The 30 Best Biographies of All Time

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The 30 best biographies of all time.

The 30 Best Biographies of All Time

Biographer Richard Holmes once wrote that his work was “a kind of pursuit… writing about the pursuit of that fleeting figure, in such a way as to bring them alive in the present.”

At the risk of sounding cliché, the best biographies do exactly this: bring their subjects to life. A great biography isn’t just a laundry list of events that happened to someone. Rather, it should weave a narrative and tell a story in almost the same way a novel does. In this way, biography differs from the rest of nonfiction .

All the biographies on this list are just as captivating as excellent novels , if not more so. With that, please enjoy the 30 best biographies of all time — some historical, some recent, but all remarkable, life-giving tributes to their subjects.

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the number of great biographies out there, you can also take our 30-second quiz below to narrow it down quickly and get a personalized biography recommendation  😉

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1. A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar

This biography of esteemed mathematician John Nash was both a finalist for the 1998 Pulitzer Prize and the basis for the award-winning film of the same name. Nasar thoroughly explores Nash’s prestigious career, from his beginnings at MIT to his work at the RAND Corporation — as well the internal battle he waged against schizophrenia, a disorder that nearly derailed his life.

2. Alan Turing: The Enigma: The Book That Inspired the Film The Imitation Game - Updated Edition by Andrew Hodges

Hodges’ 1983 biography of Alan Turing sheds light on the inner workings of this brilliant mathematician, cryptologist, and computer pioneer. Indeed, despite the title ( a nod to his work during WWII ), a great deal of the “enigmatic” Turing is laid out in this book. It covers his heroic code-breaking efforts during the war, his computer designs and contributions to mathematical biology in the years following, and of course, the vicious persecution that befell him in the 1950s — when homosexual acts were still a crime punishable by English law.

3. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton is not only the inspiration for a hit Broadway musical, but also a work of creative genius itself. This massive undertaking of over 800 pages details every knowable moment of the youngest Founding Father’s life: from his role in the Revolutionary War and early American government to his sordid (and ultimately career-destroying) affair with Maria Reynolds. He may never have been president, but he was a fascinating and unique figure in American history — plus it’s fun to get the truth behind the songs.

Prefer to read about fascinating First Ladies rather than almost-presidents? Check out this awesome list of books about First Ladies over on The Archive.

4. Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo" by Zora Neale Hurston

A prolific essayist, short story writer, and novelist, Hurston turned her hand to biographical writing in 1927 with this incredible work, kept under lock and key until it was published 2018. It’s based on Hurston’s interviews with the last remaining survivor of the Middle Passage slave trade, a man named Cudjo Lewis. Rendered in searing detail and Lewis’ highly affecting African-American vernacular, this biography of the “last black cargo” will transport you back in time to an era that, chillingly, is not nearly as far away from us as it feels.

5. Churchill: A Life by Martin Gilbert

Though many a biography of him has been attempted, Gilbert’s is the final authority on Winston Churchill — considered by many to be Britain’s greatest prime minister ever. A dexterous balance of in-depth research and intimately drawn details makes this biography a perfect tribute to the mercurial man who led Britain through World War II.

Just what those circumstances are occupies much of Bodanis's book, which pays homage to Einstein and, just as important, to predecessors such as Maxwell, Faraday, and Lavoisier, who are not as well known as Einstein today. Balancing writerly energy and scholarly weight, Bodanis offers a primer in modern physics and cosmology, explaining that the universe today is an expression of mass that will, in some vastly distant future, one day slide back to the energy side of the equation, replacing the \'dominion of matter\' with \'a great stillness\'--a vision that is at once lovely and profoundly frightening.

Without sliding into easy psychobiography, Bodanis explores other circumstances as well; namely, Einstein's background and character, which combined with a sterling intelligence to afford him an idiosyncratic view of the way things work--a view that would change the world. --Gregory McNamee

6. E=mc²: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation by David Bodanis

This “biography of the world’s most famous equation” is a one-of-a-kind take on the genre: rather than being the story of Einstein, it really does follow the history of the equation itself. From the origins and development of its individual elements (energy, mass, and light) to their ramifications in the twentieth century, Bodanis turns what could be an extremely dry subject into engaging fare for readers of all stripes.

7. Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario

When Enrique was only five years old, his mother left Honduras for the United States, promising a quick return. Eleven years later, Enrique finally decided to take matters into his own hands in order to see her again: he would traverse Central and South America via railway, risking his life atop the “train of death” and at the hands of the immigration authorities, to reunite with his mother. This tale of Enrique’s perilous journey is not for the faint of heart, but it is an account of incredible devotion and sharp commentary on the pain of separation among immigrant families.

8. Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera

Herrera’s 1983 biography of renowned painter Frida Kahlo, one of the most recognizable names in modern art, has since become the definitive account on her life. And while Kahlo no doubt endured a great deal of suffering (a horrific accident when she was eighteen, a husband who had constant affairs), the focal point of the book is not her pain. Instead, it’s her artistic brilliance and immense resolve to leave her mark on the world — a mark that will not soon be forgotten, in part thanks to Herrera’s dedicated work.

9. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Perhaps the most impressive biographical feat of the twenty-first century, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is about a woman whose cells completely changed the trajectory of modern medicine. Rebecca Skloot skillfully commemorates the previously unknown life of a poor black woman whose cancer cells were taken, without her knowledge, for medical testing — and without whom we wouldn’t have many of the critical cures we depend upon today.

10. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Christopher McCandless, aka Alexander Supertramp, hitchhiked to Alaska and disappeared into the Denali wilderness in April 1992. Five months later, McCandless was found emaciated and deceased in his shelter — but of what cause? Krakauer’s biography of McCandless retraces his steps back to the beginning of the trek, attempting to suss out what the young man was looking for on his journey, and whether he fully understood what dangers lay before him.

11. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: Three Tenant Families by James Agee

"Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us.” From this line derives the central issue of Agee and Evans’ work: who truly deserves our praise and recognition? According to this 1941 biography, it’s the barely-surviving sharecropper families who were severely impacted by the American “Dust Bowl” — hundreds of people entrenched in poverty, whose humanity Evans and Agee desperately implore their audience to see in their book.

12. The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann

Another mysterious explorer takes center stage in this gripping 2009 biography. Grann tells the story of Percy Fawcett, the archaeologist who vanished in the Amazon along with his son in 1925, supposedly in search of an ancient lost city. Parallel to this narrative, Grann describes his own travels in the Amazon 80 years later: discovering firsthand what threats Fawcett may have encountered, and coming to realize what the “Lost City of Z” really was.

13. Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang

Though many of us will be familiar with the name Mao Zedong, this prodigious biography sheds unprecedented light upon the power-hungry “Red Emperor.” Chang and Halliday begin with the shocking statistic that Mao was responsible for 70 million deaths during peacetime — more than any other twentieth-century world leader. From there, they unravel Mao’s complex ideologies, motivations, and missions, breaking down his long-propagated “hero” persona and thrusting forth a new, grislier image of one of China’s biggest revolutionaries.

14. Mad Girl's Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted by Andrew Wilson by Andrew Wilson

Titled after one of her most evocative poems, this shimmering bio of Sylvia Plath takes an unusual approach. Instead of focusing on her years of depression and tempestuous marriage to poet Ted Hughes, it chronicles her life before she ever came to Cambridge. Wilson closely examines her early family and relationships, feelings and experiences, with information taken from her meticulous diaries — setting a strong precedent for other Plath biographers to follow.

15. The Minds of Billy Milligan by Daniel Keyes

What if you had twenty-four different people living inside you, and you never knew which one was going to come out? Such was the life of Billy Milligan, the subject of this haunting biography by the author of Flowers for Algernon . Keyes recounts, in a refreshingly straightforward style, the events of Billy’s life and how his psyche came to be “split”... as well as how, with Keyes’ help, he attempted to put the fragments of himself back together.

16. Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder

This gorgeously constructed biography follows Paul Farmer, a doctor who’s worked for decades to eradicate infectious diseases around the globe, particularly in underprivileged areas. Though Farmer’s humanitarian accomplishments are extraordinary in and of themselves, the true charm of this book comes from Kidder’s personal relationship with him — and the sense of fulfillment the reader sustains from reading about someone genuinely heroic, written by someone else who truly understands and admires what they do.

17. Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts

Here’s another bio that will reshape your views of a famed historical tyrant, though this time in a surprisingly favorable light. Decorated scholar Andrew Roberts delves into the life of Napoleon Bonaparte, from his near-flawless military instincts to his complex and confusing relationship with his wife. But Roberts’ attitude toward his subject is what really makes this work shine: rather than ridiculing him ( as it would undoubtedly be easy to do ), he approaches the “petty tyrant” with a healthy amount of deference.

18. The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson IV by Robert A. Caro

Lyndon Johnson might not seem as intriguing or scandalous as figures like Kennedy, Nixon, or W. Bush. But in this expertly woven biography, Robert Caro lays out the long, winding road of his political career, and it’s full of twists you wouldn’t expect. Johnson himself was a surprisingly cunning figure, gradually maneuvering his way closer and closer to power. Finally, in 1963, he got his greatest wish — but at what cost? Fans of Adam McKay’s Vice , this is the book for you.

19. Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser

Anyone who grew up reading Little House on the Prairie will surely be fascinated by this tell-all biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Caroline Fraser draws upon never-before-published historical resources to create a lush study of the author’s life — not in the gently narrated manner of the Little House series, but in raw and startling truths about her upbringing, marriage, and volatile relationship with her daughter (and alleged ghostwriter) Rose Wilder Lane.

20. Prince: A Private View by Afshin Shahidi

Compiled just after the superstar’s untimely death in 2016, this intimate snapshot of Prince’s life is actually a largely visual work — Shahidi served as his private photographer from the early 2000s until his passing. And whatever they say about pictures being worth a thousand words, Shahidi’s are worth more still: Prince’s incredible vibrance, contagious excitement, and altogether singular personality come through in every shot.

21. Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss

Could there be a more fitting title for a book about the husband-wife team who discovered radioactivity? What you may not know is that these nuclear pioneers also had a fascinating personal history. Marie Sklodowska met Pierre Curie when she came to work in his lab in 1891, and just a few years later they were married. Their passion for each other bled into their passion for their work, and vice-versa — and in almost no time at all, they were on their way to their first of their Nobel Prizes.

22. Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson

She may not have been assassinated or killed in a mysterious plane crash, but Rosemary Kennedy’s fate is in many ways the worst of “the Kennedy Curse.” As if a botched lobotomy that left her almost completely incapacitated weren’t enough, her parents then hid her away from society, almost never to be seen again. Yet in this new biography, penned by devoted Kennedy scholar Kate Larson, the full truth of Rosemary’s post-lobotomy life is at last revealed.

23. Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford

This appropriately lyrical biography of brilliant Jazz Age poet and renowned feminist, Edna St. Vincent Millay, is indeed a perfect balance of savage and beautiful. While Millay’s poetic work was delicate and subtle, the woman herself was feisty and unpredictable, harboring unusual and occasionally destructive habits that Milford fervently explores.

24. Shelley: The Pursuit by Richard Holmes

Holmes’ famous philosophy of “biography as pursuit” is thoroughly proven here in his first full-length biographical work. Shelley: The Pursuit details an almost feverish tracking of Percy Shelley as a dark and cutting figure in the Romantic period — reforming many previous historical conceptions about him through Holmes’ compelling and resolute writing.

25. Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin

Another Gothic figure has been made newly known through this work, detailing the life of prolific horror and mystery writer Shirley Jackson. Author Ruth Franklin digs deep into the existence of the reclusive and mysterious Jackson, drawing penetrating comparisons between the true events of her life and the dark nature of her fiction.

26. The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel

Fans of Into the Wild and The Lost City of Z will find their next adventure fix in this 2017 book about Christopher Knight, a man who lived by himself in the Maine woods for almost thirty years. The tale of this so-called “last true hermit” will captivate readers who have always fantasized about escaping society, with vivid descriptions of Knight’s rural setup, his carefully calculated moves and how he managed to survive the deadly cold of the Maine winters.

27. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

The man, the myth, the legend: Steve Jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple, is properly immortalized in Isaacson’s masterful biography. It divulges the details of Jobs’ little-known childhood and tracks his fateful path from garage engineer to leader of one of the largest tech companies in the world — not to mention his formative role in other legendary companies like Pixar, and indeed within the Silicon Valley ecosystem as a whole.

28. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Olympic runner Louis Zamperini was just twenty-six when his US Army bomber crashed and burned in the Pacific, leaving him and two other men afloat on a raft for forty-seven days — only to be captured by the Japanese Navy and tortured as a POW for the next two and a half years. In this gripping biography, Laura Hillenbrand tracks Zamperini’s story from beginning to end… including how he embraced Christian evangelism as a means of recovery, and even came to forgive his tormentors in his later years.

29. Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) by Stacy Schiff

Everyone knows of Vladimir Nabokov — but what about his wife, Vera, whom he called “the best-humored woman I have ever known”? According to Schiff, she was a genius in her own right, supporting Vladimir not only as his partner, but also as his all-around editor and translator. And she kept up that trademark humor throughout it all, inspiring her husband’s work and injecting some of her own creative flair into it along the way.

30. Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt

William Shakespeare is a notoriously slippery historical figure — no one really knows when he was born, what he looked like, or how many plays he wrote. But that didn’t stop Stephen Greenblatt, who in 2004 turned out this magnificently detailed biography of the Bard: a series of imaginative reenactments of his writing process, and insights on how the social and political ideals of the time would have influenced him. Indeed, no one exists in a vacuum, not even Shakespeare — hence the conscious depiction of him in this book as a “will in the world,” rather than an isolated writer shut up in his own musty study.

If you're looking for more inspiring nonfiction, check out this list of 30 engaging self-help books , or this list of the last century's best memoirs !

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The 21 most captivating biographies of all time

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  • Biographies illuminate pivotal times and people in history. 
  • The biography books on this list are heavily researched and fascinating stories.
  • Want more books? Check out the best classics , historical fiction books , and new releases.

Insider Today

For centuries, books have allowed readers to be whisked away to magical lands, romantic beaches, and historical events. Biographies take readers through time to a single, remarkable life memorialized in gripping, dramatic, or emotional stories. They give us the rare opportunity to understand our heroes — or even just someone we would never otherwise know. 

To create this list, I chose biographies that were highly researched, entertainingly written, and offer a fully encompassing lens of a person whose story is important to know in 2021. 

The 21 best biographies of all time:

The biography of a beloved supreme court justice.

authors of biography books

"Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg" by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $16.25

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a Supreme Court Justice and feminist icon who spent her life fighting for gender equality and civil rights in the legal system. This is an inspirational biography that follows her triumphs and struggles, dissents, and quotes, packaged with chapters titled after Notorious B.I.G. tracks — a nod to the many memes memorializing Ginsburg as an iconic dissident. 

The startlingly true biography of a previously unknown woman

authors of biography books

"The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $8.06

Henrietta was a poor tobacco farmer, whose "immortal" cells have been used to develop the polio vaccine, study cancer, and even test the effects of an atomic bomb — despite being taken from her without her knowledge or consent. This biography traverses the unethical experiments on African Americans, the devastation of Henrietta Lacks' family, and the multimillion-dollar industry launched by the cells of a woman who lies somewhere in an unmarked grave.

The poignant biography of an atomic bomb survivor

authors of biography books

"A Song for Nagasaki: The Story of Takashi Nagai: Scientist, Convert, and Survivor of the Atomic Bomb" by Paul Glynn, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $16.51

Takashi Nagai was a survivor of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945. A renowned scientist and spiritual man, Nagai continued to live in his ruined city after the attack, suffering from leukemia while physically and spiritually helping his community heal. Takashi Nagai's life was dedicated to selfless service and his story is a deeply moving one of suffering, forgiveness, and survival.

The highly researched biography of Malcolm X

authors of biography books

"The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X" by Les Payne and Tamara Payne, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $18.99

Written by the investigative journalist Les Payne and finished by his daughter after his passing, Malcolm X's biography "The Dead are Arising" was written and researched over 30 years. This National Book Award and Pulitzer-winning biography uses vignettes to create an accurate, detailed, and gripping portrayal of the revolutionary minister and famous human rights activist. 

The remarkable biography of an Indigenous war leader

authors of biography books

"The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History" by Joseph M. Marshall III, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $14.99 

Crazy Horse was a legendary Lakota war leader, most famous for his role in the Battle of the Little Bighorn where Indigenous people defeated Custer's cavalry. A descendant of Crazy Horse's community, Joseph M. Marshall III drew from research and oral traditions that have rarely been shared but offer a powerful and culturally rich story of this acclaimed Lakota hero.

The captivating biography about the cofounder of Apple

authors of biography books

"Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $16.75

Steve Jobs is a cofounder of Apple whose inventiveness reimagined technology and creativity in the 21st century. Water Issacson draws from 40 interviews with Steve Jobs, as well as interviews with over 100 of his family members and friends to create an encompassing and fascinating portrait of such an influential man.

The shocking biography of a woman committed to an insane asylum

authors of biography books

"The Woman They Could Not Silence: One Woman, Her Incredible Fight for Freedom, and the Men Who Tried to Make Her Disappear" by Kate Moore, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $22.49

This biography is about Elizabeth Packard, a woman who was committed to an asylum in 1860 by her husband for being an outspoken woman and wife. Her story illuminates the conditions inside the hospital and the sinister ways of caretakers, an unfortunately true history that reflects the abuses suffered by many women of the time.

The defining biography of a formerly enslaved man

authors of biography books

"Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo" by Zora Neale Hurston, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $12.79

50 years after the Atlantic slave trade was outlawed in the United States, Cudjo Lewis was captured, enslaved, and transported to the US. In 1931, the author spent three months with Cudjo learning the details of his life beginning in Africa, crossing the Middle Passage, and his years enslaved before the Civil War. This biography offers a first-hand account of this unspoken piece of painful history.

The biography of a famous Mexican painter

authors of biography books

"Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo" by Hayden Herrera, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $24.89

Filled with a wealth of her life experiences, this biography of Frida Kahlo conveys her intelligence, strength, and artistry in a cohesive timeline. The book spans her childhood during the Mexican Revolution, the terrible accident that changed her life, and her passionate relationships, all while intertwining her paintings and their histories through her story.

The exciting biography of Susan Sontag

authors of biography books

"Sontag: Her Life and Work" by Benjamin Moser, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $20.24

Susan Sontag was a 20th-century writer, essayist, and cultural icon with a dark reputation. Drawing on hundreds of interviews, archived works, and photographs, this biography extends across Sontag's entire life while reading like an emotional and exciting literary drama.

The biography that inspired a hit musical

authors of biography books

"Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $11.04

The inspiration for the similarly titled Broadway musical, this comprehensive biography of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton aims to tell the story of his decisions, sacrifice, and patriotism that led to many political and economic effects we still see today. In this history, readers encounter Hamilton's childhood friends, his highly public affair, and his dreams of American prosperity. 

The award-winning biography of an artistically influential man

authors of biography books

"The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke" by Jeffrey C Stewart, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $25.71

Alain Locke was a writer, artist, and theorist who is known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. Outlining his personal and private life, Alain Locke's biography is a blooming image of his art, his influences, and the far-reaching ways he promoted African American artistic and literary creations.

The remarkable biography of Ida B. Wells

authors of biography books

"Ida: A Sword Among Lions" by Paula J. Giddings, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $15.99

This award-winning biography of Ida B. Wells is adored for its ability to celebrate Ida's crusade of activism and simultaneously highlight the racially driven abuses legally suffered by Black women in America during her lifetime. Ida traveled the country, exposing and opposing lynchings by reporting on the horrific acts and telling the stories of victims' communities and families. 

The tumultuous biography that radiates queer hope

authors of biography books

"The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk" by Randy Shilts, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $11.80

Harvey Milk was the first openly gay elected official in California who was assassinated after 11 months in office. Harvey's inspirational biography is set against the rise of LGBTQIA+ activism in the 1970s, telling not only Harvey Milk's story but that of hope and perseverance in the queer community. 

The biography of a determined young woman

authors of biography books

"Obachan: A Young Girl's Struggle for Freedom in Twentieth-Century Japan" by Tani Hanes, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $9.99

Written by her granddaughter, this biography of Mitsuko Hanamura is an amazing journey of an extraordinary and strong young woman. In 1929, Mitsuko was sent away to live with relatives at 13 and, at 15, forced into labor to help her family pay their debts. Determined to gain an education as well as her independence, Mitsuko's story is inspirational and emotional as she perseveres against abuse. 

The biography of an undocumented mother

authors of biography books

"The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez: A Border Story" by Aaron Bobrow-Strain, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $18.40

Born in Mexico and growing up undocumented in Arizona, Aida Hernandez was a teen mother who dreamed of moving to New York. After being deported and separated from her child, Aida found herself back in Mexico, fighting to return to the United States and reunite with her son. This suspenseful biography follows Aida through immigration courts and detention centers on her determined journey that illuminates the flaws of the United States' immigration and justice systems.

The astounding biography of an inspiring woman

authors of biography books

"The Black Rose: The Dramatic Story of Madam C.J. Walker, America's First Black Female Millionaire" by Tananarive Due, available on Amazon for $19

Madam C.J. Walker is most well-known as the first Black female millionaire, though she was also a philanthropist, entrepreneur, and born to former slaves in Louisiana. Researched and outlined by famous writer Alex Haley before his death, the book was written by author Tananarive Due, who brings Haley's work to life in this fascinating biography of an outstanding American pioneer.

A biography of the long-buried memories of a Hiroshima survivor

authors of biography books

"Surviving Hiroshima: A Young Woman's Story" by Anthony Drago and Douglas Wellman, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $15.59

When Kaleria Palichikoff was a child, her family fled Russia for the safety of Japan until the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima when she was 22 years old. Struggling to survive in the wake of unimaginable devastation, Kaleria set out to help victims and treat the effects of radiation. As one of the few English-speaking survivors, Kaleria was interviewed extensively by the US Army and was finally able to make a new life for herself in America after the war.

A shocking biography of survival during World War II

authors of biography books

"Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival" by Laura Hillenbrand, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $8.69

During World War II, Louis Zamperini was a lieutenant bombardier who crashed into the Pacific Ocean in 1943. Struggling to stay alive, Zamperini pulled himself to a life raft where he would face great trials of starvation, sharks, and enemy aircraft. This biography creates an image of Louis from boyhood to his military service and depicts a historical account of atrocities during World War II.  

The comprehensive biography of an infamous leader

authors of biography books

"Mao: The Unknown Story" by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $15.39

Mao was a Chinese leader, a founder of the People's Republic of China, and a nearly 30-year chairman of the Chinese Communist Party until his death in 1976. Known as a highly controversial figure who would stop at very little in his plight to rule the world, the author spent nearly 10 years painstakingly researching and uncovering the painful truths surrounding his political rule.

The emotional biography of a Syrian refugee

authors of biography books

"A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: One Refugee's Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival" by Melissa Fleming, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $15.33

When Syrian refugee Doaa met Bassem, they decided to flee Egypt for Europe, becoming two of thousands seeking refuge and making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean. After four days at sea, their ship was attacked and sank, leaving Doaa struggling to survive with two small children clinging to her and only a small inflation device around her wrist. This is an emotional biography about Doaa's strength and her dangerous and deadly journey towards freedom.

authors of biography books

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Writing Your Author Bio? Here Are 20 Great Examples. (Plus a Checklist!)

October 15, 2020 by Diana Urban

Author Bio Examples

Writing your author bio can be a daunting task, but a well-crafted bio can help readers learn more about what makes you and your books so interesting. You should regularly maintain your bio on places like your BookBub Author Profile so fans and potential readers seeking you out can learn more about you and why they should pick up your latest book.

Stuck on what to include? While there is no one-size-fits-all formula, here are some examples of author bios we love so you can get some inspiration when crafting your own bio. We’ve also created an Author Biography Checklist with recommendations on what to include, as well as where to keep your author bio up to date online.

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1. Ramona Emerson

Ramona Emerson is a Diné writer and filmmaker originally from Tohatchi, New Mexico. She has a bachelor’s in Media Arts from the University of New Mexico and an MFA in Creative Writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts. After starting in forensic videography, she embarked upon a career as a photographer, writer, and editor. She is an Emmy nominee, a Sundance Native Lab Fellow, a Time-Warner Storyteller Fellow, a Tribeca All-Access Grantee and a WGBH Producer Fellow. In 2020, Emerson was appointed to the Governor’s Council on Film and Media Industries for the State of New Mexico. She currently resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she and her husband, the producer Kelly Byars, run their production company Reel Indian Pictures. Shutter is her first novel.

Why we love it: Ramona makes a splash as a new author by detailing her extensive experience in both writing and filmmaking. Her background makes an effective setup for her debut novel about a forensic photographer.

2. Courtney Milan

Courtney Milan writes books about carriages, corsets, and smartwatches. Her books have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly , Library Journal , and Booklist . She is a New York Times and a USA Today Bestseller. Courtney pens a weekly newsletter about tea, books, and basically anything and everything else. Sign up for it here: https://bit.ly/CourtneysTea Before she started writing romance, Courtney got a graduate degree in theoretical physical chemistry from UC Berkeley. After that, just to shake things up, she went to law school at the University of Michigan and graduated summa cum laude. Then she did a handful of clerkships. She was a law professor for a while. She now writes full-time. Courtney is represented by Kristin Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency.

Why we love it: Courtney concisely leads with her accolades and bestseller status before diving into more personal information with a witty tone. She also includes a call-to-action for readers to sign up to Weekly Tea, one of her mailing lists.

3. Adam Silvera

Adam Silvera is the number one New York Times bestselling author of More Happy Than Not , History Is All You Left Me , They Both Die at the End , Infinity Son , Infinity Reaper , and—with Becky Albertalli— What If It’s Us . He was named a Publishers Weekly Flying Start for his debut. Adam was born and raised in the Bronx. He was a bookseller before shifting to children’s publishing and has worked at a literary development company and a creative writing website for teens and as a book reviewer of children’s and young adult novels. He is tall for no reason and lives in Los Angeles. Visit him online at www.adamsilvera.com .

Why we love it: Adam begins his bio with his bestseller accolades and a list of his popular titles. But we especially love how he also includes his previous experience in children’s literature. It’s a fantastic way an author can craft a unique and credible bio using information besides accolades or bestseller status.

4. Farrah Rochon

USA Today Bestselling author Farrah Rochon hails from a small town just west of New Orleans. She has garnered much acclaim for her Crescent City-set Holmes Brothers series and her Moments in Maplesville small town series. Farrah is a two-time finalist for the prestigious RITA Award from the Romance Writers of America and has been nominated for an RT BOOKReviews Reviewers Choice Award. In 2015, she received the Emma Award for Author of the Year. When she is not writing in her favorite coffee shop, Farrah spends most of her time reading, cooking, traveling the world, visiting Walt Disney World, and catching her favorite Broadway shows. An admitted sports fanatic, she feeds her addiction to football by watching New Orleans Saints games on Sunday afternoons. Keep in touch with Farrah via the web: Website: https://www.farrahrochon.com/ Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/farrahrochonauthor Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/FarrahRochon Instagram: https://instagram.com/farrahrochon/ Newsletter: http://bit.ly/2povjuZ Join my online Fan Club, the Rochonettes! https://www.facebook.com/groups/FarrahRochon/ Farrah’s Books In Order: The Holmes Brothers Deliver Me (Mar. 2007) Release Me (May 2008) Rescue Me (Jan. 2009) Chase Me (Jan. 2017) Trust Me (May 2017) Awaken Me (Jan. 2018) Cherish Me (Jun. 2018) Return To Me (Aug. 2019) New York Sabers Huddle With Me Tonight (Sept. 2010) I’ll Catch You (Mar. 2011) Field of Pleasure (Sept. 2011) Pleasure Rush (Mar. 2012) Bayou Dreams A Forever Kind of Love (Aug. 2012) Always and Forever (Jan. 2013) Yours Forever (Mar. 2014) Forever’s Promise (Apr. 2014) Forever With You (Feb. 2015) Stay With Me Forever (Aug. 2015) Moments in Maplesville A Perfect Holiday Fling (Nov. 2012) A Little Bit Naughty (Mar. 2013) Just A Little Taste (Jan. 2014) I Dare You! (Nov. 2014) All You Can Handle (June 2015) Any Way You Want It (Feb. 2016) Any Time You Need Me (June 2016) Standalones In Her Wildest Dreams (Jan. 2012) The Rebound Guy (July 2012) Delectable Desire (Apr. 2013) Runaway Attraction (Nov. 2013) A Mistletoe Affari (Nov. 2014) Passion’s Song (Feb. 2016) Mr. Right Next Door (Sept. 2016) Anthologies A Change of Heart (The Holiday Inn Anthology – Sept. 2008) No Ordinary Gift (Holiday Brides Anthology – Oct. 2009) Holiday Spice (Holiday Temptation Anthology – Sept. 2016) Christmas Kisses (Reissue–Contains Tuscan Nights and Second-Chance Christmas previously published by Harlequin Kimani

Why we love it: Farrah packs a lot of information into that first paragraph, elegantly describing the awards she’s received and has been nominated for. We also love how she makes it easy for readers to find her on whichever social media platform they prefer and to discover which book to start with for each series.

5. Angie Fox

New York Times bestselling author Angie Fox writes sweet, fun, action-packed mysteries. Her characters are clever and fearless, but in real life, Angie is afraid of basements, bees, and going up stairs when it is dark behind her. Let’s face it. Angie wouldn’t last five minutes in one of her books. Angie is best known for her Southern Ghost Hunter mysteries and for her Accidental Demon Slayer books. Visit her at www.angiefox.com

Why we love it: We love how Angie distinguishes herself from her characters, making herself relatable to readers. She also mentions her bestseller status and best-known works in a humble way.

6. Tiffany D. Jackson

Tiffany D. Jackson is the critically acclaimed author of Allegedly , Monday’s Not Coming , and Let Me Hear a Rhyme . A Walter Dean Myers Honor Book and Coretta Scott King–John Steptoe New Talent Award winner, she received her bachelor of arts in film from Howard University, earned her master of arts in media studies from the New School, and has over a decade in TV and film experience. The Brooklyn native still resides in the borough she loves. You can visit her at www.writeinbk.com .

Why we love it: This is an excellent example of a short, concise bio — a perfect snippet for journalists, bloggers, or event coordinators who need to grab Tiffany’s bio for their article or programming.

7. Kwame Alexander

Kwame Alexander is the New York Times Bestselling author of 32 books, including The Undefeated ; How to Read a Book ; Solo ; Swing ; Rebound , which was shortlisted for prestigious Carnegie Medal; and his Newbery medal-winning middle grade novel, The Crossover . He’s also the founding editor of Versify, an imprint that aims to Change the World One Word at a Time. Visit him at KwameAlexander.com

Why we love it: We adore how Kwame calls out his aim to “change the world one word at a time” along with a handful of his best-known books. Short and sweet!

8. Glynnis Campbell

For deals, steals, and new releases from Glynnis, click FOLLOW on this BookBub page! Glynnis Campbell is a USA Today bestselling author of over two dozen swashbuckling action-adventure historical romances, mostly set in Scotland, and a charter member of The Jewels of Historical Romance — 12 internationally beloved authors. She’s the wife of a rock star and the mother of two young adults, but she’s also been a ballerina, a typographer, a film composer, a piano player, a singer in an all-girl rock band, and a voice in those violent video games you won’t let your kids play. Doing her best writing on cruise ships, in Scottish castles, on her husband’s tour bus, and at home in her sunny southern California garden, Glynnis loves to play medieval matchmaker… transporting readers to a place where the bold heroes have endearing flaws, the women are stronger than they look, the land is lush and untamed, and chivalry is alive and well! Want a FREE BOOK? Sign up for her newsletter at https://www.glynnis.net Tag along on her latest adventures here: Website: https://www.glynnis.net Facebook: bit.ly/GCReadersClan Goodreads: bit.ly/GlynnisGoodreads Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/GlynnisCampbell Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/GlynnisCampbell Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/GlynnisCampbell BOOK LIST: The Warrior Maids of Rivenloch: THE SHIPWRECK A YULETIDE KISS LADY DANGER CAPTIVE HEART KNIGHT’S PRIZE The Warrior Daughters of Rivenloch: THE STORMING A RIVENLOCH CHRISTMAS BRIDE OF FIRE BRIDE OF ICE BRIDE OF MIST The Knights of de Ware: THE HANDFASTING MY CHAMPION MY WARRIOR MY HERO Medieval Outlaws: THE REIVER DANGER’S KISS PASSION’S EXILE DESIRE’S RANSOM Scottish Lasses: THE OUTCAST MacFARLAND’S LASS MacADAM’S LASS MacKENZIE’S LASS California Legends: THE STOWAWAY NATIVE GOLD NATIVE WOLF NATIVE HAWK

Why we love it: Like other authors, Glynnis leads with her bestseller status, but not before making sure readers know to follow her on BookBub! We like how her personality shines through in her all-caps calls to action and that she includes the characteristics of her books in a fun way so readers will know what to expect from her work.

9. Laurelin Paige

Laurelin Paige is the NY Times , Wall Street Journal , and USA Today bestselling author of the Fixed Trilogy . She’s a sucker for a good romance and gets giddy anytime there’s kissing, much to the embarrassment of her three daughters. Her husband doesn’t seem to complain, however. When she isn’t reading or writing sexy stories, she’s probably singing, watching edgy black comedy on Netflix or dreaming of Michael Fassbender. She’s also a proud member of Mensa International though she doesn’t do anything with the organization except use it as material for her bio. You can connect with Laurelin on Facebook at facebook.com/LaurelinPaige or on twitter @laurelinpaige. You can also visit her website, laurelinpaige.com , to sign up for emails about new releases. Subscribers also receive a free book from a different bestselling author every month.

Why we love it: We love Laurelin’s bio because she lets her fun personality shine through! She also includes information about a monthly giveaway she runs through her mailing list, which is enticing and unique.

10. Mia Sosa

Mia Sosa is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance and romantic comedies. Her books have received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly , Kirkus Reviews , Booklist , and Library Journal , and have been praised by Cosmopolitan , The Washington Post , Buzzfeed , Entertainment Weekly , and more. Book Riot included her debut, Unbuttoning the CEO , in its list of 100 Must-Read Romantic Comedies, and Booklist recently called her “the new go-to author for fans of sassy and sexy contemporary romances.” A former First Amendment and media lawyer, Mia practiced for more than a decade before trading her suits for loungewear (okay, okay, they’re sweatpants). Now she strives to write fun and flirty stories about imperfect characters finding their perfect match. Mia lives in Maryland with her husband, their two daughters, and an adorable dog that rules them all. For more information about Mia and her books, visit www.miasosa.com .

Why we love it: This is such a well-constructed bio, with a paragraph for each (1) listing accolades and praise from trade reviews, (2) including a blurb about Mia’s overall author brand, (3) describing her previous work experience and how she became an author, and (4) sharing personal information and directing readers to where they could learn more.

11. Aiden Thomas

Aiden Thomas is a trans, Latinx, New York Times Bestselling Author with an MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College. Originally from Oakland, California, they now make their home in Portland, OR. Aiden is notorious for not being able to guess the endings of books and movies, and organizes their bookshelves by color. Their books include Cemetery Boys and Lost in the Never Woods .

Why we love it: A well-known advocate of diverse books, Aiden leads with their identity markers to connect right away with readers of similar identities. The rest of their concise bio fits information about their bestseller status, education, location, personality, and popular titles into just a few short sentences!

12. Wayne Stinnett

Wayne Stinnett is an American novelist and Veteran of the United States Marine Corps. Between those careers, he’s worked as a deckhand, commercial fisherman, divemaster, taxi driver, construction manager, and over the road truck driver, among many other things. He now lives on a sea island, in the South Carolina Lowcountry, with his wife and youngest daughter. They also have three grown children, five grand children, three dogs and a whole flock of parakeets. Stinnett grew up in Melbourne, Florida and has also lived in the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, and Cozumel, Mexico. His next dream is to one day visit and dive Cuba.

Why we love it: What better way to introduce an author of novels about travel, seafaring, and military adventures than to share his first-hand experiences! By weaving in relevant professional background and a glimpse of his home life by the sea, Wayne demonstrates deep knowledge of his subjects to his readers, as well as connecting with them on a personal level by describing his family and goals for the future.

13. June Hur

June Hur was born in South Korea and raised in Canada, except for the time when she moved back to Korea and attended high school there. She studied History and Literature at the University of Toronto. She began writing her debut novel after obsessing over books about Joseon Korea. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering through nature or journaling at a coffee shop. June is the bestselling author of The Silence of Bones , The Forest of Stolen Girls , and The Red Palace , and currently lives in Toronto with her husband and daughter.

Why we love it: We love how June includes her background and what inspired her writing. Sharing a story’s origins is a wonderful way to meaningfully connect with readers.

14. Claire Delacroix

Bestselling author Claire Delacroix published her first medieval romance in 1993. Since then, she has published over seventy romance novels and numerous novellas, including time travel romances, contemporary romances and paranormal romances. The Beauty , part of her successful Bride Quest series, was her first book to land on the New York Times list of bestselling books. Claire has written under the name Claire Cross and continues to write as Deborah Cooke as well as Claire Delacroix. Claire makes her home in Canada with her family, a large undisciplined garden and a growing number of incomplete knitting projects. Sign up for Claire’s monthly medieval romance newsletter at: https://view.flodesk.com/pages/622ca9849b7136a9e313df83 Visit Claire’s website to find out more about her books at http://delacroix.net

Why we love it: While Claire has an extensive backlist, she succinctly describes her publishing success and subgenres. She also includes all of her pen names so readers can easily find her, no matter which name they’re looking for.

15. Vanessa Riley

Vanessa Riley writes Historical Fiction and Historical Romance (Georgian, Regency, & Victorian) featuring hidden histories, dazzling multi-culture communities, and strong sisterhoods. She promises to pull heart strings, offer a few laughs, and share tidbits of tantalizing history. This Southern, Irish, Trini (West Indies) girl holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering and a MS in industrial engineering and engineering management from Stanford University. She also earned a BS and MS in mechanical engineering from Penn State University. Yet, her love of history and lattes have overwhelmed her passion for math, leading to the publication of over 20+ titles. She loves writing on her southern porch with proper caffeine.

Why we love it: Vanessa launches into her bio by sharing the specific time periods she writes in, as well as the diverse characters and emotions her readers can look forward to, appealing directly to her ideal audience . She then shares a bit of personal info, leaving readers with an image of her in her element: writing on a porch while sipping tea.

16. April White

April White has been a film producer, private investigator, bouncer, teacher and screenwriter. She has climbed in the Himalayas, survived a shipwreck, and lived on a gold mine in the Yukon. She and her husband share their home in Southern California with two extraordinary boys and a lifetime collection of books. Her first novel, Marking Time , is the 2016 winner of the Library Journal Indie E-Book Award for YA Literature, and her contemporary romantic suspense, Code of Conduct , was a Next Generation Indie Award and RONE Award Finalist. All five books in the Immortal Descendants series are on the Amazon Top 100 lists in Time Travel Romance and Historical Fantasy. More information and her blog can be found at www.aprilwhitebooks.com .

Why we love it: April’s bio is short and sweet, but is packed with interesting information. She was a private investigator and survived a shipwreck? How can you not want to learn more about this author? She also elegantly includes her books’ status and subgenre in the last paragraph, along with a call-to-action for readers to learn more.

17. Julia Quinn

#1 New York Times bestselling author Julia Quinn loves to dispel the myth that smart women don’t read (or write) romance, and if you watch reruns of the game show The Weakest Link you might just catch her winning the $79,000 jackpot. She displayed a decided lack of knowledge about baseball, country music, and plush toys, but she is proud to say that she aced all things British and literary, answered all of her history and geography questions correctly, and knew that there was a Da Vinci long before there was a code. On December 25, 2020, Netflix premiered Bridgerton , based on her popular series of novels about the Bridgerton family. Find her on the web at www.juliaquinn.com .

Why we love it: Julia takes a unique approach, making her bio more voicey and focused on her interests. Yet she keeps it up to date, including her latest news in the last sentence (above the call-to-action).

18. Rick Mofina

USA Today bestselling author Rick Mofina is a former journalist who has interviewed murderers on death row, flown over L.A. with the LAPD and patrolled with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police near the Arctic. He’s also reported from the Caribbean, Africa and Kuwait’s border with Iraq. His books have been published in nearly 30 countries, including an illegal translation produced in Iran. His work has been praised by James Patterson, Dean Koontz, Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Tess Gerritsen, Jeffery Deaver, Sandra Brown, James Rollins, Brad Thor, Nick Stone, David Morrell, Allison Brennan, Heather Graham, Linwood Barclay, Peter Robinson, Håkan Nesser and Kay Hooper. The Crime Writers of Canada, The International Thriller Writers and The Private Eye Writers of America have listed his titles among the best in crime fiction. As a two-time winner of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award, a four-time Thriller Award finalist and a two-time Shamus Award finalist, the Library Journal calls him, “One of the best thriller writers in the business.” Join Rick Mofina’s newsletter from his website and receive a free eBook! You can also find Rick Mofina’s new exclusive serialized thriller, The Dying Light , by subscribing to Radish Fiction com For more information please visit www.rickmofina.com https://www.facebook.com/rickmofina or follow Rick on Twitter @Rick Mofina

Why we love it: Including Rick’s first-hand experiences as a journalist lends him credibility in his genres of Crime Fiction and Thrillers. He also includes a list of well-known authors who have praised his work, and these endorsements may encourage those authors’ fans to give Rick a try. The free ebook offer effectively sweetens the deal!

19. J.T. Ellison

J.T. Ellison is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 25 novels, and the EMMY® award winning co-host of the literary TV show A Word on Words . She also writes urban fantasy under the pen name Joss Walker. With millions of books in print, her work has won critical acclaim, prestigious awards, been optioned for television, and has been published in 28 countries. J.T. lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens, where she is hard at work on her next novel.

Why we love it: This is a great example of a concise bio suitable for use in any blog or publication. J.T. keeps to just the essential ingredients of a professional author bio: accolades, genres, experience, and a bit of what she’s up to today for a personal touch.

20. James S.A. Corey

James S.A. Corey is the pen name for a collaboration between Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. James is Daniel’s middle name, Corey is Ty’s middle name, and S.A. are Daniel’s daughter’s initials. James’ current project is a series of science fiction novels called The Expanse Series. They are also the authors of Honor Among Thieves: Star Wars (Empire and Rebellion).

Why we love it: We love co-author bios that reveal how the duo came up with their pseudonym as a fun fact for readers! We also like that the reminder of this bio simply points readers straight to their buzziest works.

Want to share this post? Here are ready-made tweets:

Click to tweet: If you’re writing your author bio, these examples are so helpful! #writetip #pubtip http://bit.ly/1OSBcDO

Click to tweet: Make sure to keep your author bio updated! Here are some great bio examples, PLUS a printable checklist of what to include and where to keep it up to date. #amwriting http://bit.ly/1OSBcDO

This post was originally published on October 15 2015 and has been updated with new examples and a PDF checklist!

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50 Must-Read Literary Biographies

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Sarah Ullery

Sarah suffers from chronic sarcasm, and an unhealthy aversion to noise. She loves to read, and would like to do nothing else, but stupid real life makes her go to work. She lives in the middle of a cornfield and shares a house with two spoiled dogs and a ton of books.

View All posts by Sarah Ullery

I live vicariously through the lives and stories of the writers I love and admire. Sometimes I read biographies of authors whose lives parallel aspects of my own; small lives that eventually produce great art. Lives like Jane Austen and Emily Dickinson, or Penelope Fitzgerald who didn’t write her first book until she was 58.

I like to read biographies that share a commonality with my own life, but like the best fiction, I’d rather be transported to worlds with characters that are larger than life. Lives that are tumultuous, scandal-ridden, and full of perils. Lives that are exciting and rich and full of conflict. Lives that produce stories like Native Son , The Bell Jar, Lolita , A Rage in Harlem , or Frankenstein .

I also like to read about the lives of the authors of some of my favorite books—Iris Murdoch and The Sea, The Sea , Philip K. Dick and A Scanner Darkly , Mary Shelley and Frankenstein , Penelope Fitzgerald and The Blue Flower— but this can be a perilous exercise. Some authors were pretty terrible people, which can ruin your perception of their writing. But like most of us, artists and writers lived lives rife with nuance, and through even-handed, well-researched biographies, readers can take a peek into the minds that have created some of the stories we love.

The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism by Megan Marshall

The supposed “American Brontës,” the three Peabody sisters influenced the thinking of writers like Thoreau and Hawthorne. The youngest sister, Sophia, married Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Margaret Fuller: A New American Life by Megan Marshall

After you finish the story of the Peabody sisters and are searching for more stories about American Romanticism and the role women played in the literary scene at the time, pick up Megan Marshall’s other book, about Margaret Fuller.

The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes  by Janet Malcolm

This is a biography of the biographies that have been written about Sylvia Plath. It tries to correct the myth surrounding Plath and Ted Hughes.

Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon

Mary Wollstonecraft died a week after giving birth to Mary Shelley, but in many ways, despite not knowing each other, their lives were very alike. A wonderful book about the mother who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women  and the daughter who wrote Frankenstein .

Neruda: The Poet’s Calling by Mark Eisner

A Biography of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda:

“In this part of the story I am the one who Dies, the only one, and I will die of love because I love you, Because I love you, Love, in fire and blood . “ —from Pablo Neruda’s “I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You”

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight

This is the most recent biography of Frederick Douglass. It’s a wonderfully rendered story of a complex and brilliant man who greatly influenced American history.

Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father by John Matteson

I’m not a huge fan of Little Women — I find Louisa May Alcott’s life much more interesting than her writing.

Genet: A Biography of Janet Flanner by Brenda Wineapple

Genet is the pen name for Janet Flanner, a woman who fled her home in Indianapolis at 30 to live with her girlfriend in Paris in the 1920s. While in Paris, she became a correspondent for the New Yorker .

Warrior Poet: A Biography of Audre Lorde by Alexis De Veaux

Audre Lorde did not live a quiet life, and this biography relishes in the myth and power of Lorde as an early black lesbian feminist.

Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) by Stacy Schiff

What was it like to be married to the author of Lolita ? The story of Vera and Vladimir Nabokov was a love story that spanned 52 years. Stacy Schiff, if you’ve never read any of her other biographies, is a master.

Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow: The Tragic Courtship and Marriage of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Alice Ruth Moore by Eleanor Alexander

This has all the bad: racism, sexism, abuse, sexual assault—so I warned you! It’s a hard story. I hesitate to call it a romance—maybe there was love, but the relationship between Dunbar and Moore was definitely not stable. This is a relatively short biography, but it certainly packs a punch!

The Blue Hour: A Life of Jean Rhys by Lilian Pizzichini

I’ve always been hesitant to read Jean Rhys’s most famous book,  Wide Sargasso Sea , because I’ve always loved Jane Eyre . But recently I picked up Jane Eyre for a reread and I thought, God, Rochester is an ass. Maybe it’s time for Wide Sargasso Sea .

Chester B. Himes: A Biography by Lawrence P. Jackson

Chester B. Himes is probably most famous for his crime noir series the Harlem Cycle , which starts with A Rage in Harlem . Himes was arrested for armed robbery and spent almost ten years in prison, but while in prison his articles were featured in publications like Esquire . Plagued by racism in America, Himes moved to Paris where he became famous for his Harlem series.

Mary Shelley by Miranda Seymour

Mary Shelley was the daughter of the feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, and wife to the poet Percy Shelley, who drowned when she was only 24. The idea for Frankenstein was born on a stormy night as a group of writers were telling scary stories.

James Baldwin: A Biography by David A. Leeming

David Leeming was friends with Baldwin for 25 years before writing his biography. This is a wonderful glimpse into the life of one of the preeminent voices of African American literature in the world.

Born to be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey by Mark Dery

A man who created creepy comics and lived with a horde of cats and thousands of books automatically sounds sounds like the kind of person whose biography I want to read.

Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy by Carolyn Burke

Both a poet and visual artist, Mina Loy moved in the most influential circles of her time. She bumped shoulders with Gertrude Stein, Man Ray, and Marcel Duchamp—to name a few.

Rebecca West: A Life by Victoria Glendinning

A great selling point for a biography is when the subject is described as a sexual rebel. I’m also a sucker for a story about a dysfunctional English family, which Rebecca West famously wrote with The Fountain Overflows .

The Brontë Myth by Lucasta Miller

Okay, I’d rather read about the Wollstonecrafts/Shelleys, or the Peabodys, because I think the Brontës are a bit overrated…but like the Plath biography, which was a biography of her biographies, this book tries to demystify the myth that surrounds the Brontës.

Anaïs Nin: A Biography by Deirdre Bair

Best known for her sexual exploits, diaries, and relationships with leading intellectuals of her time, Anaïs Nin was more than the sum total of her famous idiosyncrasies.

Simone de Beauvoir: A Biography by Deirdre Bair

A biography collected from conversations with de Beauvoir, who’s best known for her philosophical writing on existentialism and her relationship with Jean Paul Sartre.

Virginia Woolf by Hermione Lee

A well balanced biography about a woman whose life is as well known as her books; still, you’ll find some tidbits in this biography that you’ve probably never known, and might come to see Woolf in a new light—for better or worse. Hermione Lee is a master biographer.

Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector

A writer whose work has seen a resurgence in recent years—Clarice Lispector was born in post–War World I Ukraine, and emigrated to Brazil in her early years. Her writing and life is steeped in mysticism.

Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray by Rosalind Rosenberg

It’s hard to find biographies about black female writers. Especially writers from the 20th and 19th centuries. Jane Crow was a lawyer, writer, and civil rights crusader. She’s an example of a woman we should know more about.

Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor by Brad Gooch

I wish there were more biographies about Flannery O’Connor, the master of the short story. This is a good biography, but I want more.

How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at An Answer by Sarah Bakewell

Four hundred years ago Montaigne wrote The Essays , where he tried to answer the universal question: How to live? This biography explores his questions and answers in a historical context.

Ralph Ellison: A Biography by Arnold Rampersand

A wonderfully in-depth story of Ralph Ellison’s life. He was born in 1913 in the south and moved to New York City in 1936. He had a grandiose personality that was sometimes at odds with other writers and politically active intellectuals of his time.

A Life of Langston Hughes: Volume I: 1902–1941, I, Too, Sing America by Arnold Rampersad

Langston Hughes’s life is told in three volumes. The first relates Hughes’s early years as he traveled the world.

Edith Wharton by Hermione Lee

I own this book. It’s HUGE. I bought it after reading Edna St. Vincent Millay’s biography in which it is mentioned that Edith Wharton was in Paris at the same time as Millay. But while Millay struggled at times with finances, Wharton was born to privilege.

Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston by Valerie Boyd

In high school we had to choose a book from a list of 100 American classics to read every month. Their Eyes Were Watching God was the best book I read from that list. Zora Neale Hurston’s life was fascinating.

I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick by Emmanuel Carrère

A Scanner Darkly is a favorite book. A life as strange as the stories he wrote: “ It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane .”

Richard Wright: The Life and Times by Hazel Rowley

This powerful story about the author of Native Son weaves Wright’s own writing and quotations into the biography.

The Life of Emily Dickinson by Richard B. Sewall

There are a lot of biographies of Emily Dickinson, but this is my choice.

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life by Hermione Lee

Penelope Fitzgerald was nearly 60 before publishing her first book, which makes me love her. She’s best known for writing The Blue Flower , The Bookshop , and Offshore .

Katherine Anne Porter: The Life of an Artist by Darlene Harbour Unrue

“Pale Horse, Pale Rider” is one of my favorite short stories. A woman is in bed with a fever during the influenza epidemic, and in her fever she remembers her childhood, and worries about her fiancé who is a soldier fighting in the first world war. The author, Katherine Anne Porter, lived a life that was no less compelling.

Zelda by Nancy Milford

A woman driven mad by her husband’s lecherous appropriation of her personality and writing. Confession: I’m not a huge fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald, so it doesn’t pain me to discover he was a jerk.

Iris Murdoch: A Life by Peter J. Conradi

The Sea, The Sea is one of my favorite books. Charles Arrowby is absurd, frustrating, and totally realized as a man coming to the end of his life, but fighting like hell to delay the breakdown into old age. Iris Murdoch at first imagined herself to be the next George Eliot, but ended up embracing Dostoevsky’s influence.

Poet of the Appetites: The Lives and Loves of M.F.K. Fisher by Joan Reardon

Fisher wrote extensively about her own life in memoirs like The Gastronomical Me and  How to Cook a Wolf , in which she writes about food and its relationship with life and love.

Alice Walker: A Life by Evelyn C. White

Alice Walker was the first black woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Color Purple . This might be the only biography on the list whose subject is still alive, which brings a new dynamic to the biography.

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin

Your life can’t be all rainbows and unicorns if you’re writing stories like The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle .  This is a biography about the woman, the books, and the times in which they existed.

The Banished Immortal: A Life of Li Bai by Ha Jin

Li Bai was a Chinese poet who lived a long, long time ago, but whose work and legacy is still greatly revered today in China.

Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford

My favorite literary biography. Edna St. Vincent Millay was fashioned as a modern Sappho, and a holdover of Victorian era poets like Elizabeth Barrett Browning. But despite her writing style, her personal life was very modern.

Gellhorn: A Twentieth-Century Life by Caroline Moorehead

The life of the illustrious war correspondent Martha Gellhorn who reported from the frontlines of most of the biggest wars of the 20th century. A fascinating figure.

Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry by Imani Perry

Best known for her play  A Raisin in the Sun , Lorraine Hansberry counted James Baldwin and Nina Simone as friends. She was a prominent voice in the civil rights movement, she joined one of the first lesbian organizations, and challenged JFK to take a wider stance on civil rights. Why don’t we hear more about Lorraine Hansberry more? She died at 34.

Borges: A Life by Edwin Williamson

To read his books and short stories, it would be easy to imagine that Borges’s life could be stranger than fiction. But this biography focuses on the human side of Borges and brings new light to his work and thinking.

Ida: A Sword Among Lions by Paula Giddings

Ida B. Wells was an African American reporter who investigated and fought to end lynching in the south. This is the story of a brilliant and fearless reporter, and an indictment against the United States.

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser

I’ve never read Little House on the Prairie . I prefer reading about the rocky life story of the author behind the books.

The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou by Maya Angelou

Yes, an autobiography. I included it because I don’t think anyone should try to retell Maya Angelou’s story. Her telling, and poetry, should be the last word.

The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography by Edmund Gordon

A biography about the author of the morbid and gothic fairytales like The Bloody Chamber and gothic novels like The Magic Toyshop .

My Soul Looks Back by Jessica B. Harris

Jessica B. Harris writes about her early life in New York City when she moved in social circles that included James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and Maya Angelou. A vibrant city, full of vibrant people.

Harriet Jacobs: A Life by Jean Fagan Yellin

Harriet Jacobs wrote the memoir Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl , which became the most well-read slave narrative written by a woman. Jean Fagan Yellin expands on Harriet Jacobs life, and the world into which she escaped.

Need more? Check out these articles too:

7 Great New Literary Biographies for Your TBR

50 Must- Read Biographies

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14 Best Biography Authors To Try Today

Are you looking for a book that will leave you inspired? Take a look at these top 14 best biography authors.

It takes a special type of author to write an engaging biography about another person that is not dry and dull. Yet, biography authors often sail under the radar as their books bring to light the work and passion of their subjects. If you love reading about inspiring people, you will want to pick up a biography, but you’ll want to see that it comes from a good biographer. Over the years, several authors have made a living and won awards for their inspiring biographical accounts.

As you scour Amazon for your next inspiring read, consider making one of these top biography authors one on your list. You can read about war generals, feminist leaders, formerly enslaved people, theologians and more as you turn the pages of one of these works. Here are 14 of the best biography authors out there, along with information about the works that earned them these accolades. 

1. Martin Gilbert

2. elizabeth gaskell, 3. humphrey carpenter, 4. valerie boyd, 5. hermione lee, 6. deirdre bair, 7. hazel rowley, 8. david leeming, 9. peter conradi, 10. stacy schiff, 11. maya angelou, 12. charlotte gordon, 13. megan marshall, 14. david blight, best biography authors ranked.

Martin Gilbert

Sir Martin Gilbert  was a famous historian who studied World War II in depth. His biography of Winston Churchill is a multi-volume work that he wrote after going through 15 tons of documents about the man. He is one of the leading historians of the 20th century and was the official biographer for Churchill. 

In addition to his biographical works on Churchill, Gilbert wrote extensively about the Holocaust and the Jewish experience. Gilbert was born in London, England, in 1936 to Jewish parents, which gave him a passion for the topic. During the war, he was evacuated on a boat full of children to Canada, eventually reuniting with his family and living in Wales until the end of the war. This experience during the war led Gilbert to his passion for writing about Churchill and the war in general.

Churchill: A Life

  • Hardcover Book
  • Gilbert, Martin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 1066 Pages - 07/12/1991 (Publication Date) - Henry Holt and Company (Publisher)

Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell was both a novelist and a biographer who lived in 1800s England. Her famous biography was The Life of Charlotte Brontë, in which she wrote about the moral and sophisticated aspects of the famous writer’s life. 

Gaskell was a well-bred woman who was known for her kind nature. She was mainly well-known for her ghost stories, and Charles Dickens helped her get her works published. She also claimed her writings were influenced by those of Jane Austen.

Throughout Gaskell’s body of work, the idea of Unitarianism comes through. She was also well-known for using dialect with her characters, capturing the local words of middle-class characters. If you like reading autobiography books, you might want to check out our round-up of famous memoirs .

The Life of Charlotte Bronte (Penguin Classics)

  • Gaskell, Elizabeth (Author)
  • 544 Pages - 03/01/1998 (Publication Date) - Penguin Classics (Publisher)

Author of J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, Humphrey Carpenter received unrestricted access to Tolkien’s papers while writing the book. He followed the author’s journey as he created his famous books, and the biography is quite in-depth. Tolkien’s family considers it the official biography of the writer.

Carpenter lived most of his life in Oxford, England. He was born in 1946 and died in 2005. In addition to writing, he worked as a broadcaster for BBC Radio Oxford. 

In addition to his Tolkien biography, Carpenter wrote The Inlkings: C. S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and Their Friends, which won the 1978 Somerset Maugham Award. This book told of the connection between these three famous writers and their impact on literary history.

The Inklings : C.S.Lewis, J.R.R.Tolkien, Charles Williams and Their Friends

  • Humphrey Carpenter (Author)
  • 304 Pages - 07/12/1997 (Publication Date) - Harcolscifi&Fantasy (Publisher)

Valerie Boyd was the biographer of Zora Neale Hurston. She wrote Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston to chronicle the author’s life. Boyd chose Hurston because she felt a deep connection with the author and felt she deserved to have a biography written by a black woman.

The work came with many accolades because it captured the humor and individualism of Hurston. She traveled throughout the country to speak on Hurston as well.

Boyd died from cancer in 2022 at the age of 58. Her last work, Gathering Blossoms Under Fire: The Journals of Alice Walker, was published after her death.

Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston

  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Valerie Boyd (Author)
  • 528 Pages - 12/24/2002 (Publication Date) - Scribner (Publisher)

Hermione Lee  is a prolific biographer who wrote biographies about Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton and Penelope Fitzgerald. One of her most recent publications Tom Stoppard: A Life won American Vogue’s “Best Books of 2021” status and Top Books of 2021 by New York Times critics.

Lee lives in England, where she served as the President of Wolfson College and Emeritus Professor of English Literature at Oxford University. When she is not writing biographies, she often writes book reviews for The Guardian and The New York Review of Books

For her work, Lee won the 2014 James Tait Black Prize for Biographies, and her book on Penelope Fitzgerald was a New York Times Best 10 Books of 2014 book award winner.

Virginia Woolf

  • Hermione Lee (Author)
  • 944 Pages - 10/05/1999 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

Deirdre Bair is an American author known for her biographical works. She won the National Book Award for Samuel Beckett: A Biography in 1981. She also wrote six other biographies, including the biographies of Simone de Beauvoir, Al Capone, and Saul Steinberg. 

Bair was born in 1935 in Pittsburgh and earned a degree in English from the University of Pennsylvania followed by graduate degrees at Columbia University. She worked for the New Haven Register and Newsweek before becoming a professor at her alma mater. She died at the age of 84 in 2020.

Though it did not win, her autobiographical account Parisian Lives was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 2020.

Samuel Beckett

  • Bair, Deirdre (Author)
  • 760 Pages - 07/30/2016 (Publication Date) - Simon & Schuster (Publisher)

Though she was born in London,  Hazel Rowley  lived most of her in Australia before moving to New York She was well-known for her biographies including works on Cristina Stead, Richard Wright, and Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Her work Tete-a-Tete is her most famous, covering the lives of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. 

In addition to being a biographer, Rowley was an essayist. She had essays and articles published in The Best Australian Essays, The Times, and other publications. Rowley died suddenly of a brain aneurysm after contracting an MRSA infection in 2011. She was 59 at the time of her death.

Christina Stead: A Biography

  • Rowley, Hazel (Author)
  • 646 Pages - 07/12/1995 (Publication Date) - Henry Holt & Co (Publisher)

David Lemming writes primarily on myths and mythology, but his work James Baldwin: A Biography is quite engaging and gives him a spot on this list of the best biography authors of all time. He also wrote biographies on Beauford Delaney and Stephen Spender. 

Leeming worked as a philologist and Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Connecticut. He was born in 1937 and continues to write and edit on the subject of mythology. For a period of time, he served as the Head of the English Department at Robert College in Istanbul. 

Leeming is a member of the Modern Language Association of America and is part of the Federation of University Teachers. He remains one of the leading authorities on the subject of mythology.

James Baldwin: A Biography

  • Leeming, David (Author)
  • 464 Pages - 02/24/2015 (Publication Date) - Arcade (Publisher)

Peter Conradi is a British author who wrote several popular biographies. His biography of Fyodor Dostoevsky and his biographies of Iris Murdoch are some of his greatest works. He also wrote A Very English Hero: The Making of Frank Thompson.

Condradi has an extensive teaching career under his belt with time spent teaching at South Bank Polytechnic, University of Colorado, Boulder, Kingston University, and Jagiellonian University in Poland. He now serves as an Emeritus Professor and freelance writer . He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

His book Iris Murdoch: A Life hit many “Best Books of the Year” lists in its year of publication. Condradi is a Buddhist and has several works on his religious beliefs in addition to his biographical works.

Fyodor Dostoevsky (Christian Encounters Series)

  • Leithart, Peter J. (Author)
  • 208 Pages - 09/26/2011 (Publication Date) - Thomas Nelson (Publisher)

Stacy Schiff

Stacy Schiff  won the Pulitzer Prize for her biography of Vera Nabokov, and her body of work spans several excellent biographies. Cleopatra: A Life and Saint-Exupery: A Biography are two of her most famous works. 

Schiff was born in 1961 in Massachusetts. She has five biographies to her name, and she also worked as a senior editor for Simon and Schuster for many years. In addition to her books, she has several essays published in prominent magazines and newspapers.

Though she does not have a lot of books to her name yet, she has won numerous awards for them, including the George Washington Book Prize, the American Academy of Arts and Letters award, and the Lapham’s Quarterly Janus Prize.

Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov)

  • Schiff, Stacy (Author)
  • 496 Pages - 04/04/2000 (Publication Date) - Random House Publishing Group (Publisher)

Maya Angelou

Though her work is autobiographical, it deserves a spot on this list. Maya Angelou’s The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou is the best telling of her story. It includes quite a bit of her poetry as well. 

Angelou was born in 1928 and was raised in the south. She became famous for her poetry and was part of the Harlem Writer’s Guild. Her work is heralded as a defense of the Black culture and is studied throughout the world to discuss themes of family, racism and identity.

Angelou holds the distinction of being the first Black woman to be featured on a US quarter. She died in 2014, and she won the Presidential Medal of Freedom before her death in 2010. You might be interested in exploring more autobiography books, check out our guide to the best autobiographies .

The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou Modern Library Hardcover

  • Angelou, Maya (Author)
  • 1184 Pages - 09/21/2004 (Publication Date) - Modern Library (Publisher)

Charlotte Gordon  wrote Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley. Both of these women were writers themselves, with Wollstonecraft writing A Vindication of the Rights of Women and Shelley writing Frankenstein. Gordon skillfully tells how the two women were alike in the biography, even though Wollstonecraft died just a week after giving birth to Shelley.

Gordon is a modern writer with three biographical books to her name. When she is not writing books, she reviews them for The Washington Post. She graduated from Harvard and attended Boston University for her master’s and doctoral degrees. 

Today, Gordon serves as the Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Endicott College. She has two books of poetry in addition to her three biographies.

Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft & Mary Shelley

  • Gordon, Charlotte (Author)
  • 672 Pages - 02/02/2016 (Publication Date) - Random House Trade Paperbacks (Publisher)

Megan Marshall wrote The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism. This work about the “American Brontës” showcased how the three Peabody sisters influenced American literature.

Marshall got her start in writing and creating book reviews for The New Republic. She won multiple awards for her first book, The Peabody Sisters, and this launched her writing career. She continues to research and write and serves as a visiting professor for many universities around the globe. She is also a member of the Society of American Historians. 

Marshall also wrote Margaret Fuller: A New American Life, which tells the tale of Fuller’s influence on Thoreau as she served as the author’s first editor. This book earned Marshall the Pulitzer Prize.

The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism

  • Marshall, Megan (Author)
  • 624 Pages - 05/11/2006 (Publication Date) - Mariner Books (Publisher)

David Blight

David Blight  wrote one of the most recent biographies of Frederick Douglass entitled Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom. He also published A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Narratives of Emancipation, a work that combined two new slave narratives in an engaging tale of the push for freedom.

Today, Blight serves as Sterling Professor of American History at Yale University. He works on the board of several museums and historical societies and has a passion for history. 

Blight’s books have numerous awards behind them. Many focus on themes of the American Civil War, an area of history the professor is passionate about. Blight also reviews books for the New York Times and is a history consultant in the creation of many documentaries.

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (Roughcut)

  • Blight, David W. (Author)
  • 912 Pages - 10/16/2018 (Publication Date) - Simon & Schuster (Publisher)

The 50 Best Biographies of All Time

Think you know the full and complete story about George Washington, Steve Jobs, or Joan of Arc? Think again.

best biographies

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Biographies have always been controversial. On his deathbed, the novelist Henry James told his nephew that his “sole wish” was to “frustrate as utterly as possible the postmortem exploiter” by destroying his personal letters and journals. And one of our greatest living writers, Hermione Lee, once compared biographies to autopsies that add “a new terror to death”—the potential muddying of someone’s legacy when their life is held up to the scrutiny of investigation.

Why do we read so many books about the lives and deaths of strangers, as told by second-hand and third-hand sources? Is it merely our love for gossip, or are we trying to understand ourselves through the triumphs and failures of others?

To keep this list from blossoming into hundreds of titles, we only included books currently in print and translated into English. We also limited it to one book per author, and one book per subject. In ranked order, here are the best biographies of all time.

Crown The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, by Tom Reiss

You’re probably familiar with The Count of Monte Cristo , the 1844 revenge novel by Alexandre Dumas. But did you know it was based on the life of Dumas’s father, the mixed-race General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, son of a French nobleman and a Haitian slave? Thanks to Reiss’s masterful pacing and plotting, this rip-roaring biography of Thomas-Alexandre reads more like an adventure novel than a work of nonfiction. The Black Count won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 2013, and it’s only a matter of time before a filmmaker turns it into a big-screen blockbuster.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret, by Craig Brown

Few biographies are as genuinely fun to read as this barnburner from the irreverent English critic Craig Brown. Princess Margaret may have been everyone’s favorite character from Netflix’s The Crown , but Brown’s eye for ostentatious details and revelatory insights will help you see why everyone in the 1950s—from Pablo Picasso and Gore Vidal to Peter Sellers and Andy Warhol—was obsessed with her. When book critic Parul Sehgal says that she “ripped through the book with the avidity of Margaret attacking her morning vodka and orange juice,” you know you’re in for a treat.

Inventor of the Future: The Visionary Life of Buckminster Fuller, by Alec Nevala-Lee

If you want to feel optimistic about the future again, look no further than this brilliant biography of Buckminster Fuller, the “modern Leonardo da Vinci” of the 1960s and 1970s who came up with the idea of a “Spaceship Earth” and inspired Silicon Valley’s belief that technology could be a global force for good (while earning plenty of critics who found his ideas impractical). Alec Nevala-Lee’s writing is as serene and precise as one of Fuller’s geodesic domes, and his research into never-before-seen documents makes this a genuinely groundbreaking book full of surprises.

Free Press Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, by Robin D.G. Kelley

The late American jazz composer and pianist Thelonious Monk has been so heavily mythologized that it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. But Robin D. G. Kelley’s biography is an essential book for jazz fans looking to understand the man behind the myths. Monk’s family provided Kelley with full access to their archives, resulting in chapter after chapter of fascinating details, from his birth in small-town North Carolina to his death across the Hudson from Manhattan.

University of Chicago Press Frank Lloyd Wright: A Biography, by Meryle Secrest

There are dozens of books about America’s most celebrated architect, but Secrest’s 1998 biography is still the most fun to read. For one, she doesn’t shy away from the fact that Wright could be an absolute monster, even to his own friends and family. Secondly, her research into more than 100,000 letters, as well as interviews with nearly every surviving person who knew Wright, makes this book a one-of-a-kind look at how Wright’s personal life influenced his architecture.

Ralph Ellison: A Biography, by Arnold Rampersad

Ralph Ellison’s landmark novel, Invisible Man , is about a Black man who faced systemic racism in the Deep South during his youth, then migrated to New York, only to find oppression of a slightly different kind. What makes Arnold Rampersand’s honest and insightful biography of Ellison so compelling is how he connects the dots between Invisible Man and Ellison’s own journey from small-town Oklahoma to New York’s literary scene during the Harlem Renaissance.

Oscar Wilde: A Life, by Matthew Sturgis

Now remembered for his 1891 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde was one of the most fascinating men of the fin-de-siècle thanks to his poems, plays, and some of the earliest reported “celebrity trials.” Sturgis’s scintillating biography is the most encyclopedic chronicle of Wilde’s life to date, thanks to new research into his personal notebooks and a full transcript of his libel trial.

Beacon Press A Surprised Queenhood in the New Black Sun: The Life & Legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks, by Angela Jackson

The poet Gwendolyn Brooks was the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1950, but because she spent most of her life in Chicago instead of New York, she hasn’t been studied or celebrated as often as her peers in the Harlem Renaissance. Luckily, Angela Jackson’s biography is full of new details about Brooks’s personal life, and how it influenced her poetry across five decades.

Atria Books Camera Man: Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema, and the Invention of the Twentieth Century, by Dana Stevens

Was Buster Keaton the most influential filmmaker of the first half of the twentieth century? Dana Stevens makes a compelling case in this dazzling mix of biography, essays, and cultural history. Much like Keaton’s filmography, Stevens playfully jumps from genre to genre in an endlessly entertaining way, while illuminating how Keaton’s influence on film and television continues to this day.

Algonquin Books Empire of Deception: The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated the Nation, by Dean Jobb

Dean Jobb is a master of narrative nonfiction on par with Erik Larsen, author of The Devil in the White City . Jobb’s biography of Leo Koretz, the Bernie Madoff of the Jazz Age, is among the few great biographies that read like a thriller. Set in Chicago during the 1880s through the 1920s, it’s also filled with sumptuous period details, from lakeside mansions to streets choked with Model Ts.

Vintage Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life, by Hermione Lee

Hermione Lee’s biographies of Virginia Woolf and Edith Wharton could easily have made this list. But her book about a less famous person—Penelope Fitzgerald, the English novelist who wrote The Bookshop, The Blue Flower , and The Beginning of Spring —might be her best yet. At just over 500 pages, it’s considerably shorter than those other biographies, partially because Fitzgerald’s life wasn’t nearly as well documented. But Lee’s conciseness is exactly what makes this book a more enjoyable read, along with the thrilling feeling that she’s uncovering a new story literary historians haven’t already explored.

Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath, by Heather Clark

Many biographers have written about Sylvia Plath, often drawing parallels between her poetry and her death by suicide at the age of thirty. But in this startling book, Plath isn’t wholly defined by her tragedy, and Heather Clark’s craftsmanship as a writer makes it a joy to read. It’s also the most comprehensive account of Plath’s final year yet put to paper, with new information that will change the way you think of her life, poetry, and death.

Pontius Pilate, by Ann Wroe

Compared to most biography subjects, there isn’t much surviving documentation about the life of Pontius Pilate, the Judaean governor who ordered the execution of the historical Jesus in the first century AD. But Ann Wroe leans into all that uncertainty in her groundbreaking book, making for a fascinating mix of research and informed speculation that often feels like reading a really good historical novel.

Brand: History Book Club Bolívar: American Liberator, by Marie Arana

In the early nineteenth century, Simón Bolívar led six modern countries—Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela—to independence from the Spanish Empire. In this rousing work of biography and geopolitical history, Marie Arana deftly chronicles his epic life with propulsive prose, including a killer first sentence: “They heard him before they saw him: the sound of hooves striking the earth, steady as a heartbeat, urgent as a revolution.”

Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History, by Yunte Huang

Ever read a biography of a fictional character? In the 1930s and 1940s, Charlie Chan came to popularity as a Chinese American police detective in Earl Derr Biggers’s mystery novels and their big-screen adaptations. In writing this book, Yunte Huang became something of a detective himself to track down the real-life inspiration for the character, a Hawaiian cop named Chang Apana born shortly after the Civil War. The result is an astute blend between biography and cultural criticism as Huang analyzes how Chan served as a crucial counterpoint to stereotypical Chinese villains in early Hollywood.

Random House Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, by Nancy Milford

Edna St. Vincent Millay was one of the most fascinating women of the twentieth century—an openly bisexual poet, playwright, and feminist icon who helped make Greenwich Village a cultural bohemia in the 1920s. With a knack for torrid details and creative insights, Nancy Milford successfully captures what made Millay so irresistible—right down to her voice, “an instrument of seduction” that captivated men and women alike.

Simon & Schuster Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson

Few people have the luxury of choosing their own biographers, but that’s exactly what the late co-founder of Apple did when he tapped Walter Isaacson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin. Adapted for the big screen by Aaron Sorkin in 2015, Steve Jobs is full of plot twists and suspense thanks to a mind-blowing amount of research on the part of Isaacson, who interviewed Jobs more than forty times and spoke with just about everyone who’d ever come into contact with him.

Brand: Random House Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov), by Stacy Schiff

The Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov once said, “Without my wife, I wouldn’t have written a single novel.” And while Stacy Schiff’s biography of Cleopatra could also easily make this list, her telling of Véra Nabokova’s life in Russia, Europe, and the United States is revolutionary for finally bringing Véra out of her husband’s shadow. It’s also one of the most romantic biographies you’ll ever read, with some truly unforgettable images, like Vera’s habit of carrying a handgun to protect Vladimir on butterfly-hunting excursions.

Greenblatt, Stephen Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, by Stephen Greenblatt

We know what you’re thinking. Who needs another book about Shakespeare?! But Greenblatt’s masterful biography is like traveling back in time to see firsthand how a small-town Englishman became the greatest writer of all time. Like Wroe’s biography of Pontius Pilate, there’s plenty of speculation here, as there are very few surviving records of Shakespeare’s daily life, but Greenblatt’s best trick is the way he pulls details from Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets to construct a compelling narrative.

Crown Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own, by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

When Kiese Laymon calls a book a “literary miracle,” you pay attention. James Baldwin’s legacy has enjoyed something of a revival over the last few years thanks to films like I Am Not Your Negro and If Beale Street Could Talk , as well as books like Glaude’s new biography. It’s genuinely a bit of a miracle how he manages to combine the story of Baldwin’s life with interpretations of Baldwin’s work—as well as Glaude’s own story of discovering, resisting, and rediscovering Baldwin’s books throughout his life.

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Home / Book Writing / The Best Biography Books of All Time: My 10 Personal Favorites

The Best Biography Books of All Time: My 10 Personal Favorites

I love great biography books. Whether it's about a hero, celebrity, business mogul, or dastardly villain, biographies give an amazing insight into the mindset of success and hard work.

And while biographies aren't necessarily white-knuckle page-turners or complex Lit-RPG , they're sure to provide an interesting read.

In this article, you will learn:

  • The importance of a biography – both as a writer and a reader
  • Our top picks for the best biographies of all time

Table of contents

  • Our Best Biography Books
  • Biographies for Readers
  • Biographies for Writers
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow
  • Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson
  • The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder
  • Bohemian Rhapsody: The Definitive Biography of Freddie Mercury by Lesley-Ann Jones
  • The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams by Ben Bradlee Jr
  • The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury by Sam Weller
  • Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore
  • The Stan Lee Story by Roy Thomas
  • What Do You Think Of Our Best Biography Books List?

Mind you, this is a highly subjective article. If you don't see your favorite biography on this list, let us know in the comments below what you believe deserves to be on this list and why. And with that, let's jump right into some good lessons and even better titles.

  • Titan: The Life of John D Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow
  • Bohemian Rhapsody: The Definitive Biography of Freddie Mercury by Leslie-Ann Jones
  • The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams by Ben Bradlee Jr.

Why Are Biographies Important?

Often glossed over, a biography holds much more than just the story of someone's life. While the stories can be entertaining, there is another value to reading and writing biography books.

When looking at what can be gained by readers through biographies, three main points come to mind.

  • Biographies provide real-life lessons.

There's an old piece of advice that I'm sure everybody has heard before, “Learn from others' mistakes.” And while we might not necessarily follow that as we should, it's sound advice. By reading biographies, you can see where other people made their mistakes and learn from them in the process. Biography subjects can be mentors if you'll let them.

  • Biographies are inspiring.

Most of the time, biographies focus on great people accomplishing great deeds. Reading about them will surely light a fire underneath you and provide the inspiration you need to conquer whatever obstacles stand in your way.

  • Biographies allow you to walk a mile in someone else's shoes.

Sometimes it's necessary to see things from a different perspective. Doing so can be truly enlightening. Biographies shine a light into why someone acted the way they did, giving you fresh insight.

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Readers of biographies aren't the only people to benefit from them. Those who write biographies go through the learning process themselves. Here are a few benefits authors of biographies might glean.

  • They come with their own subject matter.

While careful research must be done to write a good biography, it can be helpful to have a life's worth of adventures to work with. If you're struggling to come up with a new story for a book, consider telling someone else's story.

  • They will humble and humanize you.

A biography humbles its author. You may be one of the most successful writers ever; but when writing a biography, you're writing about somebody else's success and their life. It kind of puts things into perspective. You get an outside look at how life operates and how people react to ups and downs. You'll see that you're a part of something much bigger than yourself. This will allow you to learn from your subject's trials and tribulations.

I recommend sharing what you personally learned from your research in the preface part of your book. Let readers know how writing the biography has made you a better person and more aware. That will make readers excited to potentially experience a similar transformation.

Our Top Picks for the Best Biography Books of All Time

Here are our picks for the best biographies of all time. These are listed in no particular order, as it was already hard enough to narrow them down this much.

About the Biography:  This biography focuses on the life of Henrietta Lacks. A simple tobacco farmer, Henrietta unwittingly became one of the largest contributors to modern medical science. Back in 1951, Henrietta visited The Johns Hopkins Hospital where a large cancerous tumor was found on her cervix. Samples of these cancer cells ended up being collected and, unbeknownst to her, sent to a nearby tissue lab for experimentation. Her cells (now called HeLa cells) were very special compared to everyone else's. Instead of dying under stressful conditions, hers would double in number! Further experimentation led to many scientific breakthroughs, including the polio vaccine. It was only 20 years later–and after Henrietta's passing–that her family actually found out what happened.

About the Author: Rebecca Skloot has a very interesting writing background. She's been a professor for both creative writing and science journalism at the University of Pittsburgh, University of Memphis, and New York University. And she's got a rather prolific writing portfolio. She's published over 200 short stories and essays, but nothing quite took off like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Why We Chose This Biography: When this book came out in 2010, it was one for the record books. It was not only selected as a notable book by the New York Times — 60 different major publications named it as the best book of the year! This biography has garnered so much attention over the past decade, with Oprah Winfrey even producing an HBO film on it.

About the Biography: When Lincoln won the presidency, his rivals were shocked and dismayed. Lincoln became the victor due to his high capacity to relate to the common folk and his overwhelming sense of poise and decency. That ability allowed him to develop one of the most unusual presidential cabinets in history. One made up of his politically experienced and headstrong rivals.

About the Author:  Doris Kearns Goodwin is an American political biographer. She has written biographies for several other American presidents including Lyndon B Johnson, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Howard Taft. In 2005, she won the Lincoln Award (Best Book about The Civil War) for Team of Rivals  and parts of it were used for the basis of the 2012 Steven Spielberg film, Lincoln .

Why We Chose This Biography:  Many people would say that Abraham Lincoln was one of the greatest United States Presidents to hold the office. Though his life was shortened by assassination, he made a huge impact on the American Union and history itself. One of the ways he was able to do so was by bringing the people together–friends and enemies alike. And the masterful writing from Goodwin only accentuates how much impact Lincoln actually had.

About the Biography:  Titan explores the life of the world's first billionaire — oil magnate, John D. Rockefeller, Sr. This biography talks about Rockefeller's humble beginnings and how he rose through the corporate ladder to become one of the most powerful men in history. The biography has cameos from major players such as Joseph Pulitzer, William Randolph Hearst, JP Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, and many more. This has been touted as one of America's great biographies by Time Magazine .

About the Author: Beginning his career in freelance journalism, Ron Chernow quickly evolved into one of the foremost biographical writers in the United States. Although he pursues writing full time now, he still contributes articles to publications such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal .

Why We Chose This Biography:  Even long after his death, Rockefeller is one of the greatest business inspirations for any budding entrepreneur. He truly defined and set the term “industry titan,” and there's still so much that we can learn from his practices.

About the Biography:  This 2008 Audie Award winner tells the story of how an awkward, impatient patent clerk became one of the greatest scientific minds of all time. The book covers the entirety of Einstein's life, from the common misconception that he wasn't good at math to his involvement in World War I and II. Isaacson also covers Einstein's Physics achievements and his formulation of the General Theory of Relativity. This is one of the best biography books for anyone interested in politics, physics, or personal achievement.

About the Author:  Walter Isaacson has quite the resume. He's been the managing editor at Time , CEO of CNN, and CEO of the Aspen Institute. He's made a household name for himself through his biographies of Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Ben Franklin, Leonardo da Vinci, and Henry Kissinger.

Why We Chose This Biography:  Albert Einstein has become synonymous with the word ‘genius.' If you were to create a top 10 list of the most influential minds in history, there's a good chance he'd be on it. And when you have his life presented to you by the legendary biographical author Walter Isaacson…You're in for one heck of a read.

About the Biography:  Warren Buffett is one of the richest men in America and one of the most respected. Known for showing great humility, he has been shrouded in enigma as he lives a very private life (until this biography anyway). Entrusting his life story to Alice Schroeder, Alice writes the book that Buffett claims he never could.

About the Author:  Alice is an American former insurance analyst and writer. She caught the attention of Warren Buffett through her writing skills and was entrusted to tell his story. After her success with The Snowball , you'll catch more of her writing in columns for T he Bloomberg News .

Why We Chose This Biography:  Warren Buffett is a wildly successful businessman who's made some of the best decisions when it comes to investing in the stock market. And at the same time, he does it with the utmost degree of modesty. He's a huge role model for just about anybody trying to make it in life. So when he finally decided to sit down with someone to tell his story…I'm gonna listen. Or read it.

About the Biography:  Bohemian Rhapsody is the Freddie Mercury biography that you never knew you needed. This book primarily focuses on the period in the 1980s where Queen began to fragment–namely before Live Aid. It's been described as an emotional roller coaster, taking the reader through Freddie's childhood in India and Zanzibar to his wilder years in the '70s and '80s.

About the Author:  Lesley-Ann Jones is an English author and journalist. Most of her works revolve around rock and roll and pop superstars. She's a top-notch writer and captured Freddie at his most real in this biography.

Why We Chose This Biography: Many would agree that Freddie Mercury had one of the most electrifying voices in the history of rock and roll. However, it wasn't just Freddie's four-plus octave range that made him so controversial. His battles with societal norms, his sexuality, and AIDS keep him in the public light to this day. If you're a fan of Queen or of music in general, this is an amazing look into the life of an even more amazing artist (and one of the best biography books).

About the Biography:  Ted Williams is a Boston Red Sox legend. And one of the greatest (if not the GOAT) hitters to ever play the game. He put up numbers so awe-inspiring that players today are still struggling to reach them. Not only that, he served as a US Marine pilot in the Korean War for five years. Ted had a rather volatile domestic life. This biography explores the peaks and valleys of this baseball legend both on and off the field.

About the Author:  As the son of the famous Watergate reporter, Ben Bradlee Sr., Bradlee Jr. has made an enormous name for himself through his own writing. Spending most of his career as an editor at The Boston Globe , Bradlee helped see the paper to a Pulitzer Prize in 2003. His biography on Ted Williams became a New York Times Bestseller. Slated to become a TV miniseries, this is a story you'll definitely want to read.

Why We Chose This Biography:  For those of you who don't know, I'm an avid Red Sox fan. Seriously, there's nothing like being at Fenway staring down the Green Monster. I chose this biography because you get to see this idolized baseball legend for everything he was. Most people never think about what their sports heroes are like off the field. This one had me reading late into the night as I couldn't put it down.

My Ted Williams signed baseball. You can see it on the white shelves behind me in my videos.

I respect a lot of things about Ted Williams. He was a jet pilot in WWII and Korea. Even when he was at his prime, he still willingly went to war. And really fought…not just signed autographs and paraded around for War Bonds. Even when shot down behind enemy lines in Korea, Ted Williams made his way back to safety and ultimately back to baseball.

This book humanizes Ted and shows every facet of his life–the rough and the polished.

About the Biography:  This biography tells the story of prolific Sci-Fi writer Ray Bradbury, from his beginnings in a small town in Illinois to his feuds on the silver screen with various film and television personalities. After hundreds of hours spent with Ray, the author and he became close friends. This adulation can be detected throughout the book in Weller's writing style.

About the Author:  Sam Weller has made his career as an accomplished journalist through reporting on the life of Ray Bradbury. He is an LA Times Bestseller and is the recipient of the 2005 Society of Midland Authors Award for Best Biography for The Bradbury Chronicles .

Why We Chose This Biography:  As a Sci-Fi enthusiast, I understand the impact that Ray Bradbury made on the genre–even on short stories in general. Influenced by his environment, this biography provides a unique angle into Bradbury's work.

About the Biography: The best Biography books aren't always about the heroes in life. This biography is about one of the most fierce villains of all time: Joseph Stalin. This book primarily focuses on after his rise to absolute power. It goes into excruciating detail about the actions of the madman and his court. Due to the emotionally disturbing scenes littered throughout this book, I recommend this for mature readers only.

About the Author:  Simon Sebag Montefiore has a very accomplished and varied resume. Writing fiction and non-fiction books for both children and adults, his career as a British historian spreads across a vast audience. His biography on Stalin, though, received the Best History Book of the Year at the 2004 British Book Awards.

Why We Chose This Biography: There's an old adage that says, “Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. ” And while this does sound very cliché… clichés exist for a reason. This book is a tough read — not necessarily because of the language, but because of the subject matter. It's somewhat difficult to imagine one man was capable of so many monstrosities. It's important to understand so we as a society can stop similar events from happening again.

About the Biography:  The story of Stanley Leiber–or Stan Lee–is a must-read for every comic lover. This full-feature biography goes through the steps of how Stan Lee and Jack Kirby became the Kings of Comics and beloved worldwide. Co-creator of some of Marvel's (and Earth's) mightiest heroes, Stan Lee helped build the legends of Wolverine, Ultron, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Carol Danvers–aka Captain Marvel–and so many more! This physically over-sized book portrays just how gigantic Lee was. It comes complete with full-sized illustrations and even a note from Stan the Man himself. Excelsior!

About the Author: Roy Thomas is a comic book writer and editor. Among his other achievements, he is also the first successor to Marvel Comics after Stan Lee himself. He is one of the writers responsible for ushering in the Golden Age of Comics.

Why We Chose This Biography:  If you're a comic book nut like me, this has got to be on your reading bucket list. Without a doubt, Lee sculpted the modern comic book industry. From blockbuster movies, games, and new weekly comic issues, fans feel Stan Lee's influence in each universe–Marvel, DC, or independent.

Out of all the available stories out there, these are the top ten best biography books I've chosen. However, this list is completely subjective. And I'd love to hear from you. What are your favorites?

Let me know which ones I've missed on social media. I'm always looking for new books to add to my reading list!

Dave Chesson

When I’m not sipping tea with princesses or lightsaber dueling with little Jedi, I’m a book marketing nut. Having consulted multiple publishing companies and NYT best-selling authors, I created Kindlepreneur to help authors sell more books. I’ve even been called “The Kindlepreneur” by Amazon publicly, and I’m here to help you with your author journey.

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76 thoughts on “ The Best Biography Books of All Time: My 10 Personal Favorites ”

Great idea and great list Dave. I LOVE biographies, they are a wonderful and personal access to history through the life of a leader.My shortlist:1. William Manchester, “The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill,” in 3 volumes, so that counts as 3 ;-)4. Michael Lewis, “The Undoing Project,” about the partnership between Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky who single-handedly disrupted economic wisdom and invented the field of behavioral economics.5. Barbara Tuchman, “Stillwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-1945,” about General Stillwell who was at least as brilliant as Patton or Marshall.6. Blanche Wiesen Cook, “Eleanor Roosevelt”, a 2-volume series about FDR`s first lady who created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That again counts for 2 books ;-)8. Shlomo Avneri, “Theodor Herzl and the Foundation of the Jewish State,” about the visionary who dreamed up and laid the foundation for modern Israel.9. Taylor Branch, “Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63,” a compelling biography of the civil rights leader.10. Walter Isaacson, “Steve Jobs” (I also loved Isaacson`s Einstein: His Life and Universe, but since you list that already, I recommend his Jobs biography, which shows the path-breaking entrepreneur, warts ‘n’ all).Enjoy.Thomas D. Zweifel Author of 8 books, including the award-winning “Strategy-In-Action” and “The Rabbi and the CEO”that became bestsellers thanks to Dave Chesson`s insight

Hi Dave,Great list of biographies and good insights into the value of reading bios.May I suggest a biography in the occult genre, Brother XII: The Strange Odyssey of a 20th-century Prophet, the story of Edward Arthur Wilson, mystic, visionary, prophet and prototypical cult leader.The details of this fascinating story are at my website brotherxii.com , which you might like to check out, as it gives a good illustrated synopsis of this strange saga.Josh Gates did an episode on Brother XII recently, œSecrets of Brother XII,  though the book itself has far more detail, and is based on interviews with former disciples and Brother XII ‘s private papers.Thanks for all the great work you do for authors.

Thanks and looks great!

Dave… Great list of Biographies! When you said, “Those who write biographies go through the learning process themselves” you were right on. However, there is a special learning process that authors who write their own autobiographies go through. The power of the story depends a lot on if you are writing about happy memories or ones permeated in pain, suffering and abuse. Five years ago as an unknown, first-time, self-published author, I decided to write my true-life story. As you start writing, you remember (and relive) what really happened and not the way you would have liked things to happen. One is factual and the other enters the realm of fiction.If your story is harrowing, as mine is, it is not only difficult to write, edit, and rewrite, but narrating your own audiobook can be an unimaginably disturbing experience. There were many times I broke down and could not continue for days just having to relive what I was subjected to for the first 16 years of my life.However, writing your autobiography is a tremendously healing process and allows you to see that what happened did not happen “to you” but happened “for you” in the end. Insight into Life is the reward for any author who is bold enough to write their pain and for any reader who is brave enough to experience it with them. – Linda Deir, author of “GUIDED” – Winner of the Int’l Body-Mind-Spirit Book Award.

Oh, That is some really good points. have not written an autobiography…not quite there yet but I’ll keep this in mind!

Hi Dave, thank you for an excellent idea, and some Interesting titles. I actually have four in my Audible library or wish list. And I will be keen to get the Ray Bradbury one. My list of 10 are below. Clearly subjective, but by its very nature that is always the case. ERIC`s 10 FAVOURITE BIOGRAPHIES / AUTOBIOGRAPHIESSurname / First Name / Title / Subject Albom Mitch TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE Morrie Schwartz Esterhaus Joe HOLLYWOOD ANIMAL Joe Esterhaus Eyman Scott JOHN WAYNE, The Life and Legend John Wayne Granger Stewart SPARKS FLY UPWARDS Stewart Granger Hotchner A E PAPPA HEMINGWAY Ernest Hemingway Jenkins Roy WINSTON CHURCHILL Winston Churchill McCourt Frank ANGELA`s ASHES Frank Mc Court McCullough Colleen RODEN CUTLER, VC Roden Cutler Parini Jay JOHN STEINBECK, A Biography John Steinbeck Sandburg Carl LINCOLN Abraham Lincoln 6 Volumes Footnotes: Pulitzer Prize for ANGELA`s ASHES and LINCOLN. Roy Jenkins CHURCHILL is arguably the best single volume bio of WSC Great title by Stewart Granger, taken from Job – 5:7 “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upwards.”

Nice – yeah the Churchill one is on my list right now!

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authors of biography books

The 20 Best Biographies of Writers

The best biographies of writers cut through the gossip, the scandals, the myths, and the legends to deftly balance the life of the author with their literary legacy. This list features the best literary biographies of writers who penned classic works across more than four hundred years of literary history. From Shakespeare to Richard Wright to Mary Shelley and Virginia Woolf, these favorite biographies of writers encompass a deep bench of the best biographies of famous writers. Let’s dive in!

But first, if you’re interested in more of the best literary biographies, be sure to check out our list of the 10 best biographies of poets :

authors of biography books

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And now for an epic list of the 20 best biographies of writers…

Agatha christie: an elusive woman by lucy worsley.

authors of biography books

Agatha Christie, one of the “Masters of Suspense,” lived a remarkable life while penning classics like Murder on the Orient Express and And Then There Were None . Read all about it in Lucy Worsley’s Agatha Christie: An Elusive Woman . Among the best literary biographies, this one dispels the mysteries in the real life of this iconic mystery writer.

How to read it: Purchase Agatha Christie: An Elusive Woman on Amazon

Also a poet: frank o’hara, my father, and me by ada calhoun.

authors of biography books

This unusual literary biography blends personal memoir with a bio of one of the greatest poets of all time, Frank O’Hara (for his collected poems, check out this edition ). In Also a Poet , Ada Calhoun discovers tapes of interviews between Peter Schjeldahl, her father, an art critic, and poet Frank O’Hara. The recordings were intended to be used in Schjeldahl’s unfinished biography of O’Hara. One of the best biographies of writers, Calhoun sets out to complete her father’s book while also intertwining memoirs of her own complicated relationship with her father. The result is a raw and real read you won’t soon forget.

How to read it: Purchase Also a Poet on Amazon

Jane austen: a life by claire tomalin.

authors of biography books

Among readers who have favorite biographies of writers, Claire Tomalin’s Jane Austen: A Life often ranks high among the best literary biographies. We all know Jane Austen—author of, among other classics, Pride and Prejudice and Emma —right? Not so fast. Tomalin’s biography uncovers the previously limited life of this incredibly influential writer.

How to read it: Purchase Jane Austen: A Life on Amazon

Begin again: james baldwin’s america and its urgent lessons for our own by eddie s. glaude jr..

authors of biography books

The best biographies of writers explore the legacy of the famous author whose portrait they are trying to draw. And that’s exactly what Eddie S. Glaude Jr. does in Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessonsf or Our Own . This bio of James Baldwin, perhaps most famous for his novel with queer themes, Giovanni’s Room , argues that Baldwin’s vision of America remains relevant today.

How to read it: Purchase Begin Again on Amazon

Born to be posthumous: the eccentric life and mysterious genius of edward gorey by mark dery.

authors of biography books

I’m a huge Edward Gorey fan. I’ve read his books—some of which are collected in Amphigorey: Fifteen Books —over and over again and count him as an influence on my own writing. So imagine how delightful it was to encounter Born to Be Posthumous , Mark Dery’s compelling portrait of Gorey, definitely one of he best biographies of writers. This engrossing literary biography captures the “eccentric life and mysterious genius” of Gorey in a book that illuminates this exceptional-but-often-overlooked pioneer of the macabre.

How to read it: Purchase Born to Be Posthumous on Amazon

The bradbury chronicles: the life of ray bradbury by sam weller.

authors of biography books

I love Ray Bradbury. During a very difficult time in my life, I sought refuge in Bradbury’s imagination, devouring two of his most treasured short story collections, The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man (get them both in this Ray Bradbury boxed collection by the Library of America). I was completely swept up in wonder and fascination. So I’m so excited to say that Sam Weller’s The Bradbury Chronicles illuminates the life of this towering figure in America’s literary history, easily one of the best biographies of famous writers. Read this book and learn about the incredible life of one of the most incredible authors ever.

How to read it: Purchase The Bradbury Chronicles on Amazon

The brontë myth by lucasta miller.

authors of biography books

One of the best biographies of famous English writers, Lucasta Miller’s The Brontë Myth is a deep dive into the lives and literary works of the Brontë sisters, whom you may know best from Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë) and Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë). Miller’s bio unfurls the tangled reputation of these three brilliant sisters, liberating them from the various schools of thought—psychoanalytical, feminist, etc.—that have embraced the Brontës and counted them as their own. Instead, we get a fresh update on the lives of these influential sister-authors, free of the various schools of criticism that have ensnared them in their jaws. (If you’re just getting started with the Brontës, check out this handsome box set of their most well-known novels .)

How to read it: Purchase The Brontë Myth on Amazon

Cross of snow: a life of henry wadsworth longfellow by nicholas a. basbanes.

authors of biography books

Chances are you’ve heard of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, but until now, this iconic 19th century American author has lived a life undiscovered. Read the best of Longfellow’s work before diving into this incredible look at an incredible writer. In Cross of Snow , Nicholas A. Basbanes reveals the life of Longfellow, charting his influences and the writer he influenced himself. This breakthrough study is easily one of the best literary biographies.

How to read it: Purchase Cross of Snow on Amazon

Every love story is a ghost story: a life of david foster wallace by d. t. max.

authors of biography books

The turbulent life of David Foster Wallace, author of that infamous classic, Infinite Jest , is demystified in D. T. Max’s Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story , the must-read literary biography of this important America scribe. The best biographies of writers sort through the gossip, the speculation, and the larger-than-life reputations of their subjects, allowing the author’s life to be seen in line with their work without overtaking their literary genius. And that’s exactly what Max manages in one of the best biographies of famous writers.

How to read it: Purchase Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story on Amazon

I am alive and you are dead: a journey into the mind of philip k. dick by emmanuel carrère.

authors of biography books

The genius of Philip K. Dick has left us with classic sci-fi works like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (inspiration for the SF film Blade Runner ) and A Scanner Darkly . But who was the man behind these important books that helped establish the science fiction genre? You’ll find the answer to that question in Emmanuel Carrère’s I Am Alive and You Are Dead , an essential literary biography for any fan of Dick’s writing. Definitely one of the best biographies of writers, I Am Alive and You Are Dead is subtitled “A journey into the mind of Philip K. Dick,” an apt description of this deep dive into the brain of this key figure in science fiction and literature in general.

How to read it: Purchase I Am Alive and You Are Dead on Amazon

T.s. eliot: an imperfect life by lyndall gordon.

authors of biography books

I consider many of T.S. Eliot’s poems to be perfect, not to mention Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats , which was illustrated by Edward Gorey (whose bio I included above in this list of the best biographies of writers). But there’s no denying that Eliot lived a, well, complicated life that included anti-Semitism and misogyny. So how do we reconcile the poet’s work with the poet himself? You’ll find out in Lyndall Gordon’s T.S. Eliot: An Imperfect Life , among the greatest biographies of poets. Gordon takes Eliot on in this unflinching study of Eliot’s life and literature. The best literary biographies face their subject head on, revealing the “imperfect” lives of their subjects, and it’s precisely that approach that makes this book among the most essential biographies of famous English writers.

How to read it: Purchase T.S. Eliot: An Imperfect Life on Amazon

J.r.r. tolkien: a biography by humphrey carpenter.

authors of biography books

Who was the man who wrote The Lord of the Rings , easily the most influential fantasy books ever written? You’ll find out in Humphrey Carpenter’s J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography . This one definitely ranks among the best biographies of writers because of the nimble way Carpenter weaves together the life of Tolkien with his work, offering a master class of how to write literary biographies. Uncover the man from the myth in this close read on the man who penned a fictional universe as vast and complete as our own universe.

How to read it: Purchase J.R.R. Tolkien: A Life on Amazon

Mary shelley by miranda seymour.

authors of biography books

She wrote the groundbreaking science fiction novel Frankenstein , but who was the woman behind this classic story? In Miranda Seymour’s Mary Shelley , we discover exactly that. Among the best literary biographies, this book is a saga of the life of Mary Shelley, a life that saw as much sorrow and trauma as joy. In this book, surely one of the must-have biographies of female writers, Seymour sifts through the documents about Shelley’s life to situate famous English author within her historical and cultural context while also surveying how Shelley influenced the canon of English literature.

How to read it: Purchase Mary Shelley on Amazon

Richard wright: the life and times by hazel rowley.

authors of biography books

Richard Wright is perhaps best known for his novel Native Son , but the author also contributed many more books and writing to American letters. In this book, Hazel Rowley digs deep into Wright’s exceptional life and magnificent literature to braid the two together. The result is one of the best biographies of writers, one that highlights the important contributions of a leading figure in American literary history.

How to read it: Purchase Richard Wright: The Life and Times on Amazon

Savage beauty: the life of edna st. vincent millay by nancy milford.

authors of biography books

The poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay positions this influential author as one of the leading poets of twentieth century. And it’s precisely that legacy that Nancy Milford illuminates in Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay . With this fresh perspective on Millay, the midcentury master of verse, readers get one of the best biographies of poets. If all biographies of female writers were this comprehensive and inquisitive, there’d be no time to read anything else, marking this as an exceptional biography. If you’re interested in important female authors, check out this one vibrant, bold life of Millay, and you won’t be disappointed.

How to read it: Purchase Savage Beauty on Amazon

Shirley jackson: a rather haunted life by ruth franklin.

authors of biography books

I’m a big fan of Shirley Jackson. I count We Have Always Lived in the Castle among my all-time favorite books. So it’s with great pleasure that I share that Ruth Franklin’s Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life definitely counts as one of the best biographies of writers. This literary biography goes deep into the life of Jackson, and in so doing, you’ll realize why Franklin subtitles this as “a rather haunted life.” Franklin highlights how this iconic writer danced on the edge of the macabre, radicalized the American literary world, and scandalized the public. It’s a book that’s as dishy as it is illuminating, ranking as among the best literary biographies.

How to read: Purchase Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life on Amazon

Updike by adam begley.

authors of biography books

John Updike. Just the name of this author conjures up visions of some of the best writing in the English language, like the Rabbit tetralogy and critically acclaimed short stories . How on earth do you begin to assemble the life of this significant author? Somehow Adam Begley manages it in Updike , one of the best biographies of writers. Begley’s bio of Updike meets its match, becoming as innovative and important as its titular subject. The result is a dazzling biography whose story is just as gripping as one of Updike’s novels. You won’t want to pass this one up.

How to read it: Purchase Updike on Amazon

Virginia woolf by hermione lee.

authors of biography books

When I was a senior in college, I did an independent study of Virginia Woolf with a great professor. To get ready for the course, I read biographies of Virginia Woolf, including Hermione Lee’s bio that I’m including in this list of the best literary biographies. Lee tackles her larger-than-life subject, Virginia Woolf, known for her Modernist novels like Mrs. Dalloway and, my personal favorite, To the Lighthouse . Lee is more than up to the task, and the result is, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer : “A biography wholly worthy of the brilliant woman it chronicles. . . . It rediscovers Virginia Woolf afresh.” If you’re at all curious about Woolf, the Modernists, the Bloomsbury Group, or the history of English literature, pick this one up.

How to read it: Purchase Virginia Woolf on Amazon

Will in the world: how shakespeare became shakespeare by stephen greenblatt.

authors of biography books

Any list of the best biographies of famous English writers would be incomplete without a bio of the father of English literature: yep, William Shakespeare. What’s left to say about the Bard, who penned some of the most important writing in the English language ? Turns out, plenty. And that’s exactly what you’ll find in Stephen Greenblatt’s masterful biography Will in the World , which attempts to uncover Shakespeare’s origin story. Greenblatt explores Shakespeare’s early life, and the cultural, historical, and artistic forces that explain, so the subtitle says, “How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare.” The outcome is Will in the World , a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and part of the curriculum of anyone looking for the best biographies of writers. This literary biography proves it’s still possible to write fresh, surprising, captivating, and engrossing biographies of famous writers. And Will in the World is the ultimate mic-drop, making it the only Shakespeare biography you need.

How to read it: Purchase Will in the World on Amazon

Wrapped in rainbows: the life of zora neale hurston by valerie boyd.

authors of biography books

Many people discover Harlem Renaissance author Zora Neale Hurston through her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God , but in the award-winning Wrapped in Rainbows , Valerie Boyd uncovers the writer’s total miraculous output and undeniable influence. This key book is for sure one of the best literary biographies that any student of American literature will want to check out.

How to read it: Purchase Wrapped in Rainbows on Amazon

And there you have it an essential list of the 20 best biographies of writers. which of these best literary biographies will you read first, share this:.

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authors of biography books

Sometimes it feels like the authors of our favorite books are the only ones who truly know us. But how much do you really know about your favorite author? Picking up a biography of a famous author is a thrilling way to engage with the person holding the pen.

We often put authors on pedestals, painting them in our mind as god-like beings with full knowledge of the world and its beauties and horrors. But my favorite thing about reading literary biographies is how humanizing they are. It's so exciting to discovers connections between myself and the authors that I love so dearly. So often an author's real life is filled with unexpected elements that are even more fascinating than the image I had of them. As a reader and especially as an aspiring writer, it is so meaningful for me to be able to connect with my favorite authors in this way.

Plus, reading about an author's life is sure to throw a fresh light on their work, giving you a keen perspective on the choices they made in their writing, and why their writing was so provocative at the time it was published.

From Jane Austen to Shirley Jackson, you can learn everything about your favorite authors from these fantastic literary biographies:

'Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston' by Valerie Boyd

authors of biography books

In this fascinating read, journalist Valerie Boyd explores Zora Neale Hurston's life: her youth in the country's first incorporated all-black town; her friendships with literary icons like Langston Hughes; her mysterious relationship with vodou, and more.

Click here to buy.

'Virginia Woolf' by Hermione Lee

authors of biography books

There are a lot of biographies floating around about literary queen Virginia Woolf, but this one is a must-read. Taking every layer of Woolf's complicated life into account — from her sexual abuse to her literary achievements — Lee paints a remarkable portrait that will add a new layer to the experience of reading her writing.

'Every Love Story is a Ghost Story' by D.T. Max

authors of biography books

The life and death of David Foster Wallace has fascinated his readers for years. In this biography, Max explores Wallace's hard-fought battles against depression and addiction and follows the writer through his journey to complete his masterpiece: Infinite Jest.

'Jane Austen at Home: A Biography' by Lucy Worsley

authors of biography books

Is there any greater pleasure than diving into the world of Jane Austen? Released to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Austen's death in 2017, this book is a unique exploration of Austen that seemingly disproves the widely held belief that she lived a " life without incident ."

Clic here to buy.

'The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury' by Sam Weller

authors of biography books

I personally find Ray Bradbury's life immensely intriguing , and you will too when you read this biography. Weller spent hundreds of hours interviewing Bradbury, as well as the people in his life, in order to produce this eye-opening read.

'The Brontë Myth' by Lucasta Miller

authors of biography books

There is so much to explore when it comes to the lives of the three Brontë sisters. Miller does an exquisite job of separating fact from fiction when it comes to the much-hyped about lives of these extraordinary sisters.

'J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography' by Humphrey Carter

authors of biography books

Every Lord of the Rings fan has got to get their hands on this biography. With unrestricted access to Tolkien's writings, friends, and family, Carpenter details the legendary author's life in extraordinary ways.

'Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’ Connor' by Brad Gooch

authors of biography books

This biography of Southern Gothic writer Flannery O'Connor will change the way you view her and her work. The book particularly focuses on O'Connor's many friendships, as told through the letters she wrote and received from them.

'Shakespeare' by Peter Ackroyd

authors of biography books

Of course, there is a ton of research and speculation on William Shakespeare's life and work. This biography explores Shakespeare's personal life , professional career, struggles as a writer, and gives readers an in-depth look at the time and place in which Shakespeare lived.

'James Baldwin: A Biography' by David A. Leeming

authors of biography books

It's impossible to separate James Baldwin's life from his writing, so readers won't want to miss this chance to learn more about the circumstances — including his difficult childhood in New York City, his experiences with racism, his eternal, internal quest for selfhood — that influenced Baldwin's work.

'The Life of Langston Hughes' by Arnold Rampersad

authors of biography books

Reading about Langston Hughes's incredible life will provide you with fascinating insight into his beloved poetry. From his travels throughout Mexico, Africa, the Soviet Union, Japan and beyond, to his integral role in the Harlem Renaissance, his life experiences influenced his writings in more ways than meets the eye.

'Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector' by Benjamin Moser

authors of biography books

This captivating biography of Latin American author Clarice Lispector is one not to be missed. Benjamin Moser draws on manuscripts and interviews to illuminate the complex world of Lispector, and how her personal history — her childhood in war-torn Ukraine, her immigration to Brazil, and her injury that left her in constant pain for the last 10 years of her life — shaped her unique writing.

'Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life' by Ruth Franklin

authors of biography books

Ruth Franklin's award-winning biography takes readers on a journey through the complicated life of one of America's finest horror writers : Shirley Jackson. Through her writings, Jackson was able to explore the cultural landscape of post-war America, especially focusing on the role of women. As a working woman and a mother, this was an anxiety Jackson felt acutely. The biography explores her career, her internal struggles, and her turbulent marriage with New Yorker critic Stanley Hyman.

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10 Great Author Bio Examples and Tips to Write One for Yourself

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A great author bio is essential for any published writer. It’s how a reader gets to know the person behind the pages of a book, and done well, it can help you grow your fan base and sell more books. If you’re a  new author  and unsure where to begin with your author bio, this article is here to help. 

Table of Contents

What is An Author Bio?

An author bio is a few short paragraphs that introduce you to your readers. It doesn’t need to only focus on your professional writing career; the best bios throw in a personal touch too. You can mention your home life, your hobbies, or include a couple of interesting facts about yourself. It’s all about engaging your readers with relevant and interesting information that helps you stand out from the crowd. 

In this article, I’ll show you ten great examples of top-notch author bios from bestselling writers, and I’ll also provide you with some actionable tips to help you write your own.

10 Examples of Great Author Bios

1. farrah rochon.

USA Today bestselling author Farrah Rochon hails from a small town just west of New Orleans. She has garnered much acclaim for her Crescent City-set Holmes Brothers series and her Moments in Maplesville small town series. Farrah is a two-time finalist for the prestigious RITA Award from the Romance Writers of America and has been nominated for an RT BOOKReviews Reviewers Choice Award. In 2015, she received the Emma Award for Author of the Year. When she is not writing in her favorite coffee shop, Farrah spends most of her time reading, cooking, traveling the world, visiting Walt Disney World, and catching her favorite Broadway shows. An admitted sports fanatic, she feeds her addiction to football by watching New Orleans Saints games on Sunday afternoons. Keep in touch with Farrah via the web: Website: https://www.farrahrochon.com/ Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/farrahrochonauthor Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/FarrahRochon

2. Michael Siemsen

Michael Siemsen grew up in Venice, California, the second son of a Vietnam veteran turned policeman. Initially focusing on performing arts, Michael attended the prestigious Alexander Hamilton Academy in Los Angeles. After serving in the U.S. Army as a tracked vehicle operator, he returned to civilian life and began writing short stories and screenplays, and directing short films and music videos. Moving to Northern California in the late 90s, Michael met his future wife, Ana. The two now live near the San Joaquin River Delta with their equally adventurous children, as well as “the dogs,” “that cat,” and a fish or two. A USA Today and Amazon Bestselling Author, Michael has released six novels selling over 200,000 copies, as well as audiobooks , short stories contributed to anthologies, and has won several awards, including the “Sundance of Books,” the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Michael’s latest release is RETURN, book three in his popular Matt Turner series.

3. Glynnis Campbell

Glynnis Campbell is a USA Today bestselling author of over two dozen swashbuckling action-adventure historical romances, mostly set in Scotland, and a charter member of The Jewels of Historical Romance — 12 internationally beloved authors. She’s the wife of a rock star and the mother of two young adults, but she’s also been a ballerina, a typographer, a film composer, a piano player, a singer in an all-girl rock band, and a voice in those violent video games you won’t let your kids play. Doing her best writing on cruise ships, in Scottish castles, on her husband’s tour bus, and at home in her sunny southern California garden, Glynnis loves to play medieval matchmaker… transporting readers to a place where the bold heroes have endearing flaws, the women are stronger than they look, the land is lush and untamed, and chivalry is alive and well! Want a FREE BOOK? Sign up for her newsletter at  https://www.glynnis.net

4. Courtney Milan

Courtney Milan’s books have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist. She is a New York Times and a USA Today bestseller and a RITA® winner. Courtney lives in the Rocky Mountains with her husband, an exceptionally perfect dog, and an attack cat. Before she started writing historical romance, Courtney got a graduate degree in theoretical physical chemistry from UC Berkeley. After that, just to shake things up, she went to law school at the University of Michigan and graduated summa cum laude. Then she did a handful of clerkships with some really important people who are way too dignified to be named here. She was a law professor for a while. She now writes full-time. If you want to know when Courtney’s next book will come out, please visit her website at http://www.courtneymilan.com , where you can sign up to receive an email when she has her next release.

5. Kwame Alexander

Kwame Alexander is a poet, an educator, and the New York Times bestselling author of twenty-nine books, including Rebound, the follow-up to his Newbery Medal–winning novel, The Crossover. Kwame writes for children of all ages. His other picture books include Undefeated, Animal Ark, and Out of Wonder.  A regular contributor to NPR’s Morning Edition, Kwame is the recipient of several awards, including the Coretta Scott King Author Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, three NAACP Image Award nominations, and the 2018 inaugural Conroy Legacy Award.  He believes that poetry can change the world, and he uses it to inspire and empower young people through his writing workshop, the Write Thing. Kwame is also the host and producer of the literary variety/talk show Bookish. You can visit him at  www.kwamealexander.com .

6. Tiffany D. Jackson

Tiffany D. Jackson is the NYT Bestselling author of YA novels including the Coretta Scott King — John Steptoe New Talent Award-winning Monday’s Not Coming, the NAACP Image Award-nominated Allegedly, Let Me Hear A Rhyme, GROWN, and her forthcoming 2021 titles BLACKOUT, WHITE SMOKE, and SANTA IN THE CITY. She received her bachelor of arts in film from Howard University, her master of arts in media studies from the New School, and has over a decade in TV/Film experience. The Brooklyn native is a lover of naps, cookie dough, and beaches, currently residing in the borough she loves, most likely multitasking. Tiffany grew up in Brooklyn Heights but also count places like Fort Greene, Far Rockaway, East New York, and Kingston, Jamaica as her home. She attended Hendrick Hudson High School in Montrose, NY, she received her bachelor of arts in film from Howard University, and her master of arts in media studies from the New School University.  She has over a decade of experience in the television industry, working for various networks and media companies including National Geographic (focused on documentaries such as Lockdown, a prison subculture series) Roc Nation, BET, FUSE, BBC AMERICA, and EPIX. From managing live events, concerts, festival showcases such as BET AWARDS and SXSW Music Show Case, to TV series, specials, and pilots such as FUSE: TOP 20 Countdown, Trending 10, The Hustle: After Party Live and in-studio concert series to producing hip-hop documentaries and artist promotional spots. In 2009, she wrote and directed the short horror film, The Field Trip, receiving praise in the film festival circuit. WANT TO KNOW MORE?  GO HERE →

7. J.T. Ellison

J.T. Ellison began her career as a presidential appointee in the White House, where a nuclear physicist taught her how to obsess over travel itineraries and make a seriously good pot of Earl Grey, spawning both her love of loose leaf and a desire for control of her own destiny. Jaded by the political climate in D.C., she made her way back to her first love, creative writing. More than 20 novels later, she is an award-winning New York Times and USA Today bestselling author with thrillers published in 27 countries and 15 languages. She is also the Emmy Award-winning cohost of A Word on Words, a literary interview television show.  She lives in Nashville with her husband and two small gray minions, known as cats in some cultures. She thinks they’re furry aliens. Visit www.jtellison.com or @thrillerchick for more. ***Psst, J.T. here. Want a FREE ebook ? Visit www.jtellison.com/subscribe and sign up for my newsletter. Along with your free ebook, you’ll get my latest news and updates, insider exclusives, plus awesome recipes and book recommendations. It’s a lot of fun! Happy reading, y’all.

8. Vanessa Riley

Vanessa Riley writes Historical Fiction and Historical Romance (Georgian, Regency, & Victorian) featuring hidden histories, dazzling multi-culture communities, and strong sisterhoods. She promises to pull heart strings, offer a few laughs, and share tidbits of tantalizing history.  This Southern, Irish, Trini girl holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering and a MS in industrial engineering and engineering management from Stanford University. She also earned a BS and MS in mechanical engineering from Penn State University. Yet, her love of history and lattes have overwhelmed her passion for math, leading to the publication of over 20+ titles. She loves writing on her southern porch with proper caffeine.  Vanessa has a very diverse background. She has been a radio anchorwoman and church announcer. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and President-Elect of The Beau Monde, a specialty RWA Chapter. She is also a member of Georgia Romance Writers, NINC, and Historical Novel Society. She is on the Board of Directors of Christian Book Lovers Retreat where readers escape for a weekend of fun, faith and connection to the author community.  Her latest release, A Duke, The Lady, and A Baby is an Amazon Best of the Month Selection and a Publishers Weekly Summer Reads 2020 Editors’ Pick. A Duke, The Lady, and A Baby has been reviewed by Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Library Journal, and the New York Times and received a starred review in Publishers Weekly.  She’s currently working on Island Queen for William Morrow, a novel centering on Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, a formerly enslaved person who becomes one of the wealthiest women in the Caribbean.   Vanessa loves cooking her Trinidadian grandma’s cake recipes and collecting Irish crochet lace and writing on her southern porch with proper caffeination.  Sarah Younger of the Nancy Yost Literary Agency represents Vanessa.

9. Rick Mofina

USA Today bestselling author Rick Mofina is a former journalist who has interviewed murderers on death row, flown over L.A. with the LAPD and patrolled with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police near the Arctic. He’s also reported from the Caribbean, Africa and Kuwait’s border with Iraq. His books have been published in nearly 30 countries, including an illegal translation produced in Iran. His work has been praised by James Patterson, Dean Koontz, Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Tess Gerritsen, Jeffery Deaver, Sandra Brown, James Rollins, Brad Thor, Nick Stone, David Morrell, Allison Brennan, Heather Graham, Linwood Barclay, Peter Robinson, Håkan Nesser and Kay Hooper. The Crime Writers of Canada, The International Thriller Writers, and The Private Eye Writers of America have listed his titles among the best in crime fiction. As a two-time winner of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award, a four-time Thriller Award finalist and a two-time Shamus Award finalist, the Library Journal calls him, “One of the best thriller writers in the business.”

10. April White

April White has been a film producer, private investigator, bouncer, teacher and screenwriter. She has climbed in the Himalayas, lived on a gold mine in the Yukon, and survived a shipwreck. She and her husband live in Southern California with their two sons, dog, various chickens, and a lifetime collection of books.   Facebook is a solid source of distraction for her, and therefore, her Facebook page, April White Books, is usually the first place to find news, teasers, quotes, and excerpts from her books. She also has a secret reader group on Facebook, called “Kick-Ass Heroines.” If you’d like to get in on some of those conversations, you can request an add here: Kick-Ass Heroines. Sometimes that news links to Twitter, but she hasn’t mastered the art of the pithy tweet, and therefore often avoids the medium for fear of sounding boring. Goodreads is another place to find her lurking around the stacks and spying on her friends’ reading habits. Become her Goodreads friend so she can see what you’re reading, too. ​Marking Time was the 2016 Library Journal Indie e-book winner for Young Adult books, and was chosen by Library Journal for national inclusion on both the fantasy and young adult SELF-e Library Select lists on Biblioboard, The whole series is also available for libraries nationwide through Overdrive, and April is very happy to participate in any library (or bookish) events to which she’s invited.

7 Tips for Writing Your Own Author Bio

Your author bio might only be a few short paragraphs in length, but every word counts. This is your opportunity to make a great first impression with your readership, so it’s important to take some time penning your bio in order to put your best foot forward. 

Here are 7 important tips to consider when writing your author bio.

1. Write in the Third Person

Even though you are writing these words about yourself, never use the words like “I” or “my.” Instead, write from the third person point of view, referencing yourself by your first or second name. 

2. Keep it Short

Your bio is about quality, not quantity. Keep it to under 300 words, and make sure that every sentence adds value. It might be tempting to list out all of your achievements but stick to the big stuff that will make the most impact. You can always include a section on your website where readers can view your full list of accolades, but they don’t need to be featured on the back of your new book under your author bio. 

3. Know Your Audience

Get to know your readers so you can understand how best to speak to them in your author bio. A great way to do this is to hang out with your readers on Twitter or other social media platforms. Interacting with your readership builds a mutual bond and gives you much more insight into who they are and what makes them tick.

A good rule of thumb to  engage your readers  is to stick to the same writing style you use in your published work to talk to your audience in your author bio.

I’d also advise that you assemble a small group of readers who are willing to read your draft and provide feedback and ideas on how to improve it. And consider asking those closest to you to check whether they think it’s a good representation of who you are and what you’re all about. 

4. Include Career Highlights

Note the word “highlights”; this is not the place to list every college course you ever completed and every short story you’ve ever published (see Tip #2) but be sure to include the most prominent relevant parts of your background in writing. 

Higher education diplomas beyond college level are worth including, and of course, list a short selection of your previously published works if you have any. 

If your work has been nominated for an award, but it didn’t quite make the cut, it could still be worth including. The “…. Award-nominated author…” has a great ring to it; it almost doesn’t matter that you didn’t win!

5. Let Your Personality Shine Through

This is  your  author bio, so your personality should shine through in every sentence. This really helps to create a rapport with your readership and give them a better picture of the person behind the words on the page. Done well, this can help you create a loyal fan base and a dedicated readership. 

You can show your personality in your author bio by getting creative with how you present your information. You might want to tell your life story in an inventive way, linking events to each other to create a picture of who you are and how you got here. You can make it fun (see author J.T. Ellison’s example in the list above) and add a well-placed joke in there too. 

6. Include Some Personal Information

A great way to connect with your audience is to show them that you’re not all business; you have a personal life with family, friends, pets, passions, and hobbies too. Readers want to know the human being behind the pages of the book, and this is a great opportunity to give them a little taster of who you really are. 

Most authors choose to include where they live and where they grew up, plus a little bit about their family life too. 

You might also want to include a major life event that has shaped who you are today. 

Just remember to keep it relevant. If you write self-help books about quitting smoking, then a little bit about your struggle with addiction might be the perfect addition to your bio. But if your genre is historical fiction, then it’s best to leave this out. 

7. Create a Basic Verison that can be Tweaked

Your author bio will primarily contain the same information wherever you use it, be it on the insert of your latest book, on your website, or promotional material for an upcoming book tour. But you can also tweak it a little to suit the situation and the audience. 

These tips are designed to help you write a basic author bio, but you can spice it up or remove elements to create a more serious tone depending on the application.

I hope these examples and tips help you to write your own engaging author bio to share wherever you promote your work. Remember to keep it short and to the point, and add a little flair and personality so that your readers can get to know the person behind the pen. 

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No Sweat Shakespeare

Famous Authors: The 30 Greatest Writers Of All Time

Who are the most  most famous authors the world has ever known ? Perhaps that’s not the real question: we should instead be asking, ‘how can we judge’? With that in mind one can begin to talk about criteria. One can think about which famous writers had the most influence on the world as a result of what they wrote, or how their writings changed the world.

We don’t necessarily have to talk about their writing style or how good their prose is, as that is, in any case, far too subjective: their greatness could simply be about their ideas – ideas that grab the attention of the world and change the world’s perceptions forever. In that case the writing would only be a vehicle for the transmission of the idea they wish to convey. That idea or theory or research is the reason for writing the book.

And then, particularly if we are including Shakespeare as one of the influential writers, we need to look at what kind of writing we are talking about. Shakespeare falls into the fiction writer category and so, perhaps, to find our best writers we should look at other fiction writers whose work had something like the influence of William Shakespeare’s. It should therefore be clear that our list of the thirty greatest writers are all fiction writers. Our criterion will be that they should be poets, dramatists and prose fiction writers who have had a significant influence on the writers who came after them or on the direction of society.

But who, apart from Shakespeare, are the greatest writers of all time? Without further ado, here is a list of thirty of the greatest writers of all time offered by NoSweatShakespeare. It would be impossible to rank them so they are listed in order of their birth dates:

Homer ~850 BCE

homer-writer

Sophocles 496-406 BCE

Sophocles-writers

Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro) 70 BCE – 19 BCE

Virgil-writer

The Evangelist, Mark (Author of the Gospel of St Mark) 1st Century CE

saint-mark-writer

Dante (Durante degli Alighieri) 1265-1321

Dante-alighieri-writer

Geoffrey Chaucer 1343-1400

Famous Authors: The 30 Greatest Writers Of All Time 1

Francois Rabelais 1498-1553

francois-rabelais-writer

Cervantes (Miguel de Cervantes Cortinas) 1547-1616

miguel-de-cervantes-writer

John Donne 1572-1631

John Donne

John Milton 1608-1674

John Milton portrait

John Bunyan (1628-1688)

john-bunyan-writer

Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet) 1694-1778

voltaire-writer

William Blake 1757-1827

William Blake portrait Blake portrait

Jane Austen 1775 – 1817

Jane Austin

Hans Christian Andersen 1805-1875

hans-christian-anderson-writer

Hans Christian Andersen was a Danish playwright, travel writer, poet, novelist and story writer. His fairy tales place him as one of the world’s greatest writers ever. Written basically for children they transcend age barriers because of their universal nature: they reach the deepest levels of the human condition, each story demonstrating something profound about what it means to be a human being… Read more on Hans Christian Anderson >>

Charles Dickens 1812-1870

Charles Dickens photograph

Herman Melville 1819-1891

Herman-Melville-writer

Gustave Flaubert 1821-1880

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Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky 1821-1881

fyodor-dostoyevsky-writer

Jules Verne 1828-1905

jules-verne-writer

Leo Tolstoy (Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy) 1828-1910

leo-tolstoy-writer

Emily Dickinson 1830-1886

emily-dickinson-writer

Unknown as a poet during her lifetime, Emily Dickinson is now regarded by many as one of the most powerful voices of American culture. Her poetry has inspired many other writers, including the Brontes. In 1994 the critic, Harold Bloom, listed her among the twenty-six central writers of Western civilization.  After she died her sister found the almost two thousand poems the poet had written… Read Emily Dickinson quotes . Read more on Emily Dickinson >>

Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) 1832-1898

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James Joyce 1882-1941

james-joyce-writer

Franz Kafka 1883-1924

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T.S. Eliot 1888-1965

F scott fitzgerald 1896-1940.

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Jorge Luis Borges 1899-1986

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George Orwell 1903-1950

George Orwell photo

Gabriel Garcia Marques 1927-2014

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Like our list of the thirty greatest writers of all time? Any we’re missing? Check out our list of famous English writers , and most famous American authors .

Fiction writers do not write to transmit an idea or report on research they have done. They use language to make us think that their inventions are real, that the places they create actually exist and that their characters are real people, like us, who love and hate and suffer and strive. They invite us to enter into the world of their text and although they usually write only to entertain, there is a sense in that they point to truths just as real as those reached by Darwin and Einstein. If they do that at the highest level, in creating a world that we both recognise and can be inspired by, they reveal themselves as great writers and influence the world in that way. Like Shakespeare.

So who are these writers who can be placed in the same category as Shakespeare for doing that? Shakespeare is, of course, foremost among the great writers. Apart from writing plays that can be held up like mirrors in which we can see ourselves as human beings clearly, and come to an understanding of many of the things that make us human, Shakespeare’s poetry has had a profound effect on the English language: the way we use it today has been shaped by his words and phrases. It can be difficult at times to utter a sentence in English without using a construction first used by Shakespeare. And whenever we need to find a phrase that will sum something we want to say up perfectly and beautifully, we will find a phrase somewhere in Shakespeare’s works .

Ratherrapid

The #2, #3 and #4 writers of all time seem to be missing from this list: #1 Shakespeare #2 Faust as translated by the great poet Walter Arndt–Part II Act V = to anything in Mr. S. and maybe exceeds. #3 Daniel Deronda by G. Eliot #4 Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon #5 Middlemarch

Brian Daly

To include neither Proust nor Faulkner is preposterous. No reasonable critic places Orwell, Carrol, Verne or Christian-Anderson above them.

WVC

Mr Daly, Your post, at best, is an organized mess. To define in an absolute term that a “reasonable critic” should side with you, is a crash landing of opinion. Your suggestions of authors Faulkner and Proust, is purely for dramatic effect. Salinger and King are above them all.

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TOP INDIAN WRITERS OF ALL TIME

75 Best Indian Authors and their Books in English: The Must-Read List (2020 Update)

[Updated on 26-April-2020]

Best Indian Authors

I’ve been trying to compile this list of Best Indian Authors in the English Language for a long time now. Every time I start, I get stuck up at zeroing in on the names.

There are so many great writers and novelists from India and of Indian origin, in the English language, that it is difficult to keep the list short.

Though I’m not a great fan of literary fictions and tend to incline towards mysteries and thrillers, I have tried my best to be unbiased and impartial.

While creating such lists, it is unavoidable to incline towards one’s preferences and tastes. If you are a fan of romance, you’d prefer Durjoy Dutta over Amish Tripathi; if you are a fan of humour, you’d prefer Sidin Vadukut over Ravinder Singh, and vice versa.

So, I decided to break down the list into different genres.

Also Read : 121 Best English Books by Indian Authors: The Definitive List (2024)

THE ALL-TIME GREATS OF INDIAN ENGLISH WRITING



Unarguably the , R.K. Narayan’s novels, and short stories are the reasons why common middle-class Indians developed an interest in English stories. Best known for the fictional town of Malgudi, Narayan has written many fiction books including , etc. His most famous and most sold book is his collection of short stories – . His is a name which you will find on any list of “Best Indian Authors”.


One of the pioneers of Anglo-Indian fiction, Mulk Raj Anand’s works are remarkable for their depiction of poorer castes in a conventional Indian society. He is one of the first Indian writers in English to have gained international readership with his first novel , published in 1935. His other notable works include . Mulk Raj is one Indian author whose every book is highly recommended.


Khushwant Singh is one of the greatest Indian writers and journalists of all times. A versatile genius, he has been a lawyer, an information officer, a journalist, an editor and an MP. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1974, which he returned in 1984 to protest against Operation Bluestar. His foremost books include , Delhi: A Novel, Why I Supported the Emergency, There is No God and , amongst others.


Renowned for his role in promoting children's literature in India, . He was born in Kasauli and grew up in Shimla and Dehradun. His life in the different hill stations of Himalayas has greatly influenced his stories and writing style. With a career spanning over 50 years, he has experimented with many different genres - children's fiction, short stories, novella, non-fiction, romance, etc. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1999 and Padma Bhushan in 2014. His greatest works include , The Night Train at Deoli and .


A contemporary of R.K. Narayan and Mulk Raj Anand, Manohar Malgonkar is largely ignored in spite of his stellar contribution to Indian writing in English. At a time when mysteries and thrillers were not very well-read in India, Manohar pioneered the genre and contributed immensely to it with books like , A Bend in the Ganges, Bandicoot Run, Cactus Country, etc. If he were writing today, he would surely be an international name in the mystery and thriller genres, writing and competing with the likes of Jeffrey Archer, Clive Cussler, and James Patterson.


He writes with equal flair in English and Bengali. His books are the foremost authority on the histories and cultures of India during British colonialism. While working as an accountant in the Indian Army, he began writing for popular magazines and newspapers. In 1951, his masterpiece was published which put him on the list of greatest Indian writers. The same book, due to its controversial acknowledgement, ruined his life - he was terminated from Government service, deprived of his pension and blacklisted as an author. His other notable works include and .

TOP INDIAN LITERARY FICTION WRITERS



She rose to international prominence after winning the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1998 for her novel . Roy began her career writing screenplays for television and movies and went on to become one of the most recognised names in Indian writing in English.



Aravind Adiga's debut novel won the Man Booker Prize in 2008 when he was just 33 years old. He was born in Madras and grew up in Mangalore. He began his career as a financial journalist at Financial Times. He currently lives in Mumbai.



Her critically acclaimed first novel was published in 1998. Her second book won the 2006 Man Booker Prize. In 2015, she was listed as one of 20 most influential global Indian women.


His 1349 page novel, A Suitable Boy, published in 1993 propelled him into the public limelight. He has been conferred with many awards like Padma Shri, Sahitya Academy Award, Pravasi Bharatiya Samman and WH Smith Literary Award.



He was born in Calcutta and grew up in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. This influenced his books, most of which are set around the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. He shone to limelight with his book The Circle of Reason which won the Prix Médicis Etranger, France's top literary award. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 2007.



His first novel Narcopolis, set in the Bombay of 70s and 80s, won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature and was also shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize. His collection of poems These Errors are Correct was awarded the Sahitya Academy Award.



A career United Nations official, he is currently a Lok Sabha MP. His monthly column India Reawakening is published in 80 newspapers around the world. He began writing at the age of 6 and getting published at the age of 10. His books are an authority on British atrocities in India.

BEST HISTORIANS AND WRITERS OF HISTORY BOOKS FROM INDIA



He was the Director General of Archaeological Survey of India from 1968 to 1972. He is an authority on ancient archaeological excavations and has written extensively on the subject.



Having spent his childhood in poverty, he completed his education with the help of scholarships. He started his career as a lecturer, then became the professor of history at the University of Calcutta and later the Principal of the College of Indology, BHU. He has researched extensively on Vedic and ancient Indian history.



Sekhar Bandyopadhyay is Senior Lecturer and Head of the History Programme, School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. His research interests include the social and political history of modern India, with special reference to Bengal.



An expert on the economic and political history of modern India, Bipan Chandra's book India’s Struggle for Independence, is a must-read book on India's freedom movement. He started his career as a lecturer at Hindu College, Delhi and went to become the Chairman of National Book Trust India.



Srinath Raghavan is Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, specialising in contemporary and historical aspects of India’s foreign and security policies.



Regarded as one of Asia's leading economists, he is currently the Principal Economic Adviser in the Ministry of Finance, Government of India. In 2010, he was named Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in Davos.



He is the foremost authority on the life of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. He has published several books refuting the air crash theory which promulgates that Netaji died in an air crash in Taiwan.

BEST INDIAN AUTHORS OF RELIGIOUS/MYTHOLOGY BOOKS



He is most famously known for his speech at the Parliament of Religions, Chicago in 1893. He vastly contributed to the rise of nationalism in colonial India. Since his childhood, he was inclined towards spirituality and was the chief disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. His books introduced the concepts of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world.



Rajaji was the last Governor-General of India. He also served as the Governor of West Bengal, Minister of Home Affairs and Chief Minister of Madras state. Besides his political accomplishments, he was a gifted writer. His English translations of Ramayana and Mahabharata are still considered the best. He often regarded his writings as his best service to the people.



A professor by profession and a writer by choice, Pratibha Ray undoubtedly is a household name in Odisha and in most parts of India through her translated works.



The author of several bestsellers, Ashok K. Banker's books span many genres - crime thrillers, literary, mythology. His Epic India Library aims to retell all the myths, legends and itihasa of the Indian sub-continent with over 70 volumes.



An Indian mythologist, he is famous for his work on ancient Indian scriptures.

BEST INDIAN AUTHORS OF HISTORICAL FICTION BOOKS



Ashwin's first book, , was rejected by 47 literary agents and publishers which he then self-published under the pseudonym Shawn Haigins, an anagram of his name. It was later picked up by Westland and since then he has been publishing one bestseller after another. His book was on AC Nielsen's Top-10 for over two years.



Indu Sundaresan was born and brought up in India, on Air Force bases around the country. She grew up on stories from Hindu mythology told by her father and grandfather. Her first novel, , won the Washington State Book Award in 2003.



Basically, an author of self-help books and a motivational speaker, Vineet has been featured by CNBC TV18 in their popular program ‘Young Turks’, where he was featured as being among the most successful young entrepreneurs of India. With Harappa: Curse of the Blood River, he has proved himself to be a historical fiction writer to look forward to.

BEST MYTHOlOGICAL FICTION WRITERS IN INDIA



India's literary pop star, Amish Tripathi is one of the most sold authors in India today. His books have collectively sold more than 4 million copies, with gross sales of Rs. 120 crores. Forbes India has ranked Amish among the top 100 celebrities in India.



He carved out a totally new genre - the counter-telling of mythology. His debut mythological fiction broke into all the top seller charts within a week of its launch in 2012.



Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an award-winning and bestselling author, poet, activist and teacher of writing. Her work has been published in over 50 magazines and her writing has been included in over 50 anthologies. Several of her works have been made into films and plays.



, Krishna’s bestselling debut novel and the first in the Aryavarta Chronicles series of mytho-historical novels, received critical acclaim.



Vamsee Juluri received his PhD in Communication from the University of Massachusetts in 1999. His research interest is in the globalization of media audiences with an emphasis on Indian television and cinema, mythology, religion, violence and Gandhian philosophy.

THE BEST WRITERS OF ROMANCE NOVELS IN INDIA



She has been consistently nominated for the Forbes List of the 100 most influential celebrities in India since 2013. India Today calls her 'the only woman in the highest-selling league'.



Ravinder Singh lost the love of his life in 2007, a few days before their engagement, which inspired him to take up writing. Today he is one of the foremost romance writers in India.



Durjoy Datta's first novel, was released in 2008 while he was still in college. Today he’s the bestselling author of twelve blockbuster novels.



He is the recipient of the 2013 Youth Achievers' Award for being one of the highest selling romance writers in India. His book was on No. 1 in Nielsen bestselling charts for more than 10 consecutive weeks. He quit his management job in 2012 to devote his entire time to writing.


He needs no introduction. Most of his bestselling books are made into movies which themselves are blockbusters. A noted public figure, he regularly writes and speaks on youth, career development and current affairs.

BEST MYSTERY AND THRILLER AUTHORS IN INDIA



Not to be confused with the journalist with the same name, Vikram Chandra is the son of Kamna Chandra, writer of several Hindi films and plays. His debut novel won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book.



A banker by profession and an author by choice, Ravi Subramanian has written popular thrillers on banking and bankers including The Banker Trilogy.



His speciality lies in romantic thrillers that he writes along with philosophy mixed with it. His first book “A Thing beyond forever” released in 2008 and won the national bestseller tag in just a few months of its release. Today, he is a full-time writer and scriptwriter.



Bhaskar Chattopadhyay has had a successful corporate career as a statistician and management professional. Today he is a successful writer and translator.



An alumnus of FTII, and a former journalist, Salil Desai is an Indian novelist who writes murder mysteries. He has also produced films, held creative writing workshops and written a number of short stories.



Madhumita Bhattacharyya wrote for The Telegraph in Calcutta for a decade, followed by a stint in the nonprofit sector.



She was working as a creative director when she wrote her first book, a collection of short stories called . The book won her a fellowship from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

TOP-MOST WRITERS OF SCI-FI/FANTASY NOVELS IN INDIA



The pioneer in Indian sci-fi writing, Samit published his first sci-fi novel, , when he was just 23. His novel , published in 2012, introduced him to the West. Superheronovels.com called it a contender for best superhero novel of all time.



Indra has written about books, comics, TV and film for publications including Slant Magazine, VOGUE India, Elle India, Strange Horizons and Vancouver Weekly. Indra’s debut novel was the winner of the 2017 Lambda Literary Award for Best LGBTQ SF/F/Horror.


Sukanya Venkatraghavan is an Indian writer, primarily writing fantasy novels. Her first brush with fantasy was as a film journalist in Mumbai, covering the glamorous yet daunting world of Bollywood with publications like Filmfare and Marie Claire. Her debut work is a best-selling fantasy novel. With just one book to her name, she is still a fantasy writer to look out for.


Taneja's journalism career began with the magazines Femina and Men's Health (where she was the Assistant Editor of the India edition). She continues to write for many print and online publications including Mint, Discover India, Swarajya, Scroll and The Huffington Post (India).



Following his training at the New York Film Academy, New York, Vikram Balagopal has worked in India with various film-makers, and his screenplay was chosen for Mira Nair’s Maisha Screenwriter’s Lab. He is also a published poet, illustrator and cartoonist for several magazines.



Shobha Nihalani is the author of The Silent Monument. Her debut novel, Karmic Blues, was translated and published in Denmark. She has worked as a freelance journalist, copywriter, bookkeeper, English teacher and salesperson.



A self-described cubicle dweller by day and writer by night, Mainak is the author of over a dozen books, some of which have been bestsellers in India and abroad. These books have been translated into Turkish, Vietnamese, Japanese, French, German and Portuguese.

BEST CHICK-LIT AUTHORS IN INDIA



She studied direction at the Film and Television Institute of India and has assisted Mansoor Khan and Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Her critically-acclaimed debut, , is the biggest-selling Indian chick lit novel.


Kaushal was born and brought up in New Delhi and her stories are based on her personal experiences. An MBA from IIM Calcutta, she has worked with Nestle India Limited and Nokia Mobile Phones.



Famous for writing varied female characters in popular Bollywood movies, Advaita Kala is a hotelier by profession. Be it Vidya Bagchi from Kahaani or Kiara from Anjaana-Anjaani, she has a knack for creating strong, courageous and independent female characters.



Daughter of the famous Malayalam writer and former IAS officer N. S. Madhavan, Meenakshi is a blogger an a writer.

BEST AUTHORS OF SELF-HELP AUTHORS IN INDIA



















Also Read : 121 Best English Books by Indian Authors: The Definitive List (2018)

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101 famous authors and greatest writers of all time.

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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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Larry Atchley Jr

About the author.

I write mostly poetry, fantasy, science fiction, and horror short stories , and I'm busy working on a couple of fantasy novels. I love to write for shared world anthology series, and am currently a regular contributor for the the Heroes in Hell series created by Janet Morris, and the Sha'Daa series created by Michael H. Hanson. I have had stories and poems published in several anthologies. You can read my blog at www.larryatchleyjr.wordpress.com. Some of my other interests include photography, Qi-Gong Kung Fu martial arts, traditional archery, fencing, philosophy, Norse mythology and sagas, paranormal studies and investigation, bicycling, hiking, reading, collecting books, collecting and sharing notable quotations. I am also a crew member under the alias Lars Shortshanks, of the group The Seadog Slam which performs the reciting of original pirate poetry and songs at various events around north Texas and beyond. I like spending time with my wife Ali, who is a writer and artist, and my daughters Alina and Leila. I grew up and live in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, in Texas.

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