Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week they provide a topic for a Top Ten list. Check out the link to see what topics they have planned for the coming weeks.
Previously I have discussed finding a ‘favourite author’ but today I’m going to give you a rundown of exactly who my top ten authors are. I’ve split the list in two. The first half looks at the authors whose works I first fell in love with as a child, the second half looks at the books I’ve discovered more recently (teens onwards). This is partly because I thought it would be interesting to see how the lists compare because the more I thought about what I wanted to write about each author, the more I noticed the extent to which the books by authors I loved as a child created a foundation for what I look for in books as a young adult. There’s an element of feed through between the two sections that I wanted to interrogate a little bit.
So, here are my ‘Top Ten Favourite Authors’
-That I discovered during my childhood:
- Diana Wynne Jones
The first books by Diana Wynne Jones I fell in love were from the Chrestomanci series. My favourites in the series are Conrad’s Fate and The Lives of Christopher Chant, although I’ve recently become quite attached to Charmed Life as well. Since then I’ve also been enchanted by Dogsbody and tangled in the pages of Fire and Hemlock. Her books never fail to enchant me. They play with fairy tales, twist tropes and ooze with an underlying darkness. Diana Wynne Jones is an expert at writing my favourite kind of protagonist: powerful but flawed, like Howl who plays at being a charming rogue but who is in fact a clever coward, and Cat Chant who has too little self-confidence to realise that he is being thoroughly used by his sister until it is almost too late to rescue everyone from the trouble she has caused with his power.
- Jenny Nimmo
My first experience with Nimmo’s writing was via her Snow Spider Trilogy. In these books young Gwyn discovers he is a magician with a powerful inheritance. What I love most about this trilogy is the setting: Wales is brought to life with the magic of ancient and contemporary magicians in ways that reminded me of the stories my mum told me about her home country when I was little. Welsh magic also plays a part in Nimmo’s later series, The Children of the Red King. Nimmo’s talent for bringing my mum’s culture to life has earned her a special place in my heart. I also greatly value Nimmo’s treatment of tragedy and the harsh nature of power.
- Susan Cooper
Cooper is another writer who plays with British flavoured magic. Her The Dark is Rising series brings in Arthurian legend and follows a battle between the forces of Light and Dark. One of the central characters is Will Stanton who starts off as an ordinary boy before discovering he is in fact an Old One, a warrior for the side of the Light. Will’s shift into a child-adult hybrid (a child’s body with ancient blood and power coursing through his veins) always chilled me a bit and definitely was part of the pull of Cooper’s books. I love authors who write about darkness and magic, and who really interact with the way young people have to accept the power they have and develop as a result of that. Cooper thrilled me again in King of Shadows, where she throws a young actor back to Shakespeare’s time. This was my first time getting excited by Shakespeare and the thrill of theatre and I’ll always be thankful to Cooper for cutting that path to a great writer’s work for me.
- Garth Nix
Garth Nix is another example of an author who has explored the often corrupting impact of power on people which, if you haven’t already noticed, is my favourite theme. My favourite books by him are definitely the Keys to the Kingdom series. In that series each book has Arthur confronting a figure who represents one of the seven deadly sins. His mission is to claim and embody all their power in himself, a process that eats at him in its own way. Nix has a great imagination and the power to create worlds that totally suck me in.
- J.K. Rowling
I came to reading Rowling’s books a year or so later than my classmates but I am very glad I did. I listened to the audiobooks first and then went back and read them for myself. Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban has a special place in my journey to being a fanatical reader. It’s the first book I couldn’t stop reading. I got found out trying to read it after bedtime and had it confiscated in the evenings as a result. Rowling’s novels taught me to recognise that books in themselves can have as powerful an effect on the reader as any piece of magic that happens within a book’s world can.
-That I discovered more recently:
- Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is both a lovely human being (who I am proud to say I have received a hug from) and a brilliant writer. I’ve read a range of his books and short stories, from Fortunately, the Milk to The Ocean at the End of the Lane. My favourite is by far The Graveyard Book which is a supernatural bildungsroman that touched me very deeply at a time it was highly relevant to me. He writes with great humour and emotion. Gaiman has the magical ability to write dark fairy tales for the modern age.
- Oscar Wilde
I have talked about Wilde on this blog before, and I will no doubt discuss him again in the future. He’s important, interesting and talented. A triple threat, if you will. My first experience of his writing was from reading The Picture of Dorian Gray and I now reread it every year. Wilde talks about literature being purely pieces of art and how it’s people who bring morals to art. Mind you, The Picture of Dorian Gray is a story that can teach a lot about corruption. Oscar Wilde writes with great wit and beauty. I especially recommend his fairy tales. From his essays to his plays, Wilde’s writing never fails to engage my mind, seduce my senses and entertain.
- Maggie Stiefvater
Stiefvater is a witty and incredibly artistic author. I admire her creativity a lot. Her Raven Cycle books remind me of Cooper’s The Dark is Rising and a bit of Nimmo’s Snow Spider books because of the magic and mythology that are simmering through them via the Raven Boys search for a lost Welsh king. One of the boys in particular, Gansey, really strikes me as a character that could easily have slid into the world of Will or Gwyn when he was their age in the books. Stiefvater has my heart for bringing the world a spiritual heir to Cooper’s series.
- V.E. Schwab
Schwab is not only a cool human being (she’s a fencer, btw, in case you wanted proof of her coolness) but also a very cool writer. Her most recent book, A Darker Shade of Magic (ADSOM), has an awesome, proactive and piratically inclined heroine and a (tad brooding) powerful hero with a mysterious past and quite possibly the best coat known to man. Schwab dares to play with the morally grey, and the darkest and most corrupting side of magic and power. In Schwab’s work I see the interrogation of power I’ve always been interested in reading about. There are also echoes of favourite writers from my childhood there, such as can be seen in the connections that can be drawn between ADSOM and Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.
- Sarah Monette (AKA Katherine Addison)
Monette’s inclusion on this list should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me particularly well. Her Doctrine of Labyrinths series plays around with story expectations and inspired me as a reader to examine some bigger ideas about stories in general. There’s also darkness, corruption and very flawed protagonists. All my favourite things are in this series. However, the real treasure Monette has crafted is The Goblin Emperor. Here, too, the corrupting nature of power is examined but it is achieved through a lens of hope. This book doesn’t flinch away from darkness but it does remind me that alongside darkness and separation there must also be a path of brightness and connection. This message really resonates with me and helps me interact with the events that occur to characters in other favourite novels in fruitful ways. Monette’s novels tick all my boxes and mean a lot to me so she will always be a favourite author.
Thank you for reading!