Most-Read Authors

Inspired by the post I noted yesterday and this one from Time's Flow Stemmed, I'm going to share my list of most-read authors--and I must confess it's something of an embarrassment, and there are occasions on which I don't have an exact count, so I cluster all of the complete works authors somewhere near the top.

These all represent reading from High School: no poetry, plays, or works prior to the Time of Shakespeare. I guess, just for sanity's sake, I'll also exclude nonfiction by authors other than those whose fiction I'm counting--thus I'll include C.S. Lewis nonfiction in the count, but I won't count Thomas Merton, or Pope John Paul II, or St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, etc.

Agatha Christie--Complete Fiction 60-70?
John Dickson Carr/Carter Dickson--Complete Works 50-60?
Rex Stout--Complete Fiction--40?
Ellery Queen (original cousins, not house name)--40?
John M. McDonald--30
Mary Roberts Rinehart--30
A.A. Fair/Erle Stanley Gardner--25
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle--12
George Chesbro--12
Craig Rice--11
Robert Barnard--8
Emma Lathen--9
Jim Thompson--8
Dashiell Hammett--8
Christianna Brand--8
Joan Hess-8
Carolyn Hart--8
Raymond Chandler--7
James M. Cain--7
Patricia Wentworth--6
Arturo Perez-Reverte--6
Wilkie Collins--5
Josephine Tey--5
Anthony Boucher/Francis Iles--5
S.S. van Dine--5
Earl Derr Biggers--5
V. C. Clinton-Baddley- 5
Dorothy Cannell--5
Katharine Hall Page--5
Anthony Boucher--5
Colin Watson--5

Isaac Asimov--Complete Ficiton + about 75 nonfiction--120?
Robert Heinlein--40-50
Arthur C. Clarke--40-50
Robert Silverberg--20
Jack Vance--15
Anne McCaffrey--10
H.G. Well--10
Harlan Ellison--10
Orson Scott Card--10-20
Jules Verne--5
Olaf Stapledon--5
Mary Doria Russell--5

Stephen King--Everything Published so far except the most recent
H.P. Lovecraft--30?
Clark Ashton Smith--30-40
Robert Howard--11 
Robert McCammon--15?
Michael McDowell--10?
Fritz Leiber--8
Edgar Allan Poe--Complete works
Preston and Cloud--15 (including works by each author separately)
Robert Bloch--5
Anne Rice--5-6
Bram Stoker--5
Dean Koontz--5
Thomas Ligotti--5

C.S. Lewis--15
Thorne Smith--9
Charles Williams--9
J R R Tolkien--8
James Rollins--8
J.K. Rowling--8
Jane Yolen--6
Susan Cooper--6
Alan Garner--5
Lloyd Alexander--5
E Nesbit--5

H Rider Haggard--20+
Edgar Rice Burroughs--30+

Graham Greene--25+
Joyce Carol Oates--25+
Charles Dickens--20
Virginia Woolf--19?
Thomas Hardy--15
Joseph Conrad--11
Yasunari Kawabata--11
Muriel Spark--10
Evelyn Waugh--10
Alexandre Duman--8
Robert Louis Stevenson--8
Jane Austen--6
William Faulkner--5-7
James Joyce--7? (hard to count Joyce given works-in-progress, drafts, etc.)
Samuel Beckett--7
Marcel Proust--8
Henry James--8
Kenzaburo Oe--8
Natsume Soseki--5
Brian Moore--5
E. M Forster--5
Junichiro Tanizaki--5
Albert Camus--5
Francois Mauriac--5
Thomas Mann--5
Franz Kafka--5
John Hawkes--5
Shusaku Endo--5
Naguid Mahfouz--5
Gabriel Garcia Marquez--5
Julio Cortazar--5
Carlos Fuentes--5
Jorge Amado--5
Lawrence Durrell--5
William Dean Howells--5
Mark Twain--5
Emile Zola--5
Anthony Trollope--5
Henry Fielding--5
Tobias Smollet--5
Philip Roth--5
John Updike--5
Leo Tolstoy--5
Guy de Maupassant--5
Anton Chekhov--5
Gita Mehta--5
J.M. Coetzee--5
Amos Oz--5
Nadine Gordimer--5
Ernest Hemingway--5
John Steinbeck--5
Pearl Buck--5
Sinclair Lewis--5
Sigrid Undset--7? (Master of Hestviken and Kristin Lavransdatter)
Gunter Grass--5
Flannery O'Connor--5
Walker Percy--5

Ian Fleming--16 (all of James, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Thrilling Cities)
Angela Thirkell--15
Georgette Heyer--14
Helen MacInnes--10
Mary Stewart--8
Daphne DuMaurier--5

I'll probably return to the list to revise as I think through things--I know the SF, Mystery, and Horror lists are considerably foreshortened as are the classics.

And of course, with an arbitrary cut off of 5, this can include no relatively recent authors with an opus not yet up to 5.


  1. "And now, ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together with an enthusiastic round of applause for the wonderfully eclectic reading list so generously offered by (drum roll, please) Steven Riddle."

    Okay, I'm finished with the waggish fun and games part of my comment.

    Here, now, is my own appreciation for your generous sharing of your list. I personally applaud the eclectic variety of your reading. As for myself, I never have made it into S/F, though we have considerable overlap in other areas. By the way, have you encountered Colin Dexter among your mystery genre authors? You do not want to miss his Morse series.

    However, I must scold you for omitting (overlooking? ignoring? not reading?) Flannery O'Connor.

    Regards from the die-hard O'Connor fanatic!

  2. Postscript:
    For me, Stephen King's recent offering, BLOCKADE BILLY, was a bit of an overpriced disappointment. As short story stretched into novella and packaged for sale by a publisher who wants too much for too little, BLOCKADE BILLY has some good moments, but it cannot favorably compare to King's better efforts.

  3. Dear R.T.,

    Thanks for the reminder about O'Connor--there's actually a cluster there of O'Connor, Percy, and Merton that I missed--but I may have glanced over O'Connor because of the 5 book minimum--but then when I include the Letters and Mystery and Manners, I guess I make it up to that.

    So, there's much revision to be done--I'm not certain at this point that I've covered the waterfront at this point--especially SF, Fantasy, and Mystery--so this may be something of a work in progress.

    And on Blockade Billy--I got it from the library to avoid the pricing surcharge. They did a similar sort of thing with The Green Mile when it first came out--you ended up spending something like $18 for a paperback at a time when they were running $4--but at that time I was such a die-hard fan I just dealt with it.



  4. You might also consider taking a look at the Library of America 2 volume collection of Tales of Terror. Superb! Some of the tales make King look like a rookie.

  5. It's not just recent authors that are affected by the 5-book cutoff. How many people, even serious fans, will have read 5 books by Montaigne, Rabelais, Dante, Chaucer, C. Brontë, E. Brontë, Thackeray, Rimbaud, Lampedusa? For some of these writers, what does "5 books" even mean?

    The nice thing about this game is that the ruels are mutable.

  6. No Patrick O'Brian?

    Nice to see that you are familiar with Purbright, Love, Miss Lucilla Teatime and the Flaxborough Crab, though. The Flaxborough (and Mumbleby) novels are among my favourite re-reads.


  7. Steven - I admire your commitment to authors. My list demonstrated the fickle nature of my tastes. Six books of Proust - is this possible?

  8. Dear Anthony--

    On Proust--with _Jean Santeuil_, the only novel outside of the A La Recherche du Temps Perdu series that I'm aware of, I believe the total is six. Or did I miscount the series?

    On the other point--I'm not certain I exhibit much in the way of loyalty--the singles and duos still far outnumber the series reads I've done--proportionally, this is just the tip of the iceberg of reading--so my guess is that I'm no more loyal than most--I just read voraciously and nearly omnivorously. I must admit to having large blank spaces where "sea/war adventures" and "spy novels" might fit--having read but one of the Sharpe series, one of the Horatio Hornblower, and half of the first of the O'Brian series. Good writing, but not enough of interest to me to sustain my reading.

    Dear Meg,

    No, I just haven't managed Patrick O'Brian. And it has been some time since my delightful acquaintance with the world of Colin Watson, so at first I puzzled over your references. I must get back to them--I remember liking _Hopjoy Was Here_ especially.

    Dear Anonymous,

    Yes, leaving the Brontes off, was difficult, but if you count all three I could claim 7--perhaps I'll lump them together and do that--unfair, but it gets around the painful necessity of omission otherwise.

    And George Eliot--I've only managed 4 so far--they tend to be hard to get.



  9. Steven - I forget Recherche was published as a series. There are seven volumes in the series I believe. No Elmore Leonard in your crime diet?

  10. Dear Anthony,

    Ah, well then, I had miscalculated--I'll need to change the number to 8. I was remembering Temps Perdu as 5 volumes rather than seven.



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