We all have favourite authors – even those of us who don’t read that much or that widely (no shame!). There are certain writers who just capture us, heart and soul, and we pore over every word they’ve written. We call them “automatic buy authors”. Automatic buy authors are the literary equivalent of ride-or-die friends. Here are eleven of mine…
Sayaka Murata has been one of my automatic buy authors since I first read Convenience Store Woman. If I found out she was writing the copy on the back of shampoo bottles, I’d buy them in bulk. She writes taboo-breaking horror, scarily sharp social commentary, and she takes the “sex and death” thing to a whole new level. It’s a shame that comparatively few of her titles have been translated from the original Japanese into English. Ginny Tapley Takemori has done a fantastic job on the three that are available in anglophone markets, though! In addition to the novella Convenience Store Woman, the novel Earthlings is chilling and confronting, and Life Ceremony is a short story collection that will knock your socks off.
My love affair with the world’s most famous living pseudonymous author began, as most do, with My Brilliant Friend. That’s the first in her series of Neapolitan novels, four books that follow the lives of two girls from Naples into adulthood. By the time I sat down with the final novel in the quartet, The Story Of The Lost Child, I felt like I was sitting down to have goodbye drinks with a friend leaving town in the morning. Thankfully, Ferrante has a healthy backlist that I can turn to next, and new novels coming out semi-frequently – the most recent being The Lying Life Of Adults in 2019. They are all translated beautifully into English from the original Italian by Ann Goldstein.
Carmen Maria Machado
I first encountered Carmen Maria Machado through the Sydney Writers’ Festival podcast (specifically through her lecture – which seems to have mysteriously disappeared from the internet, otherwise I’d link to it directly – about Law & Order: SVU). She is completely beguiling, scarily smart, and almost-embarrassingly frank. It’s rare that a short story collection comes along that completely changes the game, even rarer when the author manages to back it up with a memoir that does the same thing – and yet, that’s exactly what Machado has done with Her Body And Other Parties and In The Dream House, respectively. Put simply, Machado’s writing will break your brain in the best possible way.
To be honest, Ottessa Moshfegh needs to be one of your automatic buy authors, if for no other reason than you need to be across what everyone else is gossiping about! She’s one of the most polarising young American writers in the game, as divisive as her unreliable and unlikable protagonists. Her books run the gamut of everything that could possibly be triggering: anxiety, eating disorders, sexual assault (Eileen); depression, self-harm, terrorism (My Year Of Rest And Relaxation); animal cruelty, sadism, and cannibalism (Lapvona)… what’s not to love? Ha!
Patrick Radden Keefe
Patrick Radden Keefe is uniquely talented at exploring underbellies, exposing more of stories we think we “already know”. Reckon you’re across the worst of the Troubles? You need to read Say Nothing. Think you understand the origins and complexities of America’s opioid crisis? Pick up Empire Of Pain. It was a particular pleasure to read a collection of his long-form journalism lately, Rogues, which was like getting to read twelve bite-sized versions of his book in a delicious tasting platter of unsavoury characters. The man is one of the essential automatic buy authors for fans of literary true crime.
Here’s one of my automatic buy authors that’s a bit more fun! Casey McQuiston writes delightful young adult and new adult romances, with fun twists and kooky casts. They’re exactly what you want to take to the beach, or curl up with after you’ve read some traumatising shit. McQuiston burst onto the scene with Red, White & Royal Blue, a what-if romance between a fictional Prince Of Wales and First Son of the United States. It was an instant best-seller and a #bookstagram darling for years! They’ve since followed up with two more zany romances, One Last Stop and I Kissed Shara Wheeler.
Karen Joy Fowler
I’ll admit, most of Karen Joy Fowler’s back-list doesn’t excite me that much, but the stuff she’s written most recently has made her one of my automatic buy authors for anything new. Maybe it’s a case of practice makes perfect? I fell in love with We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – I think it’s the book I’ve recommended to readers more than any other – and then thoroughly enjoyed Booth. I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next, and hey, maybe I’ll dip into her back-list after all to tide me over.
I’ll admit, Grady Hendrix became one of my automatic buy authors before I’d even read a single word he’d written. I just love the concepts and designs of his books so much! They’re true collector’s items. Horrorstor is basically a ghost story set in a haunted IKEA store, and the novel is designed to look like one of their iconic catalogues. My Best Friend’s Exorcism looks just like one of the pulpy horror VHS tapes you might’ve rented from Blockbuster back in the early ’90s, and hits all the right notes for a teen horror satire. The list goes on and on; I can’t rest ’til I collect ’em all!
If you haven’t read one of Celeste Ng’s novels – or at least seen one of the screen adaptations – you’re really missing out. As soon as you do, she’ll be one of your automatic buy authors, too. Her stories are intense, complex, and superbly crafted. She examines race, gender, motherhood, suburbia, oppression, depression, and more through highly readable dramas that will have you gripped. Both Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere have topped best-seller lists and won awards around the world. Plus, they both have Reese Witherspoon’s tick of approval.
All of these automatic buy authors are wonderful, but not one of them can make me laugh like David Sedaris. His memoirs – each and every one of them – have me howling with laughter. Plus, I get to enjoy them twice: once in paperback, and again via audiobook (narrated by Sedaris himself). Of course, my very favourite is Me Talk Pretty One Day, a collection of essays about Sedaris’s North Carolina childhood juxtaposed against his migration to France as an adult. But, at the end of the day, they’re all brilliant. I’m forcing myself to consume them slowly, just one or two a year, and guarding fiercely against the temptation to gobble them down all at once like a greedy little goblin.
Catherine Ryan Howard
Catherine Ryan Howard is one of the newest additions to my list of automatic buy authors, but hoo boy, she earned it! Her 2021 novel, 56 Days, was the first of her’s I read, and the first book I read set during the COVID-19 pandemic. It really knocked my socks off! Luckily, I already had another one of her books – The Nothing Man, which sounds even better – on my to-read shelf, and I’m currently on a mission to hunt down the rest of her back-list. Plus, she’s releasing new books at a pretty good clip, about one a year, so I’ll be hitting that “buy now” button pretty frequently.