One of the stumbling blocks of working in a bookstore or author is pronouncing author names. There’s not enough time to research every book that comes in to make sure you’re pronouncing them correctly, so you have to pick and choose which to double check and which to cross your fingers you’re getting right.
Besides, it’s usually more useful to know how people ask for those authors than the correct pronunciation. It’s always a mental battle to decide whether it’s worth correcting a customer on how they’re saying an author, especially if they’re way off — like, adding or subtracting multiple syllables off, or asking for books by Jane Eyre off.
It’s always a lesson in humility, though, when a customer gently (or smugly) tells you that you’ve been pronouncing a name wrong for years. Sometimes, it wouldn’t have even occurred to me that it could be pronounced any other way than what I’d been doing, so I never thought to look it up.
So I want to know: how well do you know this authors’ names? I’ve tried to avoid names that are commonly mispronounced just because they’re from a different culture or language. For instance, Nguyen is a common last name in Vietnamese, so it’s not unintuitive in that context. These are all authors that are commonly found in bookstores and libraries, and you’ve likely heard of most of them — but have you been mispronouncing their names this whole time?
I have to preface this by saying that I don’t know how to write in a phonetic alphabet, and most people wouldn’t be able to read it even if I could, so I did my best with the phonetic spellings, but some of them were tricky. Just pick the one that seems closest. Good luck!
If you’d like to improve your author pronunciation skills, we can help! Book Riot has three YouTube videos of commonly mispronounced names and how to say them correctly: Ain’t No Houellebecq Girl: Commonly Mispronounced Author Names, Commonly Mispronounced Author Names: Part 2, and Part 3 (below).
Another fantastic resource, especially for teachers and children’s librarians, is Teaching Books. They have an authors and illustrators names pronunciation page with links to short recordings of thousands of authors pronouncing their own names. That’s the gold standard in knowing you’ve got a name correct!
So if you scored poorly on the quiz, there’s still hope! Study up and soon you’ll be the one gently correcting your fellow readers on the names they’ve been getting wrong for years.