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The 15 “Novelists” Post

The 15 “Novelists” Post post image

There’s a meme going around on Facebook that asks you to pick 15 novelists who’ve influenced you and will always stick with you. You’re supposed to take 15 minutes to compile the list, tag at least 15 friends, and then post your note.

I did that, but then found that I wanted to talk all about the authors I chose – not part of the meme! Luckily, I have a blog where I can blather on as much as I want and no Internet Meme Police are going to stop me.

I already cheated a bit on my list anyway – a lot of them are nonfiction writers. But, they write narrative nonfiction which is sometimes called the “nonfiction novel,” so it counts, right?

1. Joseph Conrad — I read Heart of Darkness for the first time when I was in 11th grade (for College Intro to Lit with Mr. Eret), and it was the first time I really understood what makes great literature. I finally got symbolism and metaphor and messages in books, that authors could say something with their work, and that literature is better when you have to dig a little to try and understand it.

2. Margaret Atwood — My first Atwood book was The Handmaid’s Tale, which is a dystopian book that doesn’t seem totally unlikely. Every time I finish one of her books, my first thought is, “Wow, this woman can write.” I love the way she writes books that are beautiful to read, but also have that extra meat that makes them fun to talk and talk about. Both The Blind Assassin and The Robber Bride are among my top books of 2010.

3. Anne Lamott — She’s on this list because of the book Bird by Bird, which is simultaneously the funniest and most thoughtful writing advice I’ve ever read. The chapter “Shitty First Drafts” has, for real, changed the way I write.

4. Tim O’Brien — This is another addition because of Intro to Lit in 11th grade. The Things They Carried is another book that, when read and discussed, changed the way I think about story. Powerful.

5. Anne FadimanThe Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down is one of the best pieces of narrative nonfiction I have ever read, and it’s one that I recommend to just about everyone I meet. It’s a truly amazing story.

6. Tracy Kidder — Again, a narrative nonfiction writer than just puts together great books. I cannot wait to read more of him, since I think the only book I’ve finished is Mountains Beyond Mountains.

7. Jonathan Safran Foer — He’s on this list because of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, a book that truly broke my heart in the most amazing way. It’s not a book for everyone — especially of post-modern experimental writing isn’t your style — but I loved it.

8. Joan Didion — Joan Didion is a journalist that I both fear and admire. I would never want to be someone she is writing about because I think she can be a really intense journalist (like in Slouching Towards Bethlehem)  but I also admire her tenacity and writing style — shown beautifully in The Year of Magical Thinking.

9. Billy Collins — A third entry because of College Intro to Lit! Billy Collins is the first poet I read that made me think I could really understand and enjoy poetry.

10. Deborah Blum — Deb is on here because she is a former professor of mine at UW-Madison. I learned a ton from her while working on my master’s degree, and continued to be impressed with her writing. A recent favorite was The Poisoner’s Handbook.

11. Charlotte Brontë — I love all the Brontë sisters, but picked Charlotte because of Jane Eyre, a book that’s changed my views on feminism, and Villette, which I haven’t finished but did love very much.

12. Susan Jane Gilman — But for the real impact on my views of feminism, we have to turn to Susan Jane Gilman and her memoir Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress. I wrote about this book on the Women Unbound Challenge blog, so I’ll just direct you there for more.

13. Louisa May Alcott — I wanted to be Jo the first time I read Little Women, and although I’m not a novelist now, I think this book helped me figure out that I really did want to write for the rest of my life.

14. Jon Krakauer — Jon Krakuer is on here because I really admire him as a journalist and a writer. Into Thin Air is an amazing book, as are Into the Wild and Under the Banner of Heaven. He’s another narrative nonfiction write I frequently recommend, especially to men who are not into reading (my dad, for example, really liked Into Thin Air).

15. Azar Nafisi — Her first memoir, Reading Lolita in Tehran, is a book that made me love reading books about books and books about life in the Middle East for women. I think the book is due for a re-read very soon.

So there you have it, 15 “novelists” that continue to stick with me. Agree or disagree with any of my selections? What authors would make your “15 Novelists List”?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Lenore November 5, 2010, 8:35 am

    Joseph Conrad and Margaret Atwood are on my list too – well, if I had a list. Which I don’t. But IF I did, they’d be on it. LOVE Heart of Darkness!

    • Kim November 8, 2010, 8:32 pm

      Lenore: I hated Heart of Darkness the first time I read it, but after discussing the book I really appreciated it. And then when I had to re-read it later, I really loved it. It’s funny how impressions can change over time like that.

      And Maragaret Atwood is just awesome 🙂

  • Vasilly November 5, 2010, 9:42 am

    I agree about Anne Lamott. Her honesty and humor is what keeps me reading her non-fiction over and over again. I loved Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I’m going to have to think about my 15-authors list. Maybe I’ll do a blog post too! 🙂 I know Steinbeck would be on it for sure.

    • Kim November 8, 2010, 8:34 pm

      Vasilly: I love Lamott’s nonfiction, but I haven’t tried her fiction before but I think I’d like it. I’d love another novelists post – Steinbeck is a great addition.

  • Amy November 5, 2010, 12:37 pm

    What a great list! Definitely some authors I love, and a few I want to try!

    • Kim November 8, 2010, 8:35 pm

      Amy: Thanks – I love making author lists.

  • Internet Meme Police November 5, 2010, 12:57 pm

    This is the Internet Meme Police, and we have come here to tell you that it’s fine to expound on your favorite authors, but bringing nonfiction in was a perversion of the meme’s original intent, and not just in a small way — about half of your authors are non-fiction! How is that acceptable in a 15 *novelists* meme? Make your own damn nonfiction meme, you cheater (cheater pumpkin eater)!

    Some people, like Kristin Czubkowski (a wonderful woman, we must say), struggled very hard to leave out nonfiction authors like Anne Fadiman and Mary Roach and Jon Krakauer, then you flounce in and break all the rules. Your penance is watching this 10 times in a row — try not to lose your mind: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQw4w9WgXcQ&ob=av3e

    • Kim November 8, 2010, 8:35 pm

      Internet Meme Police: Best comment of the day 🙂

  • Amanda November 5, 2010, 2:43 pm

    I loved Reading Lolita in Tehran! So many people seem to hate that one and oh I loved it so much. 🙂

    • Kim November 8, 2010, 8:37 pm

      Amanda: I loved it oh so much. I’ve been reluctant to re-read it because I’m worried it won’t be quite the the same 🙂

  • Stephanie November 5, 2010, 5:36 pm

    What a fantastic post! And I’m glad to meet another fan of LaMott’s chapter on “Really Shitty First Drafts.”

    • Kim November 8, 2010, 8:38 pm

      Stephanie: That is my favorite chapter of the book. Whenever it get stuck writing, I think about that and it usually gets me over my initial writer’s block/fear.

  • Cass November 5, 2010, 5:48 pm

    Margaret Atwood would definitely be on my list, too.

    • Kim November 8, 2010, 8:39 pm

      Cass: Atwood gets more and more fabulous the more I read of her.

  • Jenny November 5, 2010, 6:51 pm

    Oo, fun, I have to do this! I don’t think our lists would have any overlap at all, which is great – I love hearing people say why they love writers I don’t like. (Not that I dislike any of yours! They’re just not my personal influences.)

    • Kim November 8, 2010, 8:39 pm

      Jenny: I totally know the feeling. I had friends on Facebook who had entirely different lists than I did, which was cool. I’d love to read your list too!

  • Maphead November 5, 2010, 8:09 pm

    Wow ! Great list !

    • Kim November 8, 2010, 8:40 pm

      Maphead: Thanks 🙂

  • Stephanie November 5, 2010, 9:54 pm

    Awesome list! You have quite a few authors on your list that I love- Margaret Atwood, Anne Fadiman, Tracy Kidder, Charlotte Bronte, Louisa May Alcott, Jon Krakauer and Azar Nafisi. So not a fan of Joseph Conrad, though, sorry! 😀

    The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down is one that I think everyone shoulder read. Such an eye-opening, frustratingly beautiful piece of writing.

    • Kim November 8, 2010, 8:41 pm

      Stephanie: I think Joseph Conrad is an acquired taste. He’s on the list because of the time I read the book and the impact it had on my reading, but that’s not the same for everyone 🙂

      And I agree on The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down — it’s such a fabulous book.

  • Care November 6, 2010, 8:57 am

    Well, yea, our lists* have MUCH overlapness and I LOVE that you changed the rules and rebelled against the Internet Meme Police.
    (my ‘list’ has yet to be formed; I think I will just refer to this one, if that’s ok)
    THANKS for highlighting your post at the Women Unbound Challenge site! I might need to go dust over there if you’re announcing company, tho.

    • Kim November 8, 2010, 8:43 pm

      Care: Sure, we can share a list. I hope some company stops by 🙂

  • Monica (aka monnibo) November 7, 2010, 2:11 pm

    Ahaha I love that you got Rick Rolled by the Internet Meme Police. Too funny.

    P.S. I loved Jon Krakuer too. My English 11 teacher had us study Into Thin Air.

    • Kim November 8, 2010, 8:44 pm

      Monica: Yes, those Internet Meme Police are a tricky bunch. Gotta be careful of them.

      I think Into Thin Air would be a great book for high schoolers because it has so much action.

  • Shelley (Book Clutter) November 8, 2010, 9:14 am

    Joseph Conrad is a major one for me too. I remember The Secret Sharer in high school and getting really excited about the symbolism and psychological aspects. I guess I love Atwood for the same reasons.

    • Kim November 8, 2010, 8:46 pm

      Shelley: That’s exactly what I felt like — the book was so much deeper than anything I’d ever read before.

  • Jeanne November 9, 2010, 8:16 am

    Aaah, the Internet Meme Police!
    I got this in a slightly different way on FB and listed the authors who take up the most room on my shelves. That made it easier–it was visual!
    I’m putting Fadiman on my list of things to read. I know you’ve mentioned her before, but sometimes I need two or three prods.

    • Kim November 9, 2010, 6:11 pm

      Jeanne: Yeah, that would be so much easier! If I did it that way, I’d have to add J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins, but many of these guys would still be on here, I think.

      Read The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down Prod!

  • Lisa November 9, 2010, 8:34 pm

    There was a story on NPR tonight about a Billy Collins poem being read by a then 3-year-old which is a Youtube sensation. Then they had audio of a meeting between Collins and the kid and the kid starts reciting another of Collins’ poems. Amazing!

    • Kim November 11, 2010, 5:40 pm

      Lisa: Aww, adorable! I need to look that up now, I love Billy Collins.

  • Susan Jane Gilman November 26, 2010, 6:14 am


    A friend just forwarded this to me. What a thrill and an honor to be included on your list — among writers whom I worship as well. (When I teach writing, fiction and nonfiction, I draw upon O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried, and I had the same reaction to “Jane Eyre” when I first read it, too). Thanks for making my heart sing. Writing is a lonely profession; it’s great to get an endorsement out of the ether.

    I’m going to pick up “The Spirit Catches You” and the Tracy Kidder recommendation, which I haven’t read yet.

    Best wishes to all,
    Susan Jane Gilman

    • Kim December 5, 2010, 12:43 pm

      Hi Susan – Wow! Thank you for taking the time to comment on this post, that’s awesome. I think sometimes books comes to us at the perfect time, and both Hypocrite… and Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven were books like that for me.

      I hope you enjoy both The Spirit Catches You and the Tracy Kidder book – I think they’re excellent.