You, um...you like reading? READ THIS!

Inspired by Brian Keene's post on his favorite writers of all time, I must also create a list. Why? Shoot, this is what storytellers absolutely love. Where do stories come from? Of course they come from the strange things that happen to each of us on a daily basis (on Monday, my daughter barfed twice on the way to school, our television bit the big one, and my truck was the unfortunate victim of a hit-and-run at the college), but life is also an echo chamber.

My wife hears my old man's laugh in my chuckles. For that I'm very proud, by the way, because he is a damned good man. 

But it goes far beyond that. 

Everything that we read and everything that we enjoy informs our sense of taste. Simple and true and obvious, but that's it. What we read comes out in our writing.

These are my favorites, in no particular order (except for maybe the first three):

1) Stephen King
2) Ray Carver
3) Joe Lansdale
4) Robert McCammon
5) Ray Bradbury
6) Cormac McCarthy
7) Ernest Hemingway
8) Willa Cather
9) Jeff Ford
10) Charlotte Perkins Gilman
11) Shirley Jackson
12) Neil Gaiman
13) Ursula Le Guin
14) David James Duncan
15) Jon Krakauer
16) C.S. Lewis
17) J.R. Tolkien
18) Jack London
19) Madeleine L'Engle
20) Tom Robbins
21) Rod Serling
22) John Bellairs
23) Laird Barron
24) Elmore Leonard
25) John Grisham

This list will change. I tried to consider each stage of my reading appetites in compiling it. Tolkien and London will probably never vacate their spots, as they so captivated my attention during a certain period of my youth. But the fact is that when I was a kid, I chewed through books like a piranha. I read them all. I have my doubts that L'Engle's stuff will be as great when I read the stories to my daughter, but I'm hoping they'll be as good. I've re-read Tolkien and Lewis many times, and they transcend both age barriers and genre boundaries. The surprising thing is how good Lewis's short fiction was, and how scathing his non-fiction could be.

That man was not shy with his opinions.

King and Carver will always be there as well. Their ability to captivate has provided me with hundreds (if not more) of hours of entertainment. I've spent more time with Carver and King than I have with anyone outside of my close friends and my family. I doubt they are going anywhere soon.

Ray Bradbury and Rod Serling. Hard to mess with those two.

As I compile this list, I'm fortunate to say that I've recently begun to sell a solid quantity of books. I'm also placing some stories (some of which, I hope, are pretty good) with really good magazines and anthologies. All of this is gratifying. It's nice to have your stories enjoyed. I include this paragraph only to say that every writer on the list I made above has been an important factor in my own ability to tell stories. I hope that at some point, my own stories will inspire folks to enjoy quality narratives. 

Artists create so that people can enjoy good art. If you like your art filled with mastery and wonder and intrigue and adventure and anxiety and dread and anger and magic and terror and nature and treachery and...well, litigation, then you need to feast on the books by the people I listed above.

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