Discussion: What Makes An Author Truly Great?

I’m about 3/4 of the way through my book right now (Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, if any of you were wondering) and it’s amazingly good and nearly impossible to put down, but I was struck with a sudden blog post inspiration and had to put it on hold to write my thoughts down. Basically, it occurred to me that Liane Moriarty is perhaps one of the greatest authors of all time, because all of the books I’ve read by her so far have been absolutely incredible (What Alice Forgot Review // Truly Madly Guilty Review). One of the books I gave five stars, the other was a high four star (bordering on 5) and the one I’m reading right now will almost certainly be a five star, unless she decides to go off the deep end and totally wreck the ending.

Regardless, there are some authors out there who consistently create classic, incredible masterpieces that leave you in awe of the author’s masterful manipulation of both words and your own emotions. For me, Liane Moriarty is one of these authors. If I were to make a list of some of the truly great authors of our time, she would most certainly be high up on the list.

But what about the other authors out there who produced one masterpiece (or even a series of masterpieces) and then faded off the map. Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth, for example, wrote The Hunger Games and Divergent respectively, but other than that they haven’t really written anything else that notable, or at least that reached mainstream my attention. They produced one incredible series, but after that… nope. So should they still go on a list of influential / famous / best authors of our generation?  I’m not sure.

On the other hand, there’s authors who are never wildly popular with any one specific book, but they end up releasing 5-10 that are fairly successful and extremely well written. Even if they are getting more extended popularity, the popularity for each individual book is not as great. Does this make them “better” or “worse” (so to speak) than the one hit wonder authors?

I think we tend to idolize authors who produce one good book more, but in many ways that just isn’t fair. It is far easier to produce one good book than it is to have continued success over many years, especially considering the fact that the general public’s taste in books will change and evolve over time.

It is difficult for us to realize which authors are continually producing amazing books unless you are one of their biggest fans. For everyone else, you just see an author that produced a midrange book that you may or may not have heard of. The type of book that will be popular for a day or so but not have a lasting impact.

I think when we are putting together lists and things of greatest authors, we should make sure we are giving adequate consideration to the authors who continually write quality content, rather than just the authors who write singular books that take off. Continual success is what makes an author my favorite, and I think the general book public should start to feel that way too.

So I want to hear your opinion on the matter…

let's talk

What do you think makes a great author? Do you prefer authors who write one amazing novel or that have continued (but lesser) success? Who are your favorite authors of all time?



6 thoughts on “Discussion: What Makes An Author Truly Great?”

  1. This is a great post that I came across in my suggested wordpress reader! I think what you wrote is very insightful and I agree with you; while some authors produce only one amazing book, there are authors who always consistently produce great ones! I also agree that different authors should be considered as “a great author” and not just those who’s books were very popular! An author I really love is Morgan Matson because I feel that all her books are amazing 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is interesting, and I think about this a lot when there’s a question like “Who’s your favorite author?” and people answer with an author who has only published one book. Personally, I’d say that’s my favorite book, but I am also more likely to think of a “great author” or just my “favorite author” as someone who has multiple good books.

    On the other hand, I think there’s something to be said for writing that one great book that becomes a classic. I tend to think of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird here. (I don’t think Go Set a Watchman counts since it’s kind of an unedited manuscript she wasn’t planning on publishing, and it makes more sense to me as something you’d read for literary background than something that’s actually a finished book….) But To Kill a Mockingbird has been around long enough and influential enough to be a modern classic and you get the sense it’s “important” and going to last. I wouldn’t be as positive about calling someone a “great author” who published one exciting book three years ago that may or may not stand the test of time, may or may not be important culturally, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. oh wow yeah the historical standpoint is super important! Harper Lee is for sure way more likely to be considered a great author than a contemporary writer. I agree that it’s super interesting when someone says their “favorite author” is someone who only wrote one book. I guess that makes me wonder if there’s a difference between favorite book and favorite author haha


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