My Answer to the Question: “Can a Novelist Be Too Prolific?”
I often get blog posts ideas from the New York Times Review section. There are just so many thought provoking things going on in there. This week, I found a really interesting article and was drawn to it immediately because of it’s author.
I am a few decades late to the whole Stephen King thing. I read Green Mile when it came out in serialized books years ago because I thought the concept was cool. And I’ve read On Writing a few times because it is awesome but I have never poured through his backlist as so many have. This summer, when a readerly friend learned this she was appalled and told me I had to get going. So I’ve been reading King in fits and starts (his books are long people!) over the summer.
His article today titled, “Can a Novelist Be Too Prolific?”, speaks to authors like himself who have written dozens of books. These are the authors that tend to get little critical acclaim as if the ability to write fast does not equal the ability to write well. King says, “No one in his or her right mind would argue that quantity guarantees quality, but to suggest that quantity never produces quality strikes me as snobbish, inane and demonstrably untrue.”
While King sites a few authors whose works I have not read or have read very little like John D. McDonald or Agatha Christie, I would argue that there are some current authors that fall in to this same category.
In fact, I can attribute my initial love of reading and my continued love of reading to many of them. In my work with parents of reluctant readers, I often sing the praises of the series. Parents tend to think that series like The Magic Tree House and My Weird School ‘don’t count’ as reading. They are easy, they are repetitive, they aren’t challenging enough. And I wholeheartedly disagree. Series create a sense of familiar when reading is tough. They provide names and places and circumstances that don’t require sounding out so that young readers can simply enjoy the story.
And I too, as a grown up, avid reader, love series and more than that, love books by authors who write many, many books. These are the books that I turn to when I want an escape. When I am in a bit of a reading slump but want to keep reading or simply when an author I love has a new book. If I forced myself only to read the latest Pulitzer Prize winner, I might not be a reader. Do I read the more challenging stuff? Sure. But do I also read books that some critics might not love? I do. And I think it is most likely these books that I have to thank for making me a reader.
Here goes… Prolific authors that I have to thank for making (and keeping) me a reader.
Jodi Picoult. I haven’t read Picoult as much lately but there was a time when I read every single one of her books as soon as it was released.
Ann River Siddons. I read all Siddons’ books years ago. So many years ago that when I was writing this post I had to reach out to my college friend Elizabeth who I just knew could help. Here was my question: I need help remembering an author and I think you loved her books too. I am writing a blog post about authors who write a lot of books. We would have read them in our 20s. They are set in the south. Often at the beach? Family dramas. There are a lot of them. Female author. Easy reads but good? Anything? Within minutes she had responded and asked me to also include the author of the Sweet Valley High books which of course led me to a whole different post that will be coming soon.
Harlan Coben. I read Harlan Coben before I lived in his town and I must say his books are even more fun to read now.
Patricia Cornwell. I found Cornwell when we lived in Richmond and all her landmarks were familiar. I’ve read so many that I really feel like her characters are friends.
Lianne Moriarity. A few weeks ago, Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy wrote a post about authors to binge read and Moriarity and Moyes (see below) were on her list. I completely agree.
JoJo Moyes. As soon as I read Me Before You, I knew I had found a new author to read and read and read.
Jean M Auel. The Clan of the Cave Bear series was one of my favorites when I was young and I had completely forgotten about it before I wrote this post.
John Grisham. Sort of like Picoult, I don’t necessarily read all of Grisham’s books now but I certainly used to.
James Patterson. See above.
I’m sure more authors will come to me but that is all for now. I’d love to hear the authors that you could keep reading and reading reading.
I love reading Ann Patchett, Cheryl Strayed, Elizabeth Gilbert and Brene Brown. These are authors I will read no matter what they write. I recently read Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty and I can see why people love reading her work. Fun post, Stacey!
Thanks Rudri! And I agree with your lists too. I often say I want to be Ann Patchett when I grow up. An essayist/novelist/bookstore owner. What could be better?
I love Lianne Moriarty & JoJo Moyes (can’t wait for Me After You – and have you read The Last Letter From Your Lover?). Others I read no matter what: Jen Lancaster, Jennifer Wiener, Pattie Callahan Henry, Mary Kay Andrews, Emily Giffin (although I really, really did not like her last book), Jane Porter, Ann Lamott, Anna Quindlen, Sarah Jio…and my new ones: Jonathon Tropper and Beatriz Williams. Okay, I’ll stop now! Are you on GoodReads?
This is so well-timed–I have been reading a lot of nonfiction lately–all good, but heavy (and sometimes depressing!). I decided I wanted to read something fun, and instead of taking a chance with an unknown, reached for an old favorite from the days before I read “serious” books–Barbara Michaels, aka Elizabeth Peters. I’ve read them all before, and because she died recently, there is sadly no possibility of new titles. So I picked up a few at the library that I had read long enough ago I didn’t remember much about them, and then I grabbed the first of the Amelia Peabody series (all which I had reread once before–when my first son was an infant), and was instantly addicted, jonesing for book two, and loving every minute of it. In the case of Ms. Michaels/Peters, I think being “too prolific” was good for her writing. Instead of dashing off formula copies, the plots become more complex, the characters more robust, the ambiance more dramatic (or humorous). I can only hope to be a fraction so prolific some day.