What have I learned about myself from doing the “Thirty Day Book Challenge”? When asked to pick favorites, I’m really indecisive.
I need to work out who my favorite author is to answer this question. To start with, I need criteria for a favorite author:
1. I must have read or be in the active process of reading everything they have written.
Who qualifies based on criterion #1? Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Anne Bronte, Neil Gaiman, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler.*
2. They must have written enough material that I can make an informed decision about their writing style, choice of stories and characters, and everything else that goes along with authoring a book.
Unfortunately, Anne Bronte is out of the running. She wrote only two books, and those were quite different (though both were important social commentaries). I don’t feel comfortable saying she’s my favorite author – it just doesn’t seem fair. She’s still on the top of my list, just not number one on the list. The other authors still qualify.
3. I must have enjoyed the majority of their books on many levels (connected with characters, enjoyed the story, wanted to read more, missed the book when I finished it, etc.).
As much as I enjoy Neil Gaiman, according to this criterion I must take him out of the running. Anansi Boys and American Gods were great books, but both contained a lot that I didn’t like. The impressive thing about Gaiman, though, is that even when writing a lot of things that I really dislike, he manages to make me like the book overall. I have to take Raymond Chandler out of the running, as well. I enjoy a lot of his novels, but several of them did not make me want to read more and I definitely didn’t miss them after reading the last page.
Honestly, I’m not sure what other criteria (however arbitrary) to use when deciding between Dashiell Hammett, Charlotte Bronte, and Jane Austen. What to do? I’ll just tell you about one book from each of them.
Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest was the first novel of his that I read. I read it over 7 years ago in ninth grade, so my memory of it isn’t particularly strong. I enjoyed the book enough to take an English class on U.S. Detective Fiction when the description of the class included D.H.** The one somewhat humorous thing I remember from the book is the lack of a name for the main character. If I remember correctly, his name is mentioned once in the entire book. Why is this humorous? I took a one-size-fits-all style test for this novel*** and for the question, “Who is the main character?” I ended up writing a paragraph explaining who he was for fear of being penalized for not knowing his name when everyone else in class got to answer with a single sentence.
Charlotte Bronte’s Shirley is a wonderful novel. I highly recommend it (even though I can hardly remember the plot – I need to read it again).
Jane Austen’s books are all amazing. Persuasion is one of my absolute favorites, although it appealed to my teen-aged self more than it appeals to me at 22.
*I think J.K. Rowling also qualifies, but I wouldn’t say she’s my favorite author so I’m excluding her from the list. Awesome? Yes. Favorite? No.
** We didn’t end up covering Dashiell Hammett. We covered Raymond Chandler instead.
***Every student in class picked a different book to read off of a list we were given.