Top Contemporary Authors

About.com is a huge hairy web destination where you can find information on just about any subject, learn a new language, add to you cooking prowess, or find fun tips and shortcuts to enrich your life. Like Wikipedia, you can spend hours and learn a lot just poking around the various pages but be cautious at both sites, the old adage is still true: just because it’s on the internet doesn’t make it true.

AboutI find sites like this are useful to stimulate thinking and to offer an entry into all sorts of interesting subjects that I can expand upon with further reading, online and off. One specific use I make of Wikipedia is as a sort of footnote depository for my reading. Although usable when reading paper and ink books, the real advantage of these reference sites is when reading digital books. I have linkages set up so that I can rapidly expand references, look up word definitions, or just learn more about the author and her/his world, with just a touch or click. It brings a new dimension and a fully understanding to reading, and that ain’t bad.

I ran across this small list of the ten contemporary authors you should be reading:

  1. Isabel Allende
  2. Margaret Atwood
  3. Jonathan Franzen
  4. Ian McEwen
  5. David Mitchell
  6. Toni Morrison
  7. Haruki Murikami
  8. Philip Roth
  9. Zadie Smith
  10. John Updike

I think we can all agree that these are ten contemporary authors who have created good and entertaining literature … some better than others. However, the suggestion that these are the ten top authors we should be reading or that we should be reading these authors rather than other authors is just wrong. I suppose we should not consider whether we should even be focusing on contemporary authors at the expense of more classic authors. Also, the definition of “contemporary” is somewhat open (I currently use World War II as the break-point but might opt for works that are not yet in the Public Domain).

authorsBut no matter what the definition of contemporary literature, the About.com list is horribly flawed. First, it smacks of favoring more commercial authors (winning an award doesn’t mean an author is not commercial). But even then, the list ignores several well-known, well-esteemed, and even commercially successful authors such as Saul Bellow, Don DeLillo, William T. Vollmann, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Georges Perec, José Saramago, Naguib Mahfouz, Mo Yan.

Here’s an excellent critical thinking exercise: using just your memory, consider the contemporary authors you have read and critically decide whether you would place them on your personal list of ten contemporary authors. Try not to have About.com influence your thinking. How are you doing?

Here is my list:

  1. Saul Bellow
  2. William Gaddis
  3. Günter Grass
  4. Kazuo Ishiguro
  5. Naguib Mahfouz
  6. Toni Morrison
  7. Haruki Murikami
  8. Alain Robbe-Grillet
  9. José Saramago
  10. William T. Vollmann

As it should be, your list probably looks quite different … how about sharing it?

What are your thoughts on this?

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