1. Stephen King tops the list because, when I was a senior in high school, someone I knew was cleaning out her library and sold me first edition hardbacks of most of his early work (Carrie through It) for $0.50 apiece. I’ve added to the collection since then. I also have the illustrated Plume Book Club editions of the first four volumes of the Dark Tower series. He’s the only author who rates two complete bookshelves in my very small apartment library.
2. J.R.R. Tolkien is second because I just have a lot of his work. I have two copies of LOTR: The groovy 1970s boxed set that was read to me as a child, and which no one is allowed to touch; and an indexed hardback version I use for reading. I also have The Silmarillion, The 2-volume Book of Lost Tales, Unfinished Tales, and The Tolkien Reader, a collection of his poems and essays.
3. Ernest Hemingway, surprisingly, is third. I have a ton of his novels. The Hemingway books I go back to are For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Moveable Feast, a series of vignettes about his life in Paris in the 20s. For Whom the Bell Tolls contains perhaps the greatest single chapter of fiction in all of 20th Century American literature, and I consider A Moveable Feast to be Hemingway’s finest work.
4. Neil Gaiman may actually be third. I didn’t really count, but I know some of these books are actually Diana’s, so I just put him in as #4. I have both of his short story collections, Coraline, electronic versions of the entire Sandman Series, both American Gods novels, and Stardust. I’ve read Neverwhere and The Ocean at the End of the Lane (which I recommend), but don’t own them at the moment.
5. Jasper Fforde makes the list because I fell in love with his Thursday Next series a couple of years ago and either bought or downloaded them all. I enjoy his brand of humor and his meta-fictional approach to these novels. They’re quick reads, and they are worth it.
6. Roger Zelazny‘s Chronicles of Amber and Second Chronicles of Amber are important reads if you want to understand the fantasy genre — especially the development of low fantasy. I have both in two hardbound editions, and it adds up to 9 or 10 novels, all told. I’m counting each novel separately, just to get him on the list.
7. Fritz Leiber is just as important as Zelazny, but in a different way. I have all his Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser novels in hardback, as well. If I ever find time to write more about books, I’ll certainly dive into them for some blog posts. They are extremely problematic, and ahead of their time. Popular fantasy would be entirely different if not for these books.
8. C.S. Lewis should probably rank higher. I have his Narnia series and several of his more overt tracts. I’ve read all of his fiction and most of his Christian apologetics. I ended up with copies of many of them, though I haven’t actually turned a page of Lewis’ work in more than a decade.
9. Flannery O’Connor is here because I am sure I have all her short stories and both her novels. She’s the best writer on the list, in my mind. She’d be #1 if her work didn’t fit into so few volumes. I consciously collected every word she ever published when I was in my late 20s.
10. Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman are the co-authors of the first few novels in the Dragonlance series. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read the first two Dragonlance Trilogies (Chronicles and Legends), despite the fact that they are some of the most poorly-edited published novels I’ve ever encountered. They’re just what you want in pulp fantasy. TSR turned the franchise into a money pump, and it really went downhill when they did, but Weiss and Hickman have a fantastic command of basic storytelling. The characters in the first six novels have real relationships, and when Dragonlance characters die, it actually makes you sad.
- I own e-book versions of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series, so he should probably be on the list, but I just couldn’t bring myself to bump Flannery O’Connor to the Honorable Mention category.
- I also own all of Frank Herbert’s Dune series.
- If This were a list of authors I’ve read the most of, Terry Pratchett would be #2 behind Stephen King. I spent an entire summer reading his books from the library, and I’ve not regretted that time at all. Louis L’Amour would also make that list. My father was a voracious reader of westerns when I was an adolescent, and I may have read every novel Louis ever wrote during my middle school/high school years.
- The only reason Elmore Leonard isn’t on the list is because I had a couple of years of poverty just as was really discovering him, and checked out most of his books from the library rather than buying them.