Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover

Having Favourite Authors. Not Liking All Their Work

A photo of the Oxford University Classics editions of Persuasion, Sense And Sensibility, and Pride And Prejudice

This may be more of a personal subject, but it’s one I’ve wanted to write about for a while. I will say that it’s in the context of technology today – our ability to strike up a conversation with writers that has come about thanks to social media and email.

I don’t have one favourite author, at least not presently. What I do have is a variety of favoured writers, and in most cases these are people whose work I don’t always like. (Most often this is the case where the author has written a fair few books – does anyone else find they’re more likely to like everything someone has written the less books there are? I know it sounds obvious, but at the same time it’s easy enough to find yourself disliking a second book, so it still warrants wonder.)

Here is a sample of some of my favourite writers whose work I have not liked in its entirety:

Jane Austen: I have enjoyed exactly half of her adult output, finding the others mediocre.
Elizabeth Chadwick: I like this author’s work so much the only thing I asked for when asked what I’d like for Christmas were her books. Yet I find they tend to go on longer than they ‘have’ to and I’m in two minds about that. I’ve also found some to be strictly alright.
Shannon Stacey: Her work is very hit and miss. She’s a favourite because the hits are so amazing.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with not liking everything an author writes, but I go back and forth between thinking it means they can’t be favourites, and thinking they can.

One of the reasons I think they can is that it’s good to be objective, it’s good to be honest with yourself. I think that if we become a gushing fan, no matter how natural it is and how difficult it can be to hold back, it does make the almost inevitable dislike of something down the line (be it dislike of an entire work, a solo plot point, a character) awkward for us. It’s like the awkwardness that arises when you’ve lauded a book you loved as a child, only to reread it, hate it, and wonder if your friend will think twice about asking you for recommendations in future. You might feel like a fraud or you might feel the writer can no longer be called your favourite.

I feel this way sometimes and other times think that it’s not necessary to like everything. I wonder if being a fan can actually help you consider this new, disliked, book better. You’d likely be considering it in its context and may be more objective. Then again, if you’re completely disappointed your review or conversations might be more biased against the book than that of someone who isn’t a fan. And if we lie and stay positive when we’re not feeling it, then that’s simply false.

It can feel wrong continuing to call an author a favourite, but it’s not, is it? We can have a favourite musical artist and not like all their songs, and we have favourite sports teams who we moan about when they lose1.

How does all this fit in with social media, with our ability to talk to authors in real time? The subject of liking and disliking books has moved on from being something personal and private to pubic and open to argument. Of course not everyone talks to authors, but by blogging or by being on a bookish site, what you say can be found by them.

If you talk to an author and later dislike their book, is it awkward? You talk to the author, they likely know you’ve loved their work in the past, and then your next review or star rating isn’t very favourable. Perhaps they would appreciate it, maybe more so because you have a rapport with them, but it must be more awkward than reviewing a book by someone you’ve never interacted with in any way.

Would it be difficult striking up conversation in future? I don’t actively contact many authors but have had occasions where a writer has found my 5 star reviews (I assume from a friend or through Google Alerts) and I’ve wondered how they’d take my 2 star later on. This invites discussion on saying what we want to say, I know, but that’s a topic for another day.

There are two questions really: do you have favourite authors whose books you haven’t always liked? How do you feel about the way social media means that what we write can be found (and commented on) by those we write about?

1 Credit where credit’s due – my boyfriend brought up the sports team comparison.


Sam (Tiny Library)

July 28, 2014, 9:26 am

I have read and loved all of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s books, but she’s the only one. I have plenty of favourite authors though, if I’ve loved more than one of their books, I call them a favourite.

And I don’t interact with authors on twitter or other social media. I would feel under pressure to give more positive reviews (the pressure would come from myself, not the author).

Margaret @ BooksPlease

July 28, 2014, 9:47 am

I don’t think I’ve liked all of any author’s books, but I still think I can count that author as a favourite if I’ve liked some (maybe most) of them. Some books are inevitably better than others or suit the reader more than others. And the more books they’ve written there’s bound to be some that don’t appeal, or as in Agatha Christie’s case are worse than others – I’m thinking of the ones she wrote in old age, which are rambling and repetitive.
I do have some contact with authors – and yes it can be embarrassing if I’m not keen on a book. It also puts me off accepting books for review, because even though I always give my opinion it makes me feel awkward to rate a book with 2 stars.

vicki (skiourophile / bibliolathas)

July 28, 2014, 1:03 pm

Happily I mostly read dead authors, so it would not be a good thing if they got in contact re my reviews. But, also, books that I’m a bit ‘meh’ about, even from living favourites, don’t tend to get much written about them by me — but maybe I should; after all, it is like buying something that didn’t work. But, did it just not work for me? It’s not simple, is it? You’ve given me a lot to think about.


July 28, 2014, 1:26 pm

Interesting topic!

I feel the same way about Austen. She is one of my favourite authors because of how much I loved Persuasion and Mansfield Park, and the impact they’ve had on me – but I’ve not enjoyed (much) the other’s I have read. I’ve not even read Emma because I’m certain it would annoy me. In fact, as you’ve said here, it’s weird/unnatural to call her a favourite author when I don’t enjoy the majority of her work.

With current authors it always makes me sad when I’ve not enjoyed one of their books, but I put it down to taste and expectation (and avoid reviewing it.)


July 28, 2014, 1:29 pm

I don’t think you have to love every book by an author you consider to be a favourite. I have more than one favourite author and I count them as such because I loved one or more of their books. A good example for me is Linda Gillard who I think has a beautiful writing style but have a I loved all her book no but I have been able to positives in all of them. I have spoken to Linda and this has not effected my writing because in all my reviews I strive to discuss the positives and those things that might not have worked for me.

Literary Feline

July 28, 2014, 5:14 pm

I find this to be the case most often with series books. I have favorite series’ authors and yet I do not always love all their books–nor do I necessarily rate any of them 5 stars.

Then you have the situation where I adore a book and read everything else the author has written, hoping to love her other work–and, much to my disappointment, I don’t. Nothing compares to that first book I read and loved.

As for social media, I do have contact with some authors, although I can’t say I have developed the friendships with authors that some of my fellow bloggers have. I tend to keep my distance. Part of it is so I can be fair minded when reviewing a book. I would be lying if I said I had no feelings of doubt or embarrassment over posting a not so positive review of a book knowing the author will be reading my review. I don’t like to hurt anyone’s feelings. At the same time, I value honesty, and keep in mind that my audience isn’t the author–it’s the reader. Not to mention I want to be true to myself.

Christine @Buckling Bookshelves

July 28, 2014, 7:28 pm

I don’t really talk to authors on Twitter, but I think calling an author a favorite is a very personal thing. I also think when a favorite author writes a book we don’t care for, the disappointment can be exponentially greater due to our high expectations & love for their other books. I thought the Casual Vacancy was OK/good, but not great and JK is still a favorite author though :)

Jenny @ Reading the End

July 28, 2014, 10:19 pm

Oh, I definitely have authors where I don’t like some of their books. Salman Rushdie is a good example — I’m craaaazy about his writing, and I have disliked approximately half or slightly over half of the books of his I’ve read so far. I’d call Shirley Jackson a favorite author, but again, some of her novels fall completely flat for me. I still think I’m fine referring to them as favorites, because the books of theirs that I do love, I REALLY love.


August 2, 2014, 11:11 am

I’m thinking of Kate Atkinson and also Jennifer Egan whose writing I generally love, but in both cases there are a few books that I really disliked or fell flat – maybe a difference in quality, or the story too far afield from what I hoped. I always admire writers who venture into new territory, though, but as readers sometimes we like it and sometimes not



Comments closed