Some of us love the thrill of a new author, while others flourish in the tried and tested. I tend to be both of these, although I lean towards the latter. Over the past year, I’ve been consumed with Michael Connelly’s projects, just as I’d been with John Grisham a lifetime ago. Since the New Year, I’ve only read a handful of names: Connelly (4), Brett Ellis (2), Andre Agassi, Kobe, and Jodi Picoult (2). While going through your favourite’s body of work is enjoyable, it pays to diversify your reading portfolio. Allow me to share with you a few of my top novelists.
Michael Connelly. If you’ve been an avid follower of my blog, you’ll see Connelly’s imprint. Connelly’s name is present through every reading list that I’ve compiled. To be honest, I read my first Connelly about two years ago. I loved it so that I’ve taken in fourteen of the Harry Bosch series, two-thirds of the total. To paraphrase Professor Crawford (in Finding Forrester), his writing is something that we should all aspire for. I’ve reiterated how he has just the right balance of dialogue, plot, description, and character development. His books are hard to predict, even for a seasoned reader. His use of smoke and mirrors, and pulling rabbits out of hats, make him arguably the best crime writer alive. Some contemporaries may have sold more books, but none have matched the critical acclaim that has followed practically his entire output.
John Grisham. I initially started reading Grisham many moons ago. I began with a battered copy of The Firm up until his latest release, The Reckoning. One must note that I never read any of his Theodore Boone series. Grisham is a prolific, master storyteller. He is on the rarefied field among those having the most book sales ever. Every year, Grisham’s latest becomes an instant bestseller and both his fans and critics eagerly await. All this has been done for an extended period of time. Grisham is notable for being the king of the legal thriller. Most of his novels have some legal bit, if not all. They often also contain male protagonists working against the system and fighting for the marginalised. In recent years, Grisham has elected to go with a couple of female leads. Grisham also alternates between big city scheming, and small-town politics. While his novels have been hit or miss among audiences, I have only failed to finish a few. This is a testament to his readability and sustained excellence. Out of over twenty Grisham novels, picking my fave is hard since so many of them are terrific.
Jodi Picoult. A recent addition, Small Great Things was my introduction to this writer’s universe. I remember chipping away at the book while I battled two colds. Not as engrossing as Connelly, but a lovely read regardless. I’ve done some research on her and found out that her books tackle contemporary issues. They are well-researched, and often involve the main character having a moral quandary. Some of these points include: youth suicide, mass shootings, euthanasia, and racial politics. I’ve only read two from her list so far, though I’m looking forward to reading a few more. Like Grisham, she has stood the test of time and each new book makes people talking.
Matthew Reilly. I remember working on Contest, Reilly’s debut. Although a greenhorn at the time, Contest read like the work of someone who’s been penning novels for years. Through time, Reilly has produced two great book series: The Scarecrow one and the Jack West Jr. escapades. Having read all but one of Jack West books, Reilly’s work is adventure-driven – reminiscent of a Hollywood blockbuster. The latter series reminds me of Indiana Jones, complete with cryptic messages, car chases, and globetrotting. Reading Reilly is also supporting quality Aussie fiction. While having humble beginnings, Reilly shone to become a bestselling author. His story highlights the determination and patience to succeed in a small market.
Mitch Albom. My former religion teacher recommended Tuesdays with Morrie to our class, short of calling it a must-read. Based on a true story, the book deals with complex themes such as ageing, friendship, and finding meaning in life. I may have read this after high school but as they say, ‘better late than never’. Since then, I’ve consumed four more of his books. They may be short reads, but they are powerful ones. Albom uses simple prose, but always with a fiery message. True events inspire some of his books, making them even more alluring. His characters and the situations they face, are very much relatable. As someone once told me, he read Tuesdays while sunbaking as it’s the perfect beach read. With similar themes and page counts across his portfolio, I guess you could say that about most of his work.
Honourable mention: Michael Crichton’s Rising Sun was among the first novels I finished, together with Harry Potter. I’ve managed to sneak many more of his work onto my reading list. His writing could be difficult to decipher at times, because of the science background. However, Crichton died in 2008 and has released nothing new this past decade. Obviously, there are a few other bestselling juggernauts who are not on this list. Kindly bear in mind that this is a very subjective collection.