True confessions: I am a book hoarder. I do not rent books or buy e-books, I buy my books and they all sit behind my desk on carefully curated shelves, organized in a way that makes sense to me. And when I am lacking inspiration or need a moment’s breather from whatever work is occupying my time, I will often spin my chair around and scan the shelves to recall all my memories that are actually stories that were implanted into my life through these books.
And as I have read and collected more and more books to hopefully pass down to children and grandchildren- in an effort to foster a love for literature- I have also reflected on my reading tastes by the types of authors that end up on my shelves, and the genres that occupy the most space.
The most easily identifiable of these categories are how many books I have read by one author. So I counted. And here are the authors that I have read the most by book count. I did not include an author if I only read one linear series.
1. Stephen King- 31
There is a good chance many readers have a shelf dedicated entirely to Stephen King. I am almost at two and for good reason. King is so prolific it’s hard not to come across his novels in bookstores and other mainstream media- like all the movies and series based on his creations. Couple this with the quality and consistency of his work and it’s hard not to grab a King every once in a while to supplement adventures into other less charted literary waters. Sure, not all of his books are to the level of It or Misery, but almost all of them entertain, and when an author boasts a bibliography of over 80 books, that makes them a legend.
So King has become an author I consistently revisit over and over again year after year. I am sometimes daunted by my inability to catch up to his writing pace, but he did have a sizable head start.
2. Brian Jacques- 22
I smiled as I counted my Jacques novels. I wasn’t expecting this dive into my most read authors to be a journey through my life of reading, but I knew it would be when I realized Jacques was my second most read author. Twenty of those books were from the Redwall series (not a linear series so I decided to count it), and a couple books about the Flying Dutchman.
I started reading Jacques in the 5th grade after finding Redwall at a book fair. I liked reading before Jacques, and I loved it afterwards, and for that, I will always be indebted to him (no I am not overselling it). For a while as I was learning to love reading, I read only him, which accounts for the amount of his books I have read despite not having read one in years and years. I didn’t realize, at the time, that I was enjoying the act of reading, not just reading Jacques’ amazing books in an amazing world of all too noble woodland creatures.
Every young boy or girl needs a Jacques in their life. An author that starts out as the author they like and transitions them, through dint of writing that grabs the reader and propels them into new books and worlds, into a writer they like. Jacques was this for me.
3. Chuck Palahniuk- 12
I hit my nihilistic angsty reading phase in my late teens and early twenties, where I craved an author that both ‘got me’ in that wonderful way only teens want to feel ‘gotten’ and felt significant. I was done with thrillers and fantasy and YA as my main means of reading and wanted something a bit more literary. Cue a wonderful Barnes and Noble worker who recommended I check out Palahniuk. Once I saw he wrote Fight Club, a movie I loved, I was all in.
Palahniuk is crass and over the top and tears down all that the world holds sacred, and I was ready for that. My angsty youth made me hyper conservative and anti-government and establishment. I wanted to be left alone to succeed because I could, and I knew what was best for me (I didn’t obviously, but no one could have told me that). Palahniuk’s irreverence for a social order that seemed so nonsensical to me at the time and his vitriol for painting the world with a pretty brush was a welcome change of pace from my fantasy heroes who did good all the time and young adult heroines who were deeply flawed but never failed to overcome those flaws to become better people.
As time has gone on, I fell out of love with Palahniuk, maybe because his books lost a step and became egregious and unnecessary or maybe because I am no longer in the headspace to appreciate his themes. And I am no longer in that place, ironically, due to Palahniuk’s books and how they helped me navigate that mental space.
4. Haruki Murakami- 10
Crazily, or maybe not, the same worker who recommended Palahniuk to me, years later, recommended Murakami to me right when 1Q84 came out. And, maybe ridiculously, 1Q84 was my first Murakami, and it remains my favorite. I was at a place in my reading life where I was reading classics and modern works of great literature, working through the dense thicket of plot and narration. And so, when I read Murakami’s fantastical and abstract stories with magical realism woven into every story along with the slightly foreign lilt of his translated texts, I found a breath of fresh air, an author I could read and not search for literary critic’s explanation of what they meant (not something I should have been doing anyway) or trying to fit together the social commentary of a modern work. Murakami taught me to lead with my emotion and respond to a text first. If you don’t do that when reading his books, then you don’t have much.
5. Terry Brooks- 9
After Jacques and his Redwall series ushered me into high school and the world of reading, I needed to figure out what else I liked. Something more serious than Redwall but certainly not the crap my teachers made us read for class. So I continually entered the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of Barnes and Noble, looking for the next series I could love. Terry Brooks, as he has done for so many young readers, provided a place for me to go. His land of wizards and witches and druids felt gritty and vast, and the only part I didn’t like about it at the time (but would probably love now) was how I could not put the many series he wrote into a neat linear box. I didn’t appreciate that I didn’t need to know everything that had happened to appreciate any one of his narrative strains. If this hadn’t been the case, Brooks’ book count might be up there with King and Jacques.
6. Kazuo Ishiguro- 8
Ishiguro only has eight books. If he had fifty-five, I would have read fifty-five. He is my favorite author, and it’s not close. He is disproportionately represented in my favorite books list because other than The Unconsoledand When We Were Orphans, I have a hard time not thinking his books are five-star masterpieces. I can’t tell you why they speak to me right now like I can with Jacques when I was in middle school, Brooks when I was in high school, Palahniuk in college, or Murakami in my young adulthood, but I couldn’t have told you why I loved those authors back then either. Maybe in a decade or two I will be able to speak to how Ishiguro’s gentle prose and intricate stories comfort and enthrall me, but for now, I am not going to overthink it. I am just going to enjoy it and let his works lead me into new books and new authors that will sit on my shelves for years and generations to come.
Honorable Mentions at 6 books apiece: John Updike, Michael Chabon, Michael Lewis, and Neil Gaiman
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