Friday, March 27, 2009

My 25 Most Influential Writers

Jennifer tagged me to list my 25 most influential authors. I really like doing this because it lets me honor wonderful writers, and it allows me to share a bit about myself. I placed the writers into categories and ordered the categories based on their personal significance to me.

Put simply, these writers helped me in every way:
1. Leo Tolstoy
2. William Shakespeare
3. The collective writers of the Old Testament

These writers taught me that I could express the darker side of my emotions:
4. William Faulkner
5. Yasunari Kawabata
6. Cormac McCarthy

These writers influenced the way I create characters:
7. Gunter Grass
8. Jonathan Safran Foer
9. Homer

These writers influenced my writing style and voice
10. Chaim Potok
11. Maya Angelou
12. Kathy Fish
13. Jhumpa Lahiri

These writers gave me permissions to access the thoughts of my characters and freed me from the "show don't tell" rule:
14. Virginia Woolf (almost in the first category)
15. Fyodor Dostoevsky

These writers taught me how to express my own experience of the world through detail and description:
16. Marcel Proust
17. F. Scott Fitzgerald
18. John Updike

These writers taught me about story construction:
19. Dante Alighieri
20. Banana Yoshimoto
21. Alice Munro

These writers remind me to be inventive:
22. Gabriel Garcia Marquez
23. Kuzhali Manickavel
24. Don Delillo

This writer taught me how to evaluate writing:
25. Harold Bloom

I've love to see anyone else's list! I find this quite fascinating.


  1. What a fabulous list. I love how you broke it down by what you learned from each author in such a clear and pithy way (unlike some other people who shall remain seriously nameless.) For the authors I've read, your prefatory remarks ring strikingly true. And though some of us wrestled with the world "influence" I like how you went straight at it. The result is a very serious list.

    Since I have not read Munro, can you tell me what you would recommend to start?

  2. Nice list. I won't bother creating one since "well-read" fits me as well as "well-bred" fits cross-eyed rednecks.

  3. In no particular order:

    1. Stephen King
    2. Ken Follett
    3. Anne Rice
    4. David Baldacci
    5. Harlan Coben
    6. William Shakespeare
    7. Cormac McCarthy
    8. Dave Barry
    9. Mark Twain
    10. Plato
    11. Roger Ebert (excellent in the short form...these are writers, not novelists)
    12. Tom Clancy
    13. George Lucas (screenplay for Start Wars)
    14. Judy Blume
    15. Whoever wrote the "Encyclopedia Brown" series
    16. Stephen Frey
    17. John Grisham
    18. Dan Brown
    19. James Patterson
    20. Michael Crichton
    21. Kenneth Davis (wrote the "Don't know much about..."series, excellent historian / researcher)
    22. Tom Robbins
    23. Thomas Pynchon
    24. George Orwell
    25. Aldous Huxley

    As you can see, most of these are modern novelists. I'm drawn more to suspense and thrillers than to character-driven literary works.

  4. Crap, I forgot one of the most important:

    Dr. Seuss

    Seriously, he helped show me the joy of reading at an early age, and however old you are, "Oh, the Places You'll Go" is essential.

  5. In no particular order I present:

    1. Aesop (first stories I read)
    2. Leo Tolstoy ("War and Peace" was the first real novel I ever read)
    3. Ernest Hemingway (for his clarity of prose)
    4. Hans Christian Anderson (early influence, filled with sadness and longing)
    5. Antonia Susan Byatt (for richness of language and symbolism of food)
    6. Franz Kafka (for Gregor Samsa and the absurdity of life)
    7. Gabriel Garcia Marquez (for the beauty of magical realism)
    8. Gunter Grass (for showing me that history is personal history)
    9. William Shakespeare (no explanation necessary)
    10. John Milton (for being brave and assertive and mighty)
    11. Umberto Eco (for erudition and human comedy)
    12. Flannery O'Connor (for clarity of prose and vision)
    13. Fyodor Dostoyevsky (for richness of character and human comedy)
    14. Ivan Turgenev (for foreground/background connectedness and character)
    15. William Faulkner (for being brave and looking inward)
    16. J.D. Salinger (for loving his characters)
    17. Mikhail Bulgakov (for "The Master and Margarita" and a large black cat)
    18. Nikolai Gogol (for absurdity and symbolism)
    19. Vladimir Nabokov (for creativity of form and love of wordplay)
    20. Anton Chekhov (for character)
    21. James Joyce (for "The Dead" and "Ulysses" and being bold)
    22. John Cheever (for the miraculousness of the ordinary)
    23. Harlan Ellison (for "A writer writes. Period.")
    24. Isaac Asimov (for "Nightfall," for writing a lot, and making me want to write a lot)
    25. Ray Bradbury (for showing me at a young age just how weird the universe really was)

    Very likely I am forgetting the authors who have most influenced me because the influence goes so deep that I am not even aware of it.

  6. 25 is so many, although when you break it down like that, I realized, it's also not enough.

  7. Oh, this was fun to read over, Davin! I don't have a list made up, but I might do this on my blog. Thanks for sharing! I have many of those same writers on my list, of course. Big surprise there.

  8. What a great idea! Here's mine, Of course I agree with you about the old Testament writers, especially David! Hemingway(who wrote a story in six words once), Tolstoy, Poe, Twain, Sewell(though she wrote only one),Faulkner, Shakespeare, Alcott, Browning,Dickinson, Woolf, Buck, Baum,Stevenson,Steinbeck,Thoreau,Potter,
    Paine,Stowe,Whitman,Dickens(My fav),Wilder,Wilde,Yeats. And that's just the tip of the iceberg! Thanks Davin, that was fun to read everyone's favorites. :)

  9. Jennifer, Thanks for your comments! Regarding Alice Munro, I really liked her collection titled "Open Secrets." You can also find her short stories online if you google her name and New Yorker. She has one called "The Bear Came Over The Mountain" that is pretty good from there.

    Thanks, Justus! I hope you keep reading!

    Rick, This is a great list for me. I'm trying to read more contemporary novelists. Thanks!

    Scott, thanks for your list too. You mention a bunch of writers I'm not familiar with. I know the names but not the actual writing. Gogol is on my list and I'm currently reading Nabokov-quite nice.

    Tara, I thought 25 would be a lot too. At first I was stuck on about 10. Then, I suddenly remembered several writers and ended up having to shorten the list.

    Lady Glamis, I'll be excited to see your list!

    Robyn, thanks for your list! The poets are great too. They have helped me a lot, but not as much as the other writers. That's my own ignorance, and it has nothing to do with the poets themselves, of course.

  10. Cool list, very nice.

    Off the top of my head here are mine...

    1. Dean Koontz (taught me the true meaning of suspense and thriller)

    2. Cormac McCarthy (taught me that language can be use beautifully, without complication)

    3. F. Scott Fitzgerald (for capturing the mood of a time and a social class and creating characters I developed a love/hate relationship with)

    4. Toni Morrison (for drawing out every emotion under the sun from her readers all over the course of each book)

  11. I was obsessed with Dante's Inferno when I was a kid. I know...strange! LOL I still love the Divine Comedy. When I lived in Florence, I used to sit in the little chapel where Dante met Beatrice.

  12. GREAT list!! U were freed from the "show don't tell" rule?! I want to be free!!! What is the matrix?!-GIve me the red pill!!!!

    I LOVE that u have Dante on there! I just got a hard copy of it that's gorgeous. I've always been entranced with that whole journey!!

  13. I've only read about half of those authors! Now I'll have to decide whether to trust you and spend weeks reading through your list, or ditch your list and pick up the new Picoult novel! :)

    One of my favs: George Sand

  14. Crimogenic, Toni Morrison is sadly a writer I've never read. I need to do that. I think her book was chosen as the best book in the last few decades by a survey of several successful writers.

    LitGirl, yes, Dante is great. I love that you can stand back and see a simple story and then you can go in as deep as you want and find layer after layer of meaning. It's amazing.

    Pen Pen, I wrote two posts about Show Don't Tell when I started the blog. If you seach "show don't tell" you should find them! It REALLY was great for me to break free from it.

    Anita, Well, it depends on what you like and which authors you haven't read! :) If it's Tolstoy, then, yes, drop everything and read Anna Karenina right away!!! :)

  15. LOVE THIS! I will be doing it soon.


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