My Top Ten (OK, Twelve) All-Time Favorite Authors

April 21, 2015 Top Ten Tuesday 16

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Things I Love/Hate About Romance in Books.


I find posts like this one nearly impossible. How on earth do I pick just ten of the authors whose books I love? Oh, well, I’ll give it a try. Here goes. . .

All of these are authors I have re-read multiple times and loved for many years.

  • J. R. R. Tolkien. If C. S. Lewis and Lloyd Alexander kindled my love for fantasy, Tolkien solidified it into a lifelong obsession, and set a very high bar for both worldbuilding and epic fantasy in the process. For years, I measured every fantasy book I read against The Lord of the Rings, and re-read the books almost twice a year from the summer after fifth grade until I was in my early thirties. I still reread LOTR every few years.
  • Dorothy Sayers. Witty, erudite, and perfectly plotted, the Lord Peter Wimsey series is also remarkable for the character arc of its hero. Though he is not, even in the first book, as fatuous and superficial as he pretends to be, over the course of the series his character deepens and he deliberately strips away much of the pretense.
  • Laurie R. King. I love her Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series as much for the intelligent writing as for the characters themselves.
  • PierceT_ProtectorOfTheSmall-04_LadyKnightTamora Pierce. Her YA fantasy is wonderful: well-written, and it features heroines with brains, strength of will, and agency.
  • Mercedes Lackey. It’s true that her recent books haven’t been as well-crafted and gripping as those she wrote in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, but at her best, Lackey is a true storyteller – and her books and characters have helped shaped my worldview.
  • L. M. Montgomery. I’ve read almost all her books, and loved most of them, but it’s Anne of Green Gables and its sequels that first won my heart.
  • Elizabeth Goudge. Goudge’s books have a special place in my heart, both for the charm and magic of her children’s books and for the strong sense of a creative force for good, an optimism rooted in her Anglican faith, that lies at the heart of her adult books.
  • Robin McKinley. Her fantasy is enthralling and often beautifully written, and I never get tired of her books.
  • Mary Stewart. Her romantic suspense introduced me to the genre and remain among my favorites, but her Arthurian novels completely captivated me; after reading them, I started seeking out Arthurian fiction and scholarship wherever I could find it.
  • Anne McCaffrey. I’m not sure I can count how many times I’ve read the Pern books and the Talent books. There’s something about McCaffrey’s characters and worlds that really speaks to me.
  • Madeleine L’Engle. Her fantasy was a mainstay of my middle- and high-school years (and I still re-read the Time trilogy – yes, I know it’s a quintet now.) Her nonfiction, both autobiographical and theological, influenced me deeply in my 20s and 30s.

ETA:   J. K. Rowling. [facepalm] How did I manage to forget J. K. Rowling?! She definitely belongs on this list.


To show you how hard this list was to narrow down, here are the authors who were contending for the last few spaces on the list and just barely didn’t make the cut – by genre, in alphabetical order:

Fantasy & SF: David Eddings, Katherine Kurtz, Patrick Rothfuss (he only missed out because I haven’t been reading him for very long – his writing is amazing!)

Mystery: Catherine Aird, Agatha Christie, Dick Francis, Ngaio Marsh, Ellis Peters, Josephine Tey

Romance & Romantic Suspense: Mary Balogh, Robyn Carr, Lisa Kleypas, Mary Jo Putney

General fiction: Rosamund Pilcher

Children’s books: Louisa May Alcott, Lloyd Alexander, L. M. Boston, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Susan Cooper, Elizabeth Enright, C. S. Lewis, Elizabeth Marie Pope, Noel Streatfeild

And I’m sure I’ve left off some other authors I love, as well as several authors I’ve only discovered in the last 5 years or so.

So who are your favorite authors? Tell me in the comments, or leave me a link to your Top Ten Tuesday post (or both!)

16 Responses to “My Top Ten (OK, Twelve) All-Time Favorite Authors”

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      There are so many good books and good authors, it’s really hard to read all the books you want to read! I’m glad you enjoyed the list – and sorry I’m so late in checking out yours.

  1. Lianne @

    Great list! Yay for Tolkien (obviously)–and lol, we used the same book cover for LOTR in this week’s list 😉 *high fives*

    Gah, Mercedes Lackey, another author I haven’t gotten around to reading…which of her books would you recommend to start with?
    Lianne @ recently posted…Top Ten TuesdaysMy Profile

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I never know quite where to suggest people start with Lackey. She is so prolific, and her career has now spanned several decades and shows no sign of slowing down (although I must confess, I haven’t always been thrilled with her more recent books – they’re fun, but not quite as solid or enthralling as they used to be. And I don’t think it’s me getting older, because the older ones still hold up when I re-read them.)

      That said, here are a few suggestions from her prime:

      The Valdemar series: high fantasy, idealistic (later tempered with pragmatism), wonderful characters. Start with Arrows of the Queen, but keep in mind that is probably her first book, and lacks the maturity of the later ones. Nonetheless, it’s good and it’s the best intro to the world.

      The Elemental Magic series: historical fantasy/fairy-tale retellings – elemental magic in the late Victorian/Edwardian/WWI eras. Begin with The Serpent’s Shadow, which is wonderful and totally subverts the original tale by making the Snow White character not white (she’s half high-caste Hindi, half British) and having the princess participate in her own rescue. Oh, and the “dwarves” are animal avatars of Hindu gods.

      The Bardic Voices series: high fantasy, with music and magic shaped through music. Start with The Lark and the Wren, which I conveniently reviewed just this week.

      The Vows & Honor series: Actually, it’s set in the same world as Valdemar, but deals more with real magic. (There are reasons there isn’t real magic in Valdemar during the Arrows trilogy. There was once, in series set chronologically earlier, and there will be again, in series set chronologically after the three Arrows books.) But what’s really unique and wonderful is the blood-sister relationship between Tarma, basically a paladin, and Kethry, a mage. The first book, Oathbound, reads like a series of short stories strung into a novel (and probably was); the second, Oathbreakers, is a full-length tale, but they’re both good. There is also a collection of short stories originally published elsewhere. Then there’s By the Sword, which has a much older Tarma and Kethry as secondary characters and features Kethry’s granddaughter, Kerowyn; it also ties the Tarma/Kethry books neatly into post-Arrows-trilogy Valdemar.

      There’s any number of other series, but those are some of my favorites. And if you like Valdemar, that will keep you going for a good long while!

  2. Jan

    Great list, Lark! My list was such an artificial one this week! I had to make a lot of stipulations to create it. I like how you did your list and I can’t believe I forgot J. K. Rowling. I forgot several who are on your list. It’s fun to read how people handled this list.
    Jan recently posted…All-time favorite authorsMy Profile

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I forgot Rowling, too – I had to go back and add her in. (Whoops!) I remembered when I went out and actually looked at my fantasy shelf, and did a huge, melodramatic facepalm, all by myself in the middle of the living room. 😀

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I’m not surprised; all three are beloved by fantasy fans! And they all hold up to frequent re-reading, which isn’t true of some authors.

  3. Stephanie

    Having read your blog for a good while now, I think I could’ve guessed a lot of who would be on your list but there are some surprises! I didn’t know you were a big Dorothy Sayers fan (and prefer her over Dame Agatha!). Mary Stewart is also a favorite of mine though I just discovered that her Arthurian legend series is longer than I realized. I need to return to her books!
    Stephanie recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday – Favorite (well kinda) AuthorsMy Profile

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I absolutely love Sayers! Especially the Peter and Harriet quartet. And I must admit that I never read the fourth of Stewart’s Arthurian saga, for some reason.

      I read your TTT and had to laugh at the first phrase, “Because I like to make a bigger and hairier deal out of everything…” Oh, that is so me. I sweat bullets over my reviews and TTT posts because they have to be perfect and (with TTT), what do they really mean by “favorite authors” or “characters I want to check in with”, anyway?!

      Your list is marvelous and I’m downright embarrassed to only have read a few of those authors. Dunnett and Bujold have both been highly recommended to me and I keep planning to read them, only to be derailed by other books and other authors. I do love Christie and will happily re-read almost any of her books, but yes, Sayers came out on top for that genre. 🙂