, at least I'm going to try.

Loved Byatt's Possession, Nancy Drew was a childhood staple, To cut it short, I've read and enjoyed all of the above authors except Amitov Ghosh.

Priya said...

jenclair - Possession was amazingly written, wasn't it!? I love Byatt. If you're ever curious about Indian / South Asian fiction, make sure to try Ghosh. As for Booth, it will just be harder with the later books! Hope you enjoy the series as much as I do. :-)

Midnight scribbles said...

Enid Blyton made me fall in love with reading. Then it was Nancy Drew and Harry Potter.I trued many authors after that, but my real love of reading came from classics and poetry. I'm hooked ever since.
I dont remember a single day of my childhood without reading :)

Midnight scribbles said...

Oops tried*

Priya said...

Midnight scribbles - Neither do I, I was always buried in a book. Although, actually, I'm new to poetry, having only developed an interest a few years ago, when I had to study some. But I'd welcome recommendations!

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