Who Do You Love?

Twitter is a recent obsession. I signed up for an account, and bing! I was a guest on the edge of a fascinating party filled with witty, informed people sending zingers back and forth. Sometimes the other guests even talk to me. Intoxicating.

But my first love was books, and to books I shall always return. Tweeted bons mots last a few minutes on the screen, but books linger in the mind, whether you want them to or not.

Though the inspiration for this post was Susan Orlean’s Twitter hashtag #booksthatchangedmyworld, I am always keeping a list of authors (especially novelists) I wish would write just a little faster.

For some on my list, it’s too late (Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Laurie Colwin, Carol Shields). However, there’s always rereading–a particularly delicious exercise in certain cases because you can feel virtuous for revisiting The Classics while also settling into the company of old, much-missed friends.

So who’s on my list of go-to book authors?

(In no particular order)

Jane Austen: I can never get enough of Emma or Pride and Prejudice. A quirky favorite is Northanger Abbey, complete with satire at the expense of readers of Gothic novels–the best-selling thrillers of the age.

Shakespeare: Okay, perhaps I overstate by including old Will. In my imagination, I read a lot of Shakespeare. In reality, it can be a chore to haul out my college copy of the Riverside Shakespeare, which is far from light reading, in any sense of the word. But I do love Shakespeare–especially Hamlet, As You Like It and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. So Shakespeare stays on the list.

Meg Wolitzer: Surrender, Dorothy to The Ten-Year Nap, the “mature” novels (the only ones I’ve read) are so astute. Her mother, Hilma Wolitzer (The Doctor’s Daughter) is also a go-to novelist.

Nick Hornby: Who doesn’t like Nick Hornby? He’s the male writer women like to read. I read Juliet, Naked in a trice, and then it was gone, all gone!

Elinor Lipman: Elinor Lipman is, to me, a contemporary Jane Austen. I know that comparison gets bandied about a lot. But she generally includes at least one romantic relationship per book and has a lovely way with conversation. She writes comedies; her characters live happily ever after, but they often take the long way around to their ultimate contented conclusions.

Laurie Colwin: She wrote for Gourmet (another much-missed source of good writing), and her food columns were collected in Home Cooking and More Home Cooking. My favorite novel of hers is probably A Big Storm Knocked It Over. I especially like to read the book, which centers on two dear women friends who marry and have babies, when I’ve been pregnant; she captures all the poignant, odd feelings of having someone inside you. Like everyone who reads her, I am sometimes struck with sadness that she is gone.

Carol Shields: Another in the category of novelists cut down too soon (age 68, in 2003), Carol Shields depicted her characters with incredible compassion and humanity. Almost effortlessly, she’ll make you cry. Her final book, Unless, is great for that, and for driving home the unfortunate truth that our children grow up and away.

Tom Perrotta: Author of the books-made-into-movies Election and Little Children, he somehow tricks you into sympathizing with some vile characters. Or just ordinarily difficult people you can’t imagine yourself liking. But in the end, you do.

Sadly, I’ve got a few authors to whom I’ll give short shrift, and they don’t deserve it. This post is getting a bit long, however, so I’ll just mention: Cathleen Schine (The Three Weissmanns of Westport) and Allegra Goodman (Intuition). On my guilty-pleasure pusher list, which is longer than I care to admit, I acknowledge the gratifyingly prolific Joanna Trollope (Second Honeymoon).

Which authors do you read over and over? Whose books are your guilty pleasures?

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8 responses to “Who Do You Love?

  1. Excellent list! My list covers most of yours, and includes David Lodge and Laurie Notaro, Ann Patchett (whom I met in March!), and… At the moment I’m mentally scanning my bookshelf, which, as you saw this weekend, is a bit out of order. I’m sure I’ll come up with more as the day progresses.

    A tip about your Riverside edition: cut the individual plays out and staple together. They’ll easily slip back into the binding when you’re done reading. It sounds like blasphemy to do such a thing to a book, but my college Shakespeare prof, the estimable Dr. Richard Knowles, told us to do so or risk a hernia toting the tome up Bascom Hill every Tuesday and Thursday. Brilliant man. Wise suggestion.

    • David Lodge. How could I forget David Lodge? And, indeed, I am overdue to reread Small World and the rest of his oeuvre. Interesting idea about cutting up the ol’ Riverside edition, but I don’t think I could bring myself to do it. Better to buy used paperback copies of my favorite plays for easy (or easier) reading.

  2. Deanna Dalrymple

    This is an excellent list and inspiring. I can never get enough Jane Austen–movies or reading! Love your blog.

  3. Jane Smiley. Jane Austen. Barbara Kingsolver (fiction, anyway). Suzanne Finnamore (more books, please, Suzanne!)

    • People keep telling me to read Barbara Kingsolver and I keep failing to follow through. Maybe it’s time to make another attempt. I’ve only read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle–which was terrific.

  4. Just printed out your recommended authors, along with those of your commenters. To the library I go!

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