9.09.2008

Who's the author of this foul outrage?

This list is from librarything.com, a place where you can list books you've read, rate and review them, and compare yourself and your books to other people with similar reading habits.

50 top-rated authors
Authors with at least ten ratings and five raters
(I haven't included the actual ratings numbers, because they're meaningless)


1. Jeannie Fulbright
2. John Schreiber
3. Amy Guth
4. Kyoto Costume Institute
5. Takehiko Inoue
6. Josemaria Escriva
7. Ninya Mikhaila
8. Kyoko Hikawa
9. Arthur G Bennett
10. John Bonnett Wexo
11. Trish New
12. Eberhard Nestle
13. John P Meier
14. Timothy Ferriss
15. Albert Goldbarth
16. Luigi Serafini
17. Cyril Hare
18. Beverly Jenkins
19. Jonathan Larson
20. Sho Fumimura
21. Ernst Haeckel
22. Tim Hegg
23. Yasuko Kosaka Mitamura
24. Lynn
25. Percy Dearmer
26. William T Cavanaugh
27. Maida Heatter
28. Abingdon Press
29. Ole Risom
30. Ludwig van Beethoven
31. Mazo de la Roche
32. Elizabeth Crowfoot
33. Vardis Fisher
34. Brian Selznick
35. Alex Grey
36. L J Maas
37. Clyde Pharr
38. Marshal G S Hodgson
39. Deric Longden
40. Paul Rusesabagina
41. Caroline Lawrence
42. Francis Lathom
43. Mary B Morrison
44. Julie Phillips
45. Anton Corbijn
46. G B Edwards
47. Howard Tayler
48. Walt Kelly
49. Janet Arnold
50. Toni Weschler

Maybe it shows my lack of broad reading material, but I didn't even recognize a name until Ludwig van Beethoven (# 30), and he's not even an author! Finally, at #31, I saw a name I knew for sure was an author, but I haven't read anything by him. And then, at #33, another familiar name (whose books I also have not read). Finally I came to #48, Walt Kelly, and the only name listed whose works I have actually read. He wrote the comic strip Pogo. (I have one of his books of collected comics, by the way.)

What does this mean? I'm not sure, so I decided to look up a few of these authors. I skipped number 4 and number 28, because institutes and presses are not authors, no matter how much they think they are.

At random, I chose #6, Josemaría Escrivá. He wrote The Way and other books. He was the founder of Opus Dei (and we all know all about them because of another classic work of literature, The Da Vinci Code). He practiced corporal mortification. He helped the poor, a lot. He was made a saint by Pope John Paul II in 2002. Well, saints have been writers, and I don't mean Vardis Fisher.

Next, #8, Kyoko Hikawa. She writes manga. Just out of curiosity, I looked up all the Japanese names on the list: three of the four write manga, and the fourth writes books on how to learn to write and speak Japanese. No one on librarything.com has heard of Haruki Murakami? Or Yukio Mishima?

Next, #38, Marshall G S Hodgson. He was a historian who wrote The Venture of Islam.

Next, #10, John Bonnett Wexo. He has written a number of non-fiction books for children, including Sharks, and Elephants, and Giraffes.

Next, #29, Ole Risom. Another children's author. He wrote I Am a Kitten.

It's not that I think people who write children's books aren't legitimate authors, because they are. Some of my favorite authors ever wrote children's books. But Ole Risom, author of I Am a Kitten . . . one of the fifty top-rated authors ever?

So I looked up a handful or two of other names from the list, just to see what I would find. Writers of cookbooks, art books, how-to books, homeschooling books, photography books, fashion and clothing books, technology books, and Broadway musicals. Not that those things aren't useful, especially the Broadway musical. But where are the authors who really belong on this list, authors like Jane Austen, and E B White, and Federico García Lorca, and like that?

And who the heck is Lynn (#24)?

I looked her up, too. She writes Harlequin romances.

Okay. Enough of that.

They also had a category called "50 lowest-rated authors". Guess who was number 20? Bruce R McConkie. Go figure. Well, I guess it's something to get your name on a list. If you're a
medium-rated author, you don't even get noticed.

So, I ask again, what does this mean?

I think it means that lists like these demonstrate the weakness of gauging the popularity or value of anything where humans and computers rely on each other to make choices. As in, "garbage in, garbage out". On the other hand, popular book lists concocted by humans alone are only as reliable as the mental health of the listmakers and the frequency with which they vote on the titles listed. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "People do not deserve to have good writing, they are so pleased with bad."

8 comments:

Amy Guth said...

What a curious list! I'd no idea.

jared & megan said...

huh. this just sort of confirms what I was thinking of the world this morning. Although I did laugh heartily at I am a Kitten. Perhaps there are many who find wholesome advice and thought-provoking philosophies in that book.

jared & megan said...

also... who is Amy Guth? Do you know her, or did she just google "author + foul + outrage"?

Janeite42 said...

I never heard of her before I found this list. She's an author and a performance artist (I think), and number 3 on the list of "50 top-rated authors".

Shannie said...

lol. i read this to justina and she thinks perhaps it is the top 50 authors below the real top 50.
but yes, humanity has very poor taste.
i am a kitten.

Janeite42 said...

I think justina is right. except it's the 50 top authors below the 50 top authors on the alternateTop Authors list.

adrien & eric said...

i bet amy guth was googling herself and saw someone wrote about her...

Janeite42 said...

Adrien - I think you're right, but it would've been really funny if she had googled "author + foul + outrage".