Something that began on Facebook has inspired me to write a little about fifteen influential authors in my life.
A friend tagged me in a “note” recently on Facebook: list the fifteen most influential writers in your life in fifteen minutes, then pass it on to fifteen friends. Though there was no chain-letter curse at the end of this request, I nevertheless felt compelled to comply. For someone like me—who is not the most voracious reader—the prospect of asking fifteen of my well-read friends which authors most influence them… well, it’s a selfish dream come true.
I immediately sat down in front of my five bookshelves and set to work. Given that I have five bookshelves, you may find it surprising that I had difficulty coming up with fifteen separate authors, but it is true. Though I have hoarded books since my junior year in high school, I do not have a ready list of fifteen authors that influence me.
I began this exercise thinking, what makes an author influential? Is it just that I have read his or her books with more scrutiny than others? Is it that the ideas of his or her books have made an impression on me (for better or worse)? Or is it that this author has become as much a part of my thinking as myself… that I turn to their words and ideas for insight into my own life?
Don’t be fooled: I have no discrete set of criteria for you. I just have my list. Incomplete and struggling for more depth, I compiled my fifteen authors.
Keep in mind, it is desperately lacking. These were just the first fifteen folks who came to my mind while contemplating my bookshelves. Missing from this list will no doubt be those folks whose books I do not own (but whom I have read in classes over the years). There are also some conspicuous absences: Barbara Brown Taylor, for instance. Nevertheless, it is here:
1. Barbara Kingsolver
2. Gregory of Nyssa
3. C.S. Lewis
4. Rowan Williams
5. Judith Butler
6. Thich Nhat Hanh
7. Gordon Peerman
8. Elizabeth Johnson
9. Hermann Hesse
10. Mary Oliver
11. Billy Collins
12. Isa Chandra Moskowitz
13. Henri Nouwen
14. Zora Neale Hurston
15. Jane Austen
As I write this to you, I also set myself a challenge: to write on each of these authors in turn… to ask myself why these authors came to mind (while others perhaps did not)… to tell you a little more about me through the authors that have stuck with me.
It’s the closest thing to a sermon series I’m likely to do. No set time table. It may be one author a day or one a week. I’m excited to tell you about these authors and their influence on me.
And excited to hear your influences, too!