Let’s not talk about how long I have been a reader. Suffice it to say that I have been reading most of my life, which is a very long time. For enjoyment, I read fiction, primarily mainstream or literary fiction.
I have read the entire “oeuvre” of many authors. When I find a book that I really like, I tend to read everything that the author has written.
There are several authors that have really resonated with me. It’s usually a combination of subject matter, character, and writing style that draw me to an author.
Ray Bradbury was the first author that really affected me. “Fahrenheit 451” was my introduction to Bradbury’s works. But it was his non-science fiction writings that resonated with me. Bradbury spent a key development period of his life in Waukegan, which at the time was a small rural town in northern Illinois. I spent most of my youth in a small town about 20 minutes west of Waukegan. Bradbury’s stories of growing up in rural Illinois in the 1920’s are timeless, and placeless. Growing up 30 to 40 years after Bradbury, I still readily identified with Bradbury’s young boy characters, their adventures, their feelings, and their growing up.
Being a child of the 60’s, of course I was drawn to Kurt Vonnegut. Like so many others of my contemporaries, I was attracted to Vonnegut’s ideas and views and his exposure of societal issues that still existed even in the supposed good times following WW-II. His cynicism was tempered with some love and hope for mankind, and the future. Vonnegut’s writing style stays with me to this day. His simple words, simple sentences, short paragraphs and chapters make the serious topics and ideas he dealt with seem easier to accept, if not downright obvious.
Richard Brautigan was another writer whose style really attracted me. As with Vonnegut, Brautigan kept his writing straightforward and simple. His books caught the zeitgeist of the 1960’s. They were based in normal everyday reality. But he expanded and stretched that reality mirthfully. He poked fun at the world and society, but with an underlying respect and fondness for his everyman characters.
Haruki Murakami is a Japanese author who is close to my age. Although Murakami grew up in Japan, I can still understand and identify with his experiences growing up. His books, all of which take place in Japan, with Japanese characters, seem to be almost American, albeit with a metaphysical streak running through them. He really makes it clear that although we may have different physical characteristics and come from different parts of the world and very different cultures, that we are all pretty much the same underneath. We have the same likes, the same desires, the same fears, regardless of whether we are Japanese or American, or any other ethnicity or culture.
Richard Russo is another writer that is close to my age. What I like about Russo is that he writes books for grown men, middle aged and older, like me. I can appreciate books about female characters, younger characters, and characters of different ethnicities/backgrounds and orientation. But I can’t help but be drawn to books about “me”. And I like Russo’s writing style. His writing is very easy to read and lighthearted, helping his often serious subjects and messages to go down easier.
Well, that’s the five authors that have affected me the most with their body of work. There are many other authors that I read and reread. But these are the ones that I like to read for inspiration or when I am having trouble with my own writing.