25 votes

Single favorite author of all time

That's going to be a tough one, and after proposing it, I think I'm going to have to think about it.

I was just reminiscing about Murakami Haruki, but I'm not sure that he's it for me, in my reality tunnel at least.

F.Scott Fitzgerald would be right up there.
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Neil Gaiman - with a single book, American Gods.

Much more to think about.

Looking forward to your picks.

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Desert Island lists

Dear Michael, I hope some time you'll make another post that is more defined. When trying to choose my "favorite author," three genres came to mind:

1) Authors I've read the most of. Sometimes if I liked a book, I've read another book by the same author. Sometimes it stops right there. But with two authors, I just kept going, reading everything they wrote that I could get my hands on. So, in one sense, they're my "favorite" authors.

2) Authors of my favorite books. For years, I've named two novels as my all time favorite books. They're two which just blew me away. The author of one is also one of the authors I've read the most of. (And I'm glad I did keep reading as that's how I eventually came upon that one that would awe me.) As to the other author, the book's sequel didn't come close to measuring up, nor sequel after that, where I stopped. Yet I'd have to give him credit as "favorite" for that one book of his that totally captivated me.

3) Desert Island author. A different animal! Defining his choice this way, chris cudnoski listed an author & book that would certainly be on my own desert island list, too: A. Conan Doyle's The Complete Sherlock Holmes - one of the few works I *could* read over and over again for the rest of my life. And yet A. Conan Doyle would not rank "favorite author" by those other criteria. And while surely that book would be on a Desert Island list of ten... five... even three, I'm not sure about a "list" comprised of only one book. Maybe. Maybe not.

Choosing *just one* favorite author proved too difficult. At least to be recorded for posterity! I guess what I'd be most interested to read for others here at the DP would be their DESERT ISLAND LIST OF BOOKS - allowing 10 (no if's, and's, or but's, meaning people would have to give it some thought).

Such a list could then include authors who are dear to our hearts for different reasons. Such a list could include both non-fiction and fiction and acknowledge different interests and moods. And yes, even though I might *not* wish to read them over and over, I'd still have on my list a couple books that had the most influence on me *even if* to just know they were there. Just in case.

P.S. During Hurricane Sandy, leaving at the last minute, I grabbed only one book: the Holy Bible. I think when NPR once did this Desert Island idea with listeners, they qualified "other than the Bible."

I'd love to see the ten BOOKS we'd choose if we were stranded on a desert island. Also a desert island list of ALBUMS/CD's. Top SONGS, too, if we could only hear ten for the rest of our lives. Also a desert island list of MOVIES. Anyone else interested to know each other's (top ten) Desert Island lists?

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
~ John Muir

Douglas Hofstadter

As a engineer, it was literally blissful to read his 'Godel Escher Bach'. It really made me dive deep into the nature of intelligence, sub-conscious and even about the nature and existence of God :)

Of course I've read a lot on other philosophies and economics and fiction, but GEB has that special little place in my life.


Metamagical Themas was swiped

by a friend in the middle of my having fun with Hofstadter's idea about alphabets, namely, writing words so as to be read going left to right or right to left, that is, looking the same read directly or in front of a mirror. I impressed a few people whose names I wrote that way (especially a nine-letter last name). Heck, I impressed myself. I was not impressed with myself, however, to find that most of the book was over my head. Plus I found I did not share his mechanistic view of human beings. I didn't finish reading it, happy it found a more appreciative audience in one of my children, who then also read the book you enjoyed. http://www.amazon.com/Metamagical-Themas-Questing-Essence-Pa...

By the way, you might enjoy the documentary, A Glorious Accident. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrcl9mHx_Q0 A Dutch filmmaker interviewed six geniuses, including one of Hofstadter's (fellow atheist) friends, Daniel Dennett. That's how I first learned of a couple scientists, including Rupert Sheldrake - a man more after my own heart, not that TED feels the same! His banned TED Talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKHUaNAxsTg

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
~ John Muir

Thanks for the documentary

Thanks for the documentary and the TED talk links.

On the mechanistic view of human beings - actually GEB starts off with that idea but ultimately explores the real nature of mind and conscious.

I agree that the last few chapters (dealing with logician Godel) is very heavy in maths but with some re-reading just high-school maths and first-order logic is enough to understand the concepts. It is in these last few chapters, where Hofstadter presents a simpler proof of the Godel's Incompleteness theorem, thereby, proving that human conscious is not mechanistic and that machines cannot have the same general intelligence that humans do (atleast not if machines are designed to perform a set of specific functions).

Thanks for that insight.

Metamagical Themas is a compilation of articles Hofstadter wrote for Scientific American. I actually had two copies. After the first was swiped when I'd just begun to read it and was playing around with creatively-designed alphabets (impressed by examples of Hofstadter's), I sprung for a second copy - for nothing... until one of my children, an engineer, like yourself, found it here and enjoyed it, wanting to see what else Hofstadter had written. Yes, Gödel, Escher, Bach sounds like a book I'd enjoy more.

FYI, although A Glorious Accident would appear to be in Dutch (it's a Dutch filmmaker), all of the great minds interviewed are British or American. So all but narrated intros are in English.

Btw, you might want to reply here and supply the Amazon link for GEB. That should get it included on the DP "Bookshelf."

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
~ John Muir

Sure, here's the amazon

Sure, here's the amazon link

I am going to watch the documentary and the ted talk this weekend.

Cyril's picture

It's a fantastic book.

It's a fantastic book.

See also, related:


"Cyril" pronounced "see real". I code stuff.


"To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous." -- Confucius

Thanks for that good DP

Thanks for that good DP thread.

Godel is indeed, arguably, the most brilliant mind in the modern times. Ever since I understood the Incompleteness Theorems, their proof and its implications, I became an agnostic for life from being atheist.

I have since used Godel's work in many places/forums to get atheists and religious people to work together rather than fight against each other :)

Sorry for laughing here, but

I went to your post and thought of this cute comedy, I.Q. (1994). Einstein (Walter Matthau) thinks his niece (Meg Ryan) would be better off going out with this local-garage auto mechanic who really loves her (Tim Robbins) than her pompous intellectual fiancee (Steven Fry). And so Einstein and his Princeton friends, Kurt Gödel (Lou Jacobi), Boris Podolsky, & Nathan Liebknecht (?) hatch a plan. There's some fun physics-related dialogue. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7stiKJsGjY

Btw, I did listen to your embedded clip. Thanks. It was interesting.

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
~ John Muir

I echo-ed a similar sentiment

I echo-ed a similar sentiment as that 'The science delusion' ted talk, but was summarily down-voted at

Though my understanding that science cannot understand the nature of reality is based on the scientific interpretation of consciousness :)

Michael Nystrom's picture

Paul Auster

For some reason I woke up thinking about him this morning.

I was on a real Paul Auster reading kick when I lived here in Taiwan, starting with Leviathan. Then I read so many of his books so quickly in a row that they all kind of got mushed together in my mind. But he is a fabulous story teller.

And his autobiography Hand to Mouth: A Chronicle of Early Failures is entertaining and inspiring.

He's the man.

I remember reading the New York Trilogy years ago

Very thought-provoking. May be I should check out some of his other works.

“The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants.” — Albert Camus

All time, no. The new millenium sure.

JK Rowlings

In the end it comes down to liberty and love.

Free includes debt-free!

I can narrow it down to three

I can narrow it down to three favorite authors, though it isn't easy.

John Steinbeck (East of Eden is his epic masterpiece, imo)

William Faulkner ('The Sound and the Fury' is a real challenge, and worth it; but my favorite is probably 'The Unvanquished', and it's an easier read)

Larry McMurtry ('Commanche Moon, 'Lonesome Dove', 'Streets of Laredo')

All three of these authors completely nail the entire human condition, with deep characters that I care about, and stories that are unforgettable.

"Carolyn Keene" and has nothing to do with great literary talent

Seriously "Nancy Drew"...I read as many as I could get my hands on. I wish I still had my collection.

Great times back then, the world was not so screwed up...Nancy Drew is the last fiction I enjoyed. After/During high school English lit, all I cared about was biographies and reference material. Still the same way now...research materials only.

Freedom is not: doing everything you want to.
Freedom is: not having to do what you don't want to do.
~ Joyce Meyer

So many, but I'd have to say

So many, but I'd have to say it's a tie between Ken Follet and Isaac Bashevis Singer. Applies to fiction only.

Ayn Rand --- Hands Down & here is why

When Ayn Rand was brilliant in her writing & public remarks she was simply brilliant. And when Ayn Rand was horribly wrong in her writing & public remarks, she was what I call "Ayn Rand Gottcha-wrong", that is, you could use Ayn Rand's own writing elsewhere to show she got this one wrong. She is a real intellectual exercise, a really fun philosophical-political puzzle to discover, learn from, validate and most of all, correct her mistakes.

Examples where Ayn Rand can be used against Ayn Rand are:

1) Abortion (human fetus a "bunch of cells" w/o individual rights)
2) Palestinians (savages apparently w/o private property rights)
3) American Indians (savages apparently w/o private property rights)
4) Evolution (Perhaps Man always walked the earth [what happened to objective evidence and rational reasoning from the facts?])
5) Libertarianism (steals "some of my ideas";Go tell that to Isabella Patterson and all the libertarians who were born before Ms Rand)
6) Patents & Copyrights (confuses what is and is not property)
7) Israel (It has the "right" to exist but openly admits she does not know its historical beginnings or religious knowledge of the zionist movement that brought it to being.
8) Human Ethical Altruism - its evil on the one hand, and it does not exist on the other.

This is just a short list. The list gets much longer. But again, the point is you can literally use Rand vs Rand to correct all her mistakes. Some of my friends wonder out loud if its not Young Rand vs Old Rand, since its Old Rand who makes most of the errors in reasoning.

Anyway, by far the most interesting and challenging author in quite some time. Someone could/should write a book entitled just that "Rand vs Rand".


Yes, please BUY this wonderful libertarian BOOK! We all must know the History of Freedom! Buy it today!

"The System of Liberty: Themes in the History of Classical Liberalism" ...by author George Smith --
Buy it Here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/05211820

St. Augustine

Confessions of St. Augustine blew my mind.

Took me into his world much like Moby-Dick did...in a strange way...

Check out http://iroots.org/
"If you’re into political activism, at least for Ron Paul if not for anyone else, I strongly recommend spending some time with iroots.org." - Tom Woods


Picking a single favorite author is really hard, because I'm thinking, well, "What have I read that had the greatest influence on me?"

I guess I have two favorite authors (after Moses) for different reasons.. first is Robert Hunter who wrote many of the songs for the Grateful Dead, which some might call "word salad", but for me, it is a banguet of all the richest ideas dressed in space jam that wheeled me like a Sufi embracing the universe.

Julian Cameron's book, "The Artist's Way", is a very powerful book, if not the most powerful book I have ever experienced. I had a dream, and I did the course in, "The Artist's Way", and while I did not suceed in my goal (being a ASL signer for the Grateful Dead), I became far more successful as a promoter and artist than I dared to dream.

I have bought many copies of that book for gifts to those who were seeking success. It works. And it works so well, that my original copy of "The Artist's Way" (which is like a scrap book as I worked through it), has become a talisman. If there is something I'm thinking about taking on, all I have to do it look at that book to tell me if I really want to succeed, or what my limit is.. how far do I want to go? What's it worth to me?

The advice Cameron gives to artists is very important and true. She teaches us how to nurture the artist within us, to enrichen our artistic souls to make our artists dreams come true. It's huge. The process is not hard, but can be very hard depending on where we are damaged as artists, what our blocks are.. and if you want to remove those blocks.. The Artist's Way is a block basher.. you may come to see how dependent you are on your blocks. how artistically we sabotage ourselves and allow others to sabotage our artistic dreams. She also shows us how we can find our artistic selves, heal, stregthen, and be at peace with ourselves.

If you are an artist seeking success, "The Artist's Way" is a key, that everyone I know who actually did it, will tell you.. YES, The Artist's Way is very powerful, spooky powerful, it works. And those who have the book and never read it, will admit, maybe they didn't want to succeed after all.

Wow, Granger! Never would've

Wow, Granger! Never would've taken you for a Deadhead. Gonna check out that book.



this is one of those moments the dead heads are in shock.. Phil Lesh is signing, and this is a new song.. so everyone is really intense listening to every note, taking it deep into their hearts and souls.. that's why they are so silent.. when Jerry sings backup, they cheer.. but for the most part, right now is this intense communication between the band and the heads.. Shoreline is shaped like a stealie face BTW.. then hear the crowd cheer.. and know many are like WTF,, wow, still in shock. and it's a great song.. and the last days of Brent. Deep sigh. Long strange trip for sure.

It's Just A Box Of Rain - I Don't Know Who Put It There

Keep Robert Hunter's collection of lyrics by my bedside.

"Bipartisan: both parties acting in concert to put both of their hands in your pocket."-Rothbard

(((((((((Alliance With None))))))))))))

Me too. I was just thinking the other day that maybe it would be better for me to link up a grateful dead/Hunter song for a response since the truth is, ususally it's a dead/hunter song that pops into my head. But since most here are not deadheads, they wouldn't be able to relate to things like, "Box of Rain".. sure are a lot of boxes of rain around these parts.

I've had dead dreams for decades.. not as many as I used to.. and I wondered, if maybe those dead dreams were real, what if they were the culmative imagination of all dreaming heads, a seperate reality, or like a pergatory where we finally escape http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HTcet_BgYM


Strange as I could find: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7rX1WmKc40

"Bipartisan: both parties acting in concert to put both of their hands in your pocket."-Rothbard

Been meaning to read American

Been meaning to read American Gods for a couple years, started then stopped.

Lately I've enjoyed C. S. Lewis.

Before that, some Mises, not much joy from that.

Before that, some Steinbeck, Grapes of Wrath. Read that the past two summers.

Before that, Herman Melville. Lovely.

some Virgil.

Before that, some Chesterton and Belloc.

Before that, some Will Durant.

Before that, some Twain and Nietzsche.

Recently, some James Burnham and Jesus Christ.

Pretty much all over the place, tbh.

Ayn Rand changed my life at age 33 with "Atlas Shrugged."

I can't think of another book other than perhaps the Bible (New Testament) which had such an influence on my way of thinking.

Some of Ayn Rand's other books are very good as well.

Murray Rothbard was an excellent author on economics and I love the writings of Economics Professor Walter E. Williams.

Bobby Fischer, Jeremy Silman, Lev Alburt and Fred Reinfeld, all wrote excellent chess books.

And Ron Paul is great of course.

I must also mention G. Edward Griffin as one of the finest.

In the field of poetry, Robert Frost and in Science, Carl Sagan was most excellent.
This is a very difficult question, and since I mentioned more than one author, I haven't really done the question justice.

"We have allowed our nation to be over-taxed, over-regulated, and overrun by bureaucrats. The founders would be ashamed of us for what we are putting up with."
-Ron Paul


"That Ron Paul guy."

I am Ron Paul

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.

The man who never reads lives only one.” - George RR Martin

“The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants.” — Albert Camus

I read mostly scifi from the

I read mostly scifi from the golden age. Have to give my top 5.

1. Heinlein
2. Larry Niven
3. Alan Dean Foster
4. Orson Scott Card
5. James White

The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. - Heinlein

have you looked into Russian/Polish scifi?

Very different feel. Deep. Hidden political commentary. I recommend Stanislaw Lem and the Strugatsky brothers. Before Amazon, I would comb used bookstores to see if they had any Russian scifi. Now, I can find any book with a few clicks. A big gain overall, but I also feel a sense of loss in missing out on the search through the used bookstore.

“The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants.” — Albert Camus