Monday, November 15, 2010

Two Favorite Authors

I needed a NaBloPoMo prompt today: Who's your favorite author, why and what work of  his or hers would you recommend reading first?

I'm going to give two. These authors are currently my favorite, non-theological writers. When I enjoy someone's writing style, I tend to ravenously consume all their works and monitor their website for upcoming works. The two authors I'll discuss, in brief, today are Tony Horwitz and Bill Bryson. (Links are to their respective websites.)

I was first introduced to Tony Horwitz through Confederates in the Attic (Pantheon, 1998). Intrigued by the grimacing Confederate on the front, I began reading the story of how the author dug into his own love of Civil War history to find out why the War Between the States continues to have skirmishes (so to speak). Horwitz's style might best be classified somewhere between travel writing and historical expose´. I have pressed Confederates on every reading friend I have. I think it's well-written and carefully exposes the nuances of why people participate in Civil War reenactments, frequently as Confederates, the continuing struggles around the Confederate flag (the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia) and the haunting feeling present on many battlefields from the War of Northern Aggression.

Horwitz has a great writing voice and style, humorous and smooth, conveying lots of information without being overly didactic. I've read everything he's got out and I definitely recommend starting with Confederates. Blue Latitudes, about Captain Cook, is also very enjoyable.

Bill Bryson was my bridge over the Swamp Homesickness when I lived, briefly, in England. Because he's lived there for a significant portion of his life, he is slightly more prominent in bookstore placement in England than here in his home country. His self-deprecating style of travel writing (through Europe, Australia, US, Appalachian Trail) is engaging and warm. I do own all his books, including the tiny one on Africa and the ones for writers. I'll admit that I still haven't made it all the way through A Short History Nearly Everything. And I'm about halfway through At Home: A Short History of Private Life, his most recent work detailing the history of home layouts and basic household items. It's great, but a little dense.

I've mentioned A Walk in the Woods and In a Sunburned Country more than once in this blog. Respectively, these details travels through and history of the Appalachian Trail and Australia. I think they're the best. I also love The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-town America  and Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe. He also wrote an autobiography about his childhood in America in the 50s: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.

With BB, you'll either like him or you won't. His voice and style are fairly constant, particularly with the travel books.

At this stage in my life, I enjoy learning while I'm reading, but I don't like to work in my pleasure reading. Both these writers provide a lot of information and make that information accessible and approachable through their writing voices.

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