Among the authors we lost in 2012: Czech novelist Josef Skvorecky. American science fiction writer Ray Bradbury. Poet and painter Dorothea Tanning. Novelist, playwright and public intellectual Gore Vidal. Polish poet and 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature winner Wislawa Szymborska. Historical novelist Barry Unsworth. Cultural writer Jacques Barzun. Film critic Andrew Sarris.
Among these are authors I've read to my great profit. But I need to recognize a few books in particular that were important to me. One of them is Robert Hughes Shock of the New, which along with his PBS series, opened my eyes and mind to modern art. I heard him speak once as well, and he was riveting.
Another book that opened my mind was Paul Fussell's Class. Even given his generally droll treatment, the idea that America even had classes was heretical--and I blush to admit, new to me.
I began reading Ray Bradbury at a fairly young age--pretty directly after the science fiction of the Winston series meant for young readers. It was later on that I came to appreciate this novel, and then its brilliant screen version by Truffaut. It gains in importance over time.