Greatest Authors Ever-My Top 10 list

on Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Note: Long post. Also if you don’t like Literature you might not be interested in this.
I consider myself a literary connoisseur. Reading has been one of the greatest pleasures of my life so far. If I could see into the Mirror of Erised I would see myself sitting in a comfortable armchair in a room full of books. I’ve read thousands of books in my life from Enid Blyton to Harry potter, from Tolstoy to Dickens, from Kiran Desai to Arundathi Roy. My most prized material possession is a cupboard filled with 500+ books at home.
And yeah, I don’t like to lend my books to anyone. I decided I wanted to compile a list the top 10 authors that I love .This is a purely personal list. Feel free to disagree.
Also I had to leave out some great authors after much soul searching. This list is by no means complete.

10) Enid Blyton: This must have come as a surprise because literary skills are very high on my criteria for evaluating an author. Enid Blyton possessed mediocre literary skills at best. But for sheer number of hours of joy that any author has given me, Enid Blyton muscles her way into the list. Enid Blyton’s writing has other redeeming qualities. She writes with a joy that is infectious to the reader. As for people who complain of subtle racism, sexism et all in her writing, give the lady a break. She just wrote with the attitudes prevalent in her era. Weaving tales of Adventure, Mystery, Fantasy and Joy she delights immensely. Go read good old Enid Blyton to savor those childhood memories again.

Faves: Five Find Outers, Mystery series, Adventure series, Malory Towers and St Clares, The Faraway Tree and Wishing Chair Series etc.

P.S: I like JK Rowling. But in my personal opinion she pales in comparison with Enid Blyton.

9) Rohinton Mistry: The only Indian author I have consistently liked enough to figure in my Top 10 lists. He never won the coveted but overrated Booker Prize though he figured in the shortlist three times. His writing skills lies in creating an ordinary world but he still keeps you rooted to his story. His only negative is the overwhelming use of tragedy in storyline (like most Indian writers).The other Indian writer who came close to the shortlist is Amitav Ghosh. I loved his “Hungry Tide” but I thought that his “Sea of Poppies” was slightly too ponderous .As for the Booker prize winning trio of Arundathi Roy, Kiran Desai and Aravind Adiga, I found Roy’s writings too dark, Desai too pretentious and Adiga’s writing skills poor.

Faves: A fine Balance, Family Matters.
8) William Somerset Maugham: I confess that I have read only one of this British novelist’s books. This book was called “Of Human Bondage”. Supposed to be strongly autobiographical in nature it tackles philosophy, obsession and character in equal degrees. I love the way Maugham creates his worlds. Brooding but fun, Hopeless yet full of desires-It is a study in contradictions. I am waiting to read more Maugham.

Faves: Of Human Bondage

7) Ayn Rand: One of the most read, adored and controversial authors ever. This Russian American author wrote many novels-most popularly “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged”. She also developed the philosophical system called objectivism which propounds rational self interest as moralism. She was as hated by critics and philosophers worldwide as adored by millions of adoring fans. Introduced as a young teenager to Rand I was hooked. Roark became my hero –My ideal of how man strives to be but cant. While I am older and wiser now and realize some of the fallacies in Rand’s writings and philosophy, I still think she should be given enormous credit for her cult popularity and inspiring writing. Like her or hate her-You cannot ignore Ayn Rand.

Faves: The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, We the Living.

6) George Orwell: This British author writings are marked by a strong dislike to Totalitarianism. His famous”Animal Farm”, an allegory which reflects events’ leading up to WW2 was his first success. This book is as humorous as it is insightful. Another cult classic is his other famous work-“1984”.This dystopian novel made the words Big Brother extremely popular. His writings are compulsive and stay with you long after you have put it down.

Faves: 1984, Animal Farm.

5) Isaac Asimov: I was just recently introduced to this master science fiction writer. Science fiction is not a genre that I read too much of. Another Russian genius, he was one of the most popular and prolific writers ever. I have just started reading the “Foundation series” which is his most popular series to date. His strengths are amazing visualizations and creativity and a knack for making the most unbelievable things seem commonplace and somehow inevitable. Next lined up are his Galactic and Robot series.

Faves: The Foundation Series.

4) Leo Tolstoy: The Russians keep coming don’t they? This writer was universally regarded as one of the greatest writers ever. His two great masterpieces have overwhelmed me to a degree where I deliberately slowed down my frenetic pace of reading for fear of coming to the end and in order to savour every word and expression .He writes what is popularly called as realist fiction depicting 19th Century Russian life with a skill difficult to describe. I first read “Anna Karenina” I was spellbound that writing could be so skillful. Tolstoy’s epic “War and Peace” is not a novel in the strict sense of the term. His writings and sense of grandeur are impeccable nonetheless. Tolstoy stands fourth on my list but would deservedly top the charts for many others.

Faves: Anna Karenina, War and Peace.

3) Gabriel Garcia Marquez: This Nobel Prize winning Columbian author popularized a style of writing called as magical realism which uses magical elements in otherwise realistic settings. One of the most gifted storytellers I’ve ever read Marquez uses innovative storytelling like a paintbrush to literally make the story come to life in front of you.
I’ve read three books of his and fallen in love with the guy’s writings. The first book is the very popular “100 years of Solitude” set in the fictional town of Macondo. This had me hooked. I next read the novella” Chronicles of a death foretold”. Though this not magical realism, this was one of the first books I read set in non linear chronology. Finally “Love in the time of Cholera” may be viewed as his tribute to True Love. One Smashing Writer!!!

Faves: 100 years of Solitude, Chronicles of a death foretold, Love in the time of Cholera

2) Charles John Huffam Dickens: Dickens was one of the greatest writers to come out of England. Dickensian characters like the likes of Ebenezer Scrooge, Fagin, Mrs. Gamp, Charles Darnay, Oliver Twist, Micawber, Abel Magwitch, Samuel Pickwick, Miss Havisham, Wackford Squeers are so popular that people think they are real. Vivid characterizations and a proper sense of the macabre and wry humor are hallmarks of this great man. The mans greatness also lies in the fact that I love so many of his novels including The Pickwick Papers, Nicholas Nikleby, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield ,Bleak Times, Hard tales, Tale of two Cities, Great Expectations.
This man’s output was as prolific as it was great.

Faves: David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Pickwick Papers

1) Fyodor Dostoevsky: It is fitting that the list is topped by a Russian. Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky was a great novelist, essayist and philosopher who wrote some of the greatest words to written by man. He was considered one of the greatest and most influential writers ever. I love his writing to distraction .His two masterpieces-“Crime and Punishment” and “The Brothers Karamazov” is so beautiful that I cannot do justice to describing them. Go find out for yourself.

Faves: Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov

Hope you liked reading my list .Do you agree? Comments are welcome.