Yes, it’s Number One, it’s Top of the Pops!

And number 1 is… Michael Moorcock!

What are you talking about Steve?, I hear you ask.

Well, a couple of years after I started to read a lot, I began to record the books I’d read; first on paper, then in databases. Being a man of a certain age, this means I have records going back to the 1970s. Being also OCD enough to have copied my database of books to Goodreads, I can now easily see that the author I have read most is Michael Moorcock. Now, in the course of nearly 40 years, some of these books I have read more than once, and those that have had repeated readings will most likely be my favourites. Only my database can reveal which books have had multiple readings… However, I know I was a big fan of 1970s British New Wave Science Fiction, so I have read and reread the Jerry Cornelius books — A Cure for CancerThe Final Programme, and The English Assassin. Some of the 31 books in my Goodreads list for Moorcock are in fact collections for which he was editor, such as the various New Worlds anthologies; without these collections, Moorcock might have been under pressure from the author at position two in the charts…

In second place is Ruth Rendell. Now, as I only discovered Rendell, and her alter ego, Barbara Vine, in the late 1980s, I can easily recall those books of hers I have read multiple times. So, I recommend highly Vine’s A Fatal Inversion, which I have read about six times, King Solomon’s CarpetThe Brimstone Wedding; and Rendell’s Going WrongThe Crocodile Bird, and Talking to Strange Men. I have never been a fan of police procedurals, so the Wexford books do not interest me.

At number three in the chart is Frank Herbert. I read Dune in my teens and was enamoured by it. The fact that I have read all the canonical Dune books accounts, of course, for about a third of the total for Herbert. There are other books by Herbert that I have read more than once — Under Pressure* and Destination Void — but it is, in general, the Dune books to which I return. One of my friends once said Herbert’s books were full of half-arsed so-called philosophical ramblings. This perhaps accounts for the fourth entry in my chart.

In with an invocation and a silver bullet at number four is Colin Wilson, purveyor of much half-arsed nonsense and profligate philosophical posturing. I read and re-read The Occult when I was a young adult, and was almost tempted to become the next Cagliostro, or Count de St. Germain. I also read The Outsider and other of his “philosophical” works. Why Wilson attracts me, I think, is that he is an easy read; so he is often a good place to start with a topic, even if he is often wrong or muddled about something. It is his novels, however, such as The Glass CageThe Schoolgirl Murder Case, and Ritual in the Dark, that are I think under-rated. Crime thrillers set in the 1960s with more of that half-arsed philosophical rambling, they are well-written and a better vehicle for his ideas.

I could say more, but for the moment, I’ll stop here and simply note there are an awful lot of 70s sci-fi authors in this list…

1     Michael Moorcock  31
2     Ruth Rendell  23
3     Frank Herbert  19
4     Colin Wilson  18
5     Philip K. Dick  15
6     D.H. Lawrence  13
7     Henry Miller  12
8     J.G. Ballard  11
9     Barbara Vine  10
9     Aldous Huxley  10
11    Roger Zelazny  9
11    Isaac Asimov  9
13    Robert A. Heinlein  7
13    Keith Roberts  7
13    Iain M. Banks  7
16    George Orwell  6
16     William Gibson  6
16     John Fowles  6
16     Hermann Hesse  6
16    Jacques F. Vallée  6


* Also known as Dragon in the Sea in the UK, and 21st Century Sub


2 thoughts on “Yes, it’s Number One, it’s Top of the Pops!

  1. Hmmm, I haven’t actually checked, but Moorcock would be up in my top few, but probably behind Dennis Wheatley (I suspect would be my no1) Terry Pratchett would be there too as would Anne McAffrey as well.

    I tried with Frank Herbert but there was just something about his writing style that I couldn’t hack. I like Asimov and Zelazny though. Ellis Peters was a late find for me, but the person who has started to capture my interest of late is Trudi Canavan, an Aussie fantasy writer who was recommended by a colleague.

  2. Luckily, we’re not all the same 😉 I can see how Frank Herbert’s style might not be to everybody’s taste, but then I’m no fan of Wheatley. I think now, for me, Zelazny has been reduced simply to Lord of Light, and Jack of Shadows. I’ve often read JoS as an end of year filler…

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