I started reading this Forbes post about "the 10 most powerful women authors" and my first reaction was surprise. This is because based on the first few names, it appears as though Avril David mistakes "powerful" with "bestselling".
Perhaps my issue is with the use of the word "powerful". David meant influential - but use of the word powerful alters the meaning. Regardless, reading over this list, I'm somewhat disappointed from a strictly literary perspective. Influence has a lot of forms, but how exactly does Danielle Steel challenge her readers? Does the fact that Stephenie Meyer can capture an audience mean that her message has necessarily resonated with readers? J.K. Rowling, even as author of one of my favorite series ever, isn't exactly my first choice when it comes to influence perhaps because her incredible ability to tell a story doesn't mean that I'll jump at her every word.
David's list becomes a little more interesting once we get to the award-winners. Once she stops focuses on the monetary value of the author (and more on the accolades), there's a little more... weight. But even so, I'm still left somewhat unsatisfied. True, authors like Maya Angelou, Jhumpa Lahiri, Alice Walker and the rest deal with interesting issues and broaden readers' minds. That is clearly influence. But would I choose these women?
The better question is: would I choose anyone? The more I think about it, the more I realize that the answer is no. I can't think of very many authors - male or female - who I would call powerful or influential, perhaps because these are some pretty strong words by themselves. Maybe there are authors who are fairly influential within a specific field - literary criticism, for instance - but to say that they're powerful... I can't do it. I can't put that kind of label on authors.
David doesn't pretend that the list is anything other than her personal opinion - a mix of bestselling authors, award-winners and familiar literary names. She doesn't shy away from the fact that this, furthermore, a very limited list. Similarly, my opinion is that a list like this doesn't say very much. It doesn't sit well with me. I'm not even certain why.
What do you guys think? Do you like David's list? Are there authors (male or female) who you think are, indeed, clearly powerful or obviously influential?