What a silly question.
If I answered it, a credit card company would be able to recognize me as the rightful owner of my account in the likely event I lost my password. On one point, the company and I were in complete agreement: knowing a person’s favorite authors tells you a lot about who that person is.
Our point of disagreement: assuming that people have just one favorite author.
When I’m over-tired and stressed, formula fiction provides mental relief. Clive Cussler, Dick Francis, police procedurals and cosies keep my brain engaged while it winds down gently. They also offer a comforting promise: life may seem chaotic or overwhelming, but if you persevere you can find a pattern.
While Cussler and Francis are among my go-to authors in times of stress, they’re not the authors I read for the beauty of their language or their wisdom. Nor are their books among those that I’ve treasured and read since first discovering them.
Many of my most treasured books have a common theme: the courage to seek and admit the truth. Ursula LeGuin, in The Wizard of Earthsea, builds a system of magic not on wielding sorcerous power but on recognizing true names. Her wizard hero redeems himself by facing his own capacity for evil. Terry Brooks’ Sword of Shannara, Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, and C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce all have outcomes that depend on willingness to discern and then act on the truth.
If forced to chose one author, I would probably pick C. S. Lewis, both for his range and his lucidity. Lewis wrote in many genres, from scholarly studies to personal memoir to children’s fantasies. He is a great model of how to write plainly and profoundly: “Even in literature and art, no [one] who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”
But so many much-loved authors would have to be excluded to pick a favorite that I refused to make that decision. Instead, I chose another security question, even though “Who is your favorite author?” may be the best clue to who I really am.
The quotation is from the “Preface” to Mere Christianity, reissued in 2001.