My Top Ten All-Time Favorite (Living) Authors

Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, is about our all-time favorite authors, which is simply way too difficult for me to limit to ten people. Because I tend to prefer writers of long ago, I thought it best to narrow my selections from living authors rather than spend my time agonizing over the vast number of literary geniuses throughout history.

After much deliberation, here are my top ten favorite living authors!

(Note that to be one of my favorites, I had to have read more than one novel or series of theirs. Sorry, J.K. Rowling, no one-hit reads allowed!)

TTT Authors 1 TTT Authors 2

Literary Fiction

1. Kazuo Ishiguro
2. Margaret Atwood

Young Adult

3. Philip Pullman
4. David Levithan
5. Scott Westerfeld
6. Meg Cabot

Romance

7. Sophie Kinsella
8. Julie James
9. Vicki Lewis Thompson

Bonus genre! Manga

10. Yuu Watase

Should books be given ratings like movies?

Oh my! That’s certainly one way to put it!

I’ve been knee-deep in the moving process again, this time to live closer to work and escape my hour-long commute. Sadly, I’ve realized that my books take up the majority of my packing boxes, so since I’ve run out of room on my bookcase anyway, I decided to purge part of my collection to make the moving process easier.

Which is how I found myself donating over 70 books to my local library. Most of them were Japanese manga series which I knew I wouldn’t read again, but I also sacrificed some young adult fiction as well. When I carried in all my bags, one distinct thing that I pointed out to the librarians was that the manga I brought in was “rated PG-13.”

I told them that because I knew the graphic novels had themes of sexuality. Two series by author Ken Akamatsu, Love Hina and A.I. Love You, are full of innuendos and gratuitous panty shots (for which is the author’s claim to fame). They’re hilarious stories about geeky guys trying to find love, but more often than not, falling into embarrassing situations.

Interestingly, manga do come with ratings: Everyone or All Ages (E or A), Youth, 10+ (Y), Teens, 13+ (T), Older Teens, 16+ (OT), and Mature, 18+ (M). The particularly mature manga, such as yaoi and yuri, which are genres of homosexual erotica, also frequently remain plastic-wrapped in bookstores to prevent minors from perusing their pages.

But what about every other book written? We have a vague idea of which audience is most suitable for a story, but no defined standards as seen in manga, film, and video games? I wonder…why is that?

You already know that I’m not a fan of artistic censorship, which I blogged about in my post about whether YA fiction was too “adult.” The Huffington Post also discussed this issue in May, comparing the differences between books and movies.

One point HuffPo made was that according to the Hays Code of 1930, movies are catered to the masses rather than niche audiences, so stricter guidelines need to be in place. Pretty patronizing to treat moviegoers like ignoramuses, but also disheartening that books are not considered popular enough for people to care about their psychological effects.

I have mixed feelings on giving books ratings. On one hand, it’s just another way for society to subjectively decide what is morally appropriate for children. Ratings often do not take educational value into consideration.

Using movies as examples, Schindler’s List and Saw are both rated “R,” but the former is one of the greatest adaptations of the Holocaust, a historical event which cannot be accurately depicted without graphic violence, and the latter is yet another ‘gore porn’ horror flick. Same rating, vastly different values of artistic merit. Ratings would tar every book with the same brush, and I would hate for Lord of the Flies or Invisible Man to be lumped in with the likes of Fifty Shades of Grey just because of some mature themes.

On the other hand, perhaps book ratings would save many stories from being banned outright. Place them into a separate section in libraries so that helicopter parents can’t dictate what classifies as forbidden. However, the question remains of who has the right to make these distinctions–not to mention the time and money it would take to implement and enforce ratings.

Weighing the arguments, I feel that ratings for all media are arbitrary and although I can see their intent, parents ultimately decide what is appropriate for their children. If we relinquish too much creative control, then we also give up individual freedoms. I’m not saying that it would snowball into an Orwellian state, but it’s vital not to lose personal autonomy.

I could ramble on about this topic all night, but I’d much rather hear what you all think! Are book ratings a good idea? Why or why not?

When East Beats West

So today I wanted to discuss a non-conventional form of literature: Japanese manga (aka graphic novels). Ever since I was young, I was interested in Japanese anime, such as Digimon, Pokemon, and Cardcaptors. Then in high school I started reading manga and quickly fell in love with it. And now that my best friend has majored in Japanese and spent over a year in the country, I always try to keep up with the culture.

When it comes to pop music and graphic novels, I believe that Japan and Korea kick our butts. Unfortunately, manga suffers from many American misconceptions. Many people in the U.S. are only familiar with the Saturday cartoons, so they think manga is just for kids. Some also believe that they’re all pornographic, but only a small percentage are considered hentai, a term meaning “pervert.” Lastly, some have racist notions that manga is not superior to American comics, simply because they have been influenced by Western art or the characters are not stereotypically “Asian.”

All of these misconceptions are ridiculous. There’s manga out there for everybody, of all ages. There are some with mature themes, whether they’re in the romance, horror, and hentai genres, but that also applies to all graphic novels. And of course, manga are a valid art form all its own, and even Hollywood is catching on to its appeal, given that many movies based on manga are currently in the works.

So whether you’re familiar with manga or not, I’d like to share my 5 favorites:

Cardcaptor Sakura (1996-2000): This was the series that inspired my obsession. Considered one of the greatest “magical girl” manga, this 12 volume saga follows the adventures of Sakura, a 4th-grade girl on a mission to collect all the mysterious Clow Cards, with the help of her best friend/stylist Tomoyo and her crush Syaoran. Created by female mangaka (aka manga artist) powerhouse CLAMP, it was also adapted into a Japanese anime, which was then diluted into the American version Cardcaptors. Originally a shojo (girl) manga, the U.S. marketed it to boys instead, and took out many themes–including two major relationships, one homosexual, the other teacher-student. Ditch the American editing, and read the manga if you’re interested in a lighthearted fantasy tale.

Fushigi Yugi (1992-1996): You can’t be a lover of shojo manga without reading anything by mangaka Yuu Watase. Known in English as “The Mysterious Play,” this 18 volume series narrates the story of Miaka, a high school student who is transported with her best friend Yui into the ancient world of a book called The Universe of the Four Gods. Miaka learns that she is a priestess of this world and is assigned seven Celestial Warriors to protect her. She falls in love with warrior Tamahome, and the manga delves into their relationship, as well as their struggle to save both of their worlds from evil. A must-read for hopeless romantics.

Fruits Basket (1999-2006): If you can’t tell by now, I love shojo manga the most. The girlier, the better. But this 23 volume series is more than just a girl caught in a love triangle. Protagonist Tohru meets the Sohma family, whose members are each cursed by an animal of the Chinese zodiac. If they’re stressed or embraced by a member of the opposite sex, they change into that animal. It sounds crazy and superficial at first, but the Sohmas each have a tragic background. From abused Yuki the Rat to isolated Kyo the Cat, these characters will make you both laugh and cry. An emotional rollercoaster with many profound insights about love, loss, and friendship.

Ouran High School Host Club (2002-2010): This is another “reverse harem” manga (girl in a big group of guys), but there’s nothing magical or fantasy about it. Just the story of Haruhi, a girl attending prestigious Ouran High on a scholarship. She walks into the meeting room of the Host Club, a group of male students who make it their duty to please girls with social events and flattery. Haruhi accidentally breaks a vase worth 8 million yen, so the Host Club makes her work off her debt by joining them. And because she already dresses like a guy, the female students are easily fooled. A truly hilarious manga with adorable characters. The anime version is complete, but the manga is still being released in the U.S.–and since I buy manga instead of reading it online, don’t spoil the ending for me!

Death Note (2003-2006): I wouldn’t make this list without throwing a bone to the guys! My favorite shonen (boy) manga is this 12 volume series about Light, a teen genius who discovers a Death Note, a notebook in which if you write someone’s name in it, that person dies. Quickly obsessed with ridding the world of criminals, Light goes on a killing spree, learning the rules of the Death Note with the help of a death god named Ryuk. Of course, these deaths don’t go unnoticed, and soon Light is being hunted by the police, FBI, and a equally smart teen only known as “L.” The battle between Light and L will keep you glued to the pages up until the climactic end. Be sure to check out the anime, the live-action Japanese movies, and the upcoming American film.

So do you read manga, and if so, what are your favorites? Any ones that are overrated? Does East truly beat West in the world of comics?