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Fifty of the Most Inspiring Authors in the World

The staff of Poets & Writers magazine came up with this list of fifty of the most inspiring authors in the world. Less than twenty are women. Seems to me this rather tepid list needs some redressing. What do you think of the authors on this list? And who are some other living writers you consider inspiring? And how about a line or two on why you’ve chosen each one?

John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

14 thoughts on “Fifty of the Most Inspiring Authors in the World

  1. Oh, I should probably set it off with three writers who immediately come to mind:
    Mary Caponegro:
    I wrote about her HERE, but I’ll add that since that post I went ahead and read her other two books and found them to be just as virtuosic and formally inventive as her first and current.

  2. How William Gass could be left off any such list is mind-boggling. His erudite essays show an attention to language that always delights and a rigor that is as daunting as it is inspiring. And while he is nowhere near as prolific with his fiction, any story from him reveals an arresting command of the sentence, of descriptive detail, of characterization, of ingenious metaphor.

  3. Brian Evenson is one of the most exciting prose stylists alive. Pick up any of his books to see what I mean. Or you can just start with his recent story collection Fugue State.

  4. Jim Shepard – He’s always looking for a new way to tell a story. And I’m always inspired by the amount of research that goes into each short.

    Steven Millhauser – He seems to approach every idea with a fresh sense of wonder

  5. for me, the problem isn’t about who did or did not make the list, the problem is how the list’s premise is built on such a vague and meaningless word as ‘inspiring’ – to me this is a list of the human condition, of authors as people and not specifically as writers – this list cannot be a discussion of literary merit.

    1. Jason, I’m with. This is a very sentimentalist concept of what “inspiration” is. Work that makes you want to inhale sharply and sigh with mild awe before you get back to your TV. Not that my description applies to all or most of what’s on this list, but that seems to be what P&W is getting excited about. But this list is in Poets & Writers, so…

    1. Hi Dawn,

      I definitely hear what you’re you’re saying (and I would love to see your list of 50 of the least inspiring book lists). What’s annoying to me about P&W’s list is less that it is unimaginative and sometimes clueless, but that it is unimaginative and clueless and it comes from an established taste-maker, a publication that thousands (they have a circulation of 60,000 copies nationwide) of people go to for insight, guidance, etc.

      But you checking in here has reminded me that you should be on that list not to mention a host of others like Christine Schutt, Diane Williams, Robert Lopez, Gary Lutz, Joanna Howard, Eugene Marten, Norman Lock, and, and, and…

  6. Also, isn’t the addendum, of who would would have been on the list had they made it a little more than a year ago really a strange thing to include? I don’t know why it bothers me so much, but it seems like they tried to sandwich in a tribute to authors who died last year with this article. It feels insincere.

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