When People Ask Me about My Favorite Authors

In my continuing quest to find my way into and through the world of Readers’ Advisory…

Sometimes people will ask me how to get started on a particular author. They haven’t read anything by this author, but they know I have and they want to give ’em a try. They ask me which of the author’s books is my favorite, or which they should read first.

My initial impulse is to tell them which book is my personal favorite by the author. But I also know that what appeals to me might not be what appeals to them, and so my favorite might not be theirs. Learning which is my personal favorite might tell them something about me, but it might not be their best entrée into the author’s body of work.

Another possible approach is to start them out with the same book that I started on—after all, it’s usually the first book I read by an author that makes me want to read more from them. But, again, I know that what appeals to me might not be what appeals to someone else. The book that whetted my appetite might not work as their first taste.

It may be that they won’t like this author once they try them, which means this may turn out to be the only book by the author they ever read. In which case, I feel it’s my responsibility to recommend the author’s best, or most important, work. The one book which best conveys the essence of the author. The one book you should read, if you’re only going to read one.

This is all complicated by the fact that these are frequently different books: my personal favorite from a particular author isn’t always their best or most important work, and not always the first book by them that I read.

And so what seems like a straightforward question can actually get rather convoluted, easy to overthink.

Ultimately, the answer I give has to be based on what I know of the person asking: What will appeal most to them?

I think the best answer is all three: my personal favorite, my first read, the author’s best or most important. This way, the exchange can be more than just one question / one answer. This way, it has room to blossom into a conversation.

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