I'm stealing a meme from John Hobbins. We have to take this list of the top 100 intellectuals and then make (1) a list of all those I could carry on a conversation with based on things I’ve read by them; (2) a list of those I’ve spoken with in person or corresponded with; (3) authors any self-respecting intellectual must read if she hasn’t already. And I'm going to add a 4) as well...There's a danger of the list becoming self-congratulatory but I'm taking it more as an audit of how widely read I am/ need to become.
1) Noam Chomsky, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Jared Diamond, Umberto Eco, Niall Ferguson, Thomas Friedman, Al Gore, Christopher Hitchens, Samuel Huntington, Paul Krugman, Steven Levitt, Bernard Lewis, Bjorn Lomborg, James Lovelock, Martha Nussbaum, Steven Pinker, Robert Putnam, Salman Rushdie, Peter Singer, Charles Taylor.
3) Of the above I'd say several don't deserve to be on the list, including Dawkins, Friedman, Chomsky, Gore, Hitchens, Krugman, Putnam, Rushdie and Singer... The people who I think will have made a lasting contribution, of those I have read, are Nussbaum and Taylor, but that might just reflect my own intellectual background. I would tend to agree that you need to read at least Bernard Lewis, Bjorn Lomborg and probably James Lovelock to consider yourself informed in their various arenas. Not so confident about Dennett and Pinker - too many competing voices.
4) Intellectuals where I've bought their books but haven't properly read them yet: Pope Benedict XVI, Jurgen Habermas, EO Wilson, Slavoj Zizek.
5) Another one - missing from the list: Alasdair MacIntyre, there ought to be many more theologians (like Rowan and Tom Wright), Stanley Cavell, Steven Mithen, Wendell Berry, Roger Scruton, Robert Spencer...