Friday, September 13, 2013

Our Insta-Read Author Lists

Fall is upon us.  How do I know?  Not from the cool shadows, kids at the bus stop, or the chilly mornings.  I know it's fall because it's time to read another Lee Child book.

Lee Child is one of my insta-read authors.  Insta-read authors are a special breed.  They write it.  I read it.  Automatically and without question.  My insta-read list is short and includes Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Lewis and Steve Ulfelder.  Lee Child's latest release got me thinking about the insta-read list and the very personal process by which each of us create such a list.

There are many paths to the insta-read list.  For example fantasy readers often add an author to their insta-read list because they want to return to the world of the stories. When I was young I read Stephen R. Donaldson's Thomas Covenant books at one go because Covenant went back to The Land in every book and I wanted to go with him.   It was fun to go to a new place. Today, George R. R. Martin readers instantly read the next installment of the Game of Thrones, set in the land of Westeros.  The land is so important that the HBO TV series opens with a sweeping flyover of Westeros's map.

Mystery readers add authors to their insta-read list because they want to spend more time with the series character.  I was hooked on Spenser from the moment I read The Goldwulf Manuscript.  Today I'm hooked on Steve Ulfelder's character Conway Sax, Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum and, naturally, Lee Child's Jack Reacher.

Of course, setting and character don't explain how Malcolm Gladwell or Michael Lewis got onto my list.  They don't have a world or a main character.  They don't even have a specific area of expertise.  Michael Lewis has written about baseball, football, Silicon Valley, and Wall Street.   Malcolm Gladwell has written about fads, snap decisions, and society's influence on individual success. It's hard to predict the topic of their next books, but easy to predict that I'll read those books as soon as they come out.  Why?  Because I know that regardless of the topic these authors tell compelling stories about interesting topics using an excellent voice.  Consider the first line of Michael Lewis's The Blind Side

From the snap of the ball to the snap of the first bone is closer to four seconds than to five.

This is a voice that must be read instantly.

Ultimately, voice is the underpinning of my insta-read list.  Reading is a profoundly personal process in which I let someone insert words, thoughts, and emotions into my brain.  It's like signing up to live in The Matrix.  If I'm going to allow someone to fiddle with my neurons,  I want to them to do it in a way that fits smoothly into the neurons already there.  I want someone whose writing tickles the pleasure centers and makes me think, and I know that my insta-read authors get the job done.  

In a world where there are so many books and so little time, an author who gets the job done leaps to the top of our reading piles.

Speaking of reading piles, who are your insta-read authors?

1 comment:

Beth Groundwater said...

My insta-read authors are William Kent Krueger, Louise Penny, and Alexander McCall Smith. Love their series!