I was thinking about different favorite authors I’ve had in my life, and how that has changed over time. The first author I remember as a favorite was Robert O’Brien, author of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. Not that I knew his name, I just knew I liked his book! That would have been around the second grade, I think.
At some point I started paying attention to authors names. I remember knowing Judy Blume, and that a book by her would be written in a certain style. She may be the first author I was really aware of.
When I was a little older, science fiction authors largely took over my favorites list: Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, and most of all, Frank Herbert’s Dune series. That would have been in middle school and into high school When I was in my mid-teens and started paying attention to style as much as plot, Kurt Vonnegut came on my radar, as well as Roger Zelazny with his Amber series. These were fantasy/SF authors whose writing equaled anything I was reading in English class. (I should go back and see if Zelazny holds up as well as I remember. Dune, which I revisited last summer, does not!)
In school, most authors didn’t impress me too much. Holden Caulfeld annoyed me, the Scarlet Letter was unreadable, Dickens was too melodramatic. However, there were a few I enjoyed. I went through a Hemingway phase (as do all teen boys of a certain literay bent, I think). In drama class in my junior year, we performed Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Austen has remained a favorite ever since. Odd for a male SF fan perhaps, but her writing is so clear, each phrase so well-chosen, I can’t help but admire her.
Best of all, my eleventh grade English teacher assigned us The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers. This book knocked me over with its emotionality. I read it at least three times in high school, and picked it up again a couple years ago to find it still had the same effect. Her later books were more polished but its the raw emotional impact of that first book that still hits me.
In college, I was a German major. Kafka was my favorite overall, but a book called Der Fremde Freund by Christoph Hein was the one particular work I liked best. It’s about a female doctor in East Germany in the 1970s who, after a troubled childhood and a bad marriage, has become clinical and detached from her own life. She meets a passionate man who rekindles her zest for life, but he’s killed in an accident and afterwards she discovered he’d been married.
Nowadays? As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less emotionally attached to books. It seems like I’ve encountered every type of story, but I still enjoy books written in a beautiful, clear style. Jane Austen, Vladimir Nabokov, Boswell’s Life of Johnson. Among YA authors, John Green’s An Abundance of Catherines was really good. He’s also written something called Looking for Alaska that was well-reviewed, so I should seek that out.
How have your favorite authors changed over time?