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Playing Favourites

January 15, 2013

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Ever since this post of Amanda’s, in which she mentions that some book bloggers and starting “projects to read the works of a single literary giant,” I’ve been coveting a literary giant of my very own (she chose Trollope, by the way). I’ve been mulling it over my head, weighing the advantages of choosing an older, native-English author who would thus be entirely in public domain and nook-ready without any translation concerns versus my own interest in more diverse, international, and obscure authors. Maybe I should choose two, I pondered, thus having the best of both worlds.

And then I realised, I’ve already adopted authors. Isn’t that what having favourite authors is all about? I’m working my way through their back lists and canons, getting to know them better, and rejoicing when the contemporary ones release a new book (and 2013 is a marvelous year for that).

I don’t want in any way to belittle those who undertaking formal projects to read all of an author. It’s a marvelous aim, and I imagine one that’s rewarding on multiple levels. But as for me, I think I’ll stick with my informal approach. Over the past few years, I’ve been shifting my focus more and more from trying out new authors to reading more of authors I already know. And 2013 has really seen the culmination of that: so far, of the eight fiction books I’ve read, they’ve all been by authors I’ve read and loved in the past (I’m almost done with The Mysteries of Udolpho, though, so Ann Radcliffe will be my first new author of the year). I used to love reading broadly, trying to read as many different author nationalities as I could, dipping into every genre and style, enjoying the whole smorgasbord of literature. Now I get to reap the benefits of that experience by narrowing in on authors I love who still represent a wide variety of time periods, ethnic groups, nationalities, and genres. And as much I’ve tried over the past week, I can’t choose between them. I want to read the complete works of all of them.

I feel fortunate indeed that I’ve adopted so many authors that to name them all would result in a list that would have your eyes glazing over. I’ve also adopted regions, historical eras, literary styles, nonfiction topics and even some publishers/imprints. That’s what my Assembling My Atheneum series profiles, and I find myself suddenly wanting to make it a fortnightly feature instead of a monthly one.

And who knows? Perhaps in a few months, I’ll decide on one (or two) authors who I’d like to focus on even more intently for a while. But for now, I shall be like the old woman in the shoe, with so many favourites I don’t know what to do. Except to keep reading, of course. ;)

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. Steve permalink
    January 15, 2013 7:19 am

    Eight fiction books already this year??? I’m so jealous! I’m still reading my first ( The Devil I Know, by Claire Kilroy).

  2. Dana permalink
    January 15, 2013 8:13 am

    Ha! Loved this line “But for now, I shall be like the old woman in the shoe, with so many favourites I don’t know what to do”….so very true. I am trying to read some of my favorite authors this year as well. I’ve gotten to where almost all of my books are new to me authors. Great post, Eva!

    • January 18, 2013 7:39 pm

      I was at that point in 2010, so I completely understand! I’ve definitely benefited from adding my favourites back into the mix. :)

  3. January 15, 2013 9:52 am

    “I’ve been coveting a literary giant of my very own” <—That totally made me giggle! :)

    But I understand what you mean about it being too hard to narrow down. I, too, think it's a neat idea, but it's hard to actually follow through when you're greedy. :P Heather put on one of my happiness project lists–"Read everything by your favorite author." Now I love this task…but at the same time, I've agonized for over a year so far as to who my favorite author is. I want to complete the task, but I just can't seem to decide whom to choose…

    • January 18, 2013 7:41 pm

      “But I want a literary giant noooow, Daddy!” said in a Veruca Salt voice. ;)

      That is a tricky task from Heather! Maybe add the phrase “one of” to it & your decision will be easier!

  4. January 15, 2013 10:19 am

    Somehow I often find myself thinking “I want to read everything he/she ever write!” but never fullfiling the fantasy, or at least not imminently.Elizabeth von Arnim and E.M. Foster come to mind often and everytime I read something by them I feel the same, only a little more guilty that I didn’t actually commit. I just get distracted by everything else!

  5. January 15, 2013 10:52 am

    There is just so many excellent authors to explore! If I started a list of authors whose oeuvres I would like to read I’m afraid it would become unwieldy! I have a few authors though in the back of my mind that I would like to explore further than I have, and others that I have read almost all of their books. It would be interesting to look at ASByatt or Margaret Atwood’s bilibiography, for instance, because I suspect I could finish them off with only a few titles apiece. I fear to go too deeply in that direction though because I’ve already got lists and also lists of lists.

    • January 18, 2013 7:42 pm

      Byatt & Atwood are both on my ‘read everything’ list! And I’ve been reading them both since high school, so I’m getting there. :) I understand feeling buried in lists!

  6. January 15, 2013 12:15 pm

    I once took a course on Nabokov and as part of the class we read almost every one of his books and it ended up being somewhat monotonous. Sure now I feel like I can recognize Nabokovian prose in my sleep but I found myself yearning to listen to another style. I feel like to truly enjoy something is to savor it-slowly taking it all in whether it takes a week with a box of truffles or my entire life with an author. I admire people who make reading every book by their author in a year a goal but I have to wonder whether they enjoy the books as much as the delight I take in immersing myself in my favorite after a desert of other authors. I’ve always preferred to read variety and so I’m always thrilled that most of my favorite authors are still alive and thus I can continually dip back and forth into their distinct styles.

    • January 18, 2013 7:43 pm

      That is an excellent point Teresa! I never took lit classes in college, so I didn’t experience that, but I do tend to want to read an author’s work on a long-term basis, maybe 1-2 a year unless I feel a craving for more.

  7. January 15, 2013 12:51 pm

    As usual, I share Teresa’s feelings, with the added emphasis of having been required to read deeply into some periods and authors during graduate school. As a blogger, I shy away from anything resembling work.

  8. January 15, 2013 9:07 pm

    There are definitely authors, classic and contemporary, whose complete works I’d like to read someday–just as you said, that’s what having favorite authors is about. I’m close to having read all of Kate Atkinson and Sarah Waters, and I’ve read of all what I think most would consider Thomas Hardy’s major works and planning to move on to the minor ones this year. And I’m two novels away from having read all the Brontes’ novels. It’s nice to do that, but as with most reading projects, I find that I’m happiest if I take my sweet time about it. For my favorites, I like to be sure the timing is right so I can really enjoy them.

    • January 18, 2013 7:44 pm

      I’m close to Waters too! Just have The Night Watch left. :) & there are several authors who don’t have that many books (inc Jane Austen) & who I’ve thus ‘completed.’ But I’m actually usually a bit sad about that, especially if they’re dead! Of course, there’s always rereading.

  9. January 16, 2013 9:36 am

    I’m with you, there are very few authors I’ve read their ENTIRE work, but I have a ton of favorites.

    • January 18, 2013 7:45 pm

      I would guess there are at least 10 authors whose entire works I’ve read, maybe 20, but that’s because some contemporary authors only have 3 books out, which seems a bit like cheating. And of course I don’t count it when an author’s only published 1! ;)

  10. January 16, 2013 11:42 am

    I like to read an author’s back-list though it always takes a while (and for the most part I haven’t got there yet). I can’t imagine focusing like that, though.

  11. January 17, 2013 10:15 am

    I always leave a few of my favourite writers unread then have something for rainy day or when I m older to read ,all the best stu

    • January 18, 2013 7:45 pm

      I like to save something too! I used to save waaay more, but then I realised if, God forbid, something happened and I never got to finish reading them I’d be kicking myself.

  12. January 17, 2013 7:51 pm

    I always think I’m going to do a project of reading all the books by a single author, and I don’t think I’ve ever done it. As a reading project, I mean. There are authors whose entire oeuvre I’ve read because I love them so much and I wanted to put all of their words into my brain as quickly as possible. And I also do the same thing Stu does, where I save out a book by a beloved author so I will have something to look forward to.

  13. January 27, 2013 7:11 pm

    I’ve been following all these posts and debating doing some sort of project myself…but I’m not sure that I want to make another commitment right now. Nor am I sure I’d actually follow through. Then I see your post here, and the idea of focusing on favorite authors is so tempting! So many books, so little time.

  14. boardinginmyforties permalink
    January 29, 2013 2:39 pm

    It’s nice to have variety. I go back and forth between trying to dip into all kinds of books to focusing only on non-fiction books on a particular topic. I’m pretty ADD with my reading habits!

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