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If You Could Only Read One Author for the Rest of Your Life, Who Would it Be?

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Deepali Agarwal

Staff Writer

Deepali Agarwal has a Master’s in literary linguistics, which means that every person she’s ever known has, at some point, asked her to ‘edit a thing’ for them-- ‘just see if it reads okay?’ She doesn’t mind, because she believes that the world can be fixed one oxford comma at a time. Deepali lives in Delhi, the capital of India, where cows are sacred, but authors and poets exist and write brilliant things. She works as an editor with OUP India’s School ELT division, where she moves apostrophes, looks up pictures of cats, and talks about children’s books for eight hours. The rest of her day is spent reading, thinking about Parks and Recreation, and wondering if there exist jobs for English majors that pay more than peanuts. Twitter: @DeepaliAgarwal_

This post comes to you from a Tumblr post which raised the question of most bookworms’ nightmares: whom would you choose if you could only read one author for the rest of your life? Me and ten other Rioters have risen to the challenge and thought about this hard.


Here you have it, our answers through clenched teeth. There couldn’t be recommendations more passionate than these.

Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca by Daphne du MaurierWhy: Most people find it difficult to name their Top Favourite Book of All Time, but my answer has not changed since the age of 15. Mine is Rebecca. Hands down. While du Maurier has 37 works in total listed on Wikipedia, I’ve only read five of those, so she’s my obvious choice. She never fails to disappoint, her writing is an explosive combination of various genres, and her body of work will last me a long while.

—Deepali Agarwal

Diana Wynne Jones

Why: Diana RIP was one of the most creative fantasy writers of our time. She knew how to make up as she went along, which led to dozens of books. Her writing was hilarious, unconventional, cynical and yet knowledgeable about the power of belief and magic. I could reread her Chrestomanci books for days on end, and her short stories are constant steadfast examples of how to write.
—Priya Sridhar

Jane Austen

Why: Is it totally predictable if I say Jane Austen? It is, isn’t it? However, I used to read Pride and Prejudice once a year and I’ve always thought of it as my number one desert island novel. There’s something about it that just feels comforting to me. Austen’s novels are at times funny, romantic, and devastating. No matter my mood, I can always find a character whose outlook matches my own. Though it would be, I imagine, tiresome at times to reread only six (and a half?) novels over and over again, there’s no one else I’d rather commit to.

—Lacey deShazo

John O’Hara

Why: Hokay, but have you READ Appointment in Samarra? The way I think of this book is like F. Scott Fitzgerald, but a Fitzgerald where women are actually people and not a caricatured/poorly outlined/purposefully blurred set of dream girls whose raison d’être is to ensnare and/or torture young men who will spend their lives striving to keep said dream girls in fancy clothes and Persian cats or whatever the ladies are into nowadays. Tennis, probably. He shows compassion for the life each person has to live, and yeah, I’m good with absorbing that lesson for the rest of my life.
—Alice Burton


Haruki Murakami

1q84Why: I like variety when I read—fiction, non-fiction, long, short, different genres, etc. Haruki Murakami would give me a ton to work with. He’s got fourteen novels, eleven nonfiction books/essays, and tons of short stories. I’m not usually a rereader, but his magical realism is something I could read over and over and still find something new to consider. Books like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and 1Q84 could keep me busy for years. He’s also still publishing new work, which would give me hope for something fresh, and he has quite a few books that haven’t yet been translated into English. Maybe a good reason to learn Japanese?
—Susie Dumond

Siddhartha Mukherjee

I am one of those people who has little-to-no working knowledge of science and all of its intricacies, but I freakin’ love science. I love love reading about it, I love listening to podcasts about it, I love watching documentaries about it. And what I love about Mukherjee’s work is that he presents the reader with very digestible information, but trusts the reader. He trusts that the reader has the intelligence to understand more complex concepts and manages to explain them in a way that doesn’t condescend to the reader. As long as Siddhartha Mukherjee is finding things to write about, I’ll be eager to learn about those things.
—Elizabeth Allen

Ian McEwan

Why: While I have already read almost every one of his books, Ian McEwan’s writing is so lush, so gorgeous, that I feel sure I could enjoy revisiting them over and over. It also helps that he has a sizable list of works, so I have a nice collection to work from to stave off boredom. But maybe the biggest selling point for McEwan is that he never seems to tread the same ground twice. Each of his books is a completely new environment and set of characters. So if I have to pick only one author, Ian McEwan is the guy for me.
—Heather Bottoms

Ursula K. Le Guin

Why: I can think of no other author I respect more than Ursula K. Le Guin. Her writing is beautiful and thought-provoking, and not only does she have an extensive bibliography, but she also has written across so many genres: novels, short stories, essays, poetry. Some of her books have changed the way I view the world. I could never tire of reading her. I was so sad at her passing, but I’m glad to have so many books of hers to treasure.
—Margaret Kingsbury

Vladimir Nabokov

There are other authors that are more important to my life, that have made more of an impact—other authors that have written works that have spoken to my soul. But the thing is, I’m a fast reader, and I don’t think I could deal with an author that has five books out for all-time, even if they are a favorite. I’ve read Lolita five times now, and learn new things on each read, and Pale Fire I’ve read twice and still feel as though there’s much to learn. Reading his books once through would take me years, and feeling I had a handle on them would take even longer. So my answer is Nabokov—not because necessarily he’s my favorite author, but because it would allow me to stay studying and never get bored.
—Leah Rachel von Essen

Alyssa Cole

Why: We’ve already seen that there is pretty much nothing in the fictional world that Alyssa can’t write, and her brief articles across the interwebs (and her twitter, of course) show that if she ever ventured into nonfiction, she’d be pretty great at that, too. Spec fic? Alyssa. Well-researched, thoughtful, emotional, funny historical fiction? Alyssa. Modern princess? Alyssa. Short? Alyssa. Long? Alyssa. Tweets about smol kittens? Alyssa. I still haven’t made it through her backlist, and there’s plenty to go around. If she continues to write even at the pace she’s going now, I could happily subsist on her writing and continually discover something new to love about it.
—Jessica Pryde

Doris Lessing

Well, first of all, the lady was prolific. With well over 50 books, her collected work would keep a reader busier than the oeuvre of one of those novel-a-decade authors. Besides the sheer size of this output, Lessing’s books are diverse in terms of genre (encompassing comics, poetry, memoir, short stories, science fiction, literary novels, essays, and what Wikipedia intriguingly classifies as “Cat Tales”). Collectively, these works are a kind of guide to major moments and movements of the 20th century, including upheavals in colonialism, feminism, and socialism. But more than all this, Lessing is just an incredibly impressive chronicler of human beliefs. There’s nothing more interesting.
—Christine Ro


So whom would you pick, if you could only read ONE author for the rest of your life? An author you could reread all the time without getting bored? An author whose *one* book is your happy place? An author with the most extensive bibliography? A new-ish author you expect really good things from? Roxane Gay, because in this hypothetical scenario, one can also read the author’s tweets? GRRM, just in case he finishes Winds of Winter?

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