An e-mail the other day from regular reader (and great writer) Lee Sandlin posed a question that seemed worthy of a quick post: Lee asked which author I had the most books by on my shelves--and, following that, whether that ranking reflected their actual position in my reading life?
I'll leave it to Lee to decide whether he wants to, in comments, reveal his top author, volumes-wise. For myself, I expected it would be Anthony Powell, which would be appropriate: as many of you know, Powell's books--not just the novels, but the volumes of collected reviews and occasional writings and his notebooks and journals as well--are ones I return to again and again, never tiring of his eye for character and appreciation of human oddity.
But Powell's 31 volumes, it turns out, are second . . . to Donald E. Westlake, who under his various writing names accounts for 36 volumes. Westlake is less influential than Powell on my writing and thinking day to day, but nonetheless there's rarely a day that goes by when I don't think about his books at some point. Iris Murdoch and P. G. Wodehouse take third with 28 apiece. The number of Wodehouse books is essentially unimportant: what matters is that they're all in some wonderful way the same and that there's a near-infinite supply of them. As for Murdoch: there was a time when she was easily my favorite writer, and while others have surpassed her, I still feel a thrill when I open one of her novels--the wildly emotional, comic world she creates is unlike anything else. Dickens comes next with a mere 25, yet another reason to curse the unhealthy strain of the reading tours that took him away from his desk for so many months!
And for you? Who leads the count on your shelves? Any surprises?