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Famous Authors and the Books They Read

November 27, 2013
Picture of . Full set from UP Experience 2008 ...

I think this is a famous author, but I’m not sure because I don’t pay attention to what writers look like.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s almost that time of the year, when magazines and television shows compile a bunch of Top Ten or “Best of…” lists.  I don’t mind these end-of-the-year lists because I can tune them out if I’m in the wrong mood, and I’m sure there’ll be a bunch of  “Best Books of 2013” lists coming out soon, but The  Guardian has done something a little different.  Instead of making up a normal “Top Books of 2013” List, it has a selection of famous authors selecting their favorite books of the year.

I’m not sure I’ve read anything that was published in 2013.  I’ve read a couple 2012s and a couple 2011s, but I’m not sure I’ve gotten to 2013s.  Most of those are still hardcover, or somebody else gets them from the library before I do, and they’re still over $10.00 on the e-reader. That’s the thing.  When you’re an economical reader (or a cheap bastard), you can’t do an annual “Best of…” list unless it’s a list from a couple (or few) years ago.

I’m interested in the famous author reading list, but not because I care what famous authors think.  It’s because famous authors often pick books I’ve never heard of, and I’m interested in learning about books I’ve never heard of.  I probably won’t read these books, but I’d like to at least hear about them.

I used to care about what famous authors thought about books.  But Stephen King ruined it for me.

A few years ago Stephen King wrote a column for a weekly entertainment magazine, and sometimes he mentioned books that he liked.  One summer he raved (maybe too strong a word) about an upcoming apocalypse novel called The Passage by Justin Cronin.  Stephen King (if I remember this correctly) favorably compared The Passage to his own novel (and one of my favorites) The Stand.

Because of King’s review, I pre-ordered The Passage and eagerly began reading it when I received it.  After a pretty good start, it slowed down, and about halfway through I realized that the book kind of sucked (in my opinion).  Readers who made it to the end (the kind of readers who’ll finish a novel no matter what) agreed that the middle got a bit long and dull (and unreadable) but said the end was good.

I was annoyed with Stephen King.  In fact, I wondered if he’d actually read the entire novel.  I suspect he didn’t.  I’m not sure he had the time back then.  King was writing a bunch of books, and his columns for the weekly entertainment magazine discussed books, music, movies, and (I think) television shows.  How did he have the time to become an expert in all these forms of entertainment while still writing a bunch of books?  I don’t think it’s possible to be an expert in so many areas.  Something had to give.  And what would have been the most time-consuming activity (except for writing books)?  Reading books.

That makes me believe (without any real proof) that Stephen King didn’t really read The Passage.  I’m not accusing Stephen King of not reading The Passage.  I just suspect that he didn’t.  I’d hate to accuse Stephen King of something and then be wrong about it (not that I’d ever find out either way).  I’ve been accused of stuff before, and I didn’t like being accused, even when the accusations were correct.

Even if Stephen King has never read The Passage, that’s okay.  I used to pretend to read books too.  I just hope nobody has ever pre-ordered a book based on my recommendation (I don’t pre-order anymore).

At any rate, the Guardian has a bunch of authors picking their favorite books from 2013.  I’d probably trust their judgment a little more than King’s, if only because each author had to choose only one book.  It’s not like they had to make a deadline for a weekly entertainment magazine.  Even though I haven’t heard of most of the books that the famous authors liked, a couple of them sounded interesting.  The books sounded kind of literary, though, so I’d probably have a tough time reading them.  Reading about them might be the best that I can do.

But enough about me!  Would you listen to a book recommendation from a famous author?  Do you pre-order books  Have you ever fallen for the hype of a book only to be disappointed (or ripped off)?  Have you read any books published in 2013 (and what’s your favorite)?

  1. I’m a poor writer, and while I adore books I have to shop on the bargain shelf. No 2013 books for me!

    • Yeah, I guess we (and other economical book readers like us) won’t get to many of the 2013 books until late 2014 or 2015. That’s okay. There are still a lot of 2011s and 2010s (and beyond) to read.

  2. nice to meet you? are you close friend?

  3. aaah, authors get all pretentious when they have to recommend other people’s books, and in their head, they don’t really want to recommend a book that’s superior to their own, I think.

    I take these recommendations, and newspaper end of year book lists with a huge dose of salt. I much prefer to read the views of my favorite (and trusted) bloggers whose tastes match mine.

  4. I heard that C.S. Lewis absolutely loved George MacDonald and that his writings changed his life, so I got one of his books and started it in eager anticipation, but I found it dry and insanely difficult. So, yeah, following others’ recommendations doesn’t always work.

  5. He book that I have read based on the hype surrounding it but just could not get into was Gone Girl. I don’t know what it was about it because everyone I know loved it and it is the kind of book that I usually like to read. A book I read this year called The Sleep Room, I really enjoyed. Throughout I found it quite bland and as though the author – F.R Tallis – was trying to overcompensate with frivolous language but by the end of the book it makes sense. If you liked reading Shutter Island then I would definitely recommend it!

  6. My mistake is seeing a movie and liking it so much that I decide to read the book. This is often a terrible idea and vice versa. Your first impression of the story is what you remember and if the book did not live up to the movie then I won’t like it, naturally. I think this is a bit unfair to the author as the book may have been fantastic but my preconceived notions ruined it for me. This is similar to reading a book based on someone else’s review. If they hype it, it has a lot to live up to. If they bash it, you go into it with a biased opinion. Morale of the story, I am all about finding random books at used bookstores and trying to stay away from too many reviews until I have had a chance to read it myself.

  7. So are you the inspiration for Danielle claiming to read books she hadn’t? 😉

  8. Tend to avoid author’s opinions about good books, because often they are like opening acts for really superior bands….pale, weaker imitations that make better artists shine all the more….just my opinion. Good write up:)

  9. Well i was disappointed by The Inferno by Dan brown after pre-ordering it. Its like after Lost Symbol, Dan brown has just lost his magic

  10. I volunteer in the school library *it is next to my room* and got to read quite a few 2013 books. That being said, they were mostly YA. I can go on record as saying I have read more than a few crap-tastic books this year. Biggest stinker? Allegiant. Hands down. Could not pick a favorite if forced.
    Bought quite a few for my three kindles (my parents read non-stop). They could not think of a favorite either. Thanks for giving us a topic today. smile.

  11. The amount of books King recommends is ludicrous. He is a recommendation whore. His approval means nothing because he apparently loves EVERYTHING!

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