iconic authors

Committing to an Iconic Author

iconic authors

After reading (and promptly falling in love with) my first Haruki Murakami novel last week, my first thought was, “Why didn’t I do this years ago?” I think it’s a question many of us ask after we finally take the plunge and read our first book from an iconic author, or even just one we’ve set aside for too long. We may ask rhetorically, but when I honestly thought about it, most of my answers boiled down to nerves.

So, what am I afraid of? I think my biggest fear is choosing wrong. I know there are a ton of people with great suggestions on where to start with nearly every iconic author, but I still worry I’ll head down the wrong path. I don’t want to pick Book A and end up disappointed when Book B would have done the trick. And while adding an author’s backlist to my mental TBR after a great reading experience is a wonderful thing, some iconic authors have pretty daunting lists. Not to mention, many of them have huge fans with wildly different opinions on the author’s high and low points.

While I don’t actively think these things through while scanning my bookshelves, I know they’re nagging at me when I approach a book I’ve been meaning to read and decide to keep moving.

Does committing to an iconic author make you nervous? Do you have other common reasons for skipping over a book you’ve been meaning to read?


  • Heather

    Louis de Bernieres did this to me just last week. I read his latest novel and loved it, and thought “I really need to read more of his books”, as the only one I’d read prior to that was Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. I loved that book too, so I’m not sure why I hadn’t picked up any of his other books.

    Maybe subconsciously I’m worried that I’ll read something of his and hate it, and then he’ll be ruined for me forever.

    • I know some of my favorite authors have duds, and I like to take the mind set of “you can’t win them all.” I mean when you push out book after book, it’s likely that not every single one will be “the best book ever.” I always like to give them another shot :)

    • I’ve totally done that, too – read one and stopped for a long time…then been reminded that I need to read more much later.

  • It does make me nervous. What if I pick the wrong one and miss out because I get turned off by it? This has happened to me several times, but I have to remember to keep an open mind even after a disappointing read. I’m making a conscious effort now to revisit some authors I didn’t like the first time and usually I have quite a different response with book #2.

    • I think you’re right about keeping an open mind, especially with a pretty well-loved author. Sometimes the moment just doesn’t strike quite right.

  • I feel this way a bit about Margaret Atwood…I haven’t read her, but would like to give her a try. But, the dystopian lean makes me nervous (it’s usually not my thing) and I’m scared I won’t like it. But, the big question is why are we nervous?? It’s just a book and/or an author?! We don’t HAVE to like him/her just because he/she’s iconic. It wouldn’t really matter if you ended up not liking Murakami and it won’t really matter if I end up not liking Atwood.
    I do think you’re right about Book A vs. Book B…this happened to me with Herman Koch. I started with Summer House with Swimming Pool and had mixed feelings about it. So…I then let The Dinner languish on my TBR forever, but ended up LOVING it.

    • It’s definitely a silly feeling to have. I think it ties into them being so beloved – you can feel like you’re in the wrong/missed something if you end up not being in love.

  • This is SO me about MANY authors – Murakami, for one, also Atwood, Irving, and others. Back in the day, I used to read books from the same author in publication order… but since have kind of changed my tune. Sometimes it takes a few books for an author to really find their stride, and when checking out their first book, I often don’t get what all the fuss is about, but then a later book, it’s like aaahhh I get it now.
    One author I wish I would have know more about before jumping in, as I think I would have preferred to read his books more in order, is David Mitchell. I hopped on reading The Bone Clocks for TOB this year, not really knowing anything about his other works. Now, in hindsight, knowing that all of his books and characters are sort of connected, the The Bone Clocks was a “big reveal” of something (I’m still not sure what, since I haven’t read anything else)…. makes me feel like I missed out on something. I still need to finish Cloud Atlas one of these days… worst readalong host EVER.

    • Oh, that’s really interesting about The Bone Clocks! I’ve only read Cloud Atlas, but I had heard he kind of slips some of his characters into other books.

  • Rebecca Foster

    I have felt the same way about certain authors including Murakami — also Joyce Carol Oates and John Updike, who I’ve still never read. Especially for such a prolific writer as Oates, I am daunted by the back catalogue and feel like I want to choose the one best, most representative work. And everyone you ask will have a different opinion about where to start, of course. With their most recent? Their first book? The one that won all the prizes? The most popular on Goodreads? It’s hard to say.

    • It really can be tricky! I usually try to turn to a trusted friend, but it still plays on the nerves!

    • I was intimidated by Joyce Carol Oates until she wrote some young adult and thought it might be better for me. Loved it and moved on to her backlist. Freaky Green Eyes and Big Mouth and Ugly Girl were the 2 that caught me.

  • This is a really interesting topic, and one I don’t think I’ve pondered before. I don’t think I have this reaction. If nothing else, half of me is glad when something doesn’t strike my fancy, because the thought of adding a hefty backlist to the already teetering TBR is a bit freeing. Not that I go in wanting to dislike something, but it usually doesn’t bother me when something isn’t for me. I almost enjoy it when something isn’t for me, because it reminds me that we have different books for every taste and I’m so glad there are people writing what I want to read, so I’m glad there’s also someone writing the stuff I don’t want to read that’s going to make someone else’s day. (And as for fans, remind me to tell you of the time Diana Gabaldon’s rioting masses almost ran me off the internet in the early 90s).

    • It definitely IS nice to know you can scratch someone off the list, I usually just want to know I did it with the right book (and not one that just throws me off). And I am TOTALLY not surprised to hear this about Gabaldon’s fans – I had a bit of a mess after she put them on me last year after daring to categorize her books as “romance” in a poll.

      • HOW DARE YOU! I dared to question whether the first time the two characters “got together” wasn’t a bit rapey. Oh boy did that not sit well. I still think it was, but whatever. Funnily enough, it’s the romance part that lets them see (what I saw as) rape as romance, so it’s interesting they didn’t like your take either. But then maybe my take was all wet.

  • Susan W

    Oh poor Margaret Atwood! She’s on everyone list. As a Canadian, I was embarrassed to have never read her. When MaddAddam came out in 2013 I bit the bullet and read the trilogy, one right after the other and I highly recommend. I know her back list is large and varied but I look at is as I’ll never run out of Atwood to read.
    I think this fear is internet related. Because people can now communicate so vastly with other book lovers, and people can profess their love of an author to a wider audience, those of us, shall I say, lacking in some reading areas, can be intimidated. Prior to this type of communication, you might not even find another person in your immediate circle who was a Murakami lover. (and yes, he is worthy of your love).
    My other unread author with major love, was Toni Morrison. I fixed that this summer with The Bluest Eye. I decided to read her in publication order and I’m glad, because I think her newest one got some mixed reviews, and if I started there, I think I really would wonder what all the fuss was about.

    • I’m so with you on Atwood – there’s so much there that I feel like almost anyone could be a fan.
      And you’re SO right about the internet…it really does fuel so much of that fear through connection.
      I read my first Morrison late last year, and I’m so glad I went with an older one (Beloved) before picking up the new book.

  • I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately – it’s something that I’ve realised plays a HUGE part in the books I read (or, more importantly, in the books I don’t!). I feel like if an author is really hyped up, there’s a sort of pressure to fall in love with their books, one that I’m slightly terrified I won’t live up to.

    The one I’m thinking of is Markus Zusak – I have two copies of The Book Thief, and yet I keep postponing reading it because I’m worried I won’t love it. He’s written so many books, and I’ve heard so many good things about him… so what happens if I don’t love him? Eek, so many difficult decisions!

    • The hype definitely fuels that pressure, especially if the author seems to be well-loved by such a wide variety of people.

  • I think I feel nervous/anxious about this, too, Shannon!! What if I’m disappointed, but feel as though I shouldn’t be?? Why do I put this pressure on myself-ha! If I skip over a book, it usually has something to do with whatever is going on my life; sometimes, I’m just not in the mood for a particular type of story. Great post!

  • Yes! Normally I tend to be “one strike and you’re out” about trying new authors, but for big names I’ll often make an exception and give the author a few chances. Sometimes it pays off (Stephen King) and others it just cements the fact that the author’s not for me (Neil Gaiman). And then what if you love the first book you read, and subsequent books never live up to that first one? Trying a new author is always a gamble, but you’re right, some of them are just much more daunting than others.

    • I wish it didn’t feel so daunting, but it does…and I’ve had great luck! I don’t know why I let it hang over my head.

  • I haven’t really thought about this much but you’re right, there is a nervousness involved. So strange! I think the “where do I start?!” part can be overwhelming, definitely.

    • I wish there was a sure fire way to know the best place to start, but it just seems like you have to feel that out.

  • I don’t know if nervousness is the right word. Maybe daunted, especially if there is a large back catalogue. Then there are the inevitable book club arguments if you don’t like a book!

  • My hesitancy about committing to an iconic author tends to be about identity — like, if I read this author and don’t like them, what will that say about me? Like, I’ve never read The Master and Margarita in part because I frequently don’t like Russian literature, and I’d rather be someone who hasn’t yet read this cool book than someone who read this cool book and hated it. :p

    • Ohhhh, so true about identity! I’m so with you about preferring to be the person who hasn’t read it yet – and I’m that person in many, many cases.

  • Grace @ Rebel Mommy BookBlog

    Great topic – I have and still do this with many authors. I never relly thought why but I guess it is a bit of nervousness. I am afraid I won’t like it or have a hard time getting into it and it will turn me off.

  • The answer to the question is yes, Shannon, to the point I can’t even name the one I read most recently who left me completely and utterly bored. Why not? A fear of public derision from ‘powerful’ people in the book world which is rationally idiotic but emotionally real.

  • Iconic authors with RABID fans make me nervous (particularly in the YA genre). Or iconic authors who are referred to me by something I can’t bear to offend should I dislike the author. :)

  • Yes, I totally get this. It’s worse when it is an author with lots of titles to choose from — instead of just trying out the latest bestseller and not caring for it, you’re faced with a whole stack of books to choose from… and if you don’t like one, you can be sure that people will try to get you to read the others instead because you HAVE to like SOMETHING by this author! Sometimes it works out for the best, though. :)

  • I feel this, too. For some reason I’ve only read three Margaret Atwood books, even though I have two more on my shelf, and a bunch of others that I want to read. She’s just so beloved and prolific that diving into her backlist is intimidating.

  • Iconic authors make me SO NERVOUS. There are books I know I’m going to love that are written by amazing writers and I just sit over here like… nope. Let’s try this author I’ve never heard of. Really need to get on the Kazuo Ishiguro train. I’m glad you discovered Murakami!!

  • I sometimes worry that I’ll pick up a book by a highly-anticipated author at the wrong time in my life and end up hating it!