Reading an author’s complete oeuvre – a suggestion

That post title sounds kind of weird, but honestly, I don’t mean anything obscene here. Oeuvre, if you didn’t know, refers to an artist’s work of art or the complete body of work. In this case, I’m talking Authors specifically and their entire output of published books.

And I’m beginning with my long-time friend, Gail Bowen. When Gail posted a copy of the cover for her new book, 14th in the Joanne Kilbourn mystery series, The Gifted, that will be released in August, 2013, I decided it was time to go back and begin at the beginning – always a good place to begin, don’t you think? – and reread the previous 13 novels.


Gail and I, we have a history, you see. I was her sales rep for that very first novel, Deadly Appearances, when it was published by Douglas & McIntyre Ltd., oh-so-many-years-ago, in 1990. And for the second, Murder at the Mendal, and even the third, The Wandering Soul Murders. I had a great time then, driving across Alberta and Saskatchewan, spreading the word about this NEW author who was not only writing IN the backyard of those very Prairies, but also ABOUT the place. That was a lot of fun! Gail and I, and Gail’s husband Ted, have remained in contact, and have been friends, ever since.

So I thought it was high time to revisit those books that take up a considerably impressive amount of shelf space, going back to read of Joanne’s life and her stories, solving crimes in her hometown (and, coincidentally, also Gail’s hometown) of Regina, Saskatchewan. This way, my memory of the events will be completely refreshed in time for the new release in August.

And now here’s the suggestion part of the post title … Consider doing this yourself with your own favourite writer: Reread, in order, all the books they have published (great idea if they’ve written a series, but also of benefit if you wish to see how they have progressed as an author). Just for fun, but also to become reacquainted with that author’s writing all over again, and remember what it was you enjoyed about their writing in the first place. I bet you will discover new aspects, ideas, nuances that you didn’t notice the first time you read their books. Then, either while you’re reading or after you’ve finished, tell the author what you’ve been doing – obviously, only if they are still living. You can usually contact any author through their most-recent publisher or through their website. I can guarantee that any author will be thrilled to receive a letter telling them you’ve been a long-time fan, have recently undertaken rereading their complete output, and that you are still a fan – or maybe even more of a fan now.

And don’t forget to tell the rest of us what you’re reading, too – why you believe this author to be one of the very best, and how much you’re enjoying rereading their books. And why we should consider reading all of this particular author’s books, as well. Please feel free to post in the comments below if you plan to take part in this “Rereading My Favourite Author” idea, or post a link to your blog if you have one. I don’t want to call this a “challenge” at all, because there’s no competition intended – you either do this or you don’t. But I thought it would provide you with a new way of reading – a directed way of reading that might appeal to some readers, and it could also give everyone a list of interesting authors to consider perusing the next time we’re looking for a good read.

(Plus, it’s not a bad way of giving the old backlist some much-needed dusting off and attention – wink-wink, nudge-nudge!)

4 responses

  1. Hi, Susan.

    I did this with Barry Dempster’s work last year and I recommend it as well. It took some fancy sluething to track down some of his earliest books (and a very limited edition chapbook from a couple of years back), but I did it. Some of it just isn’t available to own, but whatever I couldn’t buy, I managed to get through interlibrary loan. I didn’t read them in order, but was always very aware of what year the book was published. It was excellent fun to watch him progress, to see the way in which some of his major motifs and concerns crossed over in the work, and to watch how he developed them throughout his career. He was flabbergasted that I managed to track down everything he’d published in book form.

    It was an incredibly fun thing to do. I was delighted by your post this morning, as I remember the moment early last year when I decided I was going to read everything he’d published. When something “new” by him would arrive in my mailbox (old and tattered and dog-eared though it sometimes was), I was filled with glee and sat down immediately to read it cover to cover.


  2. First, thank you so much for doing this, Susan. The ARC of “The Gifted” will arrive today and I’m half-way through the next Joanne book, so it’s immensely reassuring to know that the series brings you pleasure.

    My Canadian lit professor in Graduate School believed that to understand a writer, a student had to read everything that writer had written. It was a terrific approach and I learned so much not just about the particular author but also about the business of writing.

    Thanks for handing on the tradition, and thanks for being a great friend to Ted and me for all these years.

    1. And thank you again, Gail, for writing! (And to you, Ted, for sharing Gail with us, and for driving her to events!)

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