What author do you think tapped into pop culture the most for their work?
Posted on 5th of June, 2019


I agree that Crichton knew how to write a good book, but as good as he was, I don't think he came close to the literal king of literature, Stephen King. Literally everything King writes turns to gold and his work continues to draw upon elements of popular culture, which means everyone can relate to them. I mean, how many other horror writers do you know with books that everyone from your granny to your neighbor has probably heard about or at the very least seen? Every single thing this man has written has climbed to the top of the New York Times Best Seller list or at least made it up high enough to matter. There is a good reason why all of his books get turned into movies or television shows and that is because he knows what people like, what they want to read about and, most importantly, what scares them.
If you mean authors who focus their work on American pop culture, then Charles John Klosterman or "Chuck" as he is commonly known is one that springs to mind. I know that he mostly writes for places like Esquire and so on, but he's also written a number of books, including two novels. I would recommend reading Downtown Owl: A Novel and The Visible Man, but also check out his non-fiction stuff, like I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined), and But What If We're Wrong? Thinking About the Present As if It Were the Past. He's got a really sharp mind and the ability to tap into pop culture to make his points.
This an easy one, it has to be Michael Crichton. I can't think of any other authors who were as able as him to consistently write best selling books that were enjoyed by people from all walks of life. The man was simply unstoppable when it came to writing thrillers, science fiction or even medical fiction. The popularity of his work is also the reason why so many of his books were turned into films. Not all of these films were able to capture the essence of their source material well, but some of them are relevant to this day. I'll give you a few examples of my favorite books by Crichton to demonstrate just how capable he was of tapping into pop culture.

- Congo (1980) This one is a "lost world" type novel that takes place in the Congo rain forest. It's about a group of people who go there in search of diamonds, but they don't know what to expect because everyone in the previous expedition died.

- Sphere (1988) Sphere starts out as a science fiction novel as it features some type of spacecraft that is uncovered in the Pacific Ocean. A group of scientists are quickly brought together in order to study the craft, but things very quickly turn deadly when they discover the true nature of the sphere and what it really is capable of doing.

- Jurassic Park (1990) Surely this one doesn't require any sort of explanation. Dinosaurs have always been popular, but after Crichton wrote this book and it got turned into a movie by Steven Spielberg they turned into a craze that is still going strong. If you are old enough, think about how much you heard about dinosaurs before and after this book to realize just how influential it was on pop culture.

- Timeline (1999) With Timeline, Crichton turned his hand towards another pop culture phenomena of the time, time travelling. It's about a group of history students who get to experience history first hand when their professor ends up in 14th-century France thanks to quantum technology. The group tries to go back in time themselves to rescue him, but things go south right from the get go.

- Prey (2002) Prey is a 2002 novel by Crichton that showed he still had his finger on the pulse of popular topics in science and technology. Things such as artificial life and nanotechnology were still buzz words to many people at the time, but Crichton managed to weave them together into a compelling story.

- Next (2006) Next was the last ever Crichton published during his lifetime and for this one he chose to focus on genetic research, which was something that weighed heavily on the minds of a lot of people during the time. It's all about corporate greed and is set in a world that is dominated by genetic research. It also features one of my favorite author statements of all time, namely "This novel is fiction, except for the parts that aren't."

Crichton wrote a lot more books that what I have mentioned here, but I believe that if he was still alive, he would still be coming up with bestsellers featuring topics that could have been ripped straight from the newspaper headlines.
To find the answer to this question you don't even have to read the books of the authors just go on social media and see which ones have embraced the online culture. I'm not saying that authors who secret themselves away from the public I can't be pop culture savvy, but the ones who interact with their fans online definitely have their finger on the pulse. One of my favorites is Neil Gaiman, an author who has established quite a community on Twitter. He is also one of the few authors who don't mind getting his fans involved with his work and asking for their input while writing. I feel like I should also mention Margaret E. Atwood, who despite the fact that she is pushing 80, has close to two million followers on Twitter alone. Her books, like The Handmaid's Tale, has always been ahead of their time and it almost feels like pop culture is catching up to her and not the other way around!
Michael Crichton doesn't get half the recognition that he deserved as far as I am concerned. I devoured each and every one of his books like a starving kid tearing into a chocolate cake. He also wrote and directed films like Westworld in 1973, which is obviously now more popular than ever thanks to the new television series. I don't get emotional when celebrities pass away, but when I heard that Michael Crichton died, it felt like I lost a family member.
Pop culture can be incredibly finicky and something that is all the rage one week could be old news the neck. Given the time that it takes to write a novel, I think it is incredibly risky to try and tap into pop culture for your stories as it can make them feel dated before they are even published. I'm sure that I'm not the only one who has cringed when reading some of the older books and seeing them plastered with dated references or characters that try to sound hip. Very few authors have managed to make any pop culture centric book that ages well and with good reason.

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