Unranked. Thanks for the rec @elizabeef! This list would probably be different in five ways if I wrote it five times.
  1. Bill Bryson
    I've never read his fiction but his biographies, his dictionary, and his histories are all smart and admirably concise.
  2. Carson McCullers
    A Member of the Wedding is the best in-the-head-of-a-child book I've read and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is one of the best books I've ever read period.
  3. Cormac McCarthy
    Contentious but I adore his writing style and Blood Meridian may be the greatest American novel (TM) since Moby Dick. And he makes me learn: WORDS CORMAC MCCARTHY SENT ME TO THE DICTIONARY FOR
  4. E.B. White
    Meticulous perfect writing and fathoms of heart. My hero. See: E.B. WHITE IS LIKE MY HERO
  5. Harold Bloom
    My very favorite brilliant cranky uncle.
  6. Kurt Vonnegut
    My sole source of literate education from 15 to 20.
  7. Larry Wall
    Sets the bar for technical book writing. Someone I could only aspire to emulate.
  8. Philip Roth
    This is based entirely on American Pastoral but it is so immensely good that I am certain everything else (none of which I have read) is excellent too.
  9. Phillip K Dick
    Part insanity part brilliance and all intriguing.
  10. William Shakespear
    Duh. The most brilliant illustrator of humanity that ever lived.