7 Authors Whose Works Will Enrich Your Life

Lee Polevoi


Editor’s Note: We asked Lee Polevoi, Highbrow Magazine’s chief book critic, to share a list of his favorite authors and explain why they made his list.


Considering the abundance of good books being published these days, it’s a challenge selecting and describing a mere handful of favorite authors. The following list includes writers whose novels and short stories are consistently outstanding, and who inspire me to work harder—and who are still among the living. (A selection of favorite writers from past eras would make up another list entirely.) Also included is a recommendation on where to start, if you’re new to a particular author.


Tessa Hadley


Tessa Hadley has published many books, including a remarkable recent novel, The Past. For me, her talents shine brightest in the arena of short fiction, as in her most recent collection, Bad Dreams and Other Stories. Without resorting to prose that calls attention to itself, she tells stories in precise detail and with considerable narrative economy—often to shattering effect.


Recommendation: “The Stain” (short story)


Don DeLillo


I first encountered the master’s work in his early novels, Players and Running Dog, many years ago. Since then, Don DeLillo has assumed Olympian status for the razor-sharp wit of his sentences and the prescient nature of his vision. He understands how we struggle to maintain sanity in a fractured world—and the terrors that arise when we fail.


Recommendation: Libra


John le Carré 


The writer who elevated espionage fiction to literature continues, against all odds, to produce stellar work. A Legacy of Spies, John le Carré’s most recent novel (written in his 80s), is as fast-paced and rich with subtext as the novels of decades ago that first set him apart from the pack. I’ve read Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy at least a half-dozen times and always come away impressed with the labyrinthine world-building he achieved in this and the other novels in his famous Karla Trilogy.


Recommendation: A Delicate Truth


Hilary Mantel


With Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, both winners of the Man Booker Prize, Hilary Mantel essentially recreated the historical novel—imbuing personalities and events from long ago (Thomas Cromwell and the Court of King Henry VIII) with astonishing dexterity, grace and style. The PBS television series based on these novels, with a superb performance by Mark Rylance as Cromwell, is just as good.


Recommendation: Wolf Hall


Kevin Barry


Even at a comparatively young age, Kevin Barry is already an “elder statesman” among the fresh crop of new generation Irish writers. His novels and short stories are surprising, electric, ribald, quirky and reliably entertaining at the highest level. A few years back, he published a novel called Beatlebone—a fictionalized account of John Lennon’s journey to an island he bought off the coast of England. It’s a tour de force rendering of an iconic figure, with some metafictional twists thrown into the mix.


Recommendation: “Fjord of Killary” (short story)



Annie Proulx


In the short story collections, Close Range: Wyoming Stories and Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories 2, Annie Proulx conveys a slantwise joy at what’s become of the Old West, and her cast of eccentrics often find themselves hilariously at odds with modern life. Her prose is a unique blend of slang, lyricism and bitingly wry characterization.


Recommendation: “The Half-Skinned Steer” (short story)


John Banville


While he’s notorious for eschewing plot and character development, I can’t think of anyone who writes more sensuous and deeply beautiful prose. He also writes thrillers (of a sort) under an assumed name, but it’s the fiction of John Banville that’s certain to endure, novels like The Sea and The Book Of Evidence. Curiously, what might be his best work, The Untouchable, has plot, characterization, suspense, and all the other “typical” elements of good fiction. It’s as close to perfect as I think a novel can be.


Recommendation: The Untouchable


Others who make the list include Peter Carey, Joy Williams, David Means, Thomas McGuane, Zadie Smith, Colm Toibin, Alan Hollinghurst, Michael Ondaatje, Richard Ford, and Otessa Moshfegh.


On your mark, get set – read!



Author Bio:

Lee Polevoi, Highbrow Magazine's chief book critic, is the author of The Moon in Deep Winter, and recently completed a new novel, The Confessions of Gabriel Ash.



Images: Google Images/Wikimedia.org (Creative Commons); Wikimedia.org (Fuzheado, Creative Commons).



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Images: Google Images/Wikimedia.org (Creative Commons); Wikimedia.org (Creative Commons).
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