There are a number of authors that I like, whose books I'll always pick up when given the choice. Beyond that, there is the elite few, the authors I really respect and always eagerly await their new books. When they have a new book come out, I can almost guarantee I will like it, if not love it. In choosing who deserved the great honor of being a part of this list, I decided that I needed to have read books from more than one series. This rule excluded such folks as J.K. Rowling and Shanna Swendson, both of whom I love. My thought was that the truly trustworthy and amazing authors need to be able to come up with different characters and plots. This post is a shout out to the consistently awesome folk.
Honorable Mention: Meg Cabot
Yet again, I will be a little bit loose with my definition of ten. Normally, I would just mention my eleventh (possibly through fifteenth) choices in a brief, comma-delimited list somewhere in my introductory section. This time, though, I wanted to explain why Meg Cabot hasn't made it onto the list proper. I love a lot of her books a lot. They are light and fluffy, but she does the fun teen book perfectly at times. Other times, though, I've really disliked her books, so she's not as predictable as I wanted folks on this list to be. I enjoyed most of her standalone books and the 1-800-WHERE-R-YOU books, and dearly loved the Mediator series and the Heather Wells series. However, I could not get through Airhead, Queen of Babble or The Princess Diaries. Still, when she's good, she's very good, which is why I still get excited every time she has a new book.
10. Shannon Hale
Like Meg Cabot, Shannon Hale writes for both adults and teens, and can vary a bit in quality (as perceived by me. Books I love are the Bayern series (minus Forest Born, which wasn't bad, but was disappointing), Princess Academy (which sounded lame, but totally wasn't) and The Actor and the Housewife (which walked a fine line and did so well). On the other hand, I could not get through Book of a Thousand Days (though I'm going to try again). I got tired of the graphic novel series she writes with her husband (which just didn't work for me). And I really did not like Austenland (which is one of the P&P inspired books where the main character totally gets a Darcy, after having been unhealthily obsessed with that character—this is a terrible message to send to Darcy-obsessed ladies). I retain my hope that all future books will be as awesome as the former group and continue to keep an eye on Shannon's publications.
9. Jennifer Crusie
When I was in my young teen years, I went through a brief stint where I read romance novels smuggled exceedingly sneakily from my mom's collection in the family library. This was, perhaps, not the high point of my reading career. After this brief, somewhat ignominious period, I left romance novels behind and journeyed into less predictable waters. I came back to romance for Jennifer Crusie, and pretty much only Jennifer Crusie (and one other lady who's coming up next). My friend Katelyn introduced me to her through Welcome to Temptation and I have loved her ever since. Her womenfolk are saucy and love animals, the men are sexy and the shenanigans are hilarious. Some of her books are better than others, but almost all have been great reads, although I have to mention that I like her better when she's not writing with Bob Mayer. Keep it awesome, Miss Crusie!
8. Janet Evanovich
Janet Evanovich is one of those authors that has a new book coming out every few months, each one with a hold list miles long at the local library. Some authors do not deserve this fanatical following, but I would argue that Evanovich does. Sure, the books are a bit short and they occasionally lack plot. That does not change the fact that every single one, be it romance or mystery, has made me laugh nigh hysterically. This woman is doing something right. Consistently. She keeps her audience laughing all the way to the bank.
7. Markus Zusak
Time for a change of pace. Zusak writes teen fiction, but not the stereotypical kind. He writes the ones that really make you think about tough issues, like the Holocaust. There is little doubt that The Book Thief is his best book so far and will be incredibly hard to top. If you haven't read it, you really should. It is beautifully written and tackles a much-covered topic in a completely original way. I also read I Am the Messenger, which was a fantastic story about coming of age and how people can make a difference. I have not yet gotten my hands on the Ruben Wolfe series. He apparently has a new book, called The Bridge of Clay, due out later this year; I'm excited. Plus, who knew he was so cute?
6. Tamora Pierce
Tamora Pierce is the queen of the teen fantasy genre oriented toward girls. I started out of order (a really weird thing if you know me) with the Trickster's books and absolutely loved them. I have since worked through the Song of the Lioness, The Immortals and Protector of the Small. Each series is different, but they have one really awesome thing in common: an incredibly strong heroine. Her girls are kickass and inspiring (and get some awesome sex when they want it). Her middle grade series did not impress me and I gave up after book one when some serious Tamora fans told me that one didn't get much better. As long as it's YA though, I'm there.
5. Terry Pratchett
Here's another author who consistently makes me giggle with glee. Only he makes me feel really smart at the same time. Terry Pratchett is a nerd's dream. His fantasy world, the Discworld, is patently absurd, but in the best way possible. His jokes run the gamut between high level wit and slapstick. Just look at him...he's obviously awesome. He is also one of those people who can turn out a whole lot of books, which means I have some seriously enjoyable catching up to do. Favorite book so far: The Thief of Time.
4. John Green
Unlike many of the other people on this list, I have actually read all of John Green's books published to date (although not his short stories published in omnibuses). All four books were pretty awesome. His only weakness is an obsession with 'mysterious' and self-destructive women, which made Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns a bit less enjoyable for me. I hated the main female character and respected the main male character less for being obsessed with her. My favorite so far is definitely Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which he cowrote with David Levithan. There are not words enough to express the awesomeness. The best things about John Green novels are the humor and the unique idiosyncrasies the characters have (e.g. Miles obsession with people's last words in Looking for Alaska). Fun fact: I got to shake this man's hand at ALA 2010.
3. Barbara Kingsolver
I openly acknowledge that there has not been all that much deep, weighty fare in my favorites list. Perhaps this is because novels of that sort, the kind deemed 'literary fiction' can sometimes not be a serious slog, even if they are good. Barbara Kingsolver writes about something amazingly different, often in a completely different style, in each of her books, but all the ones I have read worked amazingly. None of the ones I read (The Bean Trees, The Poisonwood Bible, Progidal Summer) were on topics that interested me in the least, but I found myself completely sucked into her beautiful prose. A similar author, who I like slightly less so far, is Margaret Atwood (who probably should be on this list, but she's still on the proving ground).
2. Sarah Addison Allen
Another genre I generally cannot stand is southern fiction, which is a category Allen's books definitely fall into. However, that cannot stop their amazingness. On a basic level, Allen's novels are simple, largely predictable chick lit books. To simply categorize them that way, though, would be doing them a disservice. What makes Allen so amazing is her addition of magical realism into every book. To read more about that, check out my review of her latest offering.
1. Kristin Cashore
Kristin Cashore writes YA fantasy, which is, on a basic level, very similar to Tamora Pierce. She, too, has incredibly powerful heroines with healthy sex drives. Cashore is even better, though. Her world-building is more original and her stories darker. So, if you love Pierce and haven't read Graceling and Fire yet, get on that posthaste! I have one complaint for Miss Cashore: she writes too slowly. Her third book, Bitterblue, has been hinted at for almost a year and a half now, but I still have yet to see the slightest sign of its actual publication. I would like to take this chance to send my desperate plea out into the internet: "Please, give us Bitterblue!"
P.S. I love looking at pictures of authors, because I usually do not really see them, and they rarely look like what I expected.