1. Anne Tyler - does not tour, does not give interviews, does not have a website. I love her books! She won the Pulitzer for "The Accidental Tourist" but I love many of her other books so much more: "A Patchwork Planet," "A Slipping Down Life," and oh, "Digging to America." Her characters are so true-to-life, so haunting (in a good way! they really stay with you long after you've finished reading).
2. Umberto Eco - Italian author, background is semiotics. Eco hasn't written many novels and the ones he has written are really hard to read - complex, intricate, and filled with references to arcane texts and historical figures. "The Name of the Rose" is a wonderful mystery set at a monastery in the 14th Century (the movie adaptation wasn't bad, with Sean Connery as the investigator) and long before there was "The Da Vinci Code," there was Eco's "Foucault's Pendulum," which I needed to use a dictionary to read. But more than his novels, I love his nonfiction essays ("Travels in Hyperreality" contains some of the funniest, smartest material I've ever read on philosophy).
3. Elizabeth Berg - prolific author of what many demean as "women's lit." Not chick lit. She writes for smart women: Oprah loves her ("Open House"). That is not a bad thing, despite what Jonathan Franzen believes. I find her prose tremendously accessible, her stories heartfelt and touching, her characters multi-faceted and flawed. Her books made me want to try my hand at first person POV. "Never Change" broke my heart. I adore her writing style.
4. Lemony Snicket and his creator, Daniel Handler - the series for kids, "A Series of Unfortunate Events" is a brilliant concept, dark, funny, clever but never pretentious. I've not read Handler's books for grownups because I've been so enamored of his Snicket's creations and I fear being disappointed. His work, along with the gorgeous illustrations by Brett Helquist, recalls Edward Gorey and Charles Addams, whom I adored growing up.