Famous Authors

Authors throughout history have helped capture something about their lives, their era, and the society around them. From Homer in the 8th century BC all the way until now, there is something in the works of these authors that can capture our imagination and help us expand our knowledge. Here are some of the greatest authors in history and a little something about the works that they created.

Famous Authors of Antiquity

Homer Sun-Tzu

Homer (8th Century BC)
Nationality: Greek
Known for: Iliad, Odyssey
Homer is considered to be the greatest of the ancient Greek poets as he wrote two epic poems that still live on today – the Iliad and the Odyssey. These stories were epic poems that detailed Greek culture, including the geography, history, and ideals. It also set a precedence because other empires wanted similar epic poems written about their cultures.
Sun Tzu (544-496 BC)
Nationality: Chinese
Known for: The Art of War
Sun Tzu was a military strategist in ancient China. His book – The Art of War – was written as a strategy for the Chinese military. It is still widely read today by leaders of armed forces. In fact, it is on the list of recommended reading for the US Marine Corps and other divisions of the military.
Virgil (70 BC-19 BC)
Nationality: Roman
Known for: Eclogues, Georgics, Aeneid
Widely known as one of Rome’s greatest poets, Virgil had a major influence on Western literature. The Aeneid is modeled after Homer’s works and it tells the story of a Trojan, named Aeneas, who was adopted by the Romans. His work had such an impact that Dante used him in his Divine Comedy to guide him through hell.
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)
Nationality: Italian
Known for: Divine Comedy
Dante’s Divine Comedy is considered one of the greatest works in all of literature.He is often referred to as the “Father of the Italian language” and he is one-third of “the three crowns,” along with Petrarch and Boccaccio. Some of his other works include Convivio, or “The Banquet,” and Monarcha, a treatise on political philosophy.

Famous Authors of the 1500s to 1700s

Shakespeare Jane-Austen
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Nationality: English
Known for: Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear
Shakespeare, known as the “Bard of Avon,” is one of the best known English writers in history. He is credited with writing nearly 40 plays, more than 150 sonnets, and several poems. His first recorded works include Henry VI and Richard III, which were written during the 1590s.
Jane Austen (1775-1817)
Nationality: English
Known for: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park
Much of Austen’s work focused on the woman’s social standing in the 18th century and how it depended greatly on the man that they marry. She did not receive many positive reviews for her work as she generally critiqued the societal norms of her time. It was not until the 1940s after her memoirs were published when she achieved posthumous fame as a prominent English writer.

Famous Authors of the 1800s

Alexander_Dumas Edgar_Allan_Poe Charles-Dickens
Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870)
Nationality: French
Known for: The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers
Dumas is one of the most prominent French writers with his historical novels that tell of adventurous tales. Since the early 20th century, his works have been made into about 200 movies. His complete works total 100,000 pages and due to the level of success of his early works, he was able to be a full-time writer and dedicate himself solely to writing.
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
Nationality: American
Known for: The Raven, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Tell-Tale Heart
Poe was one of the premier writers during the Romantic Movement. His works are known for their mystery and grim themes, many of which include the death of one of the characters. He is credited with being the father of detective fiction as well as one of the early science fiction writers.
Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
Nationality: English
Known for: Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, A Christmas Carol
Often referred to as the greatest novelist of Victorian times, Dickens had several works that were praised by critics and peers. His first recognized work was in 1836 with The Pickwick Papers. He helped popularize serial publications, which meant pieces of his work were published in magazines in installments.
Herman_Melville Jules_Verne Mark_Twain
Herman Melville (1819-1891)
Nationality: American
Known for: Moby Dick
Known mainly for his work Moby Dick, Melville was virtually unsuccessful as an author and novelist. He had other small successes, such as Typee in 1845, which became a bestseller in London. He also published Omoo based on the success of his previous work. But his later years were not nearly as successful as his earlier ones.
Jules Verne (1828-1905)
Nationality: French-Algerian
Known for: Journey to the Center of the Earth, Around the World in 80 Days
Verne was one of the leaders in the science fiction genre of literature. In fact, he is often referred to as “The Father of Science Fiction,” along with H.G. Wells. Many have called his works of exploration inspirational, including Jacques Cousteau, the astronauts on Apollo 8, and J.R.R. Tolkien.
Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Nationality: American
Known for: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Pudd’nhead Wilson
Often referred to as the “Father of American Literature,” Twain has contributed a great deal to the culture. His 1885 novel – Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – is credited with being the “Great American Novel.” Twain served as a pilot on a riverboat along the Mississippi River for some time before becoming an author.
Oscar_Wilde Jack_London Hermann_Hesse
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
Nationality: Irish
Known for: The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Importance of Being Earnest
Wilde was known as one of London’s most prominent playwrights during the last decade of the 1800s. He had one novel published during his career – The Picture of Dorian Gray – along with several plays that were performed on stage. He also wrote several essays and shorter fiction pieces, including The Decay of Lying and The House of Pomegranates.
Jack London (1876-1916)
Nationality: American
Known for: The Call of the Wild, The Sea Wolf, White Fang
As an advocate of ideals like socialism and unionization, London worked these themes into many of his works, including The Iron Heel and The People of the Abyss. He had more straightforward works that explored these themes, including essays like How I Became a Socialist and What Communities Lose by the Competitive System.
Hermann Hesse (1877-1962)
Nationality: German
Known for: Steppenwolf, Siddhartha, Demian
A recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946, Hesse’s novels typically had themes of exploring a person’s search for spirituality and self-knowledge. His first recognized novel was published in 1904 and it was entitled Peter Camenzind. His subsequent novels were popular in Germany and parts of Europe, but they did not become well-known in the United States until the counter-culture revolution of the 1960s.
VirginiaWoolf James-Joyce
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)
Nationality: English
Known for: Mrs. Dalloway, Orlando, To the Lighthouse
As one of the more prominent authors of the 20th century, Woolf contributed a great deal to the field of literature and to the English language in general. Her use of “stream of consciousness” in her novels was innovative for the time and it allowed her to explore the thoughts and inner lives of her characters more intimately.
James Joyce (1882-1941
Nationality: Irish
Known for: Ulysses, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Joyce was innovative in some of the techniques he used and perfected in his writing, including the idea of stream of consciousness, referencing a character’s psychic reality, and exploring a character’s inner monologue. In his work Finnegans Wake, he discarded the tradition of having a conventional plot and he used free dream associations, obscure language, puns, and literary allusions throughout the book.

Famous Authors of the 1900s

Kafka_ Fernando-pessoa1 Dale-Carnegie
Franz Kafka (1883-1924)
Nationality: German
Known for: The Metamorphosis, The Trial, The Castle
A great deal of Kafka’s writing focused on surreal situations that involved mental and physical brutality, conflicts between parents and children, fighting the maze of bureaucracy, and alienation. The term “Kafkaesque” has come to refer to situations that are reminiscent of his writings and ideas. Many of his works also include the theme of existentialism.
Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935)
Nationality: Portugese
Known for: The Book of Disquietude
Pessoa is often referred to as the greatest poet of the Portugese language. He wrote under several different pseudonyms, includnig albert Caeiro, Alvaro de Campos, and Ricardo Reis. In addition to his original works, Pessoa translated many English works into Portugese, including The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Poe’s “The Raven,” among others.
Dale Carnegie (1888-1955)
Nationality: American
Known for: How to Win Friends and Influence People
Carnegie made a name for himself in the writing world for publishing books about self-improvement and interpersonal skills. He began as a lecturer and became one of the most famous lecturers ever. He even sold out Carnegie Hall for some of his speaking engagements. Within 20 years of its first printing, his How to Win Friends and Influence People had sold more than five million copies.
Agatha-Christie JRR-Tolkien Francis_Scott_Fitzgerald
Agatha Christie (1890-1976)
Nationality: English
Known for: And Then There Were None, Witness for the Prosecution
As the author of more than 65 detective novels and more than a dozen short stories, Christie created popular characters like Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot. In addition to detective novels, she also wrote The Mousetrap, which has been running continuously since 1952. It is the longest running play ever.
J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973)
Nationality: English
Known for: The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit
Credited with bringing the fantasy genre back into the mainstream, Tolkien is often referred to as the “father of modern fantasy literature.” He was ranked sixth on The Times’ list of 50 great British writers of the latter half of the 20th century in 2008. He died in 1973, but he made the Forbes 2009 list of top-earning celebrities at number five.
F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)
Nationality: American
Known for: The Great Gatsby, The Beautiful and Damned
Fitzgerald was part of the “Lost Generation” group of writers. This was a group that served in WWI and it also included T.S. Eliot, Waldo Pierce, Ernest Hemingway and others. The term referred to their feelings of emptiness due to the war. Fitzgerald’s work often exemplified this feeling as much of it centered on consumerism, greed, and alcohol to suppress or hide those negative feelings.
CS-Lewis Ernest_Hemingway John-Steinbeck
C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Nationality: American
Known for: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters
Lewis was a novelist, essayist, and Christian apologetic who used his writings to explore ideas about religion and other themes. His The Chronicles of Narnia has been turned into a series of motion pictures. He also authored Space Trilogy, a science fiction work for adults, and The Pilgrim’s Regress, his first novel after converting to Christianity.
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
Nationality: American
Known for: A Farewell to Arms, The Sun Also Rises, The Old Man and the Sea
Hemingway started out as a journalist before becoming a novelist. His first job out of high school was being a reporter for The Kansas City Star. Before long, he left to go to Italy to enlist as an ambulance driver for World War I. His time serving in WWI and in the Spanish Civil War gave him inspiration for his novels. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.
John Steinbeck (1902-1968)
Nationality: American
Known for: The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, East of Eden
The collection of Steinbeck’s work includes 16 novels, six books of non-fiction and five short stories. In 1962, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature to the dismay of many of his critics and literary analysts of the time. His most recognized work – The Grapes of Wrath – was published in 1939 and it won a Pulitzer and a National Book Award.
George_Orwell Dr-Seuss Ayn-Rand
George Orwell (1903-1950)
Nationality: English
Known for: 1984, Animal Farm
Orwell is considered one of the greatest British writers of the 20th century. In fact, he was listed as number two in 2008 on a list published by The Times. The themes he explores in his books, namely 1984 and Animal Farm, have been termed “Orwellian,” but he has coined other popular phrases, such as “Big Brother” and “thought police.”
Dr. Seuss (1904-1991)
Nationality: American
Known for: Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Theodor Seuss Geisel, popularly known as Dr. Seuss, is known for his children’s picture books that he wrote and illustrated. He published 46 of them with some of the most imaginative rhymes and characters. In his early career, he was an illustrator for various businesses and organizations, including the U.S. Army.
Ayn Rand (1905-1982)
Nationality: Russian-American
Known for: The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged
Rand was both a novelist and a philosopher and she used her writing skills to explore a system she referred to as objectivism in her works. Although her novels were not bestsellers, they have been major influences for the Libertarian Party and the Conservative Party in American politics.
AlbertCamus Roald_Dahl Isaac-Asimov
Albert Camus (1913-1960)
Nationality: French-Algerian
Known for: The Stranger, The Myth of Sisyphus, The Plague
As a philosopher/author, Camus worked many of his philosophical thoughts into his novels. In The Stranger, for instance, he explored the theme of existentialism as well as nihilism and stoicism through characters like Meursault and Masson. His novel The Plague discussed the human condition and the idea of destiny.
Roald Dahl (1916-1990)
Nationality: British
Known for: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach
Dahl has been referred to as a great children’s storyteller, though his books have a dark sense of humor and twist endings. He wrote many short stories for magazines, including Harper’s, The New Yorker, and Ladies Home Journal, just to name a few. He received three Edgar Awards for his original works.
Isaac Asimov (1920-1992)
Nationality: Russian
Known for: The Intelligent Man’s Guide to Science, I, Robot, Nightfall
Asimov has been called one of the most prolific writers in history with more than 500 books either written or edited by him. He is mainly recognized for his science fiction works, but he has written books on many different topics, including mysteries, William Shakespeare, the Bible, and more. There is also a literary award named after him.
Jack-Kerouac Maya-Angelou Anne-Frank
Jack Kerouac (1922-1969)
Nationality: American
Known for: On the Road, Big Sur, The Sea is My Brother
The writings of Kerouac are eclectic in that they span a variety of topics, including Buddhism, poverty, promiscuous sex, drugs, and traveling. He was one of the pioneers of the Beat Generation and the hippie movement. He was heavily influenced by James Joyce and references his work many times in his own writings.
Maya Angelou (1928- )
Nationality: American
Known for: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
With a total of seven autobiographies and several poetry works to her name, Angelou is one of the more successful African-American authors to date. She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1971 and she was selected to read her poem – “On the Pulse of Morning” – at the inauguration of Bill Clinton in 1993.
Anne Frank (1929-1945)
Nationality: German
Known for: The Diary of Anne Frank
Frank was not a writer in the traditional sense, but her diary is one of the most recognized works of non-fiction in history. During the German occupation of Amsterdam, Frank was in hiding with other family members. However, the family was captured by German troops and taken to concentration camps where they died. Her diary was saved and published in 1947.
Murakami Sylvia-Plath Hunter_S._Thompson
Haruki Murakami (1929- )
Nationality: Japanese
Known for: Kafka on the Shore, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Murakami is a Japanese writer who has won several awards for his work, including the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, the Franz Kafka Prize, and several others. His first novel was Hear the Wind Sing in 1979. Following that, he wrote and published a sequel to it entitled Pinball, 1973. Since then, he has had success with subsequent novels in his career.
Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)
Nationality: American
Known for: The Bell Jar, Ariel
Plath had a short career with few publications to her name, but the works that she did have published were significant. Her work The Bell Jar was somewhat autobiographical and discussed her depression and other life events. She attempted suicide several times during her life and succeeded in 1963, after which she posthumously won the Pulitzer Prize for The Collected Poems.
Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005)
Nationality: American
Known for: The Rum Diary, Hell’s Angels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Thompson spent several years working as a journalist, but he was not well-known until after he published his book about the year he spent riding with the Hell’s Angels. He was a leader in the counter-culture and he created a new style of journalism, which he entitled “Gonzo” journalism. In this style, the journalist gets involved in the story themselves and they become a central figure of it.
paulo-coelho stephen-king James-Patterson
Paulo Coelho (1947- )
Nationality: Brazilian
Known for: The Alchemist
Coelho is one of the most popular authors in modern history. He had several moderately successful books published, but The Alchemist is one of the best-selling books of all time. It was published in 1987 and Coelho has followed up his success with a novel every couple years since then. He has published 30 books in total.
Stephen King (1947- )
Nationality: American
Known for: Carrie, The Shining, Salem’s Lot,The Dark Tower
With 50 novels published and almost 200 short stories, King is one of the more prolific authors of horror fiction today. He has received numerous awards for his work, including British Fantasy Society Awards, Bram Stoker Awards, and others. He also received the prestigious O. Henry Award for his short story, The Man in the Black Suit.
James Patterson (1947- )
Nationality: American
Known for: The Alex Cross Series, Daniel X
Following a career in advertising, Patterson dedicated himself to writing. However, he had several publications prior to leaving his advertising career. His first novel – The Thomas Berryman Number – was published in 1976. Since then, he has had more than 90 novels published and 19 of them have been consecutive bestsellers.
Salman-rushdie George-RR-Martin Nora-Roberts
Salman Rushdie (1947- )
Nationality: British-Indian
Known for: The Satanic Verses, Midnight’s Children
Rushdie began his writing career working as a copywriter for ad agencies. While coming up with memorable slogans, he also wrote Midnight’s Children during his free time. published his first novel – Grimus – in 1975 and it became his first work to be published. He won the Booker Prize in 1981. In 1988, he published The Satanic Verse, which caused great controversy and death threats for Rushdie.
George R. R. Martin (1948- )
Nationality: American
Known for: A Song of Ice and Fire
His work – A Song of Ice and Fire – has been turned into a wildly popular TV series entitled Game of Thrones. In 2011, Time magazine named Martin one of the “most influential people in the world.” He has won several awards for his work, including the Hugo Award three times and the Locus Award six times.
Nora Roberts (1950- )
Nationality: American
Known for: Time and Again, “In Death” series
Roberts’ novels have spent a total of more than 860 weeks on the NY Times Bestseller list as of 2011. For 176 of those weeks, her novels were at the top of the list at number one. She has written under the pseudonyms J.D. Robb, Jill March, and Sarah Hardesty. By 1996, she had 100 novels published and more than 200 by 2012.
Douglas-Adams Rick-Riordan Neil-Gaiman
Douglas Adams (1952-2001)
Nationality: English
Known for: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
As a humorist and a dramatist, Adams’ works were often made into radio shows and TV series. He wrote three stories for Doctor Who, which was a science fiction program that ran on the BBC. The series has since been updated and remade. Other books of Adams’ include The Meaning of Liff, Last Chance to See, and others.
Rick Riordan (1954- )
Nationality: American
Known for: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Kane Chronicles
In addition to his works centered on mythology, such as Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Riordan has worked on other projects. He helped write the children’s novel series entitled The 39 Clues with other authors. One of the books in the series that he authored – The Maze of Bones – went to number one on the New York Times Best Seller list.
Neil Gaiman (1960- )
Nationality: English
Known for: The Graveyard Book, Stardust, Coraline, American Gods
Gaiman is the first author to have won the Carnegie medal and the Newbery medal for a single work – The Graveyard Book. He began his career in journalism and he worked for the British Fantasy Society. His first story was published in 1984. He went on to publish several books and become a graphic novelist.
suzanne-collins David-Foster-Wallace Dan-Brown
Suzanne Collins (1962- )
Nationality: American
Known for: The Hunger Games Trilogy
Before becoming a successfully published author, Collins spent several years writing for children’s TV shows, including Oswald and Clarissa Explains it All, just to name a few. From there, she went on to write children’s books, including the series The Underland Chronicles, of which the first book in the series was number one on the NY Times bestseller list.
David Foster Wallace (1962-2008)
Nationality: American
Known for: The Pale King, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, Infinite Jest
Wallace’s Infinite Jest was his second novel and his most recognized. Time magazine named it as one of the 100 best novels published between 1923 and 1925. Another one of his books – The Pale King – was published after his death and it was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
Dan Brown (1962- )
Nationality: American
Known for: The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons
Brown has written two best-selling novels that been turned into major motion picture. In total, his novels have sold more than 200 million copies worldwide as of 2012. The themes for his novels typically include conspiracy combined with Christian motifs, making them rather controversial. He is in the top 20 best-selling authors of all time despite only having six books published.
JK-Rowling nicholas-sparks stephenie-meyer
J. K. Rowling (1965- )
Nationality: British
Known for: Harry Potter series
With more than 400 million of the Harry Potter books being sold worldwide, Rowling has gone to the top of the list of bestselling authors of all time. Before writing and publishing the Harry Potter series, she was receiving benefits from the state to help her live. But her success turned her into a multi-millionaire within just a couple years.
Nicholas Sparks (1965- )
Nationality: American
Known for: The Notebook, Nights in Rodanthe, A Walk to Remember
With 18 published novels to his name, Sparks is one of the more prominent authors of today. Several of his novels have been turned into major motion pictures, including Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, and The Notebook, which was published in 1996 and it was listed on the NY Times bestseller list within a week after its release.
Stephenie Meyer (1973- )
Nationality: American
Known for: The Twilight Series
The Twilight series is one of the more successful series in modern history. In 2008 and 2009, Meyer was the bestselling wrier in the US with more than 45 million copies selling in those two years combined. She was ranked as one of the top 50 of the 100 most influential people of 2008 by Time magazine.