Or, authors I wish I could write as good as
There are some authors/writers who I’ve read and loved after just a few pages of reading them. They end up in a category of author which means that I want to read everything they’ve ever written, or, I can have only read a tiny portion of their entire body of work* but hold them up as one of the best writers ever off the back of that one piece of writing.
I’m sure we all have authors on similar lists. These are mine.
I remember a time when I didn’t know anything about him, other than that he’d written a book called The Psychopath Test, which I assumed was fiction. Then I actually bothered to pick a copy up and realised that I was pretty interested in reading it.
His writing style was like nothing I’d ever encountered before. Here was somone knowledgeable, funny, and compelling. His writing felt like having a conversation, but wasn’t too casual as to be bad or rushed. But the best part? Storytelling in non-fiction.
Jon Ronson, for me, is a master storyteller. I’ve read his stories on the page, I’ve listened to them in audiobooks, I’ve seen him onstage, relaying stories I’d already heard, but that were still just as entertaining to listen to a second time. He weaves this storytelling into a partnership with facts, and I find that at the end of his chapters there’s something in his phrases, something subtle that only he can achieve that means I have to read on.
It doesn’t matter what he writes about, I’ll find it interesting. Indeed, he’ll make subjects I never would ordinarily read about fascinating. The government, the army, politics, extremism…all subjects I would find difficult to read about, but with Jon Ronson as the wordsmith I fly through the pages, my interest only increasing and never wavering.
I was first introduced to her writing when studying for my undergraduate degree in English and Creative Writing. I was working on a magic realism novella** for my dissertation and one of my tutors suggested that I read Winterson’s The Passion.
Having read a few other books by her, The Passion isn’t my favourite, but as an example of magic realism it’s pretty good, and it’s the book that made me feel like I’d discovered a writer who I’d love to be able to write like.
Her writing has a simple quality, but is still so well written. She’s great for quotes. I’ve not been keeping count of how many quotes of hers I love and have written down, but there are a lot. And they are quotes that, when I read them, I want to text it to all my friends and say ‘ok but seriously READ THIS’.
What I love about her writing the most though is that, whatever the subject matter, whether fiction or non-fiction, I can always find myself somewhere in her words. None more so than her latest novel Frankissstein, which I own a signed hardback copy of. On the back of my edition is the following quote:
One day, when I write my memoirs, that quote will be at the start of a chapter somewhere. I’ve seen myself in a lot of her quotes, but this one sums it up pretty perfectly. The main character, Ry, is an almost perfect embodiment of who I want to be. They’re also one of the only characters I’ve found in literature to represent, in fiction, how I navigate my own sense of gender. And that’s pretty amazing to find, from an author I already loved.
I still have LOTS of her work still to read, and no doubt many more quotes to discover.
I read this one for pure, bookish escapism. He is so much fun. Basically, if you have never read him before then you’re in for some serious treats.
Like with Jeanette Winterson, I was advised to read Jasper Fforde in line with what I was writing about in my own fiction. There’s one aspect that my story shares with Fforde’s writing, except he goes in a more literary fantasy way, whereas I want my story to be believeable. Jasper’s world is one that couldn’t be beleived to be real, but that every book lover would love to experience or live in.
I’m talking here about his ‘Thursday Next’ series, which you should start with (and become addicted to reading). The series follows a literary detective living and working in Swindon, as she investigates various goings-on in the literary world. Books and fictional characters are worlds of their own, and he writes it so well. If nothing else, read The Eyre Affair. Please. It’s brilliant. It helps if you’ve also read Jane Eyre, otherwise you won’t understand half of the references.
He also has a ‘Nursery Crimes’ series, and a few other books too, all just as imaginative and adventurous. If you thought you knew the boundaries of fiction, you don’t. Not until you’ve read Jasper Fforde. He takes a ‘what if…’ and explores every detail to make it so, and he executes it perfectly every time.
Go forth, and read
I promise it’s not compulsory to have your name begin with ‘J’ to become one of my favourite authors. But I hope this post has introduced you to some authors you might have heard of but never read, or revealed me as someone you can have long bookish discussions with about these authors.
If you’re reading this, Jeanette Winterson, I’d love to meet you and complete the collection. Thanks!
*I settled on the phrase ‘body of work’ as a decent alternative to a term I’m not even sure exists. My brain was saying ‘discography but for books’ so that’s what I searched for, but to no avail. Bibliography doesn’t sit right, and already has its own meaning. If anyone knows of a collective term for an author’s entire works, please share.
**I’m still working on this novella, in fact I recently re-plotted the entire thing.