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A Rambling Exploration Of Reading Everything An Author’s Written

A photograph of David and Leigh Eddings' Belgariad series

It all began with Shadows And Strongholds. I think it was one of those ‘if you liked that you may also like…’ recommendations Amazon gave me. The cover was appealing so I bought it, read it, and promptly wanted to read everything Elizabeth Chadwick had ever written. There were a fair few by that point and I can’t say I’ve read many yet but I had one thing in my favour – right place, right time. By the end of Christmas Day I’d acquired almost all her backlist.

When you fall in love with an author’s work more often than not there’s that desire to read everything they’ve written, that ‘read all the books’ colloquialism. Read them all now. Sometimes this is fine because the author may have only written a couple of books but in many cases your discovery is accompanied by an extensive backlist and that’s daunting. So daunting, in fact, that your desire can dwindle – you might read a couple of the books or you might never read any more than that first one you started with.

Certainly it works best if the author hasn’t written much by the time you discover them. You’re in no danger of your reading being taken over and as such a thing can cause slumps that’s a good thing. It means the catch up won’t take too long. Until I decided by my own accord to stop reading Lisa Jewell – I was getting bored of the casual usage of ‘retard’ and ‘spastic’ in every book – I was doing fine playing catch up with her work. I read the couple of books from previous years and then it was just a case of picking up the latest release each summer. When I think of my late teenage years in terms of reading, I think of Lisa Jewell.

To read all of a prolific author’s work takes a chunk of reading time. Unless you really space them out – which will not help if the author’s still writing – your reading will be less varied. It’ll be hard going if you’re someone who likes to read widely. I stopped reading David and Leigh Eddings so this wouldn’t happen; I’m not sure when I’ll be reading book 2 of series 2. In this case there is at least a firm ending point as David passed away a few years ago.

It’s hard to know where to start after that first book: should I read Rose Cottage, Nine Coaches Waiting or Touch Not The Cat? If I can’t find the one I’ve been recommended I’ll choose at random. That’s certainly what happened with Mary Stewart. Do you find that you’ll read your first book by a famous author only to hear it doesn’t do justice to their talent? I wanted to read Angela Thirkell and opted for The Brandons because it happened to be in the shop.

The want to read everything – do you? should you? I want to read Austen’s letters because I’m sad I’ve no more novels left. I drew the books out as long as I could; I can’t do those re-imaginings. There’s that feeling of loss once you’ve finished. Perhaps not if you’ve managed to ‘finish’ Nora Roberts – that deserves a party – but certainly finishing that last book is like coming to the end of an era. It’s the end of your era of reading insert author’s name here.

Where the most prolific writers are concerned there are going to be times you pass them over for those with a shorter backlist. The reward is closer, it won’t take as much time, and similarly to the way our attention spans have shortened I’d say sometimes the length of time we’re willing to wait for a reward has, too.

Who did you last discover in this context?


Alex (Sleepless Reader)

September 25, 2015, 12:58 pm

I have to admit that that desire to read all the books of a certain authors doesn’t hit me very often, but when it does, it’s with a vengeance. The most recent one was probably Elizabeth von Armin, after reading Elizabeth and her German Garden a couple of years ago.

Also want to read everything Dorothy Dunnett ever read and have the last book of her historical novels (she also wrote crime) in the TBR, waiting for me to have the courage to end it all.

Fiona McGier

September 26, 2015, 12:30 am

Sometimes the more prolific authors have weak books, and those destroy my desire for more. When a book grabs me so much that I want to read more, I get so disappointed when other books are merely so-so, or worse yet, boring! Has that every happened to you?

That being said, the Brothers Cabal series of 4 books by Jonathan L. Howard is an excellent read, and the 5th one is being written now. I loved them so much I’m going to ask for them for Christmas!

Tanya Patrice

September 26, 2015, 2:37 am

The last time I had this urge was with Jo Nesbo’s books. I literally read them until I got tired. Then I took a break – and read some more.

Jenny @ Reading the End

September 27, 2015, 10:28 pm

When I was younger, I was much more prone to tearing through an author’s entire backlist after loving a single book by them. These days, I don’t do that as often, and I’m not sure if it’s because I now have this sort of neverending font of book recommendations (from bloggers, and the NYT Book Review, and some columnists at the Washington Post, etc.), which I didn’t have access to as a kid.

I do keep thinking that I’ll do a project where I go back through my blog archives for four-star reads, and try more books by those authors. I think that would be a neat experiment.


September 30, 2015, 12:25 pm

Elena Ferrante was the last person I discovered/ did this with. I think I only have one more book of hers left to read. I love authors that can keep me entertained over all their work. It’s rare. Richard Yates, Donna Tart and JK Rowling are the only other three I can think of right now.



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