We have a winner. I was charmed by Kassie Schwan’s tribute to the late Henry Mitchell, whose Earthman essays I read last summer. Here it is:
I tried thinking in the literary vein, but the winner today for me would be Henry Mitchell. He was a joy to read, and died too soon. His garden articles and columns were crisp, opinionated and very animated. Please allow me to quote him to make my case: In discussing the "Old Blush" rose, Mitchell goes on to say, "That should get anybody started, but I am appalled to see how cavalierly I describe 'Old Blush,' as if it did not deserve several pages of highly inflamed verbiage. It is, like the others, a very great rose which will, of course, still be around when nobody grows 'Peace' any more. 'Peace,' the great hybrid tea, will not last because it is not fragrant, so you may as well enjoy it in its century; your great-grandchildren will not know where to buy it at all. Thus, we see that justice triumphs." Thus we see why I miss Henry Mitchell.
Many of the other commenters mentioned writers I have never read, but plan to, while some were also drawn to my favorites. Here are just a few of the other great responses:
Harper Lee. Hands down. I first read To Kill A Mockingbird on a camping trip when I was about 10 years old. I remember spending more time in the tent reading than outside having fun with my sister. Now, 14 years later, it's undoubtedly my favorite book. Who wouldn't want to be Scout, running around like a boy and saying things like "What in the Sam Hill are you doing?" I know it's been 50 years since she wrote To Kill A Mockingbird, and with that book, she probably said everything she wanted and needed to say, so I'm not asking for another novel. Just a short story. Or a poem. An essay? Something?
NoCal native gardener
No contest – the Anglo-German memoir/history writer W.G. Sebald, tragically killed in a car accident just as his books were becoming acclaimed in the English-speaking world. Austerlitz, The Rings of Saturn, Vertigo and The Emigrants are haunting and unlike anything else, with their embedded photographs.
One of my favorite reads and re-reads is A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. Toole committed suicide without ever having the book published. His mother found a smeared carbon copy of the manuscript and pushed tirelessly to get it eventually published. I can only imagine what else he could have written.
Since so many someones already grabbed Jane Austin, I'll go for LM Montgomery. I'd like a new character and a new series in the same vein as Anne and Emily. Ms. Montgomery certainly loved the landscape of PEI and flowers and trees played a huge role in the imagery she used in her novels. I've never been to PEI, but I can just smell the June Lilies blooming there in an old orchard. If I can't have Mr. Darcy, can I at least have a Gilbert or Teddy?
Easy, a lost manuscript of the garden journal kept by John Adams & Thomas Jefferson as they toured English gardens, together, for 2 weeks during a break from their political work. Too odd to believe neither, both famous for journaling, wrote a peep about this trip. WHY?
One author immediately comes to mind: Virginia Lanier, who died in 2003 after writing 6 fun and strangely inspiring novels in a series about bloodhounds. The main character was Jo Beth and she kicked ass! My daughter was 14 when I started reading these and going through a bad time. You know, dark eyeliner and skull jewelry. I gave these books to her and she was so taken by Jo Beth's exploits that she asked for a bloodhound of her own. Working with this puppy steered her life onto a different course and I will be forever grateful to Ms. Lanier. Books given to the right person at the right time truly do have an awesome power.