My Favorite authors (in no particular order)

Neal Stephenson

The Baroque Trilogy (Quicksilver, The Confusion, The System of the World), about Isaac Newton, Gottfried Liebniz, Louis XIV, 17th century economics, politics, war, the manufacture of steel, isotopes of gold, Indian Ocean piracy, Christopher Wren, Robert Hooke, the London Fire, James II, syphilis, the Counter-Reformation, alchemy, and many other things. A kaleidoscopic view of everything that affected the world from 1650 to 1750.

Anathem, a look at quantum physics, tesselation, religion, and again, culture.

Also Cryptonomicon, a tour-de-force about the history of cryptography, with international economics and lost Nazi gold thrown in.

Seven Eves, orbital mechanics, survival in space, and the end of the world.

Patrick O'Brian

The 20-volume series about Lucky Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin may be the best single work of fiction in the English language.

Sheri Tepper

Sheri Tepper has written a lot - including a series of mysteries set in the Southwest, and a set of fantasies about the One True Game. However, her science fiction novels are a class apart, and are breath-taking, even shocking, in their subject matter. The one common thread running through all of them is Man's Inhumanity to Woman. The Gate to Women's Country, Grass, Raising the Stones, Sideshow, A Plague of Angels, Gibbon's Decline and fall, The Fresco, The Visitor, The Companions.

Stephen J. Gould

A lifelong passion for baseball and marine snails. He is best known for his columns in Science, which have been collected into many volumes. His essays are wide-ranging, catholic, reasoned, humane, erudite. He is also the co-author (with Niles Eldridge) of the punctuated equilibrium theory of evolution. Also the author of an extremely dense and exhaustive history and explication of evolutionary theory (The Structure of Evolutionary Theory).

Iain Banks

Especially his novels about the Culture (Consider Phlebas, The Player of Games, Use of Weapons, Matter). A closer look at these books reveal that they are really about a clash of cultures a long time ago, in a galaxy far away. What is it that makes a culture? How do people live together, and why do they fight?

Jack Vance

Able to pen a book about color, or music, or fashion, and make it into a science-fiction murder mystery. Always whimsical, with a wicked sense of humor.

N.A.M. Rodger

That most quintessential of historian beast, the archive dweller. Has produced a series of minutely detailed histories of everything British and sea-going. The best is two books (so far) (The Safeguard of the Sea, The Command of the Ocean), detailing events from 660 to 1815. I hope the rest of Brish Naval History is forthcoming.

Tim Powers

Historical science fiction. Always very well researched, makes you wonder if what you think you know about history really happened that way. The Drawing of the Dark, The Gates of Anubis, The Stress of Her Regard, On Stranger Tides. The Koot Hooty trilogy Last Call, Expiration Date, Earthquake Weather. Declare a Lovecraftian cold-war espionage novel.