A Scale of Tens

Former schoolmate, former co-worker, master of fandom, self-described dilettante, and longtime friend of the blog Kevin J. Maroney (a/k/a "Womzilla") recently noted on Twitter that his reading habits have changed over the years; he compiled a list of writers with ten or more book-length works that he had read, discovering that he had explored only 16 writers to this degree. In his post-college years, however, he has been more inclined to read only a book or two by a given writer, diving more deeply into the world of comics and exploring prose in a more scattershot manner. Since graduation, only three writers have moved him to read ten or more of their books.

Curious to see if my own reading patterns were at all similar, I whipped up a list of my own, and here's what I discovered.

Ignoring comic books and comic strips (and thus the scores of titles by Alan Moore or G.B. Trudeau that I've read) and anthology-editing (which knocked George R.R. Martin and his dozen Wild Cards books off the list), I looked only at writers with ten or more book-length works that I had completed. Seventeen of them made the list:

Isaac Asimov (The Foundation Trilogy, plus Foundation's Edge and Foundation and Empire; The Gods Themselves, The End of Eternity, Asimov's Mysteries; Nightfall and Other Stories; The Best of Isaac Asimov; and probably a few more I'm forgetting.)

Ray Bradbury (R is for Rocket, S is for Space, Twice 22, The Illustrated Man, The Martian Chronicles, The Golden Apples of the Sun, The Halloween Tree, A Medicine for Melancholy, I Sing the Body Electric, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and probably others)

Orson Scott Card (The four Ender books, Ender's Shadow, the four Maps in a Mirror volumes, the five Alvin Maker books, A Planet Called Treason, Treason, Wyrms, Hart's Hope, Songmaster, maybe some others. I no longer own any of Card's books.)            

Jack L. Chalker (The five Well World books; three newer Well World books; the four Warden Diamond books; The Identity Matrix; four of the Dancing Gods books; Downtiming the Nightside; The Messiah Complex; two of the Flux & Anchor books)

Harlan Ellison (I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, Deathbird Stories, The Glass Teat, The Other Glass Teat, Alone Against Tomorrow, Partners in Wonder, Strange Wine, Angry Candy, Shatterday, Slippage, Love Ain't Nothing but Sex Misspelled, An Edge in My Voice, Sleepless Nights in the Procrustean Bed, perhaps others)

Stephen Jay Gould (ten collections of essays from Natural History; The Mismeasure of Man; Wonderful Life; Full House; Questioning the Millennium)

Robert A. Heinlein (The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Stranger in a Strange Land, I Will Fear No Evil, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, Friday, The Number of the Beast, Job, The Past Through Tomorrow, Glory Road, Podkayne of Mars, Tunnel in the Sky, Farnham's Freehold, Starship Trooper, The Puppet Masters, Methusaleh's Children, The Door into Summer, Time Enough for Love)

Stephen King (Carrie, The Shining, The Stand, Firestarter, The Dead Zone, The Dark Half, Night Shift, Different Seasons, Cujo, Christine, It, Thinner, Misery, The Tommyknockers, Gerald's Game, Bag o'Bones, Everything's Eventual, Danse Macabre, On Writing)

Ursula K. Le Guin (the six Earthsea books; Always Coming Home, The Wind's Twelve Quarters, Changing Planes, The Lathe of Heaven, Lavinia, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, The Word for World Is Forest, Planet of Exile, A Fisherman of the Inland Sea, Very Far Away from Anywhere Else)

C.S. Lewis (the seven Chronicles of Narnia; Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, Till We Have Faces, Of Other Words, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity)

Julian May (the four-volume Saga of Pliocene Exile; the two volumes of Intervention; the three Galactic Milieu books; two (with the third still in progress) of the Boreal Moon Tale books)

Larry Niven (three Ringworld books; Tales of Known Space, World of Ptavvs, Protector, A Gift from Earth, Neutron Star, All the Myriad Ways, A Hole in Space, The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton, The Flight of the Horse, Convergent Series, A World Out of Time, The Integral Trees, The Smoke Ring, N-Space, Playgrounds of the Mind, and collaborations including The Mote in God's Eye, Lucifer's Hammer, Footfall, Inferno, The Legacy of Heorot)

Terry Pratchett (39 Discworld books, Nation, Dodger, A Blink of the Screen, and collaborations Good Omens and The Long Earth)

Neal Stephenson (eight paperback volumes of The System of the World, though it was released in three hardback volumes; The Diamond Age, Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, Anathem)

J.R.R. Tolkien (the Lord of the Rings trilogy; The Hobbit, The Tolkien Reader, The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, two volumes of The Book of Lost Tales, The Children of Hurin, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight)

John Varley (the Gaean trilogy; The Ophiuchi Hotline, The Barbie Murders, The Persistence of Vision, Blue Champagne, Steel Beach, The Golden Globe, Millennium, Mammoth, Slow Apocalypse, Red Thunder, Red Lightning, Rolling Thunder)

Roger Zelazny (five volumes of The Chronicles of Amber; five volumes of The Second Chronicles of Amber; This Immortal; The Dream Master; Lord of Light; Creatures of Light and Darkness; Isle of the Dead; Damnation Alley; Jack of Shadows; To Die in Italbar; Doorways in the Sand; My Name Is Legion; Roadmarks; Changeling; Madwand; A Night in the Lonesome October

So: seventeen writers, most of them in the realms of science fiction and/or fantasy, most of them encountered when I was in college or beforehand. The most recent discoveries are Gould, May, Pratchett, and Stephenson; I began reading the first two in graduate school, if I recall correctly, but didn't dive into the latter two until the late 1990s.

Was anyone else close to making the list? Oh, you bet. Realistically, both Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman should be on it, as I've read dozens of stand-alone volumes and collections by each, but I've only read Moore's comics (I find his prose a bit on the slow side, in all honesty) and the non-comics Gaiman books I've read tally only seven, plus a collaboration with Pratchett and two rather brief children's books.) But I'd said I'd keep comics off, lest Trudeau (58 books, not counting Sunday collections) and Walt Kelly (25 books and counting) take over completely.

There are also plenty of writers moving close to the magic number, but who haven't gone over the top yet. With nine books each, it's only a matter of time before David Quammen and John Scalzi go over the top. Jim Crace is standing at eight, Octavia Butler at seven, Connie Willis and George R.R. Martin at six apiece, and Mike Carey and John McPhee at five each. All but Butler are still writing, but I've got a number of her works yet to open, so in a year or two we could be looking at a list of over two dozen authors. Every one of these writers, I should note, is one I've discovered in my adulthood; in fact, I came across Quammen, Scalzi, Crace, and Carey only in the 21st Century.
In short, right now my list of Deeply Read Writers is skewing powerfully toward my schooldays. That's to be expected, given that those are the days when you tend to have both the ability to focus intensely on an idea or a story and the time to devote to that intense focus. But I have to say it's been an interesting exercise, if only because I can see from the numbers just how much I have left to read, and how I can hope to discover wonderful new writers even as I get older. Thanks, Kevin.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on July 20, 2015 6:09 PM.

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