Fifteen writers

The Rules: Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen authors who’ve influenced you and will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Play if you want to play.

Here are my fifteen. I’ve taken ‘authors’ to include novelists, poets, and non-fiction writers. You don’t necessarily have to, though.

  • Jane Austen: Again and again you go back – to all the books – and you’re delighted and awed. I like Persuasionbest, although Mansfield Park has absorbed me most.
  • Chris Boucher: Instilled in me at a very early age a deep of love of awesome dialogue. And then broke my heart.
  • TS Eliot: My head pops and fizzes when I read Eliot. Yes, this is what words should do.
  • Sylvia Engdahl: Her two YA novels (Enchantress from the Stars and The Far Side of Evil) gave me a girl lead and first made me think sociologically.
  • Hans-Georg Gadamer: He made me think about truth. And method. And helped me understand how I understand the world.
  • Emma Goldman: She’s fabulous and right.
  • Isabeau of Greenlea: Dear partner-in-crime.
  • Tove Jansson: Moomins! Melancholy! Tiny anarchists! And her grown-up stuff turns out to be brilliant too.
  • Brendan Kennelly: Poet of varied vernacular voices.
  • John Le Carré: Secretly I want to write books like these when I grow up.
  • Ursula Le Guin: Opened world upon world for me. Courage and encouragement.
  • Francine Prose: This is mostly for her inspirational book on writing, Reading Like A Writer, although I’ve liked the handful of her novels I’ve read too.
  • Marilynne Robinson: Sentence for sentence probably the best prose I’ve read.
  • Gitta Sereny: Brilliant biographer of Albert Speer and nemesis of David Irving. Deserves the Nobel Prize for Literature.
  • JRR Tolkien: The lens through which I read the world. Best beloved.
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One Response to Fifteen writers

  1. Sarah AB says:

    I can never resist this kind of thing – I wasn’t quite sure how to take ‘influence’ though. I’m a bit surprised there are no sf writers on the list – but I think in some ways the sf which most influenced me were anthologies I read as a child and I no longer remember the authors. If you like Tolkien you’ll probably find this interesting.

    George Orwell – more for Wigan Pier than for 1984 – triggered an interest in politics.

    Betty Friedan – rather similarly, Friedan (more than some more obvious writers like Greer) triggered an interest in feminism.

    Ovid – I discovered Ovid when I was doing my MA – did my PhD on him – and am still working on him 20 years later, though other projects have intervened sometimes!

    Jane Austen – my favourite novelist – particularly Mansfield Park.

    T.S. Eliot – perhaps I wouldn’t have put him down without reading your own list – but you’re right. It’s also something to do with having first read him when young – makes him stick in the mind more.

    Stephen Hinds – my favourite literary critic, I think, and one who has had a shaping influence on how I think about texts.

    Georgette Heyer – I keep on rereading her in a way I do no other novelist – and I don’t even like romantic novels usually!

    Milton – another one I keep going back to – there’s always something there in PL I hadn’t spotted before.

    Shakespeare – same.

    Susan Cooper – started thinking about childhood favourites – and The Dark is Rising comes high on the list.

    Diana Wynne Jones – ditto – and I return to her more than Cooper (partly because she is more prolific) – and have strong memories of first discovering her works.

    Agatha Christie – because she’s another writer I discovered as a child and love returning to – very clever and satisfying despite not being as good a writer as say Sayers.

    Christopher Isherwood – I went through a phase of reading all his works and found my way to many other writers (eg Auden) through him.

    Marcel Proust – although I usually prefer writers with a bit more narrative drive I do find myself thinking about bits of ROTP quite often – the ideas stick in the mind.

    Frank Furedi – partly because I (usually) like what he has to say about HE, but perhaps mostly because searching out his online journalism (at Spiked) was really, for better or worse, my introduction to the blogosphere where I now spend an excessive amount of time.

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