On Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne JonesI first discovered Diana Wynne Jones through the adaptation of her book Howl’s Moving Castle by the well-known film company Studio Ghibli. I love the film and the book, and the two other books she wrote that tie into that world. Since finding her work, I’ve become more interested in her as an artist. Perhaps this may be partly influenced by stories told about her by other authors I like, such as Neil Gaiman who wrote about her and how he first met her. I don’t know why, but I’ll never forget that little story (if you want to know about it, you can read it in his book A View From the Cheap Seats).

I read her book Reflections: On the Magic of Writing which is almost more a memoir than a book about the craft, which suited me just fine. I learned more about her, which made me want to learn even more about her. One thing that really stuck out to me was that she had both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as professors when she attended Oxford. Her thoughts on both of them were amusing to be honest. She had an interesting childhood though tough at times. Her wonder for the world never diminished despite living through darker moments of human history (primarily referencing World War II here). Her stories are skillfully written but are often marketed to children. I think she wrote them for children, but I think they have something for everyone, especially for adults who have forgotten the wonder they once held for the world.

I hope to introduce or read her stories to my children. They are magical and wholesome. I’m curious how my reading habits would have been different had I discovered her books earlier. I was probably mid-twenties when I first found them. Now that I have, I can return to them when needed so as to (hopefully) never lose my own sense of wonder in the whirlwind of adult responsibilities. I am grateful to have the opportunity. I am grateful she wrote her stories and let them out into the world. I’m sure she has impacted more lives than she could have dreamed possible. Diana Wynne Jones passed away in 2011 at the age of 77. Her works will likely live on for a long time. Much longer than my own lifetime at least, because once you discover a book that nestles its way into your heart, it will remain there forever to bring you comfort and joy. My hope is that you give her work a chance if you have not done so already. Of course, I suggest starting with Howl’s Moving Castle. 

On Gene Wolfe

Gene WolfeI first discovered Gene Wolfe through one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, who wrote about Gene in a collection of nonfiction called A View From the Cheap Seats. I had not yet read any of Gene’s work when he passed away in 2019. His passing prompted me to finally read his work and I started with his more popular work The Book of the New SunIt was through this four book saga that I grew to love his writing. I later picked up a collection of short fiction title The Best of Gene Wolfe and I knew that he was going to become a favorite of mine.

His writing is unique in a way that seems to tell a story that is just a glimpse into a larger universe vastly different from our own (or perhaps in a very different time than our own). The Fifth Head of Cerberus is a great example of this and is a short story that can be found in the collection mentioned above or in other collections. Though this is something that I really enjoy about his writing, I can see how it could put others off of it because there are many instances where the reader may feel like they don’t know much of what is happening though the characters do because they are inhabitants of that universe. Much is inferred from his prose and perhaps that is one aspect that draws me to it. There is a mystery that can unravel the more attention to give it, but it will never quite reveal itself to you in its entirety.

As a gift to myself (as a reward for losing weight and getting healthier0, I recently purchased a Folio Society print of The Book of the New Sun which is a beautiful edition and includes an introduction by Neil Gaiman himself.

It’s a little difficult to discuss how his work has impacted me because, much like his stories, it touches on aspects that I am not overtly certain of myself. I don’t have any personal stories in relation to him or his work like other authors in this series. I simply enjoy his work. I wish I had known about him and his work earlier then perhaps I would have such stories. From what little I do know, he seemed like a down-to-earth guy who enjoyed life and sharing joy. I will likely learn much more about him as an author the more I delve into his stories. All I can really say is that I look forward to reading more of his work and likely rereading it for his work has aspects that I hope to one day instill in my own writing.

An Alphabet of Authors

Inspired by @WS_Bookclub’s post of alphabetical fantasy authors. I decided to do an Alphabet of Authors myself. These are authors I have read and I was surprised to see several gaps in letters, so please give me some recommendations if you know of any.

I made this list mainly by perusing my bookshelf so it may very well be incomplete. I’ve also only added the authors whose work I have enjoyed (of course) because I figured you may want to read them if you haven’t yet. If you want a specific book recommendation for any of these authors, peruse my list of recommendations I have posted here. Anyway, here we go:

An alphabet of authors (by last name)

A – Douglas Adams with Honorable Mentions: Isaac Asimov, Margaret Atwood, Ryunosuke Akutagawa

B – Ray Bradbury with Honorable Mentions: Edgar Rice Burroughs

C – Ted Chiang with Honorable Mentions: Orson Scott Card, Raymond Carver, Albert Camus, Ernest Cline

D – Philip K. Dick with Honorable Mentions: Emily Dickinson, Anthony Doerr, Alexandre Dumas

E – Cary Elwes with Honorable Mention: Matthew Eck

F – Raymond E. Feist with Honorable Mentions: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Carrie Fisher, Victor Frankl

G – Neil Gaiman with Honorable Mentions: William Gibson, Arthur Golden, Helene A. Guerber, The Brothers Grimm, Malcolm Gladwell

H – Frank Herbert with Honorable Mentions: Robert Heinlein, Joe Haldeman, Aldous Huxley

I – Dave Itzkoff with Honorable Mention: Kazuo Ishiguro

J – Robert Jordan with Honorable Mention: Diana Wynne Jones

K – Stephen King with Honorable Mention: Franz Kafka

L – Ursula K. Le Guin with Honorable Mentions: Stanislaw Lem, Ann Leckie, Tom Lloyd

M – John Marco with Honorable Mentions: David Mitchell, Cormac McCarthy

N – Garth Nix with Honorable Mentions: Phong Nguyen, Patrick Ness

O – George Orwell with Honorable Mentions: Joyce Carol Oates, Nnedi Okorafor

P – Terry Pratchett with Honorable Mentions: Gary Paulson, Robert M. Pirsig, Gareth L. Powell, Edgar Allen Poe

Q – Recommendations Please (I do want to read Matthew Quick’s Silver Linings Playbook)

R – Patrick Rothfuss with Honorable Mentions: Ayn Rand, J.K. Rowling

S – Antione de Saint-Exupery with Honorable Mentions: V.E. Schwab, Snorri Sturluson

T – J.R.R. Tolkien with Honorable Mention: Karen Traviss

U – Recommendations Please

V – Kurt Vonnegut

W – Tobias Wolff with Honorable Mentions: Gene Wolfe, Martha Wells, Danny Wallace, and Andy Weir

X – Recommendations Please

Y – Recommendations Please (I do want to read Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life)

Z – Yevgeny Zamyatin with Honorable Mention: Timothy Zahn

11 Authors I Want to Read

It is very easy for me to add books to my TBR list based on recommendations or summaries or even book covers (never discredit a book by its cover, but definitely try one because of it). However, I’ve had a small list growing of authors whose names I either keep hearing or who I’ve seen/followed on social media whose works I want to eventually read. So instead of making a TBR list of books I want to read, I’ve made a list of authors who I want to read.

I’ll be honest, some of these authors I have no real idea what they are best known to have written or even what they even write about. I’ve come to know their name and I’m interested in their work because of either them as a person intrigues me or the discourse regarding their work does. Let’s begin.

Octavia Butler

Apparently today would have been Octavia Butler’s 73rd birthday. I’ve seen her name pop up here and there likely because she wrote science fiction which is one of my main areas of interest. Her name is all over social media today and prompted this post because she has been on my list of authors to read for a few years.

N.K. Jemisin

N.K. Jemisin has been on my list for the past year or two. I first saw her book The Fifth Season and was intrigued but never got around to reading it. It has been on my TBR for some time, but Jemison herself has become someone I’m interested in and I hope I will like her work. I hear her new book, The City We Became, is really good.

Adrian Tchaikovsky

I’m not sure where I first heard of Adrian Tchaikovsky. I think it was in relation to another author I was following, but I remember hearing about one or two of his books (which I can’t remember) and was intrigued.

Myke Cole

Myke Cole’s book The Armored Saint caught my interest a while back mainly because it had a cool cover. Later on, without realizing, I started following him on Twitter because he has entertaining little feuds with his friend Sam Sykes who is also an author. Of the two, Myke seems the most stable.

Samuel R. Delaney

This one may be a bit surprising since I am a big science fiction fan. Samuel R. Delaney is considered a pretty big name in the field. His name has popped up when authors I like discuss who had inspired them. I have yet to read any of his work but I will eventually.

R.F. Kuang

Another fairly new writer (or should I say younger?) who recently completed her first trilogy. Rebecca’s book The Poppy War has been well received and admittedly is how her name came to be on this list. I actually own The Poppy War but have yet to get around to it.

Jeff Vandermeer

Jeff Vandermeer popped on my radar after a friend took me to see the movie Annihilation which is based on Jeff’s book of the same title. The movie was weird as hell but also interesting enough to make me wonder if the book was different or better (which does happen). I have since heard people rave about his book called Wonderbook which I plan to pick up soon.

Kevin Hearne

Kevin Hearne has an interesting place on this list. I believe I first discovered him on Twitter around the time his book Kill the Farm Boy was releasing. He tweets a lot about cool drinks he makes which is fun. He is also friends with Chuck Wendig who dedicated his book Wanderers to Kevin. Kevin seems like an awesome guy so of course I’ll need to check out his work even though I have a feeling it isn’t particularly what I would normally ready.

Haruki Mirakami

Another bigger name in the literary world that I haven’t yet checked out. Though I just realized that he is an exception to this list as I technically have read something by him. I listened to the audiobook of his memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I haven’t read any of his fiction, so I still count him as an author I still want to read.

Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett is another name that I think is larger than I realize when it comes to writing. I’ve heard her name here and there and recently heard about her book The Getaway Car which is a memoir about life and writing. This will likely be the first book of hers I read since I like reading what writers have to say about writing.

Jose Saramago

I just discovered Saramago a few days ago while reading a collection of essays by Ursula K. Le Guin. I had never heard of him before but he has been added to my list. She spoke about several of his books but Blindness seemed to be the most prevalent in the essay and caught my interest. However, The Stone Raft may usurp it as the first Saramago book I read.

It’s always interesting to me how we find new authors to read. Perhaps you have not heard of some of these authors and may now go look into one of their books. Some of these names I’m sure you have read and may be surprised I have not yet read them. There is so much out there that it is, unfortunately, impossible to read it all, but it’s always great to discover new books and authors. I say read widely and often.

Do you have a specific author you have always planned to read? If so, how did you hear about them? Was it a specific book or some other avenue? Let me know because you may very well be introducing me to someone new and I am always up for discovering new books and authors.

On Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm GladwellI had no idea who Malcolm Gladwell was until I took his MasterClass last year (2019). I have since read every book he has written. I’ve read a handful of articles. Granted, he as been working as a staff writer for the New York Times since 1996, so there are tons of pieces he has written and I doubt I’ll ever read them all. Several have been included in some of his books. I found Mr. Gladwell fascinating. Both as a person and as a writer.

I have not yet tried a podcast, but Gladwell has one titled Revisionist History that I have been wanting to look into. Perhaps it will be my introduction to the world of podcasts. What I enjoy most about his books is the fact that he takes a plethora of historical events, most seemingly unrelated, and blends them together around an encompassing theme. He remains objective throughout his writing and expertly pulls in facts, interviews, and testimonies to deliver a tangible truth for an altered perspective.

I think one key thing his work has done for me is revive my interest in nonfiction. I’d always been interested in certain areas of nonfiction like science, biography, memoir, or history, but Gladwell can blend together historical and current events to show a glimpse of a human truth. His most recent and what I consider most impactful book, Talking to Strangers, is insightful because it delves into how we react to each other as human beings and dares to review what information, however minute, we use to prepare ourselves when interacting with someone for the first time. It shows what split-second information we deem important which reveals a lot about who we are as part of a community.

I mainly read fiction but I have developed the habit of simultaneously reading a work of nonfiction, so I am always reading one work of fiction and one work of nonfiction at any given time. I usually read the fiction books much faster, but I like to continually be working through a book of essays or history or some form of nonfiction so I am learning something new about the world instead of always escaping into other worlds. Gladwell’s works really caught my interest and showed me areas in history I had never heard of before, or discussed current events I had missed or never knew what had actually happened.

I think being an informed citizen is important and getting information extracted from in-depth research is key to this. It is easy to simply read a headline without checking a source and leap onto a soapbox. It is another thing entirely to ensure the information is legitimate and based on fact instead of opinion. It is way too easy to spread ideas because of the internet. You can take this post for example. I’m spreading my opinion of Malcolm Gladwell simply on the basis that I like him and his work. I’m stating my opinion and you are reading this (thank you) because you are interested in either my opinion or Gladwell himself (or both). The “media” has been a hot topic the past several years and the distribution of information has been somewhat discredited, which is frightening because information has power. It can shape the way we think, act, or react. I don’t want to tangent into a rant about what is right or wrong or who should be believed here. All I want to say is that we should all be informed, check the sources, make sure we are not being told a partial narrative (or fabricated one), and try to do what we can to make things better.

I believe Malcolm Gladwell relies on facts and testimonies to bring his desired points across within his work. He doesn’t include his opinion or bias without explicitly stating that he is doing so. This is admirable. Which is why I decided to include Malcolm Gladwell in my On Authors series. He hasn’t written a fictional world I believe to be important. He writes about the real world in an important way. I hope you read his work if you have not already. He has covered a wide range of topics and a few are likely to catch your interest. I look forward to reading more his work myself.