Much of the data I came up with surprised me -- I didn't realize how quickly some authors stacked up, while I often wildly overestimated what percentage of my favorites' canon I'd read; many names I'd expected to see did not crack the top ten. There might have to be a follow-up post at some point.
Editor's Note: a version of this post originally appeared on my Tumblr. This is a revised and
As a personal choice, I excluded children's series books, even if ostensibly completed by a single author (some of them were taken over by ghostwriters, and not all made it clear when), because a book-a-month contract weights things rather heavily in their favor and doesn't give as clear a picture of their individual magnetism. Plus I've already gone over my favorite kids' series in the past -- though rest assured, my next project is a determined comb through those series to see if I CAN remember how many/which ones of each favorite I read. At some point I might do a "most read authors: series edition" post.
I did allow series books if they were published at a rate of no more than 1 per year, or occasional books an author contributed to a series that was always from multiple authors. I like to make rules that are complicated and also vaguely inconsistent.
GET TO THE GOODS!
For this list, though, I wanted hard numbers, or as hard as I could make them. Sample titles given are the most memorable ones I can think of that I've also enjoyed. Please enjoy the fruits of my very determined labors below.
1. Lynn Hall (35) || The Mystery of Pony Hollow, A Horse Called Dragon, Soul of the Silver Dog, The Shy Ones, etc.
Unrivaled 1960s-90s queen ♥ of everything children & teen, including horses, dogs, mysteries, the zany Zelda Hammersmith, and slender but heavy-hitting teen novels
2. Marguerite Henry (27) || Misty of Chincoteague, King of the Wind, Justin Morgan Had A Horse, etc.
20th century queen of the horse story, as well as a few about dogs and some early ones about children in other lands before her animal-themed career took off.
3. Bill Peet (26) || The Wump World, The Whingdingdilly, Cowardly Clyde, Randy's Dandy Lions, etc.
Disney animator turned creator of splendidly creative, wildly weird and sometimes fantastical picture books about creatures both real and imagined.
4. Beverly Cleary (13+) || Ralph S. Mouse, Dear Mr. Henshaw, Fifteen, The Luckiest Girl, Henry and Ribsy, etc.
In addition to 11 assorted titles I can verify with 95-100% certainty, I read at least 2 Ramona books and probably more than that, maybe even all 7 that were published before I was 12, but I remember so little about them that I truly have no idea how many or which ones. Honestly, I don't remember hardly any of her children's book plots, which is strange for me and my super-recollection of reading material. I must have been quite young.
5. Lurlene McDaniel (13+) || Angels Watching Over Me trilogy, a million other formulaic teen hospital romances, The Year of Luminous Love, etc.
The woman responsible for me having hurt/comfort on the brain always, probably, who somehow came back around in the 2010s and hooked me on a whole new set for an older audience. I would bet I've read more than 13, but this is my best estimate between what I can verify w/ hard data + the covers I am certain I remember reading in middle school, not just looking at and bypassing.
(side note: I decided she did not count as a series-book author, even though she often published more than 1 a year, because technically a formula is not the same as a series and the only thing she connected longer than a quartet was One Last Wish, none of which I read)
6. Dr. Seuss (12) || To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, Hop on Pop, and...do I really have to go on?
Honestly, I was not a huge Seuss fan, and Mom must not have been either since we never owned a single one, but a lot of his are burned into my consciousness because our culture is obsessed. I'm sure more than 12 were read to me via library books or absorbed through pop culture osmosis, but I only counted the ones I like enough to assume I read them again on my own. Also, it's wild to me that only two picture book authors made this list.
7. Tess Gerritsen (12) || Rizzoli & Isles series
The woman writes a good detective thriller, which is not at all hurt by the TV casting of the title characters + Agent Dean I keep in the forefront of my mind.
8. Caroline B. Cooney (11) || The Face on the Milk Carton, Among Friends, Both Sides of Time, etc
She wrote for teens, but beyond that she would not be pinned down to a style. The long-running Janie series (I got to book 4), time travel, horror, supernatural...the only thing most of them had in common was a thriller/adventure aspect, and even that is subverted in her earliest work, basic 1980s teen romance novels that I never read.
Side note: as someone who never deliberately sought out this author, aside from the sequels to Face on the Milk Carton, I was shocked to realize she made the list. Nothing against her, but also, I had the biggest "HER??" reaction.
9. Val McDermid (11) || The Mermaids Singing, The Wire in the Blood, and the rest of the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series
I got hooked on her star crimesolvers as intensely as Gerritsen's and couldn't stop.
10. Ann Rinaldi (10-11) || Wolf By the Ears, In My Father's House, A Break With Charity, Finishing Becca, etc.
American history queen ♥ I was super into her books as a teenager, but the last time I picked one up was 2011 and I have no interest in revisiting the past with her. I'm grateful for the time I spent w/ her, though, for illuminating my knowledge of historical events, even if I currently can't remember whether I read her Dear America book or merely wanted to. I am also very fond of her first book, a contemporary (for the times) novel called Term Paper from 1980, the local library's copy of which I snatched up when they weeded. I hope one day to read its sequel.
Because in case I've only read 10 of Rinaldi's, it would be a multi-way tie for tenth place:
+ Jim Kjelgaard || Big Red, Lion Hound, Snow Dog, etc.
King of the midcentury boys' adventure novel, full of dogs/wild animals/wilderness life. I actually thought his number would higher, and it's possible I've read 1 or 2 more, but it's been so long that once again, I can't recall if some of the titles are familiar because I read them, or WANTED to read them.
+ Tamora Pierce || Song of the Lioness, The Immortals, Protector of the Small, Circle of Magic
Ah, my brief but heady heyday in the lands of Tortall before fantasy and I pretty much parted ways. Fond memories! Maybe will revisit someday.
+ Laura Ingalls Wilder || Little House on the Prairie
I read the series -- so long ago that I can only remembered faint scattered details and the sense of loving it -- and the diary On The Way Home. I kind of wish I'd dug deeper into her life when I was fired up about it, but alas, I had too many books to get to (including the spin-off series about her daughter) and authors to see, and now I feel like I need to start over to fully appreciate more.
And now, to post, still deeply aggrieved that legends like Jean Craighead George, Roald Dahl, Walt Morey, Gary Paulsen, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, L.M. Montgomery, Jan Brett, and Scott O'Dell came up short -- which I'm getting around by mentioning anyway, haha -- but also kind of proud that even going back to childhood, who run my book world? GIRLS! (or adult female authors, as it were)
P.S. I did a "most owned authors" prompt a couple weeks back -- check it out if you haven't already and are curious how much crossover there is with this list.
Your Turn: How many of these authors have you read, and/or how extensively? If you didn't do the prompt this week, who are your most read authors?
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