"I'm looking for an American, writing within the last 100 years who went back to the well again and again and continued to find it wet with novelistic inspiration," he says.
Aside from the nationality, Spencer's criteria require that, to be nominated, the author must have at least four books to his/her name. (This automatically eliminates To Kill A Mockingbird's Harper Lee, among others.)
His 32 candidates include William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, John Steinbeck, William S. Burroughs, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Kurt Vonnegut. Originally, I figured it would come down to a contest between Ernest Hemingway and J.D. Salinger, but it appears Salinger has been left off the list, perhaps because he only penned two full-length novels.
While many publications have attempted to rank the best American novels, few have restricted their lists to the authors themselves. (A New York Times survey named Toni Morrison's Beloved the best work of American fiction of the last 25 years; Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby tops this best books list.)