Top Ten Writers — The bloggers, part one

We all have different tastes. We all cherish different writers. And this is what I love about life – its differences, and its similarities.

What do some of my favorite bloggers think about their top-10 writers?


Todd Epp
S.D. Watch.
47, married, two school aged children, Harrisburg, SD. Lawyer, blogger, political operative, soccer coach.
B.A., English and history, Washburn University of Topeka; J.D. Washburn Law School; LL.M., University of Houston Law Center.

1. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
A quintessential American story told by the quintessential American writer.

2. In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck. Steinbeck at his most compassionate, radical best.

3. A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam by Neil Sheehan. The best book to explain our well-intentioned and flawed efforts through the eyes of a well-intentioned and flawed American warrior.

4. History of South Dakota by Herbert S. Schell. Want to understand South Dakota history? Then read this book.

5. Giants in the Earth by Ole Rolvag. Rolvag tells of the pioneer roots of our state and it is not necessarily a pretty picture.

6. Essays of E. B. White by E. B. White. The purest writer of American English on life.

7. Under Western Skies: Nature and History in the American West by Donald Worster. America’s love/hate relationship with its resources and its government.

8. A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean. Not a single wasted word in an ode to family, fishing, and the inability to save those we love the most.

9. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. A complex novel about a complex religion in a complex part of the world.

10. Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil by Ron Rosenbaum. A history on the histories about the worst human in history. Is a Hitler born or made?

Honorable Mention: The Tyger by William Blake; Paradise Lost by John Milton; The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot; Any episode of HBO’s Deadwood; Any episode of China Beach; The poems of Rumi; The poems of Maya Angelou; The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner; The poems of e.e. cummings; Citizen Kane by Orson Welles; and Shoeless Joe/Field of Dreams by W.P. Kinsella.


Edward Champion
Edward Champion’s Return of the Reluctant

Top ten writers (right now– could change in 5 mins.)

1. James Joyce

2. William Shakespeare

3. William Gaddis

4. Margaret Atwood

5. Carol Shields

6. Gilbert Sorrentino

7. Charles Portis

8. Octavia Butler

9. William T. Vollmann

10. Charles Dickens


The Staff at Free Darko
(in no order)

1. Barry Hannah

2. Vladimir Mayakovsky

3. Walter Benjamin

4. Vladimir Nabokov

5. James M. Cain

6. Wallace Stevens

7. Gwendolyn Brooks

8. Tom Verlaine

9. Pauline Kael

10. James Agee


Henry Abbott
True Hoop

1. Sarah Vowell
If I had to nominate someone “most likely to evolve into the voice of my generation” little Sarah with the whiney voice would be it. She’s got the knowledge of a librarian, and she knows how to share it without being weird or confusing. That’s a storyteller’s gift.

2. Jonathan Lethem
Look, if you haven’t read Motherless Brooklyn and Fortress of Solitude yet, what the hell are you doing wasting your life reading Henry Abbott, basketball blogger?

3. Ernest Hemingway
Heard of him? I can’t think of one original thing to share about Ernie, but I will say this: my favorite Hemingway by far is A Moveable Feast.

4. Dave Eggers
Yet another “Way Too Obvious” choice but you can’t really argue that pretty much everything he writes is really fun to read. And he gets a special nod from me for clearly being something of NBA fan: in You Shall Know Our Velocity he writes about someone’s having their socks “Van Horned” up around their knees. That’s inside baseball, only basketball. Also, he co-edits my favorite anthology series ever, called the Best American Nonrequired Reading. I’m at least a decade older than the target audience, but they still let me buy it at the bookstore.

5. Michael Pollan
When the media discuss politics, they tend to be critical and to have historical perspective. When the media discuss science they tend to say “Wowee neato! Robots!” Michael Pollan is leading the charge bringing intelligent discussion to important science-related topics like where our food comes from. Also, everyone should be required to read the marijuana chapter from Botany of Desire.

6. Michael Cunningham
The Hours is one of those books that my wife and I have probably bought a dozen times because we keep telling people they have to read it and then we give it to them and have to buy another one.

7. Jonathan Franzen
In case you’re not aware: Franzen pretty much wrote an essay in Harper’s saying the novel was dead, but he would single-handedly save it. Which was trash-talking madness the likes of which even Michael Jordan never attempted. But Franzen sorta delivered on the promise with The Corrections, which was splendid.

8. Bill Bryson
I realize practically everyone on this list is a best-seller, OK? I know I’m not breaking new ground. And it’s practically all white guys. Would that it weren’t so. But, look, Bryson is the truth. He’s like Sarah Vowell in that he knows more than you, and he knows how to tell it better than you do too.

9. Wallace Stegner
Crossing to Safety is my favorite, but after I read Big Rock Candy Mountain, my wife asked me what it was about, and I didn’t stop crying for 90 minutes. And I never cry. Touched some weird nerve. (Sling Blade, as it happens, touched that same nerve.) To the thing about Stegner is he’s got the fire in the belly, he’s not backing down from any fights… no sir. But he still has grace to spare.

10. Gary Smith
He might be the only sportswriter whose articles I will read no matter what the topic. When he wrote about polo, I read about polo. When he wrote about diving, I read about diving. When he writes about basketball, I fantasize about killing him so that he will stop making me look bad.


Bill Green
Make the Logo Bigger

1. David Mamet
Glengarry Glen Ross is my absolute favorite of his, both book and film. House of Games and Oleanna as well. If you have the chance, he also has two incredible interviews on his writing process with Elvis Mitchell on the Treatment podcast here.

2. Coen Bros
Not just because you suggested it either, but while Mamet writes with great rhythm, their ear for writing regional dialect is uncanny: Raising Arizona. O Brother, Where Art Thou? Fargo.

(Eds. Note – I suggested the Coen brothers as an example for a great screen writer(s).)

3. Mark Fenske
Copywriter at Wieden + Kennedy. His blog is here and every word he writes seems to be just right one.

4. Quentin Tarentino
Micky Spillane meets Mamet.

5. Anthony Swofford
Solid columnist. Great book, Jarhead.

6. Shawn Colvin
Complicated relationship themes and a great voice to deliver them with.

7. Whoever wrote the Apple Quickstart guides
Genius actually.

8. Garry Shandling
Next to UK Office, The Larry Sanders Show may be the funniest show ever written. Performances are always key no matter what show you’re talking about, but someone still has to write it.

9. Barry Levinson
Very solid film screenwriter but my favorite is his TV work: Homicide: Life on the Street. One of the best detective shows there was.

10. Peter Gabriel/Sting/Bono
Lyrics with universal human themes. None of them ever really sing about their ex-girlfriend walking down the street the way a Tom Petty might.

This was lovingly handwritten on September 18th, 2006