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Creative Writing: Prose Fiction

Entry requirements.

Degree Subject - Any Subject

Degree Classification - Bachelors (Hons) degree (2.1 or equivalent preferred)

For more information see our website .

Months of entry

Course content.

The MA Prose Fiction at UEA is the oldest and most prestigious Creative Writing programme in the UK. Solely focused on the writing of fiction, we take a rigorous and creative approach to enable you to develop your ideas, voice, technique and craft.

You’ll experience an intensive immersion in the study of writing prose fiction. You will take core creative modules but can also choose from a wide range of critical modules, and benefit from our proven strengths in modernism and creative-critical studies, among others.

Graduates of our MA Creative Writing Prose Fiction have enjoyed extraordinary success in terms of publications and prizes. Our alumni include Nobel Laureate Sir Kazuo Ishiguro, Baileys Women’s Prize-winner Naomi Alderman, Emma Healey and Tash Aw. The continuing success of our graduates means we are fortunate in being able to attract the best writers from around the world – writers like you.

While you are at UEA, the focus will very much be on exploring your creative potential, in a highly supportive and well-resourced environment.

In 2011, UEA’s Creative Writing programme was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in recognition of our continuing excellence in delivering innovative courses at a world-class level.

Information for international students

For more information for international students, please go to UEA’s website .

Fees and funding

Find out more about UEA’s funding options .

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • Campus-based learning is available for this qualification

Course contact details

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University of East Anglia

  • School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing

We have 9 University of East Anglia, School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing Masters Degrees

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University of East Anglia, School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing Masters Degrees

The School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing brings together writers, scholars, teachers and students in an exploration of the powers and possibilities of literature. Our aim is to make creative writing and critical reading confront one another in ways that sharpen and enliven both.

We are recognised globally for our courses in creative writing and have a unique approach to studying within the school.

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MA Creative Writing (Non-Fiction)

University of east anglia school of literature, drama and creative writing.

Literary non-fiction is changing in exciting ways, and this is your chance to be a part of it. Our best modern writers have been experimenting with new forms and subjects. Read more

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MA Creative Writing (Non-Fiction) (Part time)

Ma creative writing crime fiction.

Imagine writing an innovative full-length novel under the guidance of award-winning crime writers and experienced creative writing tutors. Read more

MA Creative Writing Poetry

You’ve been writing poetry for so long that it’s become a vital part of your life. You may have tried one-off workshops or short courses but find that they are no longer enough. Read more

MA Creative Writing Prose Fiction

Our course will help transform you as a writer, giving you a surer sense of the imaginative, artistic and intellectual challenges involved in any act of writing. Read more

MA Creative Writing Scriptwriting

Prepare for a career writing for theatre, radio, film, or television with an MA that allows you to explore and produce dramatic writing across the media. Read more

MA Literary Translation

What do Karl Ove Knausgård, Valeria Luiselli and Clarice Lispector have in common with Jo Nesbø, Georg Trakl and Yoko Tawada? They’ve all been translated into English by graduates from the MA Literary Translation at UEA!  On this course, you’ll focus exclusively on literary translation, combining translation practice with translation theory. Read more

MA Modern and Contemporary Writing

The MA Modern and Contemporary Writing has two main focuses: the relationship between key writers of modernism and contemporary literature, and between creative and critical writing. Read more

MA Theatre Directing: Text and Production

Kick-start your directing or criticism career with one of the UK’s longest established Theatre Directing Master’s courses. Read more

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Drama and Creative Writing

University of East Anglia UEA

UCAS Code: WW84 | Bachelor of Arts (with Honours) - BA (Hons)

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Entry requirements

Access to he diploma.

Humanities and Social Sciences Pathway accepted.

Principal subjects and A-level combinations are considered - please contact us.

International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme

Pearson btec level 3 national extended diploma (first teaching from september 2016).

Excludes BTEC Public Services, BTEC Uniformed Services and BTEC Business Administration. Please see UEA website for further information on accepted combinations.

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About this course

Course option.

Full-time | 2024

Creative writing

**Overview** This unique degree unites UEA’s strengths in creative writing and in drama to give you an exhilarating immersion in writing and performance.

You will have the opportunity to study all kinds of creative writing, with a particular focus on writing for theatre, cinema, television, and radio. Alongside this, you'll be exploring the contemporary practice, criticism, and history of dramatic writing and performance. Your writing will be enriched by an awareness of theatrical and literary traditions from around the globe. 

You’ll take practical drama modules, and you’ll have full access to our professionally equipped 200-seat Drama Studio. This comprehensive grounding in acting, directing, and all other aspects of stagecraft will enable you to graduate from this drama and creative writing degree as a writer with an instinctive feel for the world of theatre and performing arts. 

**About This Course** You'll gain a thorough grounding in writing for stage and screen, which will be complemented by opportunities to develop your skills in non-dramatic writing, too. Your stage and screen writing will be improved by getting to grips with the ins-and-outs of theatrical performance, while you become better able to analyse dramatic language by writing it yourself. 

At the heart of your BA Drama and Creative writing degree are scriptwriting masterclasses with practising writers, where you’ll discover the formats, conventions, and techniques of writing for different dramatic genres and media. You’ll learn by writing scenes and short scripts, offering critiques of each other’s work, and by working closely with other Drama students. 

In your second and third years, you'll be able to develop your craft as a writer by taking workshops in prose or poetry, working closely with our world-famous creative writing colleagues.   

Throughout your degree, you will gain hands-on experience by participating in production and practical project work. You’ll have the keys to our professionally equipped 200-seat Drama Studio, giving you the chance to control everything in your own productions. You’ll also be able to pursue performance and placement opportunities, including a creative industries internship in your second year, which involves a work placement in a drama-producing organisation or environment. 

At UEA, you’ll encounter an astonishing array of drama, theatre and performance. You’ll engage with major theoretical approaches, actor- and director-training, and techniques for creating and writing your own work. You’ll examine the politics of theatre and performance and its use by the State, by political activists and by theatre and performance practitioners – to solidify or challenge structures of power. You’ll also discover the cutting-edge theatre companies that are shaping the contemporary performance landscape.

You’ll benefit from our highly regarded student run Minotaur Theatre Company, which gives you the chance to gain additional performance, technical and scriptwriting experience, as well as exciting chances to share your writing at events such as New Writing Live. Find out more about life in the School of Literature, Drama, and Creative Writing on our Instagram @uealdc.


Course details are subject to change. You should always confirm the details on the provider's website: **www.uea.ac.uk**

Tuition fees

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School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing

What students say

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How do students rate their degree experience?

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Teaching and learning

Assessment and feedback, resources and organisation, student voice, who studies this subject and how do they get on, most popular a-levels studied (and grade achieved), after graduation.

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What are graduates doing after six months?

This is what graduates told us they were doing (and earning), shortly after completing their course. We've crunched the numbers to show you if these immediate prospects are high, medium or low, compared to those studying this subject/s at other universities.

Top job areas of graduates

The jobs market for this subject - which includes creative writing and scriptwriting courses - is not currently one of the strongest, so unemployment rates are currently looking quite high overall, with salaries on the lower side. But nevertheless, most graduates get jobs quickly. Graduates often go into careers as authors and writers and are also found in other roles where the ability to write well is prized, such as journalism, translation, teaching and advertising and in web content. Be aware that freelancing and self-employment is common is common in the arts, as are what is termed 'portfolio careers', having several part-time jobs or commissions at once - although graduates from this subject were a little more likely than many other creative arts graduates to be in conventional full time permanent contracts, so that might be worth bearing in mind.

What about your long term prospects?

Looking further ahead, below is a rough guide for what graduates went on to earn.

The graph shows median earnings of graduates who achieved a degree in this subject area one, three and five years after graduating from here.

Note: this data only looks at employees (and not those who are self-employed or also studying) and covers a broad sample of graduates and the various paths they've taken, which might not always be a direct result of their degree.

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  • Literature, Drama and Creative Writing at UEA

  Literature, Drama and Creative Writing at UEA

University of east anglia     faculty of arts and humanities, about the programme.

The School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia has a long-established international reputation in literary studies. In the Research Excellence Framework (REF2021), a major Government analysis of university research quality, the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing ranked 13 th for world-leading research among UK English departments. 91 per cent of our research has been rated either 4* (world leading) or 3* (internationally excellent). We are home to prize-winning scholars and translators of literature and drama from all periods, and the school is famous as a pioneering centre for creative writing.

We welcome interdisciplinary projects and actively encourage cross-institutional collaboration. UEA is part of the CHASE consortium, an AHRC-funded doctoral training programme in the Humanities.

Research Expertise

The intellectual character of the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing is formed through a unique conjunction of literary criticism, creative writing and literary translation.

The school is renowned for its interdisciplinary research and has established research interests across most periods of English writing, including medieval and early modern literature, the long-nineteenth century, modernism and contemporary writing.

Our reputation in critical and creative writing is based on award-winning works of fiction, poetry, drama and literary criticism, as well as innovative writing across the creative-critical border, such as works of creative non-fiction. The School is known for its distinguished works of translation and translation theory, and is the home of the British Centre for Literary Translation, a major research centre devoted to the theory and practice of literary translation.

School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing

Research students are fully integrated in the research culture of the school, which hosts a number of research seminar series and regular creative writing events.

The Graduate School in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities offers a wide range of relevant training programmes. These include interdisciplinary seminars on methodology, archival work, research ethics, copy-editing, pedagogy, and employability as well as specific seminars for creative-critical research students. We also help fund the creation, publication and distribution of magazines. We aim where possible to provide our research students with experience of undergraduate teaching.

With an overall average cohort of around 90-95 postgraduate students, the School has a thriving postgraduate research culture and a bustling community of diverse scholars.

Our students work across all periods of English literature, as well as in the areas of creative and critical writing, life writing, and literary translation.

Research students play a central role in the intellectual life of the School, from leading research seminars and organizing conferences to setting up showcases for upcoming and ascendant writers.

The Graduate School in the Faculty of the Humanities and Arts serves as a hub for training, workshops and intellectual exchange. Its aim is to nurture a new generation of professional scholars who demonstrate the relevance of the arts and humanities in contemporary public and academic life.

The deadline for funded studentships in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities PhD Studentships is usually January for October starts.

We welcome applications from students with their own funding all-year-round. Please enquire by emailing  [email protected]  for further information.

Deadlines for application are listed on our  information pages, where you will also find details of  fees and funding  .

Further information

UEA's School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing web pages:  https://www.uea.ac.uk/literature/research-degrees

UEA Humanities Graduate School:  https://www.uea.ac.uk/arts-humanities/graduate-school

Email:  [email protected]

Funding Notes

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  • Creative Writing Crime Fiction

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University of east anglia uea: creative writing crime fiction.

Email [email protected]
Telephone 01603 591515
Study type Taught

Overview Imagine writing an innovative full-length novel under the guidance of award-winning crime writers and experienced creative writing tutors. All without relocating or giving up work.

UEA’s part-time, low-residency MA Creative Writing Crime Fiction gives you unique flexibility with a distance-learning course supported by residencies. You’ll take the course via a specially designed, highly inclusive online platform, with three 2-day residential periods per year, circumstances permitting.

Our residencies have involved visits from literary agents and editors as well as professional writers such as Lee Child, Ian Rankin, Arne Dahl, Denise Mina, Dreda Say Mitchell, Cath Staincliffe, and Yrsa Siguroardottir.

By the end of the course, you’ll have a draft of a full-length work, a stronger self-awareness as a writer and critic, and a greatly increased chance of publication.

About This Course The Creative Writing programme at UEA was the first of its kind in the UK and is distinguished by the unrivalled success of its alumni, who include the 2017 Nobel Laureate Sir Kazuo Ishiguro, and his fellow Booker Prize winners Ian McEwan and Anne Enright. We introduced the first MA in 1970, the first PhD in 1987, and students now join us from all over the world.

The MA Crime Fiction builds on our world-leading expertise, presenting you with the unique opportunity to further your knowledge and skills within the highly dynamic crime genre. We have now embedded critical crime fiction and non-fiction modules across most levels of taught study within the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing, and doctoral research and supervision in the area is also growing at UEA. Plus, we’re a founding partner of Norwich’s annual crime writing festival, Noirwich, which takes place in September, coinciding with the September residential period.

The principal aim of the course is to help you develop a deeper understanding of the craft and context of producing exceptional crime writing and have an enhanced critical awareness. By the end of the course, you’ll have become more adept and more self-aware in your own practice, and you will have completed a draft of a full-length novel.

You’ll become fully conversant with all aspects of being a professional writer, and – like all UEA creative writing students – will enjoy greatly enhanced prospects of publication on graduation. Our course builds on our extensive connections with publishers and agents.

Disclaimer Course details are subject to change. You should always confirm the details on the provider's website: www.uea.ac.uk

Distance Learning (With Some Attendance), 2 years starts Sep 2024

Level RQF Level 7
Entry requirements

Degree classification: 2:2 or equivalent. Degree sbject: Any subject area. ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS: Applicants must also submit a sample of their work (up to 5,000 words - this does not have to be crime writing focused, but must be prose fiction).

Location University of East Anglia
Norwich Research Park
Channel Islands 11200 GBP for Whole course
England 11200 GBP for Whole course
Northern Ireland 11200 GBP for Whole course
Scotland 11200 GBP for Whole course
Wales 11200 GBP for Whole course

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More From Forbes

101 famous authors and greatest writers of all time.

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William Shakespeare holding a pen.

Illustration of William Shakespeare.

Writers have always had the ability to shift paradigms, define eras and impact a broader society with their craft. From the philosophical musings of Plato, particularly those featuring Socrates’ thoughtful dialogues, to the classic wisdom of Aesop, who influenced fables and storytelling for generations, the art of writing has the unique power to outlive time and space, impacting readers across generations and geographies. Thanks to the masterminds putting ink to paper to tell some of the most powerful stories of human time, we are able to see the world with new eyes and find perspective and solace in our shared human experiences. In this list, I have compiled the works of the 101 greatest authors and writers of all time, celebrating their unique contributions to literature and their mastery of the written word. This list was compiled with the assistance of several librarians at Herrick Library in Holland, Michigan. A fun fact is that Holland, Michigan, partly inspired Lyman Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz .

Top Authors

The authors on this list represent a variety of time periods, capturing the evolution of storytelling and its form, from ancient to modern times. This list does not just cover fictional characters and experiences; it points to the insight of these wordsmiths, whose ideas have traveled through time and continue to challenge, disrupt and reform. Although this list spans millennia of written history, including ancient figures like Homer, classical authors like Virgil and Renaissance luminaries like William Shakespeare, modern fan-favorites like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King also made the list. Whether you are a fan of poetry, mystery, horror, romantic fiction, memoirs or autobiographies, there is a writer for every type of reader on this list of the 101 greatest authors of all time.

101. John Grisham (1955- )

John Grisham in Torino, Italy, May 2007.

American writer John Grisham is an Arkansas-born author best known for transposing his legal knowledge into written form. Before his writing career took off, Grisham practiced law for nearly a decade, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation, which gave him real-life experiences that would later inform the legal axioms in his written work. His pivot from a small-town lawyer to one of the world’s most popular novelists is as fascinating as the plots of his legal thrillers, but did not come without persistence. Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill was inspired by a real case he witnessed in a Mississippi courtroom and it would become a moment that would be a turning point in his career. The novel examined the racial tensions and justice in the American South and also analyzed themes of revenge, morality and the complex nature of the justice system. Although A Time to Kill was rejected by 28 publishers, Grisham persisted in writing and that grit paid off, leading to a well-respected career that has redefined the genre of legal fiction. Among Grisham’s most influential works are The Firm; The Pelican Brief, a political-legal thriller involving the murders of two Supreme Court justices; and The Runaway Jury . Grisham’s works are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous Quote: “Critics should find meaningful work.” ― John Grisham

100. Danielle Steel (1947- )

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Author Danielle Steel poses for a portrait in 1997 in Los Angeles.

Born in 1947 in New York City, Danielle Steel grew up between France and the United States, where she began writing short stories and poetry as a young girl. Although Steel attended New York University for Literature and Design, she began her writing career in the 1970s, and published her first novel, Going Home , in 1973. Shortly after, her novels quickly gained massive public interest. With over 800 million copies of her books sold, Steel’s writing is characterized by its romantic depth, vivid characterizations and complicated family relationships. Her most acclaimed novels like The Gift , Kaleidoscope and Sisters, often include themes of romance, passion, loss, resilience and redemption. Steel is one of the best-selling authors of all time and in 1989, she earned a Guinness World Record for having a book on The New York Times bestsellers list for 381 consecutive weeks. Despite her commercial success, many readers don’t know that Steel still writes with a manual typewriter, a practice she finds creatively fulfilling and grounding. Although her work primarily consists of novels, she has also written poetry and children’s books. Her books are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote : “No man can take your freedom from you. They can limit your mobility, but that's about all they can do.” ― Danielle Steel .

99. Sidney Sheldon (1917-2007)

Writer Sidney Sheldon poses for a photograph during a book signing for "The Sky Is Falling" at a ... [+] Barnes & Noble bookstore.

Sidney Sheldon was born in Chicago, but began his career in Hollywood, where he initially worked on scripts for B-movies and later moved on to Broadway musicals. Although Sheldon achieved massive success in Hollywood, winning an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer in 1947​, the script would become just one of many success stories for Sheldon. He also attained success with numerous other successful films and television shows including The Patty Duke Show , I Dream of Jeannie and Hart to Hart . After a successful stint in show business, Sheldon started writing books in the 1960s and his first novel, The Naked Face , was published in 1970 and earned him a nomination for the prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best First Novel. His novels, often featuring ambitious female protagonists, are known for their suspenseful and dramatic storylines. Some of his most celebrated written works include The Other Side of Midnight , Master of the Game and If Tomorrow Comes . Sheldon is also the only writer to have won an Oscar, a Tony, and an Edgar in his lifetime. His works are available at HarperCollins Publishers .

Famous Quote: “Life is like a novel. It's filled with suspense. You have no idea what is going to happen until you turn the page.”― Sidney Sheldon .

98. Mary Augusta Ward (1851-1920)

Mrs Humphrey Ward (1851 - 1920) born Mary Augusta Arnold.

Mary Augusta Ward was a prominent British novelist and social activist whose pen name was Mrs. Humphry Ward. Her novel Robert Elsmere opened up a lot of public discussion about Christianity in Victorian society and all of its nuances. Ward was known for her deep reflection and engagement with contemporary social issues and even earned a nod of approval from Leo Toltsoy, who praised Ward for being the greatest English novelist of her time. Despite her success as a writer, Ward also advocated for education reform and founded the Passmore Edwards Settlement, a center that was founded to enrich the lives of working-class adults on evenings and weekends and to offer after-school recreation and instruction to poor children while their parents were still at work. Ward was also well-known for her stance against the Women's Suffrage Movement because she was concerned that emancipation would dilute the moral influence of women. This led her to establish the Anti-Suffrage League in 1908. The Australia-born novelist became a best-selling author and also achieved success with other books like D avid Grieve , Sir George Tressady and Helbeck of Bannisdale . Her works are available at The Kelmscott Book Shop .

Famous Quote: “Truth has never been, can never be, contained in any one creed or system.” — Mary Augusta Ward .

97. Dr. Seuss (1904-1991)

Children's book author/illustrator Theodor Seuss Geisel poses with models of some of the characters ... [+] he has created.

Theodor Seuss Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss, was a La Jolla, California-born children’s author, humorist, political cartoonist and illustrator whose work has become the hallmark of children’s books. For years, his comical and highly imaginative books have created an opportunity for children to maintain their child-like wonder, while ushering an opportunity for them to experience real-life situations. Books like Oh,The Places You’ll Go!, The Cat in the Hat , Green Eggs and Ham and How the Grinch Stole Christma s! have become staples of children’s literature, establishing a permanence and formula that is impossible to duplicate. Dr. Seuss’s playful language and memorable characters have had a lasting impact on young readers and innovative use of alliteration, rhyme and rhythm has not only entertained children but also helped them develop early literacy skills. Dr. Seuss’s books are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.”― Dr. Seuss .

96. Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957)

Laura Ingalls Wilder autographing a book.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, born in Pepin, Wisconsin, was an American author best known for her Little House series of children’s books. These semi-autobiographical novels loosely mirrored her childhood growing up in a pioneer family, and offered a lucid portrayal of life on the American frontier in the late 19th century. At 15 years old, Wilder began to teach, and that ushered her into writing and editing years later. She started out writing for McCall’s Magazine and Country Gentleman and she later served as the poultry editor for the St. Louis Star before becoming a home editor for the Missouri Ruralist . In her fictional writing, Wilder’s simple, yet detailed and engaging storytelling has compelled readers for years, providing an intimate look at the simplicity, hardships and joys of pioneer life. Her timeless stories of adventure, family, and perseverance continue to inspire fans of her work and remind them of the values of courage, honesty and simplicity. Wilder also wrote essays, short stories, letters and poetry. Her works are available at HarperCollins Publishers .

Famous Quote: “I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” — Laura Ingalls Wilder .

95. John Bunyan (1628-1688)

Portrait of English preacher and writer John Bunyan.

John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress is one of the most important works in religious English literature. The Bedfordshire, England-born author, who would go on to become one of the most well-known religious writers of all time had his own fair share of suffering, much of which informed his outlook on faith and religion. Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress was written while he was imprisoned for preaching without a license. For centuries, the famous Puritan-themed book has inspired readers with its acute spiritual insight and vivid storytelling. In fact, Bunyan’s accessible and striking storytelling has ensured the book’s place as a classic, offering moral and spiritual guidance across generations. At one point The Pilgrim’s Progress was considered the second most influential religious book after the Bible . Apart from The Pilgrim’s Progress , Bunyan also wrote his spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding while he was imprisoned for 12 years. The account detailed his personal journey of faith, struggles with doubt, and a spiritual triumph which provided some insight into his personal life. Bunyan’s works are available at Moody Publishers .

Famous Quote: “In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart. ”― John Bunyan .

94. Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) (1832-1898)

British mathematician, author and photographer Charles Lutwidge Dogson (1832 - 1898), who wrote ... [+] several books under the pseudonym of Lewis Carroll.

Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland , was also a mathematician and logician, whose obsession with logic influenced his career. Carroll’s interest in logic and wordplay had a major impact in his formulaic approach to writing, making his works rich in both imaginative and intellectual content. Born in Chesire, England, the skilled mathematician had an innate skill when it came to weaving complicated mind puzzles and otherworldly narrative elements together to create fascinating stories, and this is primarily what makes Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland a captivating and often mind-bending read. Apart from writing novels, Carroll was also a poet and photographer, whose other notable works include Jabberwocky and The Hunting of the Snark . Carroll’s timeless appeal can be attributed to his ability to reconcile the interplay between reality and fantasy, coupled with logic and nonsense. His works are available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous Quote: “Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle.”― Lewis Carroll .

93. Saint Mark the Evangelist (A.D. 12-A.D. 68)

Saint Mark the Evangelist, circa 1624-1625.

The Evangelist Mark was the author of The Gospel of Mark, the second book of the New Testament. His account is often considered to be the earliest and pithiest account of Jesus life and teachings. Mark, who was born in Cyrene of the Roman Empire, never met Jesus, but his concise and poignant storytelling about Christ has had a lasting impact on Christian theology for centuries. Written with a sense of immediacy and urgency, the Gospel of Mark captures the core of Jesus’ ministry, highlighting his miracles, parables, and the weighty sense of mission that defined his journey on earth. Mark’s writing style, while simple and unadorned, is poignant and relatable, making it accessible to a broad audience. The gospel’s influence has extended beyond religious circles and influenced Western literature, art and broader socio-cultural perceptions and interpretations of who Jesus was. His work is available at Bible Gateway .

Famous Quote : “Do not become a disciple of one who praises himself, in case you learn pride instead of humility.” — Saint Mark the Evangelist .

92. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851)

Portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, born in London, England, is best known for her seminal book Frankenstein, which shattered literary boundaries and blurred the lines between gothic storytelling and science fiction. Shelley completed her first draft of Frankenstein in 1816 at only 18 years old, but it was published anonymously two years later, when she was 20. The novel is considered one of the earliest examples of science fiction because it explores creation, ambition and the ethical limits of scientific inquiry. Shelley’s imaginative vision and profound questions about the ethical roles that humans play in the world are ones that have continued to be explored by new and up-and-coming writers and thinkers. Her ability to integrate Gothic horror with philosophical questioning also made her an unforgettable figure. Her other notable work is The Modern Prometheus and her books are available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous Quote: “Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.” — Mary Shelley .

91. Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

Jonathan Swift, Anglo-Irish clergyman, satirist and poet.

Dublin-born Jonathan Swift is widely regarded as one of the greatest satirists in the English language. His works, which include the critically acclaimed Gulliver's Travels and A Modest Proposal , were the highlights of his sharp wit, keen intellect and understanding of human nature and psychology. Swift’s writing conveyed a brilliant ability to combine biting satire with insightful social commentary to create meaningful stories that would remain classic historical relics long after his death in 1745. Swift was also involved in the political and social issues of his time. As a cleric, he held several leadership positions in the Church of Ireland, including his position as Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. His political pamphlets and essays, such as The Drapier’s Letters , played a crucial role in the Irish resistance to English economic policies. Swift’s works were not limited to prose; he was also an accomplished poet and essayist whose poems like A Description of a City Shower , proved his ability to merge satire with vivid imagery. Swift also wrote essays, and some of his work is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous Quote: “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.” ― Jonathan Swift .

90. Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875)

Still portrait of Hans Christian Andersen.

Born in Odense, Denmark, Hans Christian Andersen rose from a poor background to become one of the most recognized authors of all time, whose fairy tales have enchanted children and adults alike for generations. Although he struggled early in his career, his work eventually gained recognition for its imaginative and whimsical storytelling. Andersen created memorable stories by using simplicity and charm to teach moral lessons and his fairy tales often explored themes of resilience, kindness and the triumph of good. Some of his most iconic creations include The Little Mermaid , The Ugly Duckling , The Emperor’s New Clothes and Thumbelina . Some say that glimpses of Andersen’s childhood could be found in most of his written work, and for centuries, his immortal stories have been translated into numerous languages and adapted into various forms, including ballets, plays and films. Readers of all ages, have found his work magnetic, stretching his legacy as a master storyteller from one generation of readers, old and young, to the next. Andersen’s works can be purchased from Penguin Random House.

Famous quote: “But a mermaid has no tears, and therefore she suffers so much more.”― Hans Christian Andersen .

89. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Portrait of American poet and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, born in Boston, Massachusetts, was an American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, abolitionist and poet who was one of the most influential American thinkers of the 19th century. Emerson who was fondly called by his middle name, Waldo, was a visionary essayist, lecturer, philosopher, poet and ardent abolitionist whose intellectual leadership inspired the Transcendentalist movement and advocated for the inherent goodness of people and nature. This advocacy was so powerful that it flowed into his written work and made him stand out as a great writer, public speaker and advocate. Besides writing, Emerson used his skills as a public speaker to condemn slavery and advocate for civil right and liberty. Some of his best written works include Self-Reliance , The Over-Soul , Circles and Nature . Some of his works are available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson .

88. Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

Writer Henry David Thoreau poses for a portrait in circa 1860.

Henry David Thoreau, born in Concord, Massachusetts, was an American naturalist, essayist, poet and philosopher whose works have continued to be studied in schools and institutions of higher education for their emphasis on American and environmental thought. Like his close friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau also became a central figure in the Transcendentalist movement, and his writings began to reflect his respect for nature, his advocacy for simple living, and his commitment to social reform and civil liberty. Thoreau's commitment to his principles was demonstrated when he was jailed for refusing to pay a poll tax, which he believed supported slavery and the Mexican-American War. This act of civil disobedience inspired his famous essay Civil Disobedience . In Civil Disobedience , originally titled Resistance to Civil Government , Thoreau argues for the importance of individual conscience and the moral necessity to resist unjust laws and government actions. His essay has influenced many notable figures and movements advocating for social justice and nonviolent resistance. Thoreau’s best works include Walden, a series of 18 essays, Civil Disobedience and Walking. Some of his work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous Quote: “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”— Henry David Thoreau .

87. Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)

Portrait of Louisa May Alcott.

Because Louisa May Alcott’s father, Bronson Alcott, was a Transcendentalist, she grew up in the company of well-known transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Thoreau, all of whom also happened to be excellent writers. In fact, Thoreau inspired quite a bit of Alcott’s work, and was one of the driving forces behind her desire to write. Although Alcott was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, she lived most of her life in Massachusetts, and that location would inspire her work. Among some of her notable books are Little Women, which was a self-directed book about her experiences growing up with her sisters and their childhood memories. Other notable books from Alcott include Good Wives and Little Men. An avid writer , Alcott also thrived in the short story form, and her success as an author afforded her the opportunity to also become a Transcendentalist and advocate for women’s rights. Her works are available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous Quote: “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” — Louisa May Alcott .

86. J.D. Salinger (1919-2010)

J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger was born in New York City, so he knew a thing or two about good storytelling. His critically-acclaimed novel The Catcher in the Rye is considered the magnum opus of his career, and is a detailed and sincere account that explores the angst and alienation that can often come with adolescence. Before becoming a famous wrier, Salinger briefly attended New York University and Columbia University, and he served in World War II, where he participated in the D-Day invasion and witnessed the liberation of concentration camps. These experiences influenced his writing, adding depth to his portrayal of human emotions and relationships and during his time serving, Salinger wrote more than 20 short stories, which helped him to segue into full-time writing. His short stories published in magazines like The New Yorker and introduced readers to his tone. Throughout his years as an author , Salinger’s signature colloquial tone and careful analysis of the characters in his stories always guided his plots. His written work is available at Hachette Book Group .

Famous quote: “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.” ― J.D. Salinger .

85. Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)

British writer and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his garden.

British writer and physician Arthur Conan Doyle, born in Edinburgh, Scotland, became known for his iconic creation of the detective Sherlock Holmes, a mystery book character who has become synonymous with stealth. Doyle was educated at the University of Edinburgh, where he studied medicine; he offered his medical services during the South African War and detailed his experience in his non-fiction book, The Great Boer War . Doyle’s writing, characterized by a keen attention to detail and deliberate plotting, made a lasting impact on detective-themed storytelling and secured Sherlock Holmes as a blueprint for the detective-mystery genre. Even though he created the highly logical and skeptical detective Sherlock Holmes, Doyle was a firm believer in spiritualism and became one of the leaders of the spiritualist movement following the First World War. His book The History of Spiritualism further examined the topic through a variety of essays. Apart from his detective stories, Doyle also wrote historical novels , science fiction, plays and fantasy. His works are available at Harrington Books Co .

Famous quote: “You see, but you do not observe.” — Arthur Conan Doyle .

84. Sylvia Plath ( 1932-1963)

Sylvia Plath seated in front of a bookshelf.

Sylvia Plath was an American poet and novelist known for her confessional style of writing. That confessional writing style became more widely recognized during the 1950s and 1960s, with Plath being one of its leading figures alongside poets like Robert Lowell and Anne Sexton​. Born in Boston, Plath’s work was unique for its intensity and focus on mental illness. Very often, Plath’s state of mind was expressed through her writings, and some of her best-known works include the poetry collection Ariel, Daddy, Lady Lazarus and The Bell Jar, which mirrored her own struggles with depression . Plath’s The Collected Poems , which included previously unpublished works, was posthumously published in 1981, and she received a Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for the collection in 1982, making her the fourth person to receive the recognition posthumously at the time. Her works are available at HarperColins Publishers .

Famous Quote: “If you expect nothing from somebody you are never disappointed.”― Sylvia Plath .

83. Roald Dahl (1916-1990)

Closeup candid portrait of writer Roald Dahl waving a cigarette while talking at home.

Roald Dahl’s zany and often times dark children’s books , like Matilda , Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach , have been fan favorites for decades. This is partly thanks to the Wales-born writer’s penchant for the otherworldly and adventurous. Dahl, who often had views that were deemed controversial, tapped into a wide range of emotions and subjects in his works. Almost every visual adaptation of a Dahl-inspired storyline has the same element of strangeness, with larger-than-life protagonists who have a lopsided, loopy way about them. Dahl’s past as a fighter pilot in World War II and his role as a spy for the British government also partly inspired his adventurous approach to writing stories. Although he was well-known for children’s books, Dahl wasn’t just about entertaining children. His grisly-themed short stories for adults also explored the darker sides of human nature, and highlighted his versatility as a writer. Even after his death, fans remember his work for the way he reconciled the fantastical with the sinister, which has made him a notable name in history. In 2021, Forbes ranked Dahl as one of the top-earning dead celebrities, and with over 300 million copies of his works sold worldwide, Dahl’s work continues to impact literature. They are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous Quote: “So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall.”― Roald Dahl .

82. Zadie Smith (1975- )

Zadie Smith at the Cliveden Literary Festival in Windsor, England.

London-born Zadie Smith is a critically acclaimed British novelist, essayist, professor and avid reader known for her vibrant, multi-layered story structures and careful explorations of race, identity and multiculturalism. Her debut novel White Teeth caught the attention of many critics who appreciated her take on multiculturalism and identity in modern Britain and beyond. Smith’s character development in her debut book was so excellent that it prompted critics to call her a modern-day Charles Dickens. Over the course of her career, Smith’s unique insight into sensitive issues like race, identity and religion have made her a well-respected figure of the 21st century. Her intelligent analysis of the diverse, multicultural experience of life in London and beyond it has helped to frame her as a leading voice in contemporary fiction. In spite of this, Smith has developed a rather pragmatic approach to writing, arguing that the art form should not be a division of head and heart, but the useful integration of both. Other notable works from Smith include On Beauty, Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays and Feel Free. Her work is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous Quote: “Every moment happens twice: inside and outside, and they are two different histories.”― Zadie Smith .

81. Aesop (620 B.C.-564 B.C.)

A bust of slave and story-teller Aesop (620 - 560 BC), who lived in ancient Greece and is known for ... [+] the genre of fables ascribed to him, circa 550 B.C.

Fables have been a crucial part of human storytelling for millennia, and that is partly because one of the most revered fabulists, Aesop, who is responsible for some of the most popular fables in history. The fabled ancient Greek fabulist and storyteller is known for his collection of fables, known as Aesop’s Fables , which include stories like The Tortoise and the Hare and The Boy Who Cried Wolf, which symbolize evergreen moral lessons through simple and memorable stories that have been passed on from one generation to the next. Aesop’s stories have become a cornerstone in children’s literature because of their pithy and wise observations of human nature, often featuring animals as characters with human traits and vices. These timeless stories have been translated into numerous languages and adapted into various cultural contexts, influencing folklore and storytelling traditions worldwide. While much about Aesop’s life is a mystery, his stories have had a lasting effect on Western culture and education. Aesop’s work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “A doubtful friend is worse than a certain enemy. Let a man be one thing or the other, and we then know how to meet him.”― Aesop .

80. Ralph Waldo Ellison (1914-1994)

Novelist Ralph Ellison poses for a portrait in Harlem, New York City.

Born in Oklahoma City, Ralph Waldo Ellison, named after Ralph Waldo Emerson, wrote in a way that was notable for its rich, symbolic and honest accounts of race and individuality in America. At the start of his career, Ellison moved to New York City in 1936 and lived in Harlem, hoping to be able to study sculpture. It was there that he would meet Langston Hughes, Harlem’s “unofficial diplomat” during the Depression era, and a well-respected author at the time. While in Harlem, Ellison also met influential people like Romare Bearden and Richard Wright, all of whom would become impactful in his life as an author. After serving in World War II, Ellison produced Invisible Man , which won the 1953 National Book Award for Fiction. The book was particularly celebrated for its complex storyline and thematic content​. Although he became well-known for his novel, his compiled essays and his work as a sculptor, musician, photographer and college professor earned him accolades and recognition as well. Ellison’s compiled essays included collections like Shadow and Act and Going to the Territory . Other works by Ellison include Flying Home and Other Stories and Juneteenth, which were posthumously published . Ellison’s work is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous Quote: “Life is to be lived, not controlled, and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat.”― Ralph Ellison .

79. Isabel Allende (1942- )

Isabel Allende photographed in her home on February 12, 1990 in San Rafael, California.

Isabel Allende is a Lima, Peru-born author who is famous for books that mostly contain strong elements of magical realism. Her storytelling style tends to incorporate the personal with the historical, bringing Latin American culture and history to life. Some of Allende’s most famous books include City of the Beasts , The House of the Spirits and Eva Luna . Allende spent much of her childhood in Chile and various other countries because of her stepfather’s diplomatic career. Allende continues to write and has earned the respect of critics for her apt imagination and restless ambition to keep creating stories that refine wat magic realism represents. She has won numerous awards for her work, including the National Literature Prize of Chile, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Book Award for Lifetime Achievement, among others. Her books can be found at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “Magical realism is a genre of literature that depicts the real world as having an undercurrent of magic or fantasy.” — Isabel Allende .

78. Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)

Jorge Luis Borges at the Sorbonne university in Paris, France In 1978.

Jorge Luis Borges was an imaginative poet, essayist and short story writer who skillfully crafted a career by creating complex and imaginative plots that are defined by labyrinths, mirrors and infinite libraries. The Argentina-born author has become a 20th century icon for his effective storytelling and unprecedented ability to concoct the boundaries of reality and fiction to create stories that intrigue and fascinate. As a writer, Borges has created an extensive body of work that has left its imprint on literature, primarily short stories and essays that have been drawn from the inspiration of Buenos Aires. Some of his best known works are The Library of Babel and Fictions . His work is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” — Jorge Luis Borges .

77. John Milton ( 1608-1674)

Engraved portrait of British poet and politician John Milton (1608 - 1674), mid 17th century.

English historian, poet and pamphleteer John Milton is considered one of the most important figures in British literature. Milton’s reputation as a great is partly because his work spanned various genres, including prose and poetry, which has offered every type of reader a plethora of options to choose from. Milton’ s Paradise Lost , published in 1667, is widely regarded as his magnum opus, consisting of ten books that were later expanded to twelve in the 1674 edition. Even though he was blind in both eyes when he created Paradise Lost , his ability to compose such complex and detailed work is a testament to his intellectual acumen. Milton was often unafraid to share his thoughts on tyrannical leadership and the state of religion, and that is primarily what made him an unforgettable writer. Other notable works from Milton include Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes. His works are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” — John Milton .

76. Toni Morrison (1931-2019)

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison photographed in New York City in 1979.

Born in Lorain, Ohio, Toni Morrison was a Nobel Prize-winning author whose work took readers on a deep exploration of the Black experience. Her critically acclaimed novels, such as the Pulitzer-prize winning Beloved , evocative Song of Solomon and The Bluest Eye , are honored for their poetic prose and immense emotional and cultural impact. Morrison wasn’t just a writer; she was a thought leader whose ideas remain relevant to today. Like James Baldwin, her criticism of unjust society has remained a cornerstone for conversations around race and class. In addition to novels, she wrote essays, children’s books, articles and plays that showcased her genius as a writer. Her works are available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “The function of freedom is to free someone else.” — Toni Morrison .

75. Henry James (1843-1916)

American novelist Henry James in his study.

Henry James, born in New York City, was an American-British author known for his contributions to the 20th-century novel as well as literary realism and modernism. His writing focused on his beliefs concerning the innocence and exuberance of the New World in contrast to the jadedness of the Old. His notable works include Daisy Miller , The Portrait of a Lady , The Turn of the Screw and The Wings of the Dove . James’s writing often explored the complicated nature of the human mind and social reform and revolutions, as well as social consciousness. During his time, James was regarded as a brilliant short story writer whose work frequently appeared in magazines. James also wrote poems and memoirs. His work is available at the Library of America .

Famous quote: “Try to be one of those on whom nothing is lost.” — Henry James .

74. D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)

Still image of D.H. Lawrence.

David Herbert Lawrence, born in Eastwood, England, was a novelist, poet and essayist known for his controversial and unconventional storytelling, which inevitably made him one of the most influential writers in the early 20th century. His novels emphasized multiple themes, including vivid realism, sexuality and complex family dynamics. During his time, Lawrence had an uncanny ability to vividly describe human emotions and states of mind, which were both compelling and relatable to readers. Some of his best-known books include Sons and Lovers and Women in Love. The English author also wrote short stories, plays, travel books and letters. Some of his work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “A woman has to live her life, or live to repent not having lived it.” — D.H. Lawrence .

73. Wole Soyinka (1934- )

Wole Soyinka circa 1986.

Wole Soyinka is a Nigerian playwright, political activist, poet and essayist who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986, becoming the first African laureate to do so. Born in Abeokuta, Nigeria, Soyinka grew up in an environment that was rich with the Nigerian Yoruba culture , which significantly influenced his work. He studied in Nigeria and the UK, where he attended the University of Leeds. Throughout his career, Soyinka has been a vocal critic of Nigerian dictatorships, which led to his imprisonment during the Nigerian Civil War and subsequent exile. Soyinka’s writing style is noted for its lyrical quality, which often weaves traditional African theater with Western literary forms. Some of his most influential works include Myth, Literature, and the African World; Death and the King’s Horseman ; the novel The Man Died: Prison Notes and the memoir Ake: The Years of Childhood . His works can be found at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “Books and all forms of writing are terror to those who wish to suppress truth.”― Wole Soyinka .

72. Chinua Achebe (1930-2013)

Chinua Achebe.

Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, born in Ogidi, Nigeria, is considered an African icon and an ambassador for the Igbo tribe. To this day, Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart is a cornerstone of modern African study and has been globally celebrated in scholarly circles for its vivid depiction of the clash between traditional African culture and colonial influences. Achebe’s work has been regarded as a central piece to modern African Literature and his lucid writing style, known for its syllogistic conjoinment of oratory, folk stories and Igbo proverbs has depicted the core of African societies. Achebe’s writing style has also been marked by its poetic, yet stark analogy of Nigerian culture and society but more specifically, the Nigerian Igbo culture. Achebe’s works extend beyond novels to essays, poetry and short stories. His books can be found at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “If you don’t like someone’s story, write your own.” — Chinua Achebe .

71. Agatha Christie (1890-1976)

English detective novelist, Agatha Christie typing at her home, Greenway House, Devon, England ... [+] January 1946.

English writer Agatha Christie was known for her prolific creation of detective novels and the iconic characters Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, who drove many of her stories. Born Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller in 1890 in Torquay, England, Christie's journey from a privileged upbringing to becoming one of the best-selling authors of all time began while she was working as a nurse during World War I. Her debut novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles , was published in 1920 and would become a stepping stone for an iconic repertoire. ​Most of Christie’s books have a similar formula that includes meticulous plotting, clever plot twists and engaging mysteries that are difficult to determine for readers until the very end of the story. With over two billion books sold worldwide, Christie’s influence on mystery is undeniable, and her works have been translated into numerous languages and adapted into various films, television series and stage plays. Some of Christie’s most influential works include Murder on the Orient Express , T he Murder of Roger Ackroyd , and And Then There Were None , which are celebrated for their complex plots and surprising resolutions. Christie’s books are available for purchase at HarperCollins Publishers

Famous quote: “A mother's love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity. It dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path. ― Agatha Christie .

70. Franz Kafka (1883-1924)

Franz Kafka circa 1915.

Franz Kafka, born in Prague, was a German-speaking Bohemian writer who was known for his surreal and existential approach to telling stories. Kafka’s notable books include The Metamorphosis , Letter to His Father and The Castle . His stories were often filled with themes of alienation and absurdity and he often depicted his characters as alienated people facing systemic oppression and isolation. He was one of the most prominent writers to showcase the impact of societal shunning through the lens of the shunned. Although Kafka was a talented writer who spent long nights immersed in his craft, his struggles with constant self-doubt caused him to destroy 90% of his work and much of what survived remains lost or unpublished. Other Kafka words include Contemplation and A Country Doctor. His work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” — Franz Kafka .

69. J.K. Rowling (1965- )

J.K. Rowling attends the European premiere of "Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them" at Odeon ... [+] Leicester Square on November 15, 2016 in London.

J.K. Rowling, born Joanne Rowling in Gloucestershire, England, is a British author best known for creating the globally beloved Harry Potter series. Her journey from a struggling single mother to one of the world’s most successful and influential writers is a remarkable one that has heightened the appeal of her success story. According to Rowling, she jotted down the initial idea for Harry Potter on a napkin while her train from Manchester to London was delayed for hours in 1990. According to the famous writer, she had a visceral reaction to the concept of the main character who would go on to define her career and this napkin became the starting point for her immensely popular series. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (retitled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the U.S.) was published in 1997 after being rejected by numerous publishers. The book quickly became a success and has since expanded into a seven-volume series and sold over 600 million copies worldwide, inspiring a global billion-dollar media franchise. Many of Rowling fans consider Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to be the unofficial eighth book in the series. Although Rowling is well known for The Harry Potter series, other books in her repertoire are Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and The Tales of Beedle the Bard among others . Her books are available at Bloomsbury Publishing .

Famous Quote: “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” ― J.K. Rowling .

68. Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

American poet Emily Dickinson.

Born in Amherst, Massachusetts, Emily Dickinson is one of America’s most important lyric poets. Dickinson was known for her unconventional approach to painting a literary picture, and even her use of punctuation marks, which was reflected in an approach to the art form which critics often defined as concise and enigmatic, has established her as a unique and quintessential American poet. Dickinson’s poetry themes often explored death, immortality and nature. Her reclusive life was always ever-so-evident in her work, which is replete with short lines, slant rhyme and enigmatic language. Some of her famous works include I’m Nobody! Who are you?, Wild Nights – Wild Nights! and Because I could not stop for Death. Even though Dickinson wrote nearly 1,800 poems during her lifetime, fewer than a dozen of her poems appeared in print while she was alive. Apart from writing, Dickinson was also an accomplished gardener who frequently drew inspiration for her poems from the natural world she carefully tended to. Her collected works are available at the Harvard Library .

Famous quote: “Because I could not stop for Death – He kindly stopped for me—The Carriage held but just Ourselves –And Immortality.” — Emily Dickinson .

67. Mark Twain ( Samuel Langhorne Clemens) (1835-1910)

Colorized portrait of American author and humorist Mark Twain, circa 1900.

American writer, humorist, educator and journalist Mark Twain has become a decades-long household name for his apt depiction of the spirit of adventure. Twain, who was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Florida, Missouri, is often called the “father of American literature.” Known for his quick wit and sharp social commentary, Twain’s impressive output includes The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer . Both of these books have served as a blueprint for high-spirited, adventure-loving children around the world. His works are available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “Travel is fatal to prejudice” — Mark Twain .

66. William Faulkner (1897-1962)

William Faulkner, circa 1935, on display at his Rowan Oak estate in Oxford, Mississippi.

Nobel Prize-winning American writer William Faulkner was well-known for his technical approach to writing and his ability to deep-dive into the human psyche with his stylistic prose. His famous novels, such as The Sound and the Fury , As I Lay Dying and Light in August, have become cornerstones of Southern Gothic literature. One distinct feature of Faulkner’s writing was his alternating exploration of thematic structure and stylistic creativity. Faulkner also wrote screenplays and short stories, and is regarded as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. His work is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world... would do this, it would change the earth.”― William Faulkner .

65. T.S. Eliot (1888–1965)

T. S. Eliot inspecting manuscripts.

T.S. Eliot, born in St. Louis, was a leading playwright, poet and essayist of the 20th century. The English-American who became the leader of the modernist movement in poetry had an extensive body of work that included The Waste Land, his iconic play Murder in the Cathedral and his magnum opus Four Quartets, which are all renowned for their unorthodox, yet brilliant approach to storytelling. Eliot’s influence was palpable, so much so that in 1948, he earned a Nobel Prize for Literature. Beyond poetry, Eliot also wrote drama and was a literary critic. His work is available at Faber & Faber .

Famous quote: “Do I dare disturb the universe? In a minute, there is time for decisions and revisions, which a minute will reverse.”― T.S. Eliot .

64. F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)

F. Scott Fitzgerald writing at a desk.

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, born in St. Paul, was an American novelist, short story writer and Hollywood scriptwriter who became known for his vivid depiction of the Jazz Age. Fitzgerald is not just a famous writer, but one that is crucial to the breadth and depth of American literature and the concept of the American Dream itself. His masterpiece, The Great Gatsby , is a profound critique of the American Dream and one of the most important novels about the American ideal. Fitzgerald’s writing was often characterized by lyrical prose and tragic characters, which have made his work timeless. Other notable Fitzgerald books include Tender Is the Night and This Side of Paradise . His works are available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald.

63. Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

French novelist Marcel Proust (Photo by Apic/Getty Images)

Marcel Proust, born in Auteuil, near Paris, France and he is best known for his crowing glory In Search of Lost Time ( À la Recherche du Temps Perdu ). The seven-volume series were published throughout his lifetime and even after his death, and they explored themes of memory, time and art with precise depth and elegance. Proust’s psychological insight has made his work a blueprint for modern writing. More specifically, his ability to capture the nuances of memory and the fleeting nature of time has made In Search of Lost Time a classic. The seven-part novel examines the story of Proust’s life, told as a quest to find truth and meaning. In the book, Proust wrote what was reported to be the longest sentence ever published, and holds the record for doing so at a whopping 847 words.​ Proust’s work introduced the concept of involuntary memory, which is often referred to as the “Proust Effect.” This concept describes how sensory experiences, like taste or smell, can prompt suppressed memories from the past. Other notable works by Proust include Swann’s Way ( Du Côté de Chez Swann ). Proust also wrote short stories, including Les Plaisirs et les Jours, and most of his works are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous Quote: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”— Marcel Proust .

62. Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880)

The French novelist Gustav Flaubert circa 1851.

Gustave Flaubert, renowned for his bourgeois-themed novel Madame Bovary , was a prominent author in the literary realism movement. It wasn’t just the themes of his work that distinguished him, but his obsessive attention to detail and pursuit of stylistic perfection which has set the high bar for other novelists, especially up-and-coming French writers. Flaubert’s candid portrayals of his characters made him a leading figure in the realist school of French literature and earned him the respect of his peers. Flaubert viewed writing as his life’s purpose, which is why he was able to create vivid characters and portray everyday life so poignantly. Although he was born in Rouen, France, Flaubert was an avid traveler who took the time to see the world outside of his comfort zone. His travel to countries like Egypt and Greece and the Middle East influenced his works, adding depth and authenticity to his descriptions, particularly in novels like Salammbô ​. Other well-known Flaubert pieces are Sentimental Education and Three Tales. His work is available at Simon& Schuster .

Famous Quote: “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”― Gustav Flaubert .

61. Thomas Mann (1875-1955)

Portrait of German author Thomas Mann as he sits at his desk.

Thomas Mann was a German essayist and novelist best known for his novels Buddenbrooks , Der Tod in Venedig and Der Zauberberg, which contributed to earning him a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929. Mann’s first major novel, Buddenbrooks , was inspired by his personal experiences and his family’s background as merchants in Lübeck, Germany, where he was born. Buddenbrooks played a major role in earning him the Nobel Prize in Literature, but it was his other acclaimed work, The Magic Mountain, that would make him a household name. In The Magic Mountain, Mann highlighted complex themes of time, illness and death set against the backdrop of a Swiss sanatorium, which made the book a cultural touchstone and increased Mann’s critical acclaim. Notably, in his writings, Mann also critiqued the German government in many of his writings and was an outspoken critic of the Nazi regime. This led him to move to Switzerland in 1936 after he was exiled by Germany in 1933. He would later emigrate to the United States, where he lived until after World War II. His books are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous Quote: “Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil.” ― Thomas Mann .

60. J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973)

Image of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien in a library.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, who is famously known as J. R. R. Tolkien, was a South-African-English author, poet, professor and philologist whose high-fantasy works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy became pivotal literary landmarks in his career. Tolkien’s richly constructed world of Middle-earth, complete with its own languages, histories and cultures, has had a lasting impact on the fantasy genre and pop culture. Tolkien’s imagination, as depicted through his use of mythology, detailed maps and complex characters, has set the bar high for world-building in literature. As a writer and creator, Tolkien’s expertise in language was especially evident in his invention of Elvish languages like Quenya and Sindarin, which reflected his academic background as a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University. His scholarly works, including his translations and studies of ancient texts such as "Beowulf," influenced his creative process and informed the depth of most of his fictional universe. Modern day filmmakers have used Tolkien’s work as a blueprint for bringing the lore of Middle-earth to the big screen. His creativity has inspired an array of adaptations, including animated films, live-action movies and numerous video games. Tolkein’s books are available at HarperCollins Publishers .

Famous quote: “Not all those who wander are lost.”― J.R.R. Tolkien .

59. Robert Frost (1874-1963)

American icon, poet Robert Frost.

Robert Frost, with his depiction of rural New England life, is one of America’s most celebrated poets. Frost’s simple and understated signature writing is what earned him four Pulitzer Prizes during the life of his career. Although the famous poet has been closely linked to New England, he was actually born in San Francisco, and only moved to Massachusetts at 11 after his father’s death. This move would later influence his career and reputation as a writer. Some of Frost’s prominent works include Mountain Interval , New Hampshire and A Witness Tree, all of which won Pulitzer Prizes. In addition to his literary accomplishments, Frost also had an impactful academic career that gave him the opportunity to teach at several colleges. He taught at Amherst College and also at Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College, where he spent many summers teaching and mentoring young writers. Frost’s legacy extended beyond his poetry; he was invited to read a poem titled The Gift Outright at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. Frost’s work are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.”― Robert Frost .

58. Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870)

Author Alexandre Dumas.

Alexandre Dumas is a key author of 19th century historical adventure novels, and is well known for stories like The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers . Dumas was born in Villers-Cotterêts, France, and was of mixed race. This racial ambiguity would become a sticking point in his career and something that he would address in his 1843 novel Georges . Dumas’ family background also inspired his interest in historical-based writing. His father, General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, was an army general in Napoleon’s army and one of the highest-ranking officers. It can be easy to conclude that Dumas’ interest in using historical contexts as setting for his stories were inspired by his own background. Besides novels, Dumas also wrote memoirs and plays. Some of his most notable plays include Napoléon Bonaparte and the classic story of Antony. Dumas’ works are available at Barnes and Noble .

Famous quote: “Never fear quarrels, but seek hazardous adventures.”― Alexandre Dumas .

57. Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852)

Illustration of Nikolai Vassilievich Gogol.

Nikolai Gogol was a Ukrainian-born novelist, humorist and dramatist whose works were pivotal in the progression and reception of European literature. His satirical works, as depicted in stories like Dead Souls , masterfully critiqued the social and political issues of 19th-century Russia. Gogol employed his sharp wit and incisive observations on society to analyze issues of the corruption, greed and moral decay that were prevalent in 19th century Russian society. Other works like The Nose and The Overcoat depicted him as a versatile writer capable of employing creative techniques to make difficult topics more digestible for readers, and this solidified his credibility and earned him a reputation as an innovative writer. Gogol’s sharp intellect, coupled with his command of prose made him a well-respected writer whose influence continues to be relevant in Russian literature. His books can be found at Barnes & Noble .

Famous quote: “Always think of what is useful and not what is beautiful. Beauty will come of its own accord.”― Nikolai Gogol .

56. Haruki Murakami (1949- )

Haruki Murakami arrives at the "Princesa de Asturias" Awards at Teatro Campoamor on October 20, 2023 ... [+] in Asturias, Spain.

Haruki Murakami’s writing style is characterized by reflective and introspection. The contemporary Japanese author has gained a global following for the unique combination of surrealism and melancholy that he brings to his books. Born in Kyoto, his body of work includes novels, essays and short stories, and his books have sold millions of copies worldwide. Some of his famous pieces include Norwegian Wood, 1Q84 and Kafka on the Shore, which earned him the World Fantasy Award in 2006. Murakami’s work is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “We’re both looking at the same moon, in the same world. We’re connected to reality by the same line. All I have to do is quietly draw it towards me.” — Haruki Murakami .

55. Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)

Writer Kurt Vonnegut at home on April 12, 1972 in New York City.

Kurt Vonnegut was an author and short-story writer who was renowned for his wry, satirical novels, including The Sirens of Titan and Slaughterhouse-Five , a war-themed novel that was interspersed with cultural references that enriched its satirical edge. During his lifetime, Vonnegut shared that his work was influenced by George Orwell, Mark Twain and James Joyce, among others, and it is easy to see why. Apart from his unique and often bleakly humorous style, Vonnegut’s works frequently feature recurring themes such as the folly of war, the randomness of the universe, and the illusion of free will, especially in issues like death and life. The Indianapolis-born writer was also known for using the phrase ““And so it goes...” to illustrate the unavoidable finality of death. In his novel Cat’s Cradle , Vonnegut challenged the dangers of scientific advancement without moral oversight, while Player Piano — a book that seemed ahead of its time — discusses the economic hardship that can happen when human jobs becoming replaced by automated systems. A little known fact about Vonnegut’s humanitarian and scientific skepticism was the fact that he was a prisoner of war during World War II, and this influenced some of the angst in his writing, especially in Slaughterhouse-Five . Vonnegut’s works are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “And so it goes...”― Kurt Vonnegut .

54. Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

Portrait Robert Louis Stevenson, 19th century English poet and novelist.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s writings were not just memorable, they had a life-like manner to them. Perhaps this was because of his superior writing skills, but notable classics like Treasure Island, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde , which explored the duality of human nature, and Kidnapped , a historical adventure story set in Scotland, have made the Scotland-born essayist and poet a relevant figure even today. His evergreen insight into psychology is still resonant and impactful, offering timeless reflections on the human mind and the complex nature of morality and identity. A little known fact about Stevenson is his struggle with chronic health issues throughout his life, which influenced his writing style and themes. Regardless of his frail health, Stevenson traveled extensively, drawing inspiration from his journeys to places like the South Pacific, which influenced works such as In the South Seas . Although Stevenson’s father wanted him to pursue a career path in engineering, his decision to put pen to paper instead have earned him a distinguished place in literary history. Stevenson’s works are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.”― Robert Louis Stevenson .

53. George Orwell (1903-1950)

Still image of Eric Arthur Blair also known as George Orwell.

George Orwell, born Eric Arthur Blair in India, was an English novelist, journalist and essayist best known for his wildly successful novels 1984 and Animal Farm . Orwell’s writing was known for its conciseness, clarity and political insight. He was also famous for his critique of totalitarianism and used his writing to advocate for democratic socialism. His commitment to social justice was not just evident in his fictional writing; it also came alive in his essays, journalism and memoirs. Orwell’s experiences in the Spanish Civil War, documented in his autobiographical account, Homage to Catalonia , and his insight into the lives of the poor in Down and Out in Paris and London , were a part of his advocacy as a storyteller who was committed to exposing social injustice. In essays like Shooting an Elephant and Politics and the English Language, Orwell proved that he could tackle complex political and social issues in a straightforward way that was also not trite. His ability to interweave personal experience with broader social commentary has left a lasting impression, not just on literature, but on global political thought. His works can be found at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” — George Orwell .

52. David Foster Wallace (1962-2008)

Close-up shot of Author David Foster Wallace.

Before becoming a renowned writer, David Foster Wallace was a competitive junior tennis player whose love for the sport often found its way into his writing, providing rich metaphors and insights into human behavior and competition​. The New York-born author completed his undergraduate degree at Amherst College, where he majored in English and philosophy. He was working towards his masters degree when his acclaimed debut novel, The Broom of the System was published . Other notable works from Wallace include Infinite Jest and short storie s like A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again and Consider the Lobster, and Other Essays. Wallace’s writing is known for its signature use of by its use of extensive footnotes and endnotes, which provide additional commentary and tangential information, providing depth and context to his readers. This distinctive style has captivated readers and set his work apart from that of other contemporary writers. Wallace struggled with mental health throughout his career and this influenced a lot of his writing. At the time of his death in 2008, Wallace was working on a novel titled The Pale King . This unfinished manuscript was posthumously published in 2011 and received critical acclaim.. Wallace’s works are available at Hachette Book Group .

Famous quote: “The so-called “psychotically depressed” person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote “hopelessness” or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”― David Foster Wallace .

51. Edith Wharton (1862-1937)

Edith Wharton

American novelist and poet Edith Wharton was born in New York City into a well-established family. Her childhood was characterized by the finest luxuries that money could afford. Years later, this upbringing would inspire her writing because she later became well-known for her incisive portrayals of the American upper class. Her notable works, including The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth and Ethan Frome examined themes of social change, class and the often noisy bothers of social expectations. Wharton was also a prominent voice in World War I and was living as an expatriate in France when the war broke out. As opposed to leaving the country and returning to comfort in America, Wharton to chose to stay and write extensively about the events that unraveled during that period, and she has become one of the most prominent storytellers of that era because of her grit and dedication during that time. Wharton’s elegant writing style and observant social commentary have her a notable author, and her ability to capture the nuances of social interactions and the tensions between individual desires has made her work timeless. Wharton’s works are available through Simon & Schuster .

Famous Quote: “Silence may be as variously shaded as speech.” — Edith Wharton .

50 . James Baldwin (1924-1987)

American Writer James Baldwin in Paris.

James Baldwin, born in Harlem, New York City, was a significant voice in American literature and a powerful advocate for civil rights. Known for his honest opinions on themes of race, sexuality and identity, Baldwin’s writing style often combined his personal experiences with poignant social critique in a way that was both provocative and intelligent. His most influential works include Go Tell It on the Mountain , Giovanni’s Room and The Fire Next Time . Although he was primarily a novelist and essayist, Baldwin’s written work is comprised of many genres, including novels, short stories, essays, songs, children’s literature, poetry and drama. His works can be found at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” — James Baldwin .

49. Voltaire (1694-1778)

Engraved portrait of Voltaire by Nicholas de Largilliere.

Voltaire, born François-Marie Arouet in Paris, was an Enlightenment writer and philosopher. His razor-sharp intellect and advocacy of civil liberties set him apart in his time. His writing career began early, and his unique interest in satire brought him both recognition and controversy. His satirical novella Candide , a scathing critique of optimism and organized religion, remains relevant today for its incisive commentary on human suffering and the foolishness of naive idealism. His other well-known work, Lettres Philosophiques, is an essay-style series that provides a unique insight into Voltaire's experiences in Britain. In addition to books, Voltaire also wrote poems, plays and polemics, each with its own unique perspective. This diversity in his work is a testament to his wide-ranging intellect and interests. His works are available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous Quote: “To the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe only the truth.” — Voltaire.

48. Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

A portrait of poet, author, playwright and Harlem Renaissance leader Langston Hughes, New York, New ... [+] York, February 1959.

Langston Hughes was an important American poet, novelist, social activist, playwright and columnist from Joplin, Missouri, whose work spanned various genres, including poetry, short stories, novels and plays. Hughes was also influential during the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural movement of the 1920s and 1930s that celebrated African American cultural expressions and became a period that was renowned for its flourishing artistic, literary and intellectual achievements. This celebration of African American culture enriched the literary and artistic landscape of the time. Apart from leading the Harlem Renaissance movement, Hughes was also one of the creators of the literary genre known as jazz poetry, a rich form of literature that captures the core of jazz music and is illustrated by its jazz-like rhythm and focus on jazz music or musicians as its main elements. Born in 1902, Hughes’ writing frequently focused on the lives of Black Americans, their struggles, and their joys, marked by a sense of social justice and a celebration of Blackness. Some of his most notable works include The Weary Blues, Harlem , The Ways of White Folks and The Big Sea . His works are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous Quote: “Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby.”― Langston Hughes .

47. John Steinbeck (1902-1968)

John Steinbeck holds a press conference after being awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize for Literature.

The working-class life is one that can seem so mundane and ordinary, yet John Steinbeck, born in Salinas, California, created a niche in literature for his honest and empathetic portrayal of working-class life. The Nobel Prize-winning American author knew that the average reader was a working-class member of society and he created characters to cater to that niche. His notable works include The Grapes of Wrath , The Pearl and East of Eden . A majority of Steinbeck’s writing is marked by its social consciousness and humanism. Steinback also wrote poems, plays and short stories. His work. is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “ I am impelled, not to squeak like a grateful and apologetic mouse, but to roar like a lion out of pride in my profession.” — John Steinbeck .

46. Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977)

Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov in Montreux, Switzerland, circa 1965.

Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov is best known for his novel Lolita , a controversial yet masterfully written story about warped obsession and how depraved the human mind can become. Nabokov’s writing was always characterized by its poetic flow, intricate language, literary allusions and narrative structure. Nabokov dabbled in a lot of different types of writing, including poetry, science writing, translations and autobiographies. His work is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast, obscure, unfinished masterpiece”― Vladimir Nabokov .

45. Albert Camus (1913-1960)

French writer Albert Camus poses for a portrait in Paris following the announcement of his being ... [+] awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

French-Algerian novelist and Nobel Prize winner Albert Camus was a true literary powerhouse, whose skill for the written word also earned him the titles of journalist, playwright, novelist and essayist. As a leader of the existentialism movement, Camus became best known for his novels The Stranger , The Plague and his philosophical essay The Myth of Sisyphus . His writings frequently addressed themes of justice, rebellion and otherness. His work is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” ― Albert Camus .

44. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

Friedrich Nietzsche was a Röcke, Germany-born philosopher whose provocative ideas and radical critiques of morality, religion and contemporary culture left an impact on intellectual history. Nietzsche was best known for his declaration that “God is dead” and his exploration of the concept of the Übermensch, with Nietzsche arguing that the Übermensch would transcend conventional Christian morality. His work addressed the human psyche, challenging traditional notions of truth, and frequently critiquing both traditional and modern values. His notable works, including Thus Spoke Zarathustra , The Birth of Tragedy , Beyond Good and Evil and The Genealogy of Morals , which offer a three-dimensional approach into the questions that lay the foundations for Western thought. Nietzsche’s work has influenced generations of theologians, philosophers, psychologists, poets, novelists, and playwrights. Apart from his philosophical influence, Nietzsche’s life was also marked by intense personal struggles like debilitating migraines and deteriorating eyesight, which forced him to retire from his professorship at a relatively young age. Interestingly, Nietzsche was also a composer, having created several musical pieces that reflected his complex and introspective worldview. His work is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”― Friedrich Nietzsche .

43. Hermann Hesse (1877-1962)

German-born novelist Hermann Hesse, circa 1945.

Nobel Prize winner Hermann Hesse was a German-Swiss poet, novelist and painter whose writing emphasized the importance of identity and non-conformity. The Calw, Germany-born writer is famous for books like Siddhartha , Steppenwolf and The Glass Bead Game. Hesse’s written pieces often went beyond the surface of exploring trite self-discovery and explored more complex issues like spirituality and self-actualization. As a true intellectual himself, many of Hessse’s characters also mimicked his sharp mind. Besides books, Hesse also wrote essays, short-stories and poems. His work is available at Macmillan Publishers .

Famous quote: “I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me.” — Hermann Hesse .

42. Gabriel García Márquez (1927-2014)

Colombian writer and Nobel prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez poses for a portrait on September 11, ... [+] 1990 in Paris.

Gabriel García Márquez, a Colombian novelist and Nobel laureate, is one of the most prominent authors of the 20th century and one of the greatest Latin American writers in history. Born in Aracataca, his magical realism-themed novels, such as One Hundred Years of Solitude, which earned him a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982, and Love in the Time of Cholera, are just two pieces in her reportoire that have given him worldwide critical acclaim. He was primarily known for his short story expertise and his books can be found at HarperCollins Publishers .

Famous quote: “What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.” — Gabriel García Márquez .

41. Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

British author Thomas Hardy.

Stinsford, England-born Thomas Hardy was an novelist and poet who crafted a niche in his depictions of rural life and the struggles of ordinary, working-class people. His major works, including Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Far from the Madding Crowd , were pieces that centered themselves on themes of fate, suffering and the limitations of social class and structure. Hardy’s writing was always rich and textured, and his ability to capture the beauty and harshness of rural England made his work all the more appreciated. Hardy’s works are available through Penguin Random House .

Famous Quote: “A strong woman who recklessly throws away her strength is worse than a weak woman who has never had any strength to throw away.”― Thomas Hardy.

40. Margaret Atwood (1939- )

Margaret Atwood in Paris, 2014.

Margaret Atwood, a prolific Canadian poet and writer, is celebrated for her speculative fiction and mostly dystopian storylines. Her best-known work is top dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale , which has become a symbol of feminist resistance and has also been adapted for TV for its powerful storytelling. With over 50 books written, Atwood’s writing, which also includes essays and poetry, is marked by its incisive social commentary and imaginative scope. Atwood’s work is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “ Storytelling is a very old human skill that gives us an evolutionary advantage. If you can tell young people how you kill an emu, acted out in song or dance, or that Uncle George was eaten by a croc over there, don't go there to swim, then those young people don't have to find out by trial and error.” - Margaret Atwood .

39. James Joyce (1882-1941)

James Joyce

Short story aficionado James Joyce is a prolific name in modernist literature and a name that resonates with many. His groundbreaking works, including Ulysses , A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Dubliners , are acclaimed for their experimental techniques and close examination of the human psyche. The Dublin-born author refined his skill not only as a master storyteller but also as a credible designer of fictional characters that are deeply relatable. His work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today. I am today what I established yesterday or some previous day.” — James Joyce .

38. Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

Edgar Allan Poe in a 19th century print.

Mystery and macabre guru Edgar Allan Poe was an American short-story writer, literary critic, poet and editor whose Gothic-themed writing caught the world’s attention. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Poe is best known for his macabre-inclined stories like The Tell-Tale Heart , The Raven and The Fall of the House of Usher. In his personal life, Poe lived a troubled life that was rife with controversy and alleged alcoholism, which sometimes seemed to inspire his written work and its concise literary precision. Poe’s work can be found at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.”― Edgar Allan Poe .

37. Herbert George Wells (1866-1946)

Herbert George Wells

Born in Bromley, England, Herbert George Wells is often regarded as the father of science fiction. His classic novels , such as The War of the Worlds , The Time Machine and The Invisible Man have inspired countless adaptations and continue to influence the literary landscape for emerging writers. Although Wells’ background as a child did not expose him to a lot of opportunities, his curiosity for learning helped to lay the foundation for his scholarly pursuits and, eventually, his writing career. He is often regarded as the leading literary spokesman for liberal optimism and much of his writing often analyzes themes of social justice and scientific ethics. His work is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “ If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.” — H.G. Wells .

36. Walt Whitman ( 1819-1892)

Walt Whitman in Camden, New Jersey, circa 1891.

Walt Whitman, born in West Hills, New York, is considered one of America’s most influential poets. At the age of 12, he had finished his formal education and taught himself how to read by visiting museums in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and frequently visiting the library. Whitman’s poetry was also a mold-breaker. It defied norms and conventional poetic writing forms, later earning him recognition as a trailblazer. This approach to writing was evident in the critically-acclaimed collection, Leaves of Grass , which celebrated democracy and nature with its free-verse style and caught the attention of readers, especially European readers. The collection went through nine editions throughout Whitman’s lifetime, each edition expanding and refining his vision of the American experience and becoming one of his most acclaimed projects. His work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “Resist much, obey little.” — Walt Whitman .

35. Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

American poet and author Maya Angelou gestures while speaking during an interview at her home.

Actress, activist, memoirist and poet Maya Angelou, born Marguerite Annie Johnson in St. Louis, was an American poet and civil rights activist whose literary acumen left a major imprint, not just on literature but on society. Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which explore her childhood, early adult experiences, and rise to prominence. Angelou’s writing abandoned the trite for the raw, uncomfortable and challenging, often offering an unflinching honesty that made her writing both evocative and poignant. Her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings , published in 1969, brought her international acclaim and recognition as a powerful advocate for Black women. Her poetry collections, such as And Still I Rise and Phenomenal Woman, also earned her critical acclaim. Her works are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “ You may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lies. You may trod me in the very dirt, but still, like dust, I'll rise.” — Maya Angelou .

34. Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855)

Illustrated image of English novelist Charlotte Brontë, seated with a small book in hand.

Charlotte Brontë was born in Thornton, England, to an Anglican clergyman father and a stay-at-home mother. She is best known for her novel Jane Eyre , a groundbreaking work in the development of the novel form and in the portrayal of the inner life of a woman, much of which mimicked her childhood and adulthood. Initially published under the name Currer Bell, Jane Eyre was a massive success and is regarded as a seminal English classic. Brontë’s writing had an intense emotional gravity to it and an acute attention to detail in its characters. Her work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “I am no bird, and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.” — Charlotte Brontë .

33. George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) (1819-1880)

English novelist Mary Anne Evans, who wrote under the nom de plume of George Eliot (1819 - 1880), ... [+] pictured at the age of 30, circa 1849.

George Eliot, the pen name of Mary Ann Evans, was an English author who was well-respected for detailed and psychologically nuanced novels. Through her writing, she invented and later developed the method of psychological analysis, a form that was not used at the time. Born in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England, Evans grew up in a rural environment that influenced her later works. Her keen observations of village life, combined with her deep intellectual pursuits, allowed her to create some of the most enduring and insightful works of the 19th century. Some of her most significant works include The Mill on the Floss , Adam Bede and Silas Marner . Her work is available at HarperCollins Publishers .

Famous Quote: “Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.” — George Eliot .

32. Joseph Conrad ( 1857-1924)

Black and white portrait of Joseph Conrad.

Joseph Conrad, born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, was a Polish-British short story writer and novelist who achieved a lot of recognition for notable bodies of work like Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim, which focus on themes of colonialism, morality and angst. Conrad was born in Berdychiv, which was previously part of the Russian Empire at the time, and is now in Ukraine. His rich command of prose and ability to tell memorable stories in a way that felt personal to every reader who picked up his work were also a signature traits of his work. Conrad frequently examined themes of moral complexity and loneliness against the backdrop of the sea, and this was inspired by his days as a sailor. As a writer, Conrad had complex skill and striking insight into the human mind and its approach to the concept of good and evil. Conrad’s books are available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous Quote: “Those who read me know my conviction that the world, the temporal world, rests on a few very simple ideas; so simple that they must be as old as the hills. It rests, notably, among others, on the idea of Fidelity.”― Joseph Conrad .

31. C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

Irish-born academic, writer and Christian apologist Clive Staples Lewis.

C.S Lewis, born Clive Staples Lewis in Belfast, Ireland, was a well-respected British writer, scholar, and theologian whose paradigm-shifting works have impacted both literature and global Christian thought. He is best known for his beloved children's series, The Chronicles of Narnia , a series of seven fantasy novels that have enchanted readers for generations, as well as his significant contributions to Christian apologetics and his scholarly works on medieval and Renaissance literature. Despite his broad intellectual pursuits, Lewis always remained humble, and this quality endeared him to readers and colleagues. Lewis’ works are available at HarperCollins Publishers .

Famous Quote: “A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.” — C.S. Lewis .

30. Joseph Heller (1923-1999)

American author Joseph Heller sits at a desk in his home, East Hampton, Long Island, New York, 1984. ... [+]

Joseph Heller, born in Brooklyn, was another master of satire and dark comedy. His satirical novel Catch-22 became one of the most important books in the 20th century and even in pop-culture. Thanks to his sharp sense of humor, biting satire and apt narration, Heller positioned himself as one of America’s greats after Catch-22 . Other notable works by Heller include Something Happened and Good as Gold. He also wrote plays, screenplays and autobiographical works. His play We Bombed in New Haven critiques the Vietnam War, and his autobiography Now and Then: From Coney Island to Here is a memoir about his life and career. His work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous Quote: “Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”― Joseph Heller .

29. Stephen King (1947- )

Stephen King

Stephen King, famously known as the king of horror, was born in Portland, Maine, and is one of the most successful authors of contemporary times. King’s contributions to the horror genre as well as his extensive body of work, which spans novels, short stories, essays and screenplays, have made him a household name and an icon in popular culture. With over 60 novels and 200 short stories to his name, King’s ability to mix the gory supernatural with the everyday has thrilled and scared readers for decades. Some of his notable works include Carrie, Salem’s Lot and The Shining among others. King has written non-fiction, screenplays, and even columns and his work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous Quote: “Get busy living or get busy dying.”― Stephen King .

28. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (1977- )

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigerian writer on the sidelines of a museum opening.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, born in Enugu, Nigeria, is a critically acclaimed Nigerian writer known for her novels, poems, short stories and essays that explore themes of identity, race, migration, gender and the Nigerian postcolonial experience. In 1997, after initially studying medicine in Nsukka, Adichie decided to emigrate to the United States to pursue further education, which led to a change in her career trajectory. She completed her undergraduate studies in communication and political science at Eastern Connecticut State University, graduating with a B.A. in 2001 before later earning a master’s degree in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University. Adichie would later study African history at Yale University, and this would inform a lot of her written work. Adichie’s powerful storytelling and intelligent storytelling have made her a global voice in literature. Some of Adichie’s best work includes her debut novel, Purple Hibiscus, as well as Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah, which received numerous accolades, including the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 2014. Her TED Talk, We Should All Be Feminists , has also been widely influential, leading to a book of the same name that has inspired discussions on feminism worldwide. Adichie’s works continue to resonate deeply with readers around the globe, addressing contemporary issues with nuance and depth. Her works are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous Quote: “The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations.”― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie .

27. Alice Walker (1944- )

American author and poet Alice Walker.

Alice Walker is an American novelist, poet, and activist known for her powerful exploration of race, gender and social issues. Born in 1944 in Eatonton, Georgia, Walker grew up as the youngest of eight children in a family of sharecroppers, and a BB gun accident at the age eight left her blind in one eye. After the accident, her mother gave her a typewriter, allowing her to write instead of doing chores. Her upbringing in the racially segregated South has influenced her work, and her writing vividly depicts Black life, offering readers insights into the experiences and struggles that define the Black community. In 1983, The Color Purple won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award; it was adapted into a film in 1985. Walker has also been honored with the Lillian Smith Award and the Mahmoud Darwish Literary Prize for Fiction. Other notable works by Walker include Meridian, The Third Life of Grange Copeland and Possessing the Secret of Joy . Her work is available at HarperCollins Publishers .

Famous Quote: “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.”― Alice Walker .

26. Salman Rushdie (1947-)

Salman Rushdie receives the 2023 Peace Prize of the German book trade association at Paulskirche ... [+] church on October 22, 2023 in Frankfurt, Germany. (Photo by Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images)

Indian-born British-American professor and writer Salman Rushdie began his writing career as an ad copywriter, but later decided to start writing books. His first novel, Grimus, was published in 1975 and went relatively unnoticed, but his second novel, Midnight’s Children, in 1981, catapulted him to literary stardom. The novel won the Booker Prize and was later awarded the Booker of Bookers for the best novel to have won the Booker Prize in its first 25 years. But Rushdie’s literary rise would later be clouded with a lot of controversy. In his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, he triggered outrage among some Muslims for his portrayal of the prophet Muhammad. The book’s release led to widespread protests, bans in several countries, and, most notably, a fatwa calling for his assassination issued by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989. The fatwa forced Rushdie into hiding under police protection for many years, significantly impacting his personal and professional life. Rushdie, nevertheless, continued to be a target. During a 2022 speaking engagement in Chautauqua, New York, Rushdie was brutally stabbed while on stage, effectively blinding him in his right eye and causing him permanent nerve damage. The attack inspired his memoir, Knife . Rushdie is still alive and continues to write. Most of Rushdie’s writing style is steeped in magical allegory and fantasy, and his work is available at Penguin .

Famous Quote: What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”― Salman Rushdie .

25. Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964)

Photo of American writer Flannery O'Connor.

An extraordinary ability to coordinate the grotesque and the profound to create unsettling and insightful stories defines Flannery O'Connor’s legacy. The Southern Gothic fiction guru was born in Savannah, Georgia, to a devout Catholic family, and this background would later significantly impact her writing. Many of O’Connor’s novels are centered around questions of morality and redemption through a religious lens. Some of O’Connor’s most notable works include A Good Man Is Hard to Find , Wise Blood, and Everything That Rises Must Converge . The Southern writer wrote novels and is renowned for her short stories, considered some of the best in American literature. At some point in her life, O’Connor also considered a career as a cartoonist but did not fully pursue that career track. Despite her short life, O’Connor’s works continue to resonate with readers for portraying the complex nature of faith and humanity. Her stories remain important for those seeking to understand the darker yet redeemable aspects of humans.

Famous quote: “I don't deserve any credit for turning the other cheek, as my tongue is always in it.” ― Flannery O’Connor .

24. Herman Melville (1819-1891)

Painting of Herman Melville by Joseph Eaton.

Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer and poet known for his deep and dark storylines that explored themes of fate and free will. The New York City-born writer grew up in a family that faced financial difficulties after his father’s death, prompting him to work various jobs. Melville attended the Albany Academy but left to work as a clerk, a teacher and eventually a sailor on whaling ships. These experiences particularly influenced his literary work, including being a sailor, which provided him with maritime experiences that would inspire much of his writing. His complex approach to the art of plotting, his symbolic depth, and his exploration of existential undertones characterize Melville’s writing style. His ancestors were among the Scottish and Dutch settlers of New York who played significant roles in the American Revolution and the competitive commercial and political arenas of the emerging nation. His grandfather, Major Thomas Melville, participated in the Boston Tea Party in 1773 and later became an importer in New York. Some of Herman Melville’s most influential works include Moby-Dick , Bartleby, the Scrivener and Billy Budd, Sailor , which was published posthumously in 1924. Melville’s books are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.”― Herman Melville .

23. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

Portrait of Leonardo da Vinci by Lattanzio Querena.

Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian polymath whose primary interests included painting, sculpture, music, mathematics and literature. While he is primarily known as an artist and scientist, his literary contributions, including his notebooks filled with observations, sketches and musings, have also had a significant impact on the evolution of art and science for centuries. Leonardo ’s notebooks, such as the Codex Atlanticus and the Codex Leicester , reveal his incisive insights into anatomy, engineering and hydraulics. His meticulous records and innovative ideas have inspired generations of scientists and artists. Some of Vinci’s written works are available in places like the Louvre, the Biblioteca Nacional de España, and Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, to name a few, but Vinci is primarily known for creating The Last Supper and his magnum opus, Mona Lisa. Leonardo’s holistic approach to artistic design and expression embodied the Renaissance humanist ideal and influenced public thought through its enduring relevance in both the arts and sciences, making him a classic icon.

Famous quote: “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” ― Leonardo da Vinci .

22. Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

Photo of Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde sitting down.

Irish poet Oscar Wilde was a playwright, lecturer and novelist whose writing can be defined as witty and flamboyant. The Dublin-born writer became renowned for notable works like The Picture of Dorian Gray , The Importance of Being Earnest and An Ideal Husban d. Wilde’s enduring popularity can be credited to his precise exploration of aestheticism and ability to harmonize humor with social critiques, which allowed him to expose Victorian society’s specific hypocrisies and superficialities. Wilde was also a well-respected person in the Aesthetic Movement, which advocated art for art’s sake and emphasized beauty and sensory experiences over moral or narrative content. Despite facing personal and legal challenges, including a highly publicized trial and imprisonment for his homosexuality, Wilde’s legacy is defined by his literary brilliance and his aphoristic wit. His essays, such as The Critic as Artist and The Soul of Man under Socialism , also showed his intellectual depth and advocacy for individuality and artistic freedom, much of which was inspired by his extensive education at Trinity College, Dublin, Magdalen College and Oxford. His works are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ― Oscar Wilde .

21. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe circa 1800.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German poet, playwright, novelist, scientist, statesman, theatre director and critic who is famous for his work on Faust, a Tragedy, a dramatic two-part play that is considered one of the finest works of German literature. Goethe’s contributions to literature, philosophy and science have made him a focal figure in European intellectual history, and the Frankfurt-born luminary is considered one of the greatest German literary figures of the modern era. Beyond Faust , Goethe’s also gained acclaim for works such as The Sorrows of Young Werther , which is credited with launching the Sturm und Drang literary movement, and Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship , which became a center piece in the development of the Bildungsroman genre. Goethe’s poetry, including collections like West-östlicher Divan , showcases his wide-ranging palette and his engagement with diverse cultures and philosophies. His scientific work, particularly in the fields of botany and optics, demonstrated his holistic approach to understanding nature, culminating in influential texts like Metamorphosis of Plants and his theories on color, which he detailed in Theory of Colours . As a statesman, Goethe played an active role in the cultural and political life of Weimar, contributing to the Weimar Classicism movement alongside his friend Friedrich Schiller. His intellectual curiosity and interdisciplinary approach made him a polymath, deeply influencing the Romantic movement and shaping modern thought in both the humanities and sciences. Goethe’s legacy endures not only in his literary masterpieces but also in his profound impact on the intellectual and cultural developments of his time. Goethe’s works can be found at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward. They may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.”― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe .

20. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

Colorized photograph of American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, late 1800s.

Born in Portland, Maine, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet, professor and translator who is considered the most popular American poet in the 19th century. Longfellow’s early life and education gave him a solid foundation for his career and the intellectual acuity to compose the lyrical poetry that he did. After graduating from the Portland Academy, Longfellow studied at Bowdoin College, where he later became a professor upon his return from Europe, where he became proficient in Romance and Germanic languages. Longfellow was always skilled in translation. During his time in Europe, he honed his skills by immersing himself in various languages and literature that influenced his work. Some of his most famous works are The Song of Hiawatha, Evangeline , Tales of a Wayside Inn and Paul Revere’s Ride. Many of Longfellow’s poems were quite introspective, offering readers insight into human nature and all of its intricacies. As an educator, Longfellow was also a professor at Harvard College, where he influenced generations of students with his passion for literature and languages. Although Longfellow was primarily a poet, his impact on American literature extends beyond his poetry. He was instrumental in popularizing European literature in the United States through his translations of works like Dante’s Divine Comedy and he also wrote novels. His works are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow .

19. Jules Verne (1828-1905)

Colorized photo of Jules Verne (1828-1905), French writer. (Photo by Boyer/Roger Viollet via Getty ... [+] Images)

France-born author Jules Verne is often regarded as one of the fathers of science fiction because of his sharp imagination and thorough research, which brought to life classics like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea , Journey to the Center of the Earth and Around the World in 80 Days . His stories often focus on adventure, exploration and the possibilities of science, which reflected the technological advancements of his era. Verne did not always aspire to be a writer, and his father initially wanted him to become a lawyer, but when those plans failed, he worked at the Paris stock exchange before becoming a writer. Verne’s thorough descriptions of submarines, space travel and airships were visionary and inspired a generation of many scientists and inventors who also had an interest in writing. Apart from writing novels, Verne was also a playwright and poet, and despite early rejections and financial struggles, Verne’s determination made him one of the best-selling authors of all time, with his works translated into many languages and adapted into films, TV shows and theater. Verne’s books are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.”― Jules Verne .

18. William Blake (1757-1827)

William Blake

William Blake was a London-born author who is considered one of the best English writers and painters of all time. Some of his well-respected works include Poetical Sketches, S ongs of Innocence, Songs of Experience and Visions of the Daughters of Albion. Apart from his work as an author, Blake was an engraver, artist, poet and visionary whose art was informed by his spiritual worldviews, and although he was not a was a religious seeker, he believed in the movement. During his lifetime, Blake’s work was often underestimated because his views and poetic style seemed to be ahead of his time, and also because he was regarded as being somewhat mentally unwell, because of behavior that would be thought of as only slightly eccentric today. Regardless, Blake would later become appreciated for his creativity and the philosophical tangents that guided his work. Blake’s works are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.”― William Blake .

17. John Donne (1572-1631)

John Donne circa 1610.

John Donne was not just fascinating as a poet. His life was a colorful adventure that often seeped into his poems, which are considered landmark feats of language. Donne was born into a Roman Catholic family in London at a time when practicing Catholicism was illegal in England and despite of his impressive education at Oxford and Cambridge, he could not get a degree because, as a Catholic, he refused to take the Oath of allegiance to queen Elizabeth. Donne endured significant poverty for a major part of his lifetime and this led him to pour all of his energy and resources into writing about theology, canon law, anti-Catholic polemics and love poems. Donne’s poetic style, which had a lot of depth and intellectual rigor, was ahead of its time and not widely recognized during his life. In fact, his works Songs and Sonnets, Holy Sonnets and Anniversaries were all published after his death. His works are available at Canon Press .

Famous quote: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”― John Donne .

16. Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616)

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra circa 1590.

Miguel de Cervantes was a Spanish novelist, playwright and poet best known for his classic Don Quixote , often considered the first modern novel in history. Many critics consider Cervantes to be a contemporary of Shakespeare and this title holds even more meaning since the literary giants died within a day of each other in April of 1616. Born in Alcalá de Henares, Spain, Cervantes’ life had all of the elements of a good movie: adventure, action, hardship and eventual success. He served as a soldier and was severely wounded at the Battle of Lepanto, losing the use of his left hand. In 1575, he was captured by Barbary pirates and spent five years as a slave in Algiers before being ransomed and returning to Spain where he would spend 25 years before finally striking gold with Don Quixote. His final novel Los trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda , was published posthumously in 1616. His work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “The truth may be stretched thin, but it never breaks, and it always surfaces above lies, as oil floats on water.”― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra .

15. Elena Ferrante (1943-)

Some of the books of Elena Ferrante at Piu Libri Piu Liberi Publishing Fair on December 6, 2017 in ... [+] Rome.

Elena Ferrante is the pseudonym of the Italian author known for L’amica Geniale , Delia’s Elevator and the Neapolitan Novels, a four-part series of fiction that has made her a leading, yet mysterious voice in modern-day fictional writing. Despite the worldwide acclaim of her work, Ferrante’s true identity is still a mystery and this has added to the intrigue and speculation surrounding her. The mysterious New York Times bestselling author has communicated through her publisher stating that anonymity is important for her writing process, allowing her to focus solely on her work without public scrutiny. Apart from novels, Ferrante has published several essays and interviews where she discusses her approach to writing and her views on literature and society, providing rare insights into her creative mind. Her writing has showcased her psychological insight, complex characters and exploration of friendship, identity and the struggles of women in a patriarchal society. Despite the speculation and attempts to uncover her identity, Ferrante has successfully maintained her privacy, letting her work speak for itself. In 2016, Time m agazine named Ferrante one of the 100 most influential people. Her books are available at Europa Editions .

Famous quote: “Words: with them you can do and undo as you please.”― Elena Ferrante .

14. Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)

Dante Alighieri circa early 14th Century.

Dante Alighieri was an Italian poet, politician and author who is regarded as one of the greatest poets of all time and his magnum opus, The Divine Comedy, was the primary piece that gained him a lot of popularity . A little-known fact about Dante is that he was heavily involved in the politics of Florence, which led to his exile. This exile influenced a lot of his writing, particularly in The Divine Comedy , in which he depicts his political enemies suffering in hell. Dante also wrote in the vernacular Italian rather than Latin, which helped standardize the Italian language and shape the cultural and literary landscape of Italy. Dante also authored several other important works such as De Monarchia , a treatise on secular and religious power, and Vita Nuova , which explores his idealized love for Beatrice Portinari and his poetic development. Alighieri’s writings also cover a wide range of topics, from ethics and politics to metaphysics. His writing also reflected a deep engagement with the philosophical and theological debates of his time, blending his political views with his spiritual and intellectual interests.​ His work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”― Dante Alighieri .

13. Plato (428-7 B.C.E - 348-7 B.C.E.)

Head of Plato circa B.C. 428 - B.C. 248.

Plato was a student of Socrates and the teacher of Aristotle, one of the most influential philosophers in Western history and a leader of Claslassical Antiquity. Aside from his contributions to philosophy, Plato founded the Academy in Athens, one of the earliest institutions of higher learning in the Western world, writing extensively on a variety of subjects, including politics, ethics and metaphysics. Most of his works often featured Socratic dialogues, a method of questioning designed to inspire critical thinking. His dialogues, such as The Republic , Phaedo and Symposium did not only examine political theory but also discussed the nature of reality, knowledge and the ideal state. Plato is often credited for the development of the Theory of Forms, a concept that proposes non-material abstract forms, or ideas, as the most accurate reality. This theory has had a lasting impact on subsequent philosophical thought. Also, his work Timaeus is one of the earliest detailed accounts of the natural world which combined philosophy and proto-science. Plato was heavily involved in politics extended beyond his theoretical writings because he intended to implement his philosophical ideas in the political realm, particularly in Syracuse, although these efforts were ultimately unsuccessful and led to his temporary imprisonment. His works are available at Hackett Publishing .

Famous quote: “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”― Plato .

12. Sophocles (496 BCE- 406)

Sophocles was a Colonus-born playwright who was one of the three ancient Greek tragedians whose plays have survived. Sophocles is best known for Ajax, Oedipus Rex and Antigone. He served as a general in the Athenian military and was active in public service, which influenced his writings on justice and themes of duty in his plays. Sophocles was immenseley talented, which led him to win reportedly winning 24 out of 30 dramatic competitions he entered. Sophocles was also a pioneer in stagecraft, introducing innovations such as the use of a third actor , scene painting, and stage machinery to create more elaborate and visually striking productions. His emphasis on character development and psychological depth marked a significant advancement in the art of storytelling and Greek theater. His work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “The keenest sorrow is to recognize ourselves as the sole cause of all our adversities.”― Sophocles .

11. François Rabelais (Approximately 1483–94- 1553)

Poet Francois Rabelais. Canvas from a anonymous French painter. (Photo by Imagno/Getty Images)

François Rabelais was a French Renaissance writer and an avid traveler who is famed for his series of masterpieces called Gargantua and Pantagruel , which were published between 1532 and 1564. What many people don't know is that Rabelais was also a physician and a monk before he turned to writing. His works were often satirical and critical of the Church and society, which led to them being condemned by the Sorbonne, France’s prestigious institute for culture and academics. Rabelais’s background in medicine significantly influenced his writing, infusing his work with detailed anatomical and medical knowledge, often used to humorous effect. Rabelais was also known for his advocacy for education, echoing the intellectual spirit of the Renaissance. He promoted the idea that humans should be educated broadly in arts and sciences to develop fully. His works are available at Delphi Classics .

Famous quote: “there are more fools than wise men in all societies, and the larger party always gains the upper hand”― François Rabelais .

10. Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400)

Geoffrey Chaucer circa 1342-1400.

Geoffrey Chaucer is often hailed as the father of English literature, but a lesser-known fact is that Chaucer was also a diplomat and a civil servant, and this had a major impact on his life as a literary icon. Chaucer was born in London, but he traveled extensively across Europe, and like many writers, his travels influenced his literary works. His exposure to travel also inspired him to become fluent in several languages, including French, Italian and Latin, which added depth to his writing. Some of Chaucer’s notable works include The Canterbury Tales , which is considered one of the greatest poetic works in English. Chaucer’s career in public service was also impactful. As a civil servant, he held various positions, including courtier, diplomat and Member of Parliament, and many of his leadership roles gave him insight into the lives of ordinary people, much of which he vividly portrayed in his characters. His diplomatic missions took him to Italy, where he encountered the works of Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio, profoundly influencing his own literary style and themes. His work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained”― Geoffrey Chaucer .

9. Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

Virginia Woolf, circa 1902.

This list would be incomplete without Virginia Woolf. Woolf was born Adeline Virginia Stephen in London, and devoted an enormous part of her career to becoming a major figure in the modernist literary movement. Her stream-of-consciousness writing style as exemplified in iconic bodies of work like Mrs Dalloway and To the Lighthouse prove that Woolf was in a league of her own. The themes in her writing often included identity, time and the complexity of the human nature. Apart from novels, Woolf also explored essays, literary history, biographical writing and women’s issues. Woolf tragically died by suicide in 1941. Before her death, she founded her own publishing company, Hogarth Press, in 1917, but her work is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” — Virginia Woolf .

8. Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881)

Fyodor Dostoevsky, circa 1865.

Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, born in Moscow, had an approach to writing that stood out for its psychological penetration and exploration of darker themes. The short story expert had a list of impressive and critically acclaimed works, including Crime and Punishment , The Brothers Karamazov, The Possessed and The Idiot, all of which explored the human soul and moral dilemmas. Dostoevsky suffered from epilepsy throughout his life, which he uses as a source of inspiration for his writing by frequently depicting characters with epilepsy, and exploring the associated mental and emotional struggles that came with the condition. Outside of fiction, Dostoevsky often wrote extensiovely in letters and diaries about the anxiety that his epileptic seizures caused. After suffering successive seizures that resulted in three pulmonary hemorrhages, Dostoevsky passed away in 1881. During his lifetime as a writer, his writing style employed the use of gothic elements, chaotic storytelling and freeform storytelling. His work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect, he ceases to love.” — Fyodor Dostoevsky .

7. Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

Illustration of British novelist Charles Dickens sitting in his study in Gads Hill near Rochester, ... [+] Kent, England, circa 1860.

After his interest in theater waned, Charles Dickens pivoted careers and chose to become a writer. It would be a decision that would earn him recognition as one of the greatest novelists of the Victorian era. Known for his vivid characters and memorable depictions of social class, injustice and hierarchy, the Portsmouth, England-born journalist’s ability to create a broad array of characters is nothing like any other writer on this list. Some classics that Dickens wrote include A Tale of Two Cities , Great Expectations and the world-renowned Oliver Twist . His works often highlighted the plight of the poor and critiqued the class system. Dickens also wrote plays and engaged in journalism and travel writing. His work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” — Charles Dickens .

6. Jane Austen (1775-1817)

Illustrated portrait of Jane Austen.

Jane Austen, born in Steventon, England, is famous not just for her iconic books Pride and Prejudice , Emma and Sense and Sensibility ; she was also one of the trailblazers of the British novel. Her approach to the development of modern characters and her ability to make ordinary people extraordinary are what made her writing so popular and widely read. Austen’s contributions were not just to British writing alone but to the entire global landscape of emerging writers, past and present. Her writing offered doses of wit and acute commentary on societal issues like class and social status. Austen’s writing has been regarded as fundamentally grounded in burlesque, parody and free indirect speech. Her work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.” — Jane Austen.

5. Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway , born in Oak Park, Illinois, was a prolific figure in American literature and a brilliant writer, hunter, sailor, former spy and explorer. He became known for his larger-than-life persona and distinctive writing style, which was marked by economical prose. Hemingway’s literary career was as adventurous as his personal life, and his works have always been a topic of discussion in literary circles and popular culture. Hemingway’s personal life, which influenced his writing, was as dramatic as his fiction. As an avid adventurer, he traveled extensively, engaging in big-game hunting in Africa, bullfighting in Spain and deep-sea fishing in the Caribbean. Some of his most notable works include For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Farewell to Arms and The Old Man and the Sea , which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953. Although he is best known for his fiction and non-fiction novels and short stories, he also wrote in other genres. His works are available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous Quote: “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” — Ernest Hemingway .

4. Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)

Writer Leo Tolstoy sitting at desk in his study.

Leo Tolstoy’s strength as a writer came alive through his exploration of philosophical themes and analysis. Born in Yasnaya Polyana, Russia, Tolstoy is best known for his iconic novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina . Most of his writing showcases his mastery of realistic fiction and ability to create out-of-the-box plots. As a well-respected figure in Russian literature, Tolstoy’s literary influence extends beyond his novels to his essays on religion, non-violence and education. His work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “Love is life. All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love. Everything is united by it alone. Love is God, and to die means that I, a particle of love, shall return to the general and eternal source.” — Leo Tolstoy .

3. Virgil (70 BCE- 19 BCE)

Detail of a mosaic of Virgil.

Virgil, born Publius Vergilius Maro, is known as one of the most well-respected poets of ancient Rome. Despite his humble beginnings, Virgil received an excellent education in Cremona, Milan, and finally Rome, where he studied rhetoric, medicine and astronomy before focusing on philosophy and poetry. Virgil is renowned as one of ancient Rome's greatest poets and his most notable works include The Eclogues , The Georgics and The Aeneid , which stands out as a monumental epic that weaves together the journey of the Trojan hero Aeneas with themes of fate, duty and heroism, ultimately glorifying Rome and Emperor Augustus. Despite his illustrious career, Virgil struggled with health issues and led a reclusive life. His philosophical leanings towards Epicureanism subtly influenced his literary themes. Virgil died before he could complete The Aeneid to his satisfaction and requested that the work be destroyed on his deathbed, a wish that Augustus famously overruled. Virgil's influence endured through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, which made his legacy even stronger as an oundational figure in Western literature​. Virgil’s works are available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous Quote: “ Audaces fortuna iuvat (latin)- Fortune favors the bold.”― Virgil .

2. Homer (Around 8th century BC)

A colorized engraving of Homer with eyes superimposed.

Homer, the quintessential ancient Greek poet, is credited with composing The Iliad and The Odyssey , two legendary poems that are foundational works of ancient Greek literature and the Western literary tradition. The Iliad focuses on a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles during the last year of the Trojan War, emphasizing themes of heroism, glory and the wrath of Achilles. The Odyssey follows the challenging ten-year journey of Odysseus, King of Ithaca, as he strives to return home after the fall of Troy. A major part of Homer’s mystique lies in the fact that very little is known about the Greek author’s life and most of his background is shrouded in mystique and mystery, it is generally believed he lived around the 8th or 9th century B.C. Multiple cities, including Smyrna, Chios and Ios, claim to be Homer’s birthplace, but that has been speculative. Homer is also one of the most influential authors in the widest sense, because of the two epics that he created that provided the basis of Greek education and culture throughout the Classical age. Homer’s works are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous Quote: “Out of sight,out of mind”― Homer .

1. William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Colorized illustration (after a John Cochran print) of English playwright William Shakespeare.

There are a select few names that remain ever-present in history and never fade into the background. Names like Jesus Christ, The Beatles and Michael Jackson have a permanent presence on the world’s collective memory, and William Shakespeare falls into that timeless category as well. Born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, is often regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. His works include 38 plays, 154 sonnets and several narrative poems, all of which have had a permanent impact on literature and theater globally. Shakespeare’s repertoire does not only conform to a specific era, but has an such as enduring appeal that is relevant in works like Hamlet , Romeo and Juliet , Othello , King Lear and Macbeth continue to be performed and studied in institutions worldwide. Although Shakespeare’s early works were mainly comedies and histories, he is best known for his tragedies, which were written between 1601 and 1608 and explored complex themes of betrayal, love, ambition and the supernatural. His last plays, often categorized as romances or tragicomedies, include The Tempest , The Winter’s Tale and Cymbeline . A lesser-known fact about Shakespeare is that he was also a businessman and a shareholder in the Globe Theatre. His works are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous Quote: “We know what we are, but not what we may be.”― William Shakespeare .

Bottom Line

This list highlights 101 wordsmoths across history, eras and time, from William Shakespeare and Jane Austen to George Orwell and García Márquez. It celebrates their undeniable and untainted contributions to human thought, covering various genres and reminding readers not just of their ageless legacies, but their quintessential impact.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who are top famous romance novelists.

Jane Austen is one of the most well-respected romance novelists , celebrated for her keen social commentary and timeless love stories. Austen's works are renowned for their insight into  romantic relationships and the societal norms of 19th-century England.

Danielle Steel is a best-selling author in the romance genre, with over 190 books to her name. Steel's ability to market stories that are relatable and compelling has made her a modern-day fan-favorite in the genre.

Who Are Notable Female Authors?

Toni Morrison is a Nobel Prize-winning author known for her impactful writings which explore race and impact. Her novels, such as Beloved and The Bluest Eye , explore the African American experience with depth and serious reflection.

Virginia Woolf is a key figure in modernist literature, known for her innovative narrative techniques and exploration of the inner lives of her characters. Her seminal works, including Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse , have influenced generations of writers and readers. 

Who Are Notable Black Authors?

Maya Angelou was a poet, memoirist and civil rights activist who autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings provided a seminal text into the exploration of identity, racism and resilience. Angelou's lyrical prose and powerful storytelling have left an incredible mark on literature and continue to inspire readers all over the world.

James Baldwin  was an influential writer and social critic whose writings honestly addressed the complex themes of race, sexuality and identity. His novels, which include Go Tell It on the Mountain and Giovanni's Room are celebrated for their eloquence and emotional depth. 

Who Are The Best 20th Century Novelists?

F. Scott Fitzgerald is best known for his novel The Great Gatsby , an important 20th century story about the American Dream gone awry. Fitzgerald's fictional, yet candid review of wealth, love and social change in the Jazz Age has made him a defining voice of 20th-century American literature.

George Orwell , author of 1984 and Animal Farm , is known for his acute critiques of totalitarianism and his honest criticism of social justice issues. Orwell's works are noted for their clarity, wit and relevance, making him one of the most important writers of the 20th century.

Who Are The Best 19th Century Novelists?

Charles Dickens is one of the most recognized writers of the 19th century who was known for his vivid characters and social commentary. Stories like A Tale of Two Cities , Great Expectations and Oliver Twist highlight Dickens' ability to combine compelling narratives with critiques of Victorian society.

Leo Tolstoy , the Russian novelist, is celebrated for his epic works War and Peace and Anna Karenina . Tolstoy's exploration of human experience, history, and morality in his novels has made him a cornerstone of world literature.

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Let our graduates tell you about where their degree in literature, drama or creative writing has taken them

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Our graduates have gone on to work in a wide variety of professions, as authors and journalists, and in theatre, television and film.

You might find them working in the arts, media, publishing and politics, charities and non-governmental organisations, teaching or the commercial sector.

Our drama courses have produced a great number of professional alumni in theatre, film and television, including Matt Smith, Olivia Vinall and BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show host Greg James.

Our graduates’ publishing success remains unrivalled. In 2017 one of our alumni, Kazuo Ishiguro, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, and two other graduates – Ian McEwan and Anne Enright – have won the Booker Prize for Fiction (for which our alumni have been shortlisted on fifteen other occasions). Our graduates have won or been shortlisted for every major United Kingdom literary award.

You can learn more about our alumni’s writing achievements at UEA Writers and watch the video below to hear from Emma Healey, a graduate of our Master of Arts in Creative Writing Prose Fiction and author of two very successful novels, about her writing and how we inspired her…

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Alasdair Lindsay's Alumni Story

UEA Scriptwriting and Performance graduate Alasdair Lindsay writes about the value of his degree and his job as a digital PR manager.

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My UEA Story: Edward Parnell

Edwards talks about his book Ghostland and how he’s been influenced by the Norfolk landscape

Christie Watson

My UEA Story - Christie Watson

The critical-care nurse and author on the similarities between nursing and writing, her time at UEA, and health humanities.

Elizabeth Macneal

My UEA Story: Elizabeth MacNeal

The Doll Factory author on how the Creative Writing MA helped to shape her first novel.


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