Anonymous asked in Arts & HumanitiesBooks & Authors · 1 decade ago

Who do you consider to be the best writer/author of the 20th century?

feel free to mention more than one writer, as there are several genres...for example, in biography I like John Caro, in horror, Steven King, then there's children's books...there are no wrong answers here, just one best answer...I am looking for something new to read...


No one mentioned Thomas Harris or Dr Seuss?!

10 Answers

  • reader
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    I've been staring at this question for a long time because I have a terrible time with the word best when it comes to books and music. I know what my bests are but they frequently don't line up with either popular or critical opinion. That being said, I decided to focus on your having said you were looking for something new to read and just give you a lengthy list of people who are favorites of mine and which stand out for me personally. I hope that doesn't miss your point too much. I can never resist recommending the books I love.

    **** Warning!****

    This will be one of those long answers that people hate to scroll through. Perhaps they'll be too busy disagreeing with me to notice.

    Fiction ~

    Ernest Hemingway

    Sinclair Lewis

    John Steinbeck

    Alexander Solzhenitzyn

    Thomas Wolfe

    J. R. R. Tolkien

    John Dos Passos

    Henry Miller

    Kurt Vonnegut

    Ayn Rand

    Ken Kesey

    Charles Bukowski

    John Fante

    Hubert Selby Jr.

    Thomas Pynchon

    Tom Wolfe

    Carson McCullers

    Flannery O'Connor

    Truman Capote

    J.D. Salinger

    Raymond Carver

    Vladimir Nabokov

    Tom Robbins

    Thomas McGuane

    Wallace Stegner

    Ernest Hebert

    Richard Russo

    Richard Price

    Larry McMurtry

    Jane Smiley

    Mary Doria Russell

    Tim O'Brien

    Brett Easton Ellis

    Harry Crews

    Larry Brown

    Ann Patchett

    Louise Erdrich

    Robertson Davies

    William T. Vollmann

    John Kennedy Toole

    William Carpenter

    Cormac McCarthy

    James McManus

    Andre Dubus III

    Charles Frazier

    Tim Winton

    Neil Gaiman

    William Gibson

    John Barnes

    Crime/suspense ~

    John Sandford

    Donald E. Westlake

    George P. Pelecanos

    Joe R. Lansdale

    Charles Willeford

    James Crumley

    Liza Cody

    John D. McDonald

    Joseph Wambaugh

    Non-fiction/History ~

    William Manchester

    Stephen Ambrose

    Bruce Chatwin

    Studs Terkel

    Tracy Kidder

    Shelby Foote

    Howard Zinn

    I'm going to skip kids and YA altogether. I'm sure people are already sick of me, and I could just run on and on, in every category.

    Fortunately for all of us I have to get ready for work now, where I will undoubtedly think of people I have missed mentioning. These lists always make me suffer pangs of guilt, as if the authors know they've been snubbed. At any rate, I hope you find some new material here.

  • sage
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago

    I have to go with Stephen King. That is not to say I haven't read some great 20th century authors, nor is it to say that there aren't books out there that aren't "better" than any of his. I pick Mr. King because he is the most prolific, brilliant storyteller of our time. It is not any one of his books that makes me say this, it is the whole of what he has produced. I have read most of King's work, and more than you would ever believe of pretty much every well read or well critiqued author you could throw at me. Hands down Mr. King is the most creative. His characters are so alive you could fall in love with them or wake up in nightmares because of them. There is a magical element to good storytelling, the ability to draw a reader into a world that isn't there and let them live there for a time. Some authors never accomplish the magic. They tell a good story, but you are always reminded it is just a story. Some authors occassionally will draw you in, and then leave you dragging on until the next good bit. Some authors only have one magic book in them and everything else just seems a little forced. King finds the magic in every book he writes. There are few authors I can say this about. One is Diana Gabaldon, she hasn't been writing nearly as long and isn't nearly as prolific, but the magic is there. The other I can think of, is J.K. Rowling, lots of magic there, no pun intended.

    Now if you just want some titles and authors, email me, and I will send you a list I made some time back of the best books I have ever read. Guaranteed I have read more than 98% of the population, no ego, just honest, I've always loved to read. The point is, my list covers a lot of ground.

  • 1 decade ago

    Interesting question. Can I say that the best writer is the one who made you feel the happiest that you read them?? The one you tell your friends about? The one you buy as gifts for all your reader friends? I felt a bit intimidated adding my two cents here after reading some of the responses from folks who have really worked hard to give a good solid answer. But what I love about this site is that others don't feel intimidated like that and can pop in and leave their thoughts without fear of ridicule. As long as people ARE reading, regardless of what book it is, we are one step ahead of complete oblivion. I know this isn't the answer to your question but I think you wanted debate more than a decision!

  • TheVet
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago

    I'll agree with Sage and yourself that King must be counted. However I wouldn't say he is *the* most prolific writer out there. I'd say he's on par with Lawrence Block and few other of the more prolific writers out there, but I don't know who difinitively holds that title.

    (And I think even mentioning Rowling under this topic is a disgrace to literature.)

    Tim O'Brien would have to be counted in the list for his brilliant and poignant work about the Vietnam war.

    I'd say the most contemporary author to make the list would be Brett Easton Ellis. His satires are genius, and extremely relevant. He'd probably be the capstone author for me, the last in the century to make the list. I can't think of anyone more recent who would get the honor.

    There's obviously those commonly agreed upon masters like Faulkner, Hemingway, Nabokov, Heller etc.

    But since this question is geared specifically to my opinion I'm going to say the very best is Kurt Vonnegut. His work is pass-out-laughing funny, written in a manner that absolutely anyone can read and enjoy it, mind blowingly creative, and covers an array of topics. His satires explore everything from the absurdity and horror of war, to the plight of laborers in American democracy, to the nature and purpose of human life! He is an inspiring scholar, an uplifting artist, and a heart-on-sleeve humanist. We were lucky that we were given such a wonderful man to learn from in our life times, and unfortunate to have to suffer through his death just over a year ago. But, aside from the personal idiosyncrasies that only his family will have to relish, he was a giving enough "Saint" to have left us with some of the very best parts of him: his lust for life, his caring spirit, and his ability to find humor in even the darkest of things.

    So, beyond any shadow of a doubt Kurt Vonnegut was, is, and always will be the very best author of the 20th century.

    At least according to me! LOL

    "A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved." - Kurt Vonnegut, Sirens of Titan

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  • 1 decade ago

    I love books written by Mitch Albom.

    So far his 'The Five People I Meet In Heaven' is the best.

    Simply told, sentimental, profoundly true.

  • 1 decade ago

    Flann O'Brian: "At Swim Two Birds."

    Mario Vargas-Llosa: "Aunt Julia & The Scriptwriter."

    Orhan Pamuck: "I am Red."

    Just a start

  • Arthur Golden. He wrote "Memoirs of a Geisha." That is my absolute favotire book. Besides that he is an extreamly talented writter.

  • 1 decade ago

    C.S. Lewis....and I'll add J.R.R. Tolkien

  • capote!

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago


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