A list of famous writers / authors / poets throughout history.
William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616) English poet and playwright. Famous plays include Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Merchant of Venice and Hamlet. Shakespeare is widely considered the seminal writer of the English language.
Jonathan Swift (1667 – 1745) Anglo-Irish writer born in Dublin. Swift was a prominent satirist, essayist and author. Notable works include Gulliver’s Travels (1726), A Modest Proposal and A Tale of a Tub.
Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784) British author best known for his compilation of the English dictionary. Although not the first attempt at a dictionary, it was widely considered to be the most comprehensive – setting the standard for later dictionaries.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832) German poet, playwright, and author. Notable works of Goethe include: Faust, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship and Elective Affinities.
Jane Austen (1775 – 1817) English author who wrote romantic fiction combined with social realism. Her novels include: Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Emma (1816).
Honore de Balzac (1799 – 1850) French novelist and short story writer. Balzac was an influential realist writer who created characters of moral ambiguity – often based on his own real life examples. His greatest work was the collection of short stories La Comédie humaine.
Alexandre Dumas (1802 – 1870) French author of historical dramas, including – The Count of Monte Cristo (1844), and The Three Musketeers (1844). Also prolific author of magazine articles, pamphlets and travel books.
Victor Hugo (1802 – 1885) French author and poet. Hugo’s novels include Les Misérables, (1862) and Notre-Dame de Paris (1831).
Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870) – English writer and social critic. His best known works include novels such as Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and A Christmas Carol.
Charlotte Bronte (1816 – 1855) English novelist and poet, from Haworth. Best known novel ‘Jane Eyre’ (1847).
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) – American poet, writer and leading member of the Transcendentalist movement. Thoreau’s “Walden” (1854) was a unique account of living close to nature.
Emily Bronte (1818 – 1848) English novelist. Emily Bronte is best known for her novel Wuthering Heights (1847), and her poetry.
George Eliot (1819 – 1880) Pen name of Mary Ann Evans. Wrote novels, The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), Middlemarch (1871–72), and Daniel Deronda (1876)
Leo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910) Russian novelist and moral philosopher. Famous works include the epic novels – War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877). Tolstoy also became an influential philosopher with his brand of Christian pacificism.
Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881) Russian novelist, journalist and philosopher. Notable works include Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment and The Idiot
Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) Oxford mathematician and author. Famous for Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, and poems like The Snark.
Mark Twain (1835 – 1910) American writer and humorist, considered the ‘father of American literature’. Famous works include The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885).
Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) English novelist and poet. Hardy was a Victorian realist who was influenced by Romanticism. He wrote about problems of Victorian society – in particular, declining rural life. Notable works include: Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1895).
Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900) – Irish writer and poet. Wilde wrote humorous satirical plays, such as ‘The Importance of Being Earnest‘ and ‘The Picture of Dorian Grey’.
Kenneth Graham (1859 – 1932) Author of the Wind in the Willows (1908), a classic of children’s literature.
George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950) Irish playwright and wit. Famous works include: Pygmalion (1912), Man and Superman (1903) and Back to Methuselah (1921)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 – 1930) British author of historical novels and plays. Most famous for his short stories about the detective – Sherlock Holmes, such as The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) and Sign of Four (1890).
Beatrix Potter (1866 – 1943) English conservationist and author of the imaginative children’s books, such as the Tales of Peter Rabbit (1902).
Marcel Proust (1871 – 1922) French author. Best known for epic novel l À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time) published in seven parts between 1913 and 1927.
William Somerset Maugham 1874 – 1965) British novelist and writer. One of most popular authors of 1930s. Notable works included The Moon and Sixpence (1916), The Razor’s Edge (1944), and Of Human Bondage (1915)
P.G.Wodehouse (1881 – 1975) English comic writer. Best known for his humorous and satirical stories about the English upper classes, such as Jeeves and Wooster and Blandings Castle.
Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941) English modernist writer, member of the Bloomsbury group. Famous novels include: Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927) and Orlando (1928).
James Joyce (1882 – 1941) Irish writer from Dublin. Joyce was one of most influential modernist avant-garde writers of the Twentieth Century. His novel Ulysses (1922), was ground-breaking for its stream of consciousness style. Other works include Dubliners (1914) and Finnegans Wake (1939).
D H Lawrence (1885 – 1930) English poet, novelist and writer. Best known works include: Sons and Lovers, The Rainbow, Women in Love and Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928) – which was banned for many years.
Agatha Christie (1890 – 1976) British fictional crime writer. Many of her books focused on series featuring her detectives ‘Poirot’ and Mrs Marple.
J.R.R. Tolkien (1892 – 1973) – Professor of Anglo-Saxon and English at Oxford University. Tolkien wrote the best selling mythical trilogy The Lord of the Rings. Other works include, The Hobbit and The Silmarillion, and a translation of Beowulf.
Vera Brittain (1893 – 1970) British writer best known for her autobiography – Testament of Youth (1933) – sharing her traumatic experiences of the First World War.
F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896 – 1940) American author. Iconic writer of the ‘jazz age’. Notable works include The Great Gatsby (1925), and Tender Is the Night (1934) – cautionary tales about the ‘Jazz decade’ and the American Dream based on pleasure and materialism.
Enid Blyton (1897 – 1968) British children’s writer, known for her series of children’s books – The Famous Five and The Secret Seven. Blyton wrote an estimated 800 books over 40 years.
C.S. Lewis (1898 – 1963) Irish / English author and professor at Oxford University. Lewis is best known for The Chronicles of Narnia, a children’s fantasy series. Also well known as a Christian apologist.
Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961) Ground breaking modernist American writer. Famous works included For Whom The Bell Tolls (1940) and A Farewell to Arms (1929).
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 – 1977) Russian author of Lolita (1955) and Pale Fire (1962)
Barbara Cartland (1901 – 2000) One of most prolific and best selling authors of the romantic fiction genre. Some suggest she has sold over 2 billion copies worldwide.
John Steinbeck (1902 – 1968) American writer who captured the social change experienced in the US around the time of the Great Depression. Famous works include – Of Mice and Men (1937), The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and East of Eden (1952).
George Orwell (1903 – 1950) – English author. Famous works include Animal Farm, and 1984. – Both stark warnings about the dangers of totalitarian states, Orwell was also a democratic socialist who fought in the Spanish Civil War, documenting his experiences in “Homage to Catalonia” (1938).
Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) Irish avant garde, modernist writer. Beckett wrote minimalist and thought provoking plays, such as ‘Waiting for Godot’ (1953) and ‘Endgame‘ (1957). He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969.
Albert Camus (1913 – 1960) – French author, journalist, and philosopher. Associated with existentialism and absurdism. Famous works included The Myth of Sisyphus, The Stranger and The Plague.
Roald Dahl (1916 – 1990) English author, best known for his children’s books, such as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, James and The Giant Peach and The BFG.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918 – 2008) Russian author, historian and political critic. Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970 for his work in exposing the nature of Soviet totalitarianism. e.g, The Gulag Archipelago (1965-67).
J.D. Salinger (1919 – 2010) American author. Most influential novel The Catcher in the Rye (1951). Wrote many short stories for New Yorker magazine, such as “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”
Joseph Heller (1923 – 1999) American novelist, who wrote satirical and black comedy. His most famous work is ‘Catch 22’ (1961) – a satire on the futility of war.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1927 – 2014) Colombian author. Wrote: One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), The Autumn of the Patriarch (1975) and Love in the Time of Cholera (1985). Nobel Prize in Literature (1982).
Anne Frank (1929 – 1945) Dutch-Jewish diarist. Known for her diary ‘Anne Frank‘ Published posthumously by her father – recalling her life hiding from Gestapo in occupied Holland.
Salman Rushdie (1947 – ) Anglo-Indian author. His works combine elements of magic realism, satire and historical fiction – often based on Indian sub-continent. Notable works include Midnight’s Children (1981), Shame (1983) and Satanic Verses (1988).
Stephen King (1947 – ) American author of contemporary horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy. One of the best selling authors of modern times.
George R.R Martin (1948 – ) American author of epic fantasy series – A Song of Ice and Fire, – his international best-selling series of fantasy, adapted for the screen as a Game of Thrones.
Douglas Adams (1952 – 2001) British writer of humorous and absure science fiction. Adams wrote a best selling trilogy (of five books) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – which began as a BBC play.
J.K.Rowling (1965 – ) British author of the Harry Potter Series – which has become the best selling book series of all time. Her first book was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997). Rowling has also published adult fiction, such as The Casual Vacancy (2012) and The Cuckoo’s Calling (2013)
Khaled Hosseini (1965 – ) Afghan born American writer. Notable works include: The Kite Runner (2003) A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007) And the Mountains Echoed (2013
Homer (c. 8th Century B.C. ) Considered the greatest of the ancient Greek poets. Homer was the author of the two epic poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey.
Sappho ( c 570 BC) One of the first published female writers. Much of her poetry has been lost but her immense reputation has remained. Plato referred to Sappho as one of the great ten poets.
Virgil (70 BC – 19 BC) Roman poet. Wrote three epics Eclogues (or Bucolics), the Georgics, and the Aeneid.
Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) Italian poet of the Middle Ages. His Divine Comedy, is one of most influential European works of literature. Dante is also called the “Father of the Italian language”.
Geoffrey Chaucer (1343 – 1400) Considered the Father of English Literature. Best known for Canterbury Tales (1475).
John Milton (1608 – 1674) English poet. Best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost (1667), written in blank verse – telling the Biblical story of man’s fall. Also wrote Areopagitica (1644) in defence of free speech.
William Blake (1757 –1827) English mystic and romantic poet, wrote Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. Also hand-painted many of his works.
William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850) English romantic poet from Lake District, many poems related to natures, such as his Lyrical Ballads.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 – 1834) English romantic poet. Author of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kublai Khan.
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822) English romantic poet. Famous works include Queen Mab and Prometheus Unbound
John Keats (1795 – 1821) English Romantic Poet, best known for his Odes, such as Ode to a Nightingale, Endymion.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882) American Transcendentalist poet and writer.
Alfred Tennyson (1809 – 1892) Popular Victorian poet, wrote Charge of the Light Brigade, Ulysses, although In Memoriam A.H.H.
Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892) American poet. Wrote Leaves of Grass, a ground breaking new style of poetry.
Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886) American female poet. Led secluded lifestyle, and left legacy of many short vivid poems, often on themes of death and immortality.
Rabindranath Tagore (1861 – 1941) Indian poet. Awarded Nobel Prize for Literature for his work – Gitanjali.
Robert Frost (1874 – 1963) – Influential American poet, one of most highly regarded of the Twentieth Century. Most famous work ‘The Road Not Taken’ (1916)
Maya Angelou (1928 – 2014 ) – Modern American poet and writer.
Other categories of writers:
More Famous Poets – Other poets, including W.B. Yeats, Wilfred Owen, Rumi, Czeslaw Milosz
Famous philosophers – including Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, Baruch Spinoza, Rene Descartes, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Paine and David Hume.
Political / social activist writers – People who have written about political and human rights. Including Olaudah Equiano, Frederick Douglass, Nelson Mandela, William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Spiritual writers – including St Teresa of Avila, Sri Aurobindo, Meister Eckhart, Desiderius Erasmus, St Therese of Lisieux and Swami Vivekananda.
Female authors – Female authors, including the Bronte sisters, Maya Angelou, Jane Austen and J.K. Rowling.
Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan “Famous Writers”, Oxford, www.biographyonline.net – 10th March, 2015.
501 Great Writers: A Comprehensive Guide to the Giants of Literature
- 501 Great Writers: A Comprehensive Guide to the Giants of Literature at Amazon.com
- 501 Great Writers: A Comprehensive Guide to the Giants of Literature at Amazon.co.uk