“A book is a door, you know. Always and forever. A book is a door into another place and another heart and another world.”
- J.R.R. Tolkien. Because he created this entire world, complete with its own mythology, its own languages, its own society, its own geography, and he spent his life doing that. He lived Middle-earth. I think that’s every writer’s dream.
- Terry Pratchett. The Discworld series is simultaneously funny and serious, sarcastic and humane, fantastical and true. It’s parody without cruelty. Its surface flippancy, its fascination with bad puns and silly names, conceals a deep concern for humanity and how it works which is faintly optimistic but clear-eyed. All of which is a rather pretentious way of saying that it’s pretty awesome, really.
- Charles Dickens. Kind of similar to what I said about Terry Pratchett. Dickens is funny and often sentimental, but he’s also angry. Plus, he’s really good at telling stories.
- William Shakespeare. Yes, it’s a cliche. But when he’s good, he’s simply sublime. He just gets humanity like no-one else, and he expresses it in language that could set the world on fire if only it would listen.
- John Milton. Another poet. Milton’s verse is incredibly accessible, full of a clarity which is never vulgar, and often, in fact, more expressive and effective than something more obscure and more “poetical” might be.
- Marisha Pessl. I’ve only read two books by her (because she hasn’t written any others), but both were clever and street-smart and simply fascinating experiences. I sincerely hope she continues to write many, many books, and I shall rush out and buy them ALL.
- Mervyn Peake. His imagination is astonishing, and his prose is lovely. The Gormenghast trilogy is absolutely one of my favourite books ever (though I seem to overlook it more often than it deserves), and it’s just a shame there isn’t any more of it around.
- David Mitchell. Hopeful, imaginative, thrilling stories about humanity and its resilience. Even when he writes SFF, it’s more about the people than about the ideas.
- Audrey Niffenegger. I really, thoroughly enjoyed both The Time Traveler’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry. Again, they’re technically SFF novels which focus more on the people and the characters than on the setting and the ideas. They feel real.
- Catherynne Valente. Her stories are just beautiful, fairytales with enough darkness and enough folklore worked into them to make them feel true without being hidebound or blinkered or gratuitously manipulative.
(The theme for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)