My bookgroup celebrated its 10th anniversary this week. The topic for this month was 10. So I decided to look at my favourite ten fiction authors and their first and tenth fiction books. Five of the authors were amongst my favourite authors in 2001 and the other 5 are amongst my favourites in 2011. My aim was to see if each author improved with every book, whether they were they consistently good and whether or not they managed to sustain my interest. I am listing the authors in alphabetical order not in order of preference.
1st title: The House of Spirits (loved it) 10th title: City of Beasts (I have not read this title)
I remember falling in love with the intricate lives that Allende wrote about. Her books were like a perfume that I could sense when I would sit and read but by the time Paula (let alone City of Beasts) was released I was no longer interested in reading more of Allende’s books.
1st title: Future Perfect 10th title: The Kissing Game (I haven’t read either of these titles)
The first Brockmann book I recall reading was Prince Joe (her 8th book) and she quickly became an autobuy author. I discovered her Tall, Dark & Dangerous series (Silhouette) and then became completely taken by her Troubleshooters series which are full of action, shooting, nefarious terrorist plots and lurve. It’s like watching/reading Team America sans the crass humour. However, as much as I enjoy her books I have not felt compelled to buy any books since Into the Fire and I am now happy to wait to borrow a library copy.
1st title: Generation X (loved it) 10th title: Eleanor Rigby (I have not read this title)
I read Generation X within months of its release and it was like a revelation. It was modern, it was disinterested, it was wry and I was in love with Coupland. Life After God, for years, was a favourite book yet my interest waned rapidly after reading Polaroids from the Dead (non-fiction) and I have not been tempted to read Eleanor Rigby.
1st title: Manhunting (I have not read this book) 10th title: Crazy for You (A great read)
I enjoyed this book, stalker, Quinn, Nick and all. The first Crusie title I read was Charlie All Night which I reread every few years (and still enjoy). Crusie’s sharp, biting dialogue is fun and her characters’ relationships and friendships make me want to be friends with them. My personal favourites are Welcome to Temptation (11th title), Bet Me (14th title) and Agnes and the Hitman – co-written with Bob Mayer (15th title). I feel that these 3 titles set the contemporary romance literature benchmark.
1st title: In Evil Hour (I have not read this book) 10th title: there is no 10th novel (I could cheat and count his novellas but I won’t)
I have a shameful secret. I know that in the early 90’s I read (and re-read) both 100 Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. I recall waxing lyrical about them to a guy I was interested in and I saw it as a “sign” that he then read them and we went out and, over dinner, spent a night discussing them both. Both my copies are dog-eared and marked. Now here is the shameful part. I cannot for the life of me recall anything whatsoever about the books (except that I loved them at the time). I could have chosen a different fave author to include, one whose works I did remember. But I chose to include Marquez because I don’t think his books resonated with me the way I initially thought they had.
1st title: Simply Irresistible (enjoyed it) 10th title: I’m in No Mood for Love (loved it)
I read I’m in No Mood for Love before Simply Irresistible. Having read, and loved, several of Gibson’s titles I tracked down her backlist and read through them all. I thoroughly enjoyed them. I’m in No Mood for Love also stands out for me because it was a rare romance that I recommended for my husband to read and he too enjoyed it. Simply Irresistible was good and fun but I didn’t recommend it to my husband….(which is telling in itself).
1st title: Setting Free the Bears 10th title: The Fourth Hand (I have not read either of these books)
I remember watching the movie of The World According to Garp and my sister and I pooling our money together to buy the book. And we both loved it. We continued to read as many of Irving’s books as we could find. And I particularly recall thinking that A Prayer for Owen Meany was a powerful tale. However, by the time A Son of the Circus was released, once again, my interest had waned.
1st novel: The Joke (a great read) 10th title: there is no 10th novel (though there are a number of short stories)
This is another author adoration that I had due to needing to read the book of a movie that I loved. And as wonderful as The Unbearable Lightness of Being was on film, the book far surpasses it. Yet, it is The Farewell Party remains my favourite of all Kundera’s books.
1st title: The Copeland Bride (I have not read this book) 10th title: Nobody’s Baby But Mine (An enjoyable read)
I love that Susan Elizabeth Phillips (SEP) creates unlikeable characters whose actions are awful and yet by the end of the book you want them to have a happy outcome. This is particularly true in Nobody’s Baby but Mine in which the heroine tricks the (sports) hero into impregnating her for she decides that she wants to have a child that is not bright. Her stereotypes and deception grate yet I love the complex relationships SEP builds and reconciles. I feel that she is another benchmark romance author. I look at her list of published titles and though her earlier books were good, her Chicago Bears series are outstanding and it is her 17th title, Match Me If You Can, that is my favourite of all her books.
1st title: Splendid (I have not read this book) 10th title: An Offer from a Gentleman (A lovely, sad Cinderella story)
Up until a year ago, I had no interest in reading historical romances. I didn’t mind historical fiction or fiction that was contemporary when it was published but now is historical (ie, Jane Austen) but, I’ll admit, books where women swooned over dukes, earls, or barons left me cold. I decided to overcome my biases and started with a very early Julia Quinn novel that did not grab me at all. I then read When He Was Wicked and fell in love. By the time I read An Offer from a Gentleman I was hooked and just as I was tiring of the 8 book Bridgerton series, the last book On the Way to the Wedding had me on the edge of my seat anticipating how the relationship issues were going to be resolved. And this book was 5 after her 10th title! Simply gold!
The thing that stands out more than anything else is that my reading tastes have changed markedly over the last 20 years. 20 years ago I was reading predominately literary fiction or non-fiction smattered with some category romances and the occasional romance. I devoured classic literature and loved to read conceptual modern fiction too. By the late 1990’s I felt exhausted by the constant search for the meaning of life and (for the most part) stopped reading literary fiction. Time has yet to test whether I’ll feel the same way about my current favourites (though to be fair Jennifer Crusie and Suzanne Brockmann have been faves for over a decade already). But what I do find interesting is that most literary authors’ strongest novels are at the beginning of their writing life whereas it seems that the inverse is true for the romance authors I have listed above. Where I may have enjoyed their first few books, it is their subsequent publications that have drawn me in and hooked me as an avid fangirl.
Obviously, I am biased. I love reading romance novels so it is impossible for me to be objective. However, I was a fan of literary fiction for a lot longer and much earlier in my youth. And why do I think my reading preferences changed? I think I might leave that question for another blog post.