For “P” of my Book Advent Calendar, I thought I would do something different: suggest a reference book to enhance reading. As the editor states, the book provides “glimpses down roads you may, one day be traveling” in your reading.
Day 16: 501 Writers: A Comprehensive Guide to the Giants of Literature edited by Julian Patrick
This book is a guide to leading writers from different eras and cultures. It is divided chronologically into 13 sections beginning with “pre-1500” and ending with “post-1960”.
Each entry includes brief biographical data, a list of signature titles, a note on the writer’s style and genre, and an appraisal of his/her literary innovations, cultural impact, and contributions to the canon of world literature. Quotes, interesting anecdotes, and photos/illustrations enhance the text.
Here’s an alphabetical list of some of the writers featured: Chinua Achebe, A. S. Byatt, Giacomo Casanova, Roald Dahl, Umberto Eco, John Fowles, Gao Xingjian, Vaclav Havel, Henrik Ibsen, Henry James, Milan Kundera, Pär Lagerkvist, Haruki Murakami, Anaïs Nin, Ovid, Orhan Pamuk, Pascal Quignard, J. K. Rowling, Vikram Seth, Colm Tóibín, John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut, Jeannette Winterson, W. B. Yeats, and Émile Zola.
Julian Patrick, the general editor, is a professor of literature at the University of Toronto. It is his name which first drew me to this guide. It is no surprise therefore that a number of Canadian writers appear (Margaret Atwood, Marie-Claire Blais, Robertson Davies, Michael Ondaatje, and Alice Munro) as well as writers with a definite Canadian connection (E. Annie Proulx and Carol Shields).
Obviously, this is not a book to read in one sitting. It is one to peruse at leisure.
I even like the title of 501 as opposed to 500. The editor explains that the addition of “1” is intended to “indicate the possibility of the additional, thus signaling that a list such as this can never be comprehensive or complete.” As you go through the pages of this book, you will undoubtedly find yourself suggesting writers you think should be added.