My Top Ten Auto-Buy Authors:
1. J.K. Rowling - read book count: 10 novels (Seven Harry Potter novels, Tales of Beedle the Bard, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and The Casual Vacancy).
I'm a Harry Potter fan for life, so it's no surprise that when JKR tried for a more adult, less-magical novel, I willingly followed her there. What did surprise me was how much I liked The Casual Vacancy, even if it wasn't Harry Potter: The Later Years. I will always read whatever this woman chooses to write, and I guess I can only hope that one day a series about the Marauders comes to life.
Recommended reading: everything! But especially the Potter series.
2. Kate Morton - read count: 4 novels (The Distant Hours, The Forgotten Garden, The Secret Keeper, and The House at Riverton).
I bought The Distant Hours on a whim, because I had a giftcard with about $15 dollars on it and didn't want to carry it around anymore. And I am so grateful I made that impulsive decision because you never forget your first Morton. I've since embarked on a bookish love affair with every subsequent book of hers I have read. Every novel she has written has impressed me with character development, intricate plotting, deft authorial slight of hand, and unpredictable twists.
Recommended reading: The Distant Hours, The Secret Keeper and The House at Riverton were all 5-star reads for me. The Forgotten Garden is good, just not as good as good those books. Try one of the first three for your first experience with this immensely talented writer.
3. Steven Erikson - read count: 10 novels, 3 novellas (The entire Malazan Book of the Fallen series, and three three novellas featuring Bauchelain and Korbal Broach [Blood Follows, The Healthy Dead, The Lees of Laughter's End]). To be read: The Forge of Darkness, and Crack'd Pot Trail.
If inventive, philosophical fantasy is your game, Steven Erikson is king. With his epic, sprawling and original Malazan books, Erikson took popular fantasy themes and ideas and made them fresh and fun. A huge series of ten books with impressive history and detailed worldbuilding, Erikson may hit a few stumbles, but the good vastly outweighs any negatives. This is an author that isn't afraid to try something different, and he makes it work for him. Bonus: Bugg and Tehol are two of the funniest characters I've read. Ever.
Recommended reading: Though you can technically start reading Malazan at several different points/book (weird, right?), it's best to go with the first, Gardens of the Moon and proceed from there. That said, my favorite novels of the ten are probably House of Chains (#4) and Midnight Tides (#5). Except now that I am thinking about it, I really loved #7 (Reaper's Gale), #9 (Dust of Dreams) and #10 (The Crippled God). It's all good, really. Even when it missteps.
4. Gail Carriger - read count 5, soon to be 6 (Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, Heartless, Timeless and am about to start Etiquette & Espionage).
Cheeky, funny, and steampunk! Also: sexy werewolves. Also: hilarious vampires. Though it's rapidly becoming a more popular genre, Carriger is my hallmark series for steampunk, especially steampunk that incorporates the paranormal as well. One of the things I enjoy so much about this book is it seems and reads effortlessly. Carriger combines steampunk with vampires, with werewolves and makes it seems like it is a plausible, secret awesome history we're missing out on. Her alt-England is entirely believable, and in many cases the way it's explained, it's downright plausible. Originality is the keyword when it comes to this author. The ingenious idea for the requirements of being supernatural, not to mention the uniqueness of Alexia's condition and the ramifications surrounding it, are clever, amazing plots and ideas. Instead of a run-of-the-mill mythology, Miss Carriger invents her own and it's way way better than any else I've come across.
Recommended reading: The entire Parasol Protectorate series. And hopefully The Finishing School series, but I will have to get back to you on that one. I have high hopes, though.
5. Melina Marchetta - read count: 3 (On the Jellicoe Road, Saving Francecsa, and The Piper's Son. Yet to read: Looking for Alibrandi, Finnikin of the Rock, Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn).
The Queen of YA - and not just Aussie YA. Nobody, nobody, does it like Melina Marchetta and on one hand that's a good thing -- I can only take so much heartache. On the other hand, characters like Taylor Markham and (swooon) Jonah Griggs are far and few between in the insta-love obsessed YA genre. Marchetta's contemporary novels have yet to NOT make me cry. To quote another meme: they give me ALL the feels. I've yet to dig into her fantasy offerings, though I own them, probably because I'm still recovering from Jellicoe Road, a year later.
Recommended reading: Jellicoe Road is my favorite so far, but The Piper's Son and Saving Francesca are also top-notch novels.
6. Laini Taylor - read count 3 (Lips Touch: Three Times, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and Days of Blood and Starlight). Yet to read: Blackbringer, Silksinger.
From the tagline of Daughter of Smoke and Bone ("Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well") alone I knew I was in for an epic star-crossed love affair and had faith that Laini Taylor would handle it with aplomb and not melodrama. I was right. And the way this woman writes is remarkable. One of the few authors I would call an artist, Taylor's way with words is lyrical, beautiful and full of sensory language. Scenes, places, people all pop from page, from Prague to Zuzana.
Recommended reading: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, immediately followed by it's even better sequel, Days of Blood and Starlight. If you like creative (and beautifully-illustrated) adaptations of fairy tales, Lips Touch: Three Times is a must read.
7. Elizabeth Kostova - read count 2 (The Historian, and The Swan Thieves).
The Historian is one of my top-five favorite ever reads. I have two copies - one I read, and one that no one is allowed to open. The only other books I have two copies of, for the same reasons, are Ender's Game, The Lord of the Rings, and my brand-spanking new editions of the first four Song of Ice and Fire books. The Historian and Kostova's style may not be for everyone, but it slowly but deftly plotted novels are your thing, Kostova reigns supreme. The history, the twists and turns and reveals all worked so well for me. It was one of my favorite reading experiences - as soon as I finished, I turned the book over and read it again. The Swan Thieves miiiight not be on quite the same level, but provides another excellently written and plotted mystery. Kostova may have only written two books in the last ten years, but I will be patiently waiting to immediately snap up anything new.
Recommended reading: The Historian - especially if history (Vlad Tepes in particular) interests or intrigues you.
8. Garth Nix - read count 3 (Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen). To be read: Clariel, Across the Wall, A Confusion of Princes.
A newish to me author, I stumbled upon the Abhorsen series early 2011. This series is lively and creative, and shines with imagination and invention. Reading that series lead me to Goodreads, which led to me creating this very blog. Thus, Nix is a personal favorite. The only reason I've yet to finish the Abhorsen series is because Clariel's publishing date keeps getting pushed back. His books are great examples of YA fantasy done right. Creative magic systems, unlikely characters you can root for, a talking cat, and a re-imagining of our real world as one with magic are all great reasons to pick up his books.
Recommended reading: All of the Abhorsen series. And probably A Confusion of Princes - I've just yet to get to it.
9. Brandon Sanderson - read count 9 (All three Mistborns, Warbreaker, Elantris, The Way of Kings, 3 Wheel of Time novels) To read: The Alloy of Law, The Book of Endless Pages/Highprince of War/Stormlight Archive #2, The Emperor's Soul, Legion, Steelheart, and The Rithmatist.
Sanderson is probably the second most prominent fantasy author working today (behind GRRM, thanks to the success of HBO's series and the popularity of A Song of Ice and Fire novels), and he certainly is one of the most prolific. I have loved all his novels (some more than others - Way of Kings is one of the best fantasy novels I've ever read), but they're all imaginative and full of some of the strongest worldbuilding I've read. With overarching themes, mysterious omnipresent characters (HOID), Sanderson is another inventive author. His books are usually huge, and dense, but still remain page-turning reads. I will read anything he chooses to write - even if it's outside his best genre. He even managed to
Recommended reading: The Way of Kings is his best work, and I am eagerly awaiting the sequel. After that, Warbreaker is great, as is Elantris. The Mistborn series starts strongly, but becomes a bit weaker as the novels progress. Still: all are more than worth a read.
10. Patrick Rothfuss - read count 2 (The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man's Fear). Yet to read: awaiting publication of The Doors of Stone.
Another author that I've not read a ton of novels by, but one that leaves a lasting impression with just a few books. Rothfuss is one of those able to use words so well he could be called an artist. The first book is my favorite, but with the second, he was able to continue a high standard with the middle novel in the Kingkiller Chronicle. Kvothe is a great main character and narrator - it's remarkably easy to be caught up in his world and story as it unfolds over the course of these books.
Recommended reading: both, clearly. And in order.
Runners-up:George R. R. Martin, Charles de Lint , A.S. Byatt, Frank Herbert/Dune, Juliet Marrilier, Neal Shusterman, Lisa See, Amy Tan, Gail Z. Martin, Margaret Atwood, Paulo Coelho, Ian C. Esslemont.