Fifteen Authors

You know how Facebook now does that thing where it informs you once a day of your “memories?” Old posts from years ago? Often of things you’d rather not remember? Yeah, that. This week it threw up a post I’d shared in 2011. It was about books. A lot may have changed in five years but my love of books is a constant. I figured it was safe to take a look.
Here’s what I shared:

The rules: List fifteen authors, including poets and playwrights, who have influenced you and will always stick with you. Do this in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag at least fifteen friends, including me, because I’m interested in seeing what authors my friends choose. (To do this, go to the Notes tab on your profile page, paste rules in a new note, cast your fifteen picks, and tag 15 people).

  1. Oscar Wilde
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien
  3. Charles Dickens
  4. Albert Einstein
  5. Bret Easton Ellis
  6. Bram Stoker
  7. William Shakespeare
  8. Mark Twain
  9. Plato
  10. Terry Pratchett
  11. John Steinbeck
  12. Benjamin Zephaniah
  13. Jack London
  14. Salman Rushdie
  15. William Golding

Quite aside from the fact that I would now have no idea how to find the Notes tab on my profile page, isn’t this kind of a disappointing list? I mean sure, lots of good writers but all male and awfully homogeneously white. Boring. A teeny tiny sliver of human experience and this was the list I rapidly came up with as the authors who had influenced me and would always stick with me? I mean sure, I only had 15 minutes but still, that’s pretty naff.

Works by my selection of authors from five years ago. All good but not very varied.

I’m going to give props to my 22-year-old self for the Zephaniah but given that I can’t actually remember the poems I read by him, perhaps I was being a bit optimistic. Maybe I had a better memory for poetry when I was 22. I probably just had a better memory full stop.

Anyway, it’s high time I updated this list. I’m a little older, I hope a little wiser and I have read a whole lot more. So, here we go, my new list of 15 authors who have influenced me, who I think will always stick with me and who I have somehow come up within 15 minutes:

  1. Arundhati Roy
  2. Kashuo Ishiguro
  3. Italo Calvino
  4. William Gibson
  5. Sylvia Plath
  6. John Steinbeck
  7. Herta Muller
  8. Maya Angelou
  9. Vladimir Nabakov
  10. Susan Sontag
  11. Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  12. Alice Walker
  13. Saul Bellow
  14. Terry Pratchett
  15. Toni Morrison

And look, that’s not to say there’s anything wrong with William Golding (Lord of the Flies is still one of my favourite books), nor is it to say I won’t always love The Importance of Being Ernest because, of course, I will. No one can take away the joy of Midnight’s Children, it’s just that having read 100 Year of Solitude and The Master and Margarita puts it into perspective with similarly wonderful novels. Tolkien, Stoker and Twain shaped by childhood and early adulthood but, while I appreciate those foundations I’m not willing to stay a child.

So what of those who stayed? Steinbeck comes to mind easily given America’s current interesting times. His views seem more pressing than Twain’s somehow, although perhaps I just don’t remember Twain as clearly. Pratchett is one I come back to again and again – I still haven’t read everything of his that I want to, and he gives easy but meaningful talking points. I re-live his comments on Vimesian economics every Winter when my boots wear through. He’s not perfect by any means, but he has enough good points that are easy enough to read that I forgive him anything annoying.

A new collection of works by some new favourite authors (and a couple of old favourites). One should never judge a book by its cover but the difference and range of colour pallets between the first list and the second is striking.

I’m a little wary about this list too. The newcomers are all writers I discovered in the last 5 years (I know, what was I doing for the first 22, right?). Heck, I only read Toni Morrison last week. Perhaps if I re-visit this list in another 5 I’ll sneer at my past self again. Actually, I kind of hope so. I hope that I keep reading more and more interesting things from a wider and more diverse set of authors. One glaring omission here is poetry. I recently read some Dylan Thomas but I’m forced to admit it didn’t make the impression I expected. On the other hand, I’ve not read enough of Eliot for him to make the list but what I have read, I’ve loved. Maybe he’ll show up in the future, or maybe I’ll find someone else even more exciting.

For me, reading is a part of personal growth. Like all areas of life, it’s too easy to get stuck in a rut. To keep doing the same, comfortable, easy things you’ve always done out of convenience, laziness or even fear. I don’t want that. At 27 it’s hard to pretend that I’m not an adult but that doesn’t mean that I’m finished.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some reading to do.

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