Yes I have to differentiate between the dead and live ones because there are just too many.
1. Jane Austen. Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Sense & Sensibility. I just love this woman! I have read biographies about her. Saw the movie about her “supposed” love affair and bawled my eyes out. Even read the Zombie version (Of Course!). Jane Austen did not just write about Boy Meets Girl=Happily Ever After, her characters are flawed, she both explains and makes fun of certain societal rites of her time (especially in regard to class structure). I think she was in some ways the first true liberator of women. She propagated the idea of marrying for love and that a woman should be loved not only for her goodness and beauty but because of, and in spite of, her intelligence, wit and to some extent, snark. I have written more college papers about this great author than any other. She will always be Numero Uno for me.
2. William Faulkner. As I Lay Dying. The Sound and the Fury. Genius! He is difficult to read but I love it! Innovative, challenging at times, I always get the gist of his story as well as the angst behind the characters. I also like the subtext of antebellum south trying to recover from their defeat against the Yanks. Beautiful portrait of insanity in every volume. He is amazing. I want to visit Oxford, Mississippi someday and just bask in the air he lived and breathed in. Yeah.
3. Agatha Christie. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile. The Mousetrap. This woman could write mystery and intrigue! It’s possible that I could not read her now, I might be able to guess the villain, I’m not sure. But I know as a young adult I loved her books and saturated myself with the movies. I went to see The Mousetrap while in London, there is something to be said for “the longest running play in the world, ever.” Amazing. The writing of mystery still eludes me but I love to read it. That’s also probably why I love the CSIs, because I love the idea of solving a mystery!
4. Ernest Hemingway. or Virginia Woolf. or Franz Kafka. or … The Old Man and the Sea, A Room of One's Own, The Metamorphosis. Amazing, amazing stuff. Thought provoking. These three and I’m sure some I’m not thinking of, have altered the way I view the world. Hemingway with his ability to take an event like swordfishing and turn it into a compelling story about man vs. nature; Virginia Woolf’s descriptions and characterizations that says so little yet tells so much. I love that. Kafka. Kafka? Do I have to explain Kafka? The name alone is fascinating! The Metamorphosis actually affected me so deeply I go back and re-read it from time to time just to remind myself that we never know when something catastrophic will happen that may alienate us from all we hold dear, even ourselves. Incredible.
5. Georgette Heyer. The Grand Sophy, The Nonesuch, Masqueraders. The Queen of Historical Romance. I was not introduced to this Grand Dame of 18th century Love & Intrigue until I was 20. During study abroad I overheard two girls talking excitedly about stories and authors and they shared with me their thoughts about Georgette Heyer. On their recommendation I went out that day and bought The Masqueradors. It takes a little adjustment in your cognitive skills, it’s kind of like reading Shakespeare, but then you get used to it (and not all her books are written that way) and they are not difficult to understand at all. The stories are classic Love with a twist. The Masqueraders were fun because like Shakespeare’s As You Like It there is disguise and cross-dressing and it’s just fun! And Drama. She is delightful and lovely! After returning home from London, after my mission, I was an avid Library patron and I read every Heyer the Thousand Oaks Library had (this was before you could click a button on the computer and reserve a book, which is what I do now). These are the books I would stay up all night reading and end up getting three hours of sleep and have to go to work. She is also the one I , sadly, measure all historical fiction against.
I could not narrow down even my “dead” authors to just five. I should have added William Shakespeare but as I am an English major, studying to be a high school English teacher, and hopefully, eventually, an English Lit professor at a university, that’s a given. I think. One whole post should go to William Shakespeare.
If you are not familiar with one or more of these authors and you have learned something then I have done my job.