By Adina Applebaum

Authors are sort of like your parents in a lot of ways: You love them to death and even look up to them as your role models, but try as they might to embody “hipness,” they just can’t cut it. It’s a mystery as to why the people who create the images in books that stick longest in our memories can’t come up with a decently composed photograph of their dinner table or even a hashtag-free caption, but for some reason, authors and Instagram usually don’t mix. For all their failings, though, at least your favorite writers are trying. Check out this list of 10 authors on Instagram who are attempting to make it in the world of selfies, sunsets and soft filters.

1. Gary Shteyngart

If you weren’t familiar with Shteyngart, you’d likely confuse his Instagram account with either that of a small town food critic or a middle-aged woman. The majority of his pictures fall into two categories: poorly lit, blurry snapshots of his dinner and photos of sunsets, rivers and puppies. The photos’ saving grace are their thoroughly Shteyngart-esque captions like, “Was enjoying the papaya salad when the deep-fried sun-dried pork showed up and was like ‘Whaaat?’” If you’re looking for an Instagram account that you and your grandma can agree on, this is it.

2. Tao Lin

This adorable selfie excluded, it seems like Lin’s Instagram might be best enjoyed under the influence. His feed is a mixed bag of his own illustrations, Hayao Miyazaki clips, pictures from the internet and bizarrely well-composed fruit photography. Perhaps Lin is confused about Instagram; his profile blurb asks visitors if they know how he might acquire the account @taolin, and it’s not clear he understands the concept of filters. If this is how Lin functions on Instagram, though, I’m not sure I want anyone to explain it to him.

3. Dani Shapiro

Plus one point to Shapiro for mastering the art of the selfie. Plus another few points for having the glowing skin of a photoshopped L’Oreal model. Minus 10 points for always taking the same exact photo. Come on, Shapiro, at least come up with a different caption besides “car selfie.” Isn’t that what you writers are supposed to be good at?

4. Paulo Coelho

At first glance, Coelho’s Instagram appears to almost certainly be the work of fans; after all, would the author of The Alchemist really publicly show his approval for Coelho-quote-themed memes complete with stock images of cartoon hearts and comic sans font? Well, apparently he does. There are enough captions written from Coelho’s perspective on this account to prove that it’s the real thing. Getting through all the inspirational quotes is worth it, though, for the photos of Coelho casually practicing archery and looking like as much of a boss as any 66-year-old novelist could possibly muster.

5. Warren Ellis

@WarrenEllis might as well be called “50 Shades of Warren Ellis’s Beard.” The English writer has documented his scruff from so many angles that, if you’re a follower, you’re probably more familiar with the lower half of his face than your own. Ellis seems to be a particular fan of the black and white filter, using it in ways that range from acceptable (a cat) to inappropriate (a photo of the Microsoft logo).

6. Bret Easton Ellis

We see that you’re trying, Bret, we really do, with your heartfelt capture of a flower-filled storefront. And while we’re excited to see what you’re reading, it’s time to learn that the rules of successful Instagraming mandate you accessorize your copy of The Flamethrowers with something other than a remote control, bottle of SmartWater and your sleeping medication. We do admittedly have @BretEllis to thank, though, for shining light on the very cool (or worrisome) fact that Ellis is friends with Marilyn Manson.

7. Laurie Halse Anderson

Okay, so maybe the young adult writer hasn’t yet gotten down the too-hip-to-handle aesthetic Instagram demands, but Anderson’s enthusiasm makes up for her lack of photos of flower arrangements and worn kitchen utensils. Her open-mouthed grin in selfies with other authors is so charming that if you haven’t read one of her books yet, you’ll want to.

8. Walter Kirn

It’s unclear as to whether there’s some deep, hidden meaning behind Kirn’s sporadic Instagraming or if he just forgets his account exists. His only photo from August is a single lace-up boot, and then in October all that Kirn felt was worth documenting was a window-display Santa and sleigh in Iowa. Whatever the reasoning is behind his monthly snaps, the above picture of the author and his son is cute enough to make skimming through the other 15 or so worth it.

9. John Green

Green is into selfies. He’s into sunsets selfies, he’s into airport selfies, he’s into selfies with his wife, but perhaps most charmingly, he’s into selfies with the cast of the upcoming film based on his best-selling young adult novel, The Fault in Our Stars. Sure, photos like the unironically stoic self-portrait against a sunset might make you wish that writers had a few selfie-taking tips from Ellen Degeneres, but seeing Green grinning with Shailene Woodley more than makes up for that.

10. Stephen King

Honorable mention for general misuse of Instagram goes to King, who took blurry pictures of speaking engagements aplenty until he called it quits on updating his account last November. If you’re interested in seeing a photo of a barely distinguishable but still adorable King posing in a prop shark’s mouth at the Toronto Aquarium, though, hit @StephenKing up.

Though they may not have the Instagram aesthetic down, there is, as silly as it sounds, something exciting about seeing Gary Shteyngart’s dinner selection or even Warren Ellis’s untrimmed facial hair up-close and personal. Bret Easton Ellis’s sunset pictures will never top Sarah Jessica Parkers’s (we’ve gotta hand it to her, that girl knows how to use a Valencia filter), but he’ll always be the celebrity we care more about. And if nothing else, dammit, all of these authors are trying!

Do you follow any of the authors above on Instagram? (I personally follow Shteyngart and live in eternal hope that he’ll one day stumble upon my series of bathroom selfies and immediately pursue my friendship.) Do you follow anyone that we’ve overlooked? Or even better, have you managed to take an Instagram selfie with any of the authors on our list? Let us know in the comments below!

Adina Applebaum is Michigan native studying English and creative writing at Barnard College. Her crowning achievements in life are memorizing all the lyrics on The Slim Shady LP and eating an entire gallon of chocolate-covered raisins during orientation week of college.

(Image credits, from top: Instagram; Instagram; Instagram; Instagram; Instagram; Instagram; Instagram; Instagram; Instagram; Instagram)

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