Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ten Authors Who Deserve More Recognition

It's Tuesday again. Time for another Top Ten list. This week topic at The Broke and the Bookish is Ten Authors Who Deserve More Recognition. Doesn't every bibliophile think that her favorite authors deserve more play time, no matter how famous they already are? I know I do. Still, I tried my best to be impartial. Here are ten writers that I wish were better known or more well regarded. Some you may know; others not. No matter. Look them up. Check them out. You won't be sorry.

1. Diana Wynne Jones. Sadly, Wynne Jones died just this past week at the age of 76. A magnificent fantasy writer for children, she penned the Chrestomanci series, as well as Howl's Moving Castle, which was made into an animated film that is great in its own right. My personal favorites are Witch Week, Black Maria, and The Ogre Downstairs. She is nowhere near as well-known as England's current reigning fantasy writer, J. K. Rowling. But she should be. She's the better writer with a much wider range. (Sorry, Harry Potter fans.)

2. Peter Cameron. Have you heard of Peter Cameron? My guess is probably not. Yet he's a great short story writer; try his collection The Half You Don't Know (1983). He writes especially well of sensitive, aimless young men, as in his recent YA novel Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You, listed in ALA's 2008 Best Books for Young Adults.

3. Joyce Porter. It was a happy day when I discovered Porter, an English mystery writer, and her mystery novels about Wilfred Dover, the most lazy, greedy, and unhygienic detective ever to flash a badge. Dover and the Unkindest Cut of All (1967) had me in stitches.

4. Jane Gardam. Gardam has been writing for many, many years, but I've only just discovered her. When I recommend her to writer friends and other bookish people, I'm often greeted with a polite, blank stare, which leads me to believe she's not as well known as she should be. She is a wonderful, wonderful writer of dazzling ability. Old Filth (2004) and its companion book The Man in the Wooden Hat (2009) alone safeguard her place in the literary canon. God on the Rocks (1978) and The Queen of the Tambourine (1991) are superb as well. Read them. Now.

5. Roddy Doyle. An Irish writer, Roddy Doyle won the Booker Prize in 1993 and several of his novels have been made into movies. So why is making an appearance on my list? Doyle is underrated as a novelist, in my opinion. Because his novels flow so effortlessly, he makes it look easy. But read--or reread--Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha (1993) or The Woman Who Walked into Doors (1996) or its sequel (and my favorite) Paula Spenser (2006). Each one is so well-crafted and observed. Doyle is an incredible writer. Get to know him.

6. Margaret Drabbler. Drabbler is certainly well-known, in England, if not here. However, in most literary circles she's placed below her older sister, the writer and critic A.S. Byatt, winner of numerous awards. That has to rankle. Having read both authors, I prefer Drabbler. Her novels resonate with me, especially The Witch of Exmore (1996) and The Seven Sisters (2002).

7. W. Somerset Maugham. Although very highly regarded--and popular--in his day, Maugham has fallen out of favor with modern-day readers. I'm not sure why. He's an excellent writer and his short stories are well-crafted and absorbing. Consider how many of his work have been made into movies (and excellent ones at that): Of Human Bondage, The Painted Veil, The Letter, Rain, The Razor's Edge, Being Julia, and many, many more. Will Maugham's reputation rebound? Time will tell, but I hope so.

8. Alison Bechdel. I love Alison Bechdel. A talented cartoonist, she illustrates and writes the long-running comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, now published as a book. I'm also of big fan of her graphic memoir, Fun Home, which tells the story of her complex relationship with her emotionally-distant and--as she discovers--gay dad.

9. Elizabeth Gaskell. You might have heard of Gaskell from the Masterpiece Theater program Cranford, a serialization about life in a sleepy English town in the 1840s. Gaskell, a contemporary of Dickens (who published some of her work in his magazine), is little known today. I read her novel Wives and Daughters years ago, and found it well-plotted with strong women characters.

10. Sylvia Townsend Warner. If you read nothing else of hers, treat yourself to Lolly Willowes, Townsend Warner's first novel, published in 1926. Not only is it a hoot--a middle-class spinster takes up witchcraft after breaking free of her family--the novel frequently appears on authors' best novels lists.

Now it's your turn. Which writers do you feel need more respect. Or, better yet, which ones already have more than their fair share? Let us know!


  1. Yay! More authors to discover!
    I've only read Jones, Maugham, and Gaskell. All the others are new to me.

  2. A very interesting list! I love Gaskell, and many of these authors are new to me, so I look forward to reading their work.

  3. Yes! Alison Bechdel is on my list too!

  4. What an interesting list. Several authors I will definitely think about reading. :)

  5. I pretty much worship the ground Maugham walked on. I thought about putting him on my list but thought that he might still be too well-known. I try to recommend him to everyone I know because he's so fantastic.

    I've seen Doyle and Drabbler at the library but was never sure if they were worth reading. Thanks for recommending them - they sound interesting!

  6. My husband got so excited when I read out your answer to him because he's a huge fan of Jane Gardam and is always trying to get me to read her novels! I'll get there one day :D

  7. Great list of recommendations. Some of these are vaguely on my radar; I really want to check out Bechdel.

    Check out my post here: http://hawthornescarlet.blogspot.com/2011/03/top-ten-tuesday-check-um-out.html