Fifth Floor Writers' Biographies



The names of the top two vote-getters in each of 17 categories will be displayed in the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) Main Library's newly remodeled 5th floor. As space allows, up to 18 additional names may be added. The fifth floor will be open to the public this winter, and will become the Main reading room for the downtown Library.

Over 1,300 votes were cast on ballots collected in branches, online, and at Regions Bank locations. Nominations for writers to be on the ballot were solicited from library patrons, and the resulting ballot contained the names of 165 writers. The election was sponsored by Regions Bank.

The final list of writers selected by the public is below:

John Grisham

John Grisham

Born in Jonesboro and educated in Mississippi, Grisham practiced as an attorney and served in public office before writing his first novel. Often injecting his legal thrillers with the culture, history, and politics of the American South, he is the author of over 20 best-selling books, including The Firm, A Time to Kill, The Pelican Brief, The Runaway Jury, The Appeal, and The Associate.

Alice Walker

Alice Walker

The work of the American novelist, poet, and essayist focuses on the history and culture of African-Americans, particularly the lives and relationships of African American women in the context of racism and sexism. Walker won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Color Purple.

Arthur Conan Doyle

Arthur Conan Doyle

A Scottish physician, novelist, and writer of detective stories and historical romances, Doyle was the creator of Sherlock Holmes, who became the archetype for the detective as intellectual. Doyle cast Holmes in stories such as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Sign of Four.

Stephen King

Stephen King

An American novelist considered to be a master of the horror genre, King is one of the bestselling authors of all time. His popularity is based primarily on his ability to invent interesting characters, to construct a compelling plot, and his keen awareness of what terrifies his reader. Works include Christine, It, The Tommyknockers, and The Stand, among many others.

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury

Though one of the best-known writers of science fiction, Bradbury does not identify himself as a science fiction writer. Instead, his works tend to focus on the effects of scientific exploration on human lives. His first published work appeared in an amateur fan magazine in 1938. Among his best-known works are The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling

Author of the "Harry Potter" series and one of the most popular authors of all time. The first title in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, was published in England in 1997. By mid-2007, worldwide sales of her books had topped 325 million copies. The books have been published in over 60 languages.

James Michener

James Michener

An American author who served as a teacher and professor before publishing his first work of fiction around the age of forty, Michener used his time in the U. S. Navy during World War II to begin collecting experiences he later transformed into his highly popular stories. Michener won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1948 for Tales of the South Pacific, his first published work of fiction.

Margaret Mitchell

Margaret Mitchell

Mitchell was an American novelist who was born in Georgia. Her only novel, Gone With the Wind, won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1937.

Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling

One of the most widely known of the late Victorian poets and storytellers, Kipling was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907. Although best known as the author of The Jungle Book, Just So Stories: For Little Children, and Kim, his most significant literary achievement is considered to be his extensive and varied body of short stories.

William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats

Irish poet, essayist, and dramatist William Butler Yeats's works are known for their precise style, lyrical beauty, and dramatic quality. "When You Are Old," "The Songs of Wandering Aengus," "Easter 1916," "Sailing to Byzantium," and "Among School Children" are examples of his works. Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923.

George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw

An Irish playwright, critic, and political activist, George Bernard Shaw is probably best known to popular audiences for Pygmalion which was later adapted into a movie of the same name and the musical My Fair Lady. He is remembered not only for his incisive wit, but also for injecting his plays with criticisms of social and economic injustice, the corruption and hypocrisy of the upper classes, and gender and racial inequality.  Shaw also wrote over 60 plays, including Arms and the Man, Man and Superman, Caesar and Cleopatra, and Saint Joan.

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

An Irish novelist, playwright, poet, and iconoclast, Wilde is remembered for his use of language, his unwillingness to conform to Victorian social norms and conventions, and his larger-than-life personality. Though he wrote essays, poems, and novels, Wilde is beloved for the wit he exhibited in his plays, including Lady Windermere's Fan, An Ideal Husband, and The Importance of Being Earnest.

The Brontë Sisters

Anne, & Charlotte Bronte

The Brontë sisters' novels were born of gloomy circumstances in which they were raised. The tragic premature death of their mother, the emotional isolation from their stern and distant clergyman father, and the bleak surroundings of the moors in which they grew up all find their way into classic novels like Wuthering Heights (Emily), Jane Eyre (Charlotte) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Anne). Popular in their own lifetimes, each of these books has become a classic of nineteenth century English Literature.

Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy was a Russian writer, aesthetic philosopher, moralist, and mystic who is recongnized as the consummate practitioner of the "psychological" novel. War and Peace, Anna Karenina, and The Death of Ivan Ilyitch are some of his best-known works.

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway, who won both the Pulitzer and the Nobel Prizes, was born in Illinois, but spent much of his time abroad. His literary themes often dealt with heroes who needed to prove their worth. Selected works are The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, To Have and Have Not, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea.

John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck's books have become classics and required reading in most high school and college literature courses. Most of his novels, including Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, depict the plight of the working and the rural poor attempting to fashion meaningful lives in the face of social prejudice, economic injustice, and political inequality. Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962.

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

An autobiographer, poet, and native Arkansan, Angelou attained international acclaim for her 1969 autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; however, her career as a poet is equally impressive. She was a member of the Harlem Writers Guild in the 1950s and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for her 1971 collection of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie. Angelou was also chosen by President Bill Clinton to recite her poem "On the Pulse of the Morning" at his first inaugural in 1993.

Harper Lee

Harper Lee

Harper Lee only published one novel, but To Kill a Mockingbird is considered by many the most important work of American fiction in the twentieth century. For it, Lee was awarded the 1961 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and has since been honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

René Descartes

Rene Descartes

French scientist, mathematician, and philosopher who is regarded as the father of modern philosophy. Among his writings are Discours de la Méthode and Meditationes de Prima Philosophia. Descartes is best remembered for his axiom, "I think, therefore I am."

Voltaire

Voltaire

A French historian, poet, satirist, and philosopher, Voltaire is most often associated with his critique of the Church and of religion. Classifying himself a deist, he rejected the corruption and hypocrisy of the institutional Church and the idea that any one faith was supreme, and therefore argued for strict religious freedom. His rejection of ancien régime political and economic structures was widely influential on the American and French Revolutions. Voltaire's works include Treatise on Tolerance, Dictionnaire Philosophique, and Candide.

Confucius

Confucius

What we know of the Chinese philosopher Confucius's thought is derived from a series of fragmentary notes and sayings attributed to the philosopher and preserved by his students. From these fragments has developed an entire moral, ethical, social, and political code of conduct that has influenced much of East Asian culture and history. With its emphasis on self-reliance, personal rectitude, the observation of ritual, filial piety and social harmony, Confucianism has come be synonymous with many modes of Eastern thought.

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud

An Austrian physician and founder of the field of psychoanalysis, Freud explored the unconscious and his writings about the id, the ego, and the super ego helped give form to the newly emerging discipline of psychiatry. Selections of his works are The Interpretation of Dreams, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, and The Ego and the Id.

John Locke

John Locke

An English philosopher who influenced British empiricism and theories of democracy, Locke was an essential influence on the American Founding Fathers as they formulated the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. His major works are Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Two Treatises of Government.

Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine

An American pamphleteer and revolutionary, Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense and The American Crisis, both widely read and influential defenses of the American Revolution. His defense of the French Revolution, The Rights of Man, was so well-received that he was elected to the French National Convention of 1792, despite not speaking French. A radical deist, Paine was controversial throughout his public life for rejecting faith for reason and denouncing institutionalized religion and doctrine for free thinking.

John Kenneth Galbraith

John Kenneth Galbraith

American economist and critic John Kenneth Galbraith extended the economic theories of John Maynard Keynes. In popular works like American Capitalism, The Affluent Society, and The New Industrial State, he argued that the economic success of certain companies or industries is determined as much by political power and advertising as by efficiency and competition. Galbraith proposed consumer protection and taxation policies to contravene the effects of corporate power and ensure a fairer and more just economic system.

Karl Marx

Karl Marx

Marx was a German-born political economist who spent most of his life in exile in Great Britain. There, he refined his critique of nineteenth-century laissez-faire capitalism and became the founder of modern socialism. His two major works are Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

King was an American clergyman, political activist, and civil rights leader. Our collective memory of King may be indelibly tied to the visual images of his oratory, but, unlike so many contemporary politicians, King authored his own speeches, sermons, and essays. In addition to his 1963 "I Have a Dream" and his 1968 "I Have Been to the Mountaintop" speeches, one cannot forget his "Letter from Birmingham Jail" essay, which outlined most powerfully his commitment to non-violence as a means of civil disobedience.

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis

A British novelist, academic, and theologian, Lewis is best-known for his authorship of the Chronicles of Narnia, the classic children's series of books based on the themes and mythology of Christianity, the Roman and Greek civilizations, and his native British Isles. He is also remembered as one of the most popular lay theologians and Christian Apologists of the twentieth century, drawing on his own conversion experience to author such books as Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain, and Miracles.

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

The British scientist and author of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection and The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, Darwin developed the theory of evolution based on natural selection.

Louis Pasteur

Louis Pasteur

A French chemist recognized for his research in applied bacteriology, Pasteur's name is most closely associated with the procedure known as pasteurization, which destroys bacteria in milk and related liquids. See Oeuvres Complètes (7 vols.) for his collected writings.

David McCullough

David McCullough

Not trained as an academic historian, David McCullough is responsible for resurrecting popular interest in several periods and people of American history. With his emphasis on personalities and personal narratives, McCullough has renewed public interest in Harry S. Truman, John Adams, Teddy Roosevelt, the American Revolution, and the constructions of both the Panama Canal and the Brooklyn Bridge. McCullough has been honored with both two National Book Awards and two Pulitzer Prizes.

Barbara Tuchman

Barbara Tuchman

Barbara Tuchman's prose and narrative style brought the history of WWI, fourteenth century France, the American Revolution, Sino-U.S. relations, the Trojan War, and the Vietnam War to mass audiences. Though not considered an academic historian, her exploration of the first months of WWI, in Guns of August, and of the experiences of U.S. diplomat General Stilwell in China, in Stillwell and the American Experience in China, garnered Tuchman two Pulitzer Prizes for General Nonfiction.

Dee Brown

Dee Brown

Arkansas historian and author Dorris Alexander (Dee) Brown is the only contributor to Arkansas literature included in The New York Public Library's Books of the Century (1996). Brown's best-known work, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, changed the way the world thinks about America's westward expansion and has the rare distinction among historians of being considered an indispensable reference for Native American studies.

Charles Portis

Charles Portis

One of the finest of Arkansas fiction writers, Little Rock novelist Charles McColl Portis is best known for the western novel True Grit. Portis's other novels—Norwood, The Dog of the South, Masters of Atlantis, and Gringos—are set in the twentieth century and are more purely comical. Portis also contributed shorter fiction and nonfiction articles to such periodicals as The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Arkansas Times, and Oxford American. In 2010, Portis was honored with the Oxford American's first Lifetime Achievement in Southern Literature award.