Settle in, Bookwyrms; this is gonna be a long one.
Note: this post is best read via Internet browser rather than the WordPress app, because it includes collages that don’t format as well in the app.
Heather at Froodian Slip participated in this Top 10 meme back in July, and I’ve been letting it percolate in my head ever since. Since this time of year is focused on readerly self-reflection, I decided to take a metaphorical stab at my own Most-Read Authors list.
I wish I could say I had any authors I’ve followed so obsessively that I’d read ANYTHING they wrote (I mean, I wouldn’t not read a computer manual if Seanan McGuire chose to write one…especially if it was narrated by cyber dryad April O’Leary), but even some of my top favorites have written a few stories I’ve been happy to leave in other readers’ wheelhouses. Perhaps I’ll remedy that situation someday (any recs are very welcome)…
Nevertheless, I do have twelve very shout-out-worthy authors in my list. Why Top 12? Because I’m an unrepentantly obsessive Bookwyrm who’s already humming Christmas songs to herself. Anyhoo, to narrow things down a bit, I’m not counting creators of ghostwritten series (sorry, Sweet Valley and BSC). I am, however, including a few authors in their editorial capacity in addition to (or rather than) their self-written books. Don’t ask me how that makes sense.
And so! Here are my…
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Top 12 Most-Read Authors/Editors:
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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: 56 stories, 4 novels (60 texts total)
Yes, I admit it, I got into the Sherlock stories because of Benedict Cumberbatch. I do remember reading “The Red-Headed League” and The Hound of the Baskervilles in high school, but it wasn’t until 2012 that I really dove down the Baker Street rabbit hole.
At present, I own two Barnes and Noble paperback volumes, a single leather-bound volume that I found at a yard sale, the complete Jeremy Brett DVD series, the 1954 Ronald Howard series, and seasons 1-3 of the Benedict Cumberbatch series (season 4 was overly contrived and grimdark AF).
Things I especially loved about the original stories: those moments when Holmes’ sentimental side shows, like when he’s enthralled by a concert or in fear of Watson’s safety. Or the way Doyle occasionally pulls a Udolpho and teases us with something supernatural that turns out to be totally explainable (in a stranger-than-fiction way).
On the other hand, I did thoroughly enjoy a published collection of fanfics called The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, in which the detective solves actual supernatural cases — including one with a very frightening Death Fetch that’s definitely not a perky Toby clone with pastel hair and peasant dresses. I should probably post about that sometime…
But most of all, I love the fact that Irene Adler gets away on her own. Doyle’s femme fatale is no begging damsel; she can absolutely survive more than six months without Sherlock’s protection. Funny how a Victorian series that offed a major female character via barely a footnote still managed to create a better match for Sherlock than a 21st-century TV show.
Noelle Stevenson: 48 comics, 1 graphic novel (49 texts). I’m considering Stevenson at least in an editorial/supervising capacity for some of the comics.
I’ve saluted Stevenson’s Lumberjanes series in general here, as well as a few notable storylines. It’s delightfully progressive To The Max! There are characters of various sexualities and gender identities all having Gravity-Falls-style adventures involving gods, cryptids, kittens, and rogue weather patterns! Lumberjanes deserves every Eisner and GLAAD Award it’s received! On a totally unrelated note,
I have a random, unsubstantiated theory that Stevenson named archery-master Molly after her friend and now wife, Molly Ostertag. Feel free not to quote me on that…
I was also highly amused by Stevenson’s graphic novel Nimona (reviewed here), about a mysterious punk shapeshifter, a not-so-evil scientist, and an obnoxious but ultimately harmless Golden Boy. It’s heartwarming, it’s meta, and it has random sharks!
One of these days, I’m also going to have to check out Stevenson and Ostertag’s She-Ra series on Netflix. I hear it’s even more aww-inspiring.
Bonnie Bryant: I’m roughly estimating at least 35 novels, including the main series, the Super Specials, and the first two Pine Hollow books (~35 texts total)
Behind every horse-crazy 13-year-old is a parent praying the library will be as far as they’ll go with it. I absolutely went through a horse phase in middle school, and besides the ghostwritten Thoroughbred series and my brief subscription to Horse & Rider, this was my favorite way to vicariously live in a barn. To a child of modestly comfortable means, the idea of sustaining a real-life horse hobby was one of the ultimate signs of wealth.
I did attend a very fun day camp one summer, and besides the hilarious stop sign that told drivers to “Woah!”, my favorite part was totally judging the horses by their names. I mean, who wouldn’t long to be paired with a glorious gelding named Sundance rather than a humble Chompy or whatever my partner’s name was? Sorry, Chompy! You were a very good horse!
Anyway, the main series taught me many lessons about responsible horse care, about embracing my limits while finding creative ways around them (one of the recurring characters has cerebral palsy), about how to set up a radio station in a barn, how to escape a rip tide even if I don’t have a trusty steed to save me, and how to let my freak flag fly in the faces of grumpy ice cream conformists (someday I’ll tell you about one of my first Out-of-the-Books Experiences… 😉 ).
The Pine Hollow spinoff, in which the horse-crazy trio is in their final years of high school, was a bit too much gritty teenage drama for me. It was to the main series what California Diaries was to the Baby-Sitters Club, only not as fun. I gave up after the first book or two. Although, eerily enough, it apparently also ends in fire…just like the main BSC series. *cue X-Files theme*
Seanan McGuire: I’ve read 14 novels, 6 novellas, 13 long short stories, 1 Carniepunk story, and 1 Lumberjanes comic
(35 texts total)
I knew McGuire was going to fall near the top of my list. The Toby-verse has me, heart and soul.
Besides the main Toby series, I’ve also read most of her novellas and short stories; her Wayward Children series (review of Absent Dream here); her carnival mermaid story; and her Lumberjanes issue, “Somewhere That’s Green” (it involves sentient plant beings). I tried a bit of her murderous mermaid novella, Rolling in the Deep (written under the name Mira Grant), but it was a bit too grim for me at the time. I’m also not planning to read her zombie novels or the one about the tapeworm diet pill (yet, anyway).
Anyhoo, I’ve talked more generally about why I love McGuire’s books in this fifth reader-versary ode. I also highly recommend this BookRiot post, which offers five more reasons to love her. Re-reading it makes me at least vaguely reconsider my non-zombie tastes…
Mo Willems 25 books (25 texts total)
I raved in more detail about the fun-tastic Elephant and Piggie books in my 2018 Year-End Review. It’s one of the most popular series at my local library, and it’s as much fun for me now as I’m sure it would’ve been when I was in the target age group.
Experience the insanely spicy slop! The mind-blowingly trippy naps! The all-inclusive games of Catch! And the fancy costume pool parties! Learn about being patient, sharing your toys, celebrating your friends, and messing with the cosmic forces controlling your life!
These are excellent books to boost your self-esteem, or when you just need a good guffaw. Oh, and I’ve heard Mo Willems’ other books are equally droll. That pigeon’s looking pretty cheeky, and what is up with the knuffle bunny?
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor: 29 novels (29 texts total)
At 28 books, the Alice McKinley series is the longest non-ghostwritten one I’ve stuck with from sixth grade into adulthood (see my reviews here). I guess when each book covers only about four months at a time, you’re going to spend a loooong time in middle school. The 29th book I’m counting is Shiloh, which I read around seventh or eighth grade.
Who doesn’t remember that moment when your older sibling took you shopping for new jeans and left you all alone and you accidentally walked into a dressing room occupied by one of your future crushes? The Alice series deals with all the funniest and most awkward scenarios a middle-schooler can experience, and then follows her through high-school, loops back to her grade-school days, and finally fast-forwards from new adulthood to middle age.
Some of the books do have their preachy moments (Banning books is wrong! Advertisements are misleading!), but they’re still very fun and relatable. Alice gets into plenty of typical teenage trouble in between her activist moments, so she never feels too much like a soap box star. Plus, these may have been the first Juv/YA novels I read that included positively-portrayed gay characters.
As for Shiloh, it’s the story of a boy who finds himself in a series of ethical binds after he rescues an abused beagle and hides him from the owner. I remember it being one of the first stories that taught me there are situations when a child needs to disobey their elders — even the most well-meaning ones — to do the actual right thing.
Bruce Coville: 5 novels, 7 edited collections, 4 short stories, 1 easy reader (17 texts total)
I’ve been reading Coville since I was in third grade and discovered Sarah’s Unicorn in my school library. Looking back through his catalog, I was delighted to discover he was the one who wrote a short story called “Am I Blue?” which I read in my mid-teens — it was part of a collection of queer stories, and it focused on the What if? scenario of a boy who can suddenly see all the people who share his sexuality by the blue shade of their skin (something only he can see) and realizes he’s nowhere near alone.
I also enjoyed his twist on a less-familiar frog-related fairy tale in Jennifer Murdley’s Toad (reviewed here), although it could have taken its message a bit further by saying there’s no single definition of outer beauty instead of stopping at Inner Beauty Is More Important. Because, yes, there are more important things than physical attributes, and I do love Mr. Elives’ comment that “most mirrors are mere errors,” but no one really wants to hear “You’re, uh, beautiful on the inside, sweetie!”* and just leave it at that.
Still, it’s a very necessary story about appreciating all your attributes and not making assumptions based on outer appearance.
Other Coville books I’ve read:
- Books of Ghosts, Nightmares, Spine-Tinglers, and Spine-Tinglers II
- The Unicorn Chronicles
- The Unicorn Treasury
- Bruce Coville’s Book of Magic
Valerie Tripp: 15 books (15 texts total)
Valerie Tripp is the author of fifteen American Girl books — namely, the Felicity and Molly stories and three Samanthas. Tripp’s stories taught me about war, child labor, women’s rights, and what school was like in the 18th – 20th centuries.
I was personally a Samantha girl (I even asked for petit fours one birthday) and longed to play with the “bright Victorian beauty” in doll form. Yes, it did have a biiit to do with her resemblance to myself, but also totally because she’s a badass defender of children’s rights and female empowerment. Honestly, I would’ve preferred her doll to one of the fully-customizable ones.
Ah well, it was fun enough to flip through the multiple catalogs I received in the mail, read her extra stories in the American Girl Magazine, and gaze jealously at my piano teacher’s collection of all five original mini dolls.
Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow: 6 adult anthologies, 4 YA anthologies, 3 children’s anthologies (13 texts total)
These twisted fairy tale anthologies are wickedly fun. There are stories and poems by authors like Neil Gaiman, Robin McKinley, Gregory Maguire, Nalo Hopkinson, Roger Zelazny, Tanith Lee, and more. There are shark gods, trickster labyrinths, swan sisters, a sympathetic Hook, stars that stretch into fleets of eardrums, and candy-makers who literally are what they eat. There was even a story with Clan of the Cave Bear vibes!
- Fairy Tale Anthologies by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
- More Datlow/Windling anthologies
- Poisoned apples, twisted tales, and mer-lore
- Screaming for Fairies: a conflicted story review
Lurlene McDaniel (at least 10 novels…maybe closer to 15?)
I went through a brief tearjerker phase in high school and was fascinated by these Inspirational YA books about tough subjects. McDaniel has written over 70 books about chronic illness, death, and grief, often with a romantic subplot or co-plot. I can’t remember exactly how many I read — only about ten of the descriptions on her website ring more than a vague bell.
I did re-read Mourning Song a few years ago because it was one of my favorites back in the day. It seemed to hold up ok, while still requiring me to don my skepticals a few times. A girl whose sister has an inoperable brain tumor takes her on a secret final trip to Florida against their mother’s wishes. From what I remember, she gets the money from a mysterious benefactor who sends $100,000 checks to people with terminal illnesses, to use however they wish.
It’s very much a What if? scenario. If you think too hard about it, you start to wonder how exactly this very well-meaning philanthropist finds out about their chosen recipients, let alone where to send the checks without the kids’ parents finding out… Are hospitals just sending this person lists of potential candidates without getting anyone’s permission (the check is supposed to be a total surprise)? And what bank would allow a minor to cash a mysterious $100,000 check with no parental guidance?
Things I remember from other books: a girl with leukemia verbally pwns the teachers who suggest she quit the debate team because they think it might be too much for her…a guy tries to divorce himself from his parents so he can donate a kidney to his girlfriend against their wishes….and a girl finds out she’s adopted after doctors tell her that her parents aren’t a biological match for an organ transplant.
You really have to be in a particular mood to read these. As far as I can remember, they always end on a hopeful note, but there’s a lot of heart-wrenching along the way.
Stephen Cosgrove (7 books? 8?)
I first mentioned Cosgrove in my first Nostalgic Review. He wrote a series of 20th-century fables with lovable characters like Buttermilk Bunny, Jingle Bear, Morgan the unicorn, and Serendipity the sea dragon. My absolute favorite title was Buttermilk~Bear, a bittersweet friendship story about overcoming prejudice. I remember trying to translate it into Lithuanian for my little cousins at bedtime, but they preferred the tales of the little bear Rudnosiukas. Fair enough!
Jean Auel: 5 books (5 texts total)
As I mentioned in my end-of-summer 2019 post, I discovered the Earth’s Children series when I was perhaps too young for it (what with all the graphic erotica), but it turned out to be a good thing because I was much less judgmental of things like Mary Sue characterization and melodramatic plots. I did feel a lot of legitimate nostalgia while re-reading (or, rather, re-listening to) The Clan of the Cave Bear, and the Ayla sections of Valley of Horses are still pretty exciting.
My goddess, though; I was so obsessed with this series back in high school. I did three different book reports on them, including one that involved creating a mock fashion brand for Spanish(?) class. I called it Bear Wear, and it was pretty much my interpretation of Ice Age clothing. And I remember my mom giving me a very nonplussed look when I ran up to her to announce the exciting news that Ayla and Jondalar finally got married.
I still haven’t read The Land of Painted Caves all the way through, but I’m going to give it another spear-thrower shot as part of my Tsundoku Challenge. A quick survey of the first few pages is less cringey than I remember; the expositioney dialogue makes a little more sense now.
Who are some of your most-read authors, Bookwyrms? Any fun memories float up from the nostalgic depths? Which American Girl is your favorite? Any authors you’d trust to write a riveting cell phone manual?