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The Authors We Lost in 2021

A Happy New Year to all. I wanted to post a list of the authors who passed away in 2021, people who brought us so much to love, to learn, to ponder. It isn’t an exhaustive list, and I'm sure everyone will have additional authors whose passing we grieve.

  • One of my loves is travel, so I’ll start out with David Roberts and Geoff Crowther. Roberts was a gifted writer, a prodigious explorer and a champion of the environment and of Native American history. You can read the appreciation I wrote an of him in this earlier blog post. Geoff Crowther was the pioneering author for Lonely Planet, the publisher whose guidebooks have accompanied budget travelers around the world for decades. Lonely Planet has expanded its offerings to all sorts of travel guides and literature, but those guidebooks like South America on a Shoestring will always be the most cherished in the hearts of many.
  • The novelists who passed away this year include Larry McMurtry, whose novels were often set in the American West. Think Lonesome Dove, The Last Picture Show, Terms of Endearment. Anne Rice thrilled millions with her gothic horror, most notably series of books that began with Interview With the Vampire and collectively came to be called The Vampire Chronicles. Eric Jerome Dickey was one of the most successful Black authors in recent decades, and his women-centric stories appealed to a wide demographics of readers.
  • Poets include Lawrence Ferlinghetti, beat poet and founder of the famed City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco; Jean Breeze, the Jamaican queen of dub poetry performance; and Robert Bly, whose work on solitude, landscapes, war and other subjects became derailed to some in his later years as he became a guru of the ‘Men’s Movement’; and the Irish poet Thomas Kinsella.
  • The historians who themselves have now passed into history include Jonathan Spence, whose ambitious work brought China to life; James Loewen, whose books like Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong battled against the whitewashing of American history; Morris Dickstein, who wrote cultural histories of subjects like the Great Depression and the Sixties; Ved Mehta, chronicler of his native India; and Donald Kagan, who wrote about ancient Greece.
  • Those who chronicled and shaped to social movements we’ve lived through include the remarkable Joan Didion, one of the pioneers of New Journalism; Janet Malcolm, whose deep-dive journalism was a highlight of the New Yorker magazine; bell hooks, thew pioneering writer of Black feminism and intersectional politics; Mary Catherine Bateson, daughter of anthropologist Margaret Mead, whose 1989 book Composing a Life was an inspiration to women struggling to make sense of motherhood, sexism, racism, and building a career; Eve Babitz, who brought L.A. celebrity culture to life; Lawrence Otis Graham and Charles W. Mills, both of whom wrote about structural racism in America; Lucinda Franks, first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting; Linda McAlister, the philosopher who founded Hypatia, the first major scholarly journal of feminist philosophy; and Elizabeth Martínez, the feminist writer and community activist who helped organize the Chicana movement.
  • Among the children’s book authors who have left us are Beverly Cleary, creator of Ramona and Beezus Quimby and many other beloved characters; Eric Carle, who created The Very Hungry Caterpillar and many others of the most beloved picture books for the toddler set; Gary Paulson, whose Young Adult books like Hatchet introduced readers to life on the edge in nature; and Jerry Pinkney, whose writing and illustrating emphasized Black characters and themes.