My favourite authors
One of the things that I did shortly after relocating my office into the new garden studio was to rearrange my bookshelves.
Previously, the short set of shelves that sat behind me was home to a random selection of books – mostly mine but also some of my wife's – that served as nothing more than an overflow for the other bookshelves around the house. Nothing ever ended up there intentionally; I think I had read most of what was on the shelves, but not everything, and if one book was removed something else soon took its place.
But now that the shelves were to occupy my studio office, a place that was ostensibly mine and mine alone, I decided that I would rearrange them in order to gather together the works of my favourite authors.
Guy Gavriel Kay
I first read GGK as a teenager when I picked up a copy of Tigana from the public library, and since then I have read everything else he has written (his latest, All The Seas Of The World, comes out in paperback this April). It's almost all low-fantasy, set in fictionalised equivalents of places and times during which our own world was going through change, and tends to follow a mixture of characters both high- and low-born as they influence or are swept up by the events of their time. His early works – Tigana, A Song for Arbonne, The Lions of Al-Rassan, and The Sarantine Mosaic – are my favourites, although I suspect that's largely due to the age at which I read them. The more recent books and characters just don't seem to stick in the mind as much, although they're still an enjoyable read.
Almost certainly the greatest comic book writer of all time, I came to Moore through the graphic novel collections of his work – first the seminal Watchmen, and then later other lauded works such as Batman: The Killing Joke, From Hell and V for Vendetta. Over the years I've slowly built up a collection of his less well-known work as well, my favourite of which is the limited series Top 10, as well as the novels Voice of the Fire and the 600,000 word epic Jerusalem (which is quite possibly my favourite book, although I have only managed to get through it once). And I still haven't gotten around to reading The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or Swamp Thing, so there's plenty more Moore left for me to discover.
Another comic book writer, and I have my brother to thank for introducing me to Peter Bagge's work – specifically his series Hate – as a teenager. I empathised with his Gen-X slacker anti-hero, Buddy Bradley, and as I grew older and re-read the stories I found more to admire in Bagge's stories and art. In later years I've filled in my collection with some of his other books; they're of variable quality, admittedly, but there's always something about them to like and the art style is definitely unique. For a long time, "Buddy Bradley" was my chosen name across mostly now defunct web forums and message boards.
It's obviously something of a cliché that men who fancy themselves as writers will idolise Hemingway, but there really is something about his writing that sets it apart from just about any other writer. It's not all perfect, of course (To Have And Have Not in particular is awful) but when he was at his best – The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls – it just seems so effortless. (He also wrote so few actual full-length novels that they don't take up much space on the shelf, which leaves room for...)
F Scott Fitzgerald
Of course everyone has read The Great Gatsby, but I tend to think Fitzgerald's other works, especially Tender Is the Night, are far more interesting. His prose style is eminently readable; it's a shame we didn't get to see what he might have been capable of had his life not gone off the rails.
I've loved the Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome ever since I was a child. Somehow the adventurous fantasies of 1930s public schoolchildren landed perfectly for me 50+ years later, and even now I will re-read one or two of the books every year for some comfortable nostalgia. My favourite is probably We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea, and of the others the only ones I don't particularly care for are the more fantastical Peter Duck and Missee Lee. And I'll always watch the 1974 film whenever it appears in the television listings.
Robert A Heinlein
I used to have a far more impressive collection of Heinlein books, mostly paperbacks from the 60s and 70s, but sadly they were lost in a garage flood several years ago. Since then I've been re-buying them when I can, although with fewer opportunities to visit charity shops it's been slow going. Despite his somewhat problematic views on some topics I've always loved his competent and inventive protagonists with their whip-smart dialogue; my all-time favourite has always been The Number of the Beast, but I also really enjoyed most of his so-called "juvenile" books of the late 40s and early 50s.
The most recent discovery on this list, I don't really remember how or when I came across Joe Abercrombie's work, but since picking up his first book, The Blade Itself, I've made sure to grab everything else he has since released – he's one of the few authors whose work I own in hardback because I just couldn't wait for the paperback release. A self-described writer of "grimdark" fantasy, his books are packed with morally ambiguous characters whose motives are sometimes not entirely clear, but you can't help rooting for them anyway.
Speaking of morally ambiguous characters, I've enjoyed Charles Bukowski's writing for a long time, both his novels and short stories but also his poetry. The books are written in a spare, straightforward style that perfectly matches the base urges that seem to propel his alter-ego stand-in, Henry Chinaski, from dead-end job to dead-end job and from woman to woman.