SPRINGFIELD – Authors who took readers from the deserts of Mars to the snows of Kilimanjaro and from Chicago’s streets to Africa’s jungles were named the top Illinois authors by voters participating in the Illinois Top 200 project.
Among them, they have received two Nobel Prizes, seven Pulitzer Prizes, three National Book Awards and one “genius” grant.
Oak Park native Ernest Hemingway led the voting, followed by the Galesburg’s poet Carl Sandburg and Waukegan’s Ray Bradbury. Two poets rounded out the top five: Gwendolyn Brooks, who chronicled life in Chicago, and Edgar Lee Masters, who brought to life a small-town cemetery.
“Illinois has an amazing history of producing truly wonderful writers,” said Alan Lowe, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. “I am a fan of all those represented in the top 10 and especially love the work of the first-place finisher, the great Ernest Hemingway. “
The Illinois Top 200 project lets Illinoisans vote every two weeks on the most inspiring leaders, greatest inventions, top businesses and much more. By the state’s 200th birthday on Dec. 3, voters will have chosen 10 favorites in 20 different categories – the Illinois Top 200.
Voting in the next category, heartbreaking moments, is underway at www.IllinoisTop200.com. Voters can choose from floods, fires, riots and gun battles as they try to determine the most tragic moments in state history.
Here are the top 10 authors chosen in online voting:
- Ernest Hemingway – Hemingway ranks among America’s greatest novelists, with “The Sun Also Rises,” “A Farewell to Arms” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” among his works. He won the Pulitzer in 1953 and the Nobel in 1954.
- Carl Sandburg – The work of Sandburg in both prose and poetry was inextricably linked to Illinois. He famously dubbed Chicago “hog butcher for the world … city of the big shoulders” and wrote a massive biography of Lincoln.
- Ray Bradbury – Bradbury’s best-known works include “Fahrenheit 451,” his dystopian novel of a future in which critical thought is outlawed, and “The Martian Chronicles,” a poetic account of colonizing Mars.
- Gwendolyn Brooks – Brooks was the first African-American writer to win a Pulitzer Prize. Much of her poetry described life growing up on Chicago’s South Side, capturing both the joy and heartbreak there.
- Edgar Lee Masters – Masters grew up in Petersburg and Lewistown. His experiences there inspired “Spoon River Anthology,” a collection of epitaphs “spoken” from the grave by the former inhabitants of a fictitious town.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs – Burroughs was born in Chicago and lived there when he created one of the most popular and enduring character in all of fiction — Tarzan. He also wrote the swashbuckling “John Carter of Mars” books.
- Lorraine Hansberry – Hansberry wrote the classic play “A Raisin in the Sun,” inspired by her family’s battle against housing discrimination in Chicago. Its debut made her the first African-American woman to have a play on Broadway.
- Saul Bellow – Bellow, who grew up in Chicago, is the only writer to win the National Book Award for Fiction three times. He also received a Pulitzer and the Nobel. His novels include “The Adventures of Augie March” and “Herzog.”
- Richard Wright – Wright developed his craft in Chicago, writing poetry and working on his first novel. His books included the classics “Native Son” (set in Chicago) and “Black Boy.”
- Sandra Cisneros – Cisneros was born in Chicago but spent much of her childhood shuttling between Mexico and the United States. Her novel “The House on Mango Street” examines a girl coming of age in Chicago.
Nominees that did not make the top 10 include playwright and screenwriter David Mamet, science fiction author Philip Jose Farmer and Chicago novelist Nelson Algren.
The Illinois Top 200 is a joint initiative of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, The (Springfield) State Journal-Register and the Illinois Bicentennial Commission.
Future categories include musicians, actors, leaders and unforgettable moments. Everyone is invited to suggest possible nominees in each category by using the hashtag #ILtop200 on social media.