Happy holidays to all of the book elves everywhere! I hope your season is going about splendidly.
Last week Sir Boyfriend surprised me with two of my Christmas presents early. I was having a rough time dealing with some shit and he wanted to make me smile (I swear, he is the greatest of all greats). Much to my exhilarating satisfaction, the gifts he handed me were two Haruki Murakami novels, both non-fiction. The first one, Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa, consists of my most-favourite author sitting down with one of the finest composers to exist and simply chatting about music. I’m a humongous fan of music, especially classical music, so I was awaiting this release with great impatience. The second one is a small book where Murakami-san sits down and talks about life, relationships, and writing with Japan’s cultural specialist Hayao Kawai. This tiny little thing is one of those reads that you can carry with you, no matter where you go, just in case if you’re in need of a dose of inspiration when shit gets tough. Suffice to say, I was floored with glee.
I realized very quickly that Haruki Murakami is a name I will ecstatically throw my money at no matter what he writes. He is the epitome of “auto-buy author” for me. This got my brain juices flowing and I began to ponder who else I would happily go broke for. When I encountered Murakami’s writing, he changed my world as a reader & appreciator of literature with a simple 280 pages. In fact, he continues to blow my mind with every single title he’s written (that I’ve read so far). Who else has affected me so profoundly and so passionately?
With the new year around the corner, I sat down and gave this some contemplation. After a bit o’ time (20 minutes), I finally managed to answer this significant question. With the answer came a deep-rooted respect for every single one of these individuals and the overwhelming effect that they’ve had on me as a book-cat. I’m also really proud that 70% of ‘em are Diverse authors! Woot woot.
Let’s check out this list and (before you ask) they are definitely ranked by fan-girl enthusiasms.
07. James Rollins
A Californian author whom I discovered randomly while raiding my friend’s bookshelves, James Rollins has become one of the few contemporary fiction authors that I actually go out of my way for. My first experience with him was with the novel Sandstorm, which is an action-adventure title like that of The DaVinci Code but written SO MUCH BETTER. He introduced me to action-adventure books, which I hadn’t read before now, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
- Genres: Action-Adventure, Thriller, Suspense
- Best book qualities: Extremely well-researched. Science is accurate & on point. Absorbingly flowing nature of storytelling. Suspense feels real & anticipatory.
- Worst book qualities: Certain stories can feel slightly repetitive.
- Books I recommend: Sandstorm, Deep Fathom, Excavation, The Blood Gospel.
06. Rick Riordan
Man, I remember when I was very reluctant to read any of his stuff. As an adult, I thought it was silly for me to read middle-grade books. On some stupid level, I had convinced myself that it’s a frowned upon thing and people would look down on me, or see me as a lesser intellectual. But Sir Boyfriend told me I was being a dumbass and then handed me the Percy Jackson and the Olympians stack of books. Result: I was being a total and complete dumbass for sure. After that, I became wholeheartedly open-minded to reading whatever the fuck I wanted if it had a good story—middle-grade, young adult, picture books, cat-speak, etc. He is a phenomenal author who makes history, folk-tales, and mythology beautifully accessible to the youngsters, and his writing is intelligent enough to appeal to readers of all ages. He revolutionized my reading habits in a big way.
- Genres: Middle-grade / Young Adult, Adventure-Fantasy, Mythology
- Best book qualities: Makes mythology & folklore fun, exciting, & accessible to children. Promotes positive themes about friendship, diversity, acceptance, & family. Energetic characters with whom anyone can relate to. Intelligent yet effortless way of storytelling.
- Worst book qualities: Occasional repetitive formats within set serials (which isn’t too bad depending on the series).
- Books I recommend: ALL OF THEM! Percy Jackson & the Olympians is a great place to start with him as most of his serials are connected, either loosely or cohesively.
05. Lisa See
A Chinese-American author, Lisa See is one of my absolute favourites writers of Chinese historical fiction. Her works are always sophisticated and beautifully candid. See is the author who introduced me to books about China’s history and culture, which further fuelled my obsession for Asian literature and Asia’s vast, rich diversity as a whole.
- Genres: Chinese Literature, Historical Fiction
- Best book qualities: Sophisticated & poignant prose. Uninhibited way of discussing the reality of war. Making complex cultural & social customs understandable to people outside of the culture.
- Worst book qualities: The pacing of certain books can create a very slow reading experience.
- Books I recommend: Shanghai Girls, Snow Flower & the Secret Fan, China Dolls.
04. Amy Tan
The Joy Luck Club was my first Amy Tan book. At the time, I was fifteen and my relationship with my mum had changed drastically. I went from being a rebellious, disrespectful brat of a child to someone who found her best friend in her mother. The latter was just starting to bloom and when I finished The Joy Luck Club, I sat down and cried for a few moments. I had a much deeper understanding and appreciation for my mum, not only as a mother, but as a woman who had to raise her child in an environment that was very alien to her. Even though my parents aren’t Chinese, we are still Asian and many themes expressed in Tan’s novel was unbelievably relatable and enlightening to me. Her exploration of relationships between mother and daughter became some of my favourite things to read about because I always learned something new. She helped transform me as a reader and as a daughter.
- Genres: Chinese-American Literature, Contemporary adult fiction
- Best book qualities: Exploration of mother-daughter relationships. What it means to grow up as a first generation Asian American. An amazing collage of culture stemming from family history & childhood environments.
- Worst book qualities: NONE!
- Books I recommend: The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God’s Wife, The Bonesetter’s Daughter.
03. Yoko Ogawa
My cousin introduced me to Yoko Ogawa last year with her novel Hotel Iris. I was completely mesmerized with the provocative nature of the story that was being told, and even more so astounded by the utter simplicity of the writing. For me, it encapsulated everything about the Japanese aesthetic in a remarkable way. It reminded me classical Japanese literature novels that speak of tantalizing themes or actions in a seemingly elegant and clean means. The sophistication is subtle, implied, while the atmosphere sings with purity. I read her other works and knew that I was completely addicted.
- Genres: Japanese Literature, Contemporary adult fiction
- Best book qualities: Serenely subtle & sophisticated prose. Every story is a double-entendre. Unique, modest exploration of taboo themes.
- Worst book qualities: Her subjects can make some people uncomfortable (which just makes her even more alluring to me, as an author).
- Books I recommend: Hotel Iris, The Housekeeper & the Professor, The Diving Pool.
02. Banana Yoshimoto
Required reading in college for my Modern Japanese Literature course led me to Banana Yoshimoto with Kitchen. Superb writing and stories about real-life as it’s lived versus how it’s viewed kept me glued to her like birdseed on peanut butter. Another author who explores familial relationships in her books, especially in relation to loss, Yoshimoto’s books are bittersweet and always make you realize how short life can be as well as how resilient it is when given the chance to shine. She was another figure who greatly helped to give my own life some meaning and shape during a time of darkness and loss. Her humour and liberal expressions also make her work delightfully engrossing.
- Genres: Japanese Literature, Contemporary adult fiction
- Best book qualities: Exploration of complex family relationships from a simple viewfinder. Stories are brief yet exquisitely self-inquiring. Gracefully pragmatic.
- Worst book qualities: NONE!
- Books I recommend: Kitchen, Hardboiled & Hard Luck, Goodbye Tsugumi.
01. Haruki Murakami
After reading that introduction, I’m sure that most of you were probably wondering where the hell Murakami would show up (although y’all probably guessed he’d be my number one). Haruki Murakami changed everything about me as a reader, everything that I thought I knew about myself. He introduced me to multiple new genres and is the reason that I became a Diverse Reader as a whole. My very first Murakami novel was South of the Border, West of the Sun, nine years ago, which I read in one sitting in a span of two hours in the middle of the night. It was so damn good. I literally could. Not. Put. It. Down. No one has had me that wrapped up in their pages since I was fifteen years old. I knew right at once that this man was going to become my favourite living author, period. My OBSESSION for Japanese Literature was born & unstoppable in the years that would follow.
- Genres: Japanese Literature, Magical realism, Contemporary adult fiction
- Best book qualities: His writing is absolutely brilliant, thought-provoking, clean, and distinguished. The magical realism is sublime and flowing. Bittersweet endings & complex themes exploring love, sex, and relationships give every title a marvellous spread of depth. Every book relates to his love of music.
- Worst book qualities: Magical realism can be confusing, or jarring, for some readers. Bittersweet finales can leave you feeling a bit hollow at times.
- Books I recommend: South of the Border, West of the Sun. Norwegian Wood. Sputnik Sweetheart. Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.
I hope I helped someone discover a couple of new authors to check out with this magnificently long-ass post. These authors helped change my life as a reader, and also as a person. That’s probably why they will always be my literary auto-buys. Who are some of your favourite auto-buy authors? I’d love to know your picks.
Happy reading! ♥