Famous Authors



Modified: 31 May 2023

Famous Authors

Throughout the years, many poets and writers have come and gone. The works of some, however, continue to hold great value and influence in today’s society. In fact, you’ll find that some of the most famous authors from centuries ago are still some of the famous authors today.

Literature is self-expression. Whether you are reading or writing, literature can help you step into the shoes of other people. It can take you to other cities and other worlds. Most importantly, literature teaches us about humanity. Understanding that is most likely the common denominator among the people on this list. Despite writing in different forms and in different eras, these famous authors write about common themes that appeal to our basic human experiences.

To know more about these famous authors, including their early life, best works, and other trivia, read on! You might find new book recommendations too!

Table of Contents

Louisa May Alcotta

Years Active: November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888
Nationality: American
Type of works: Prose and poetry

Louisa May Alcott did not achieve critical acclaim right away. During her early career as a writer, she wrote short stories and sensation novels under different pen names. One of her pen names was A.M. Barnard.

Her most famous work is “Little Women.” It is a coming-of-age story about Jo and her life with her sisters, Meg, Beth, and Amy. Many consider “Little Women” as one of the best books of all time. It is semi-autobiographical, where Alcott based most of the plot on her own childhood with her sisters.

Some of her other famous works include “Little Men,” “Jo’s Boys,” and “Eight Cousins.”

Dante Alighieri

Years Active: 1265 – September 14, 1321
Nationality: Florentine
Type of works: Poetry

Famous Authors: Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy
Image from Wikipedia

There are a lot of uncertainties about Alighieri. For one, his actual birthday is a mystery. People can only estimate that it’s between May 21 and June 20 in the year 1265. His real name, too, is unsure.

One thing that is certain is that Dante Alighieri is one of the most famous authors because of his “Divinia Commedia.” “Divinia Commedia” is an Italian poem that narrates Dante’s journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. This piece established Italian literature as most poetry at the time was written in Latin. The English title for this is “Divine Comedy.”

Some of his other known works include “La Vita Nuova” and “Conivivio.”

Jane Austen

Years Active: December 16, 1775 – July 18, 1817
Nationality: English
Type of works: Prose

Jane Austen is one of the most famous female authors today. Her novels are social commentaries on the British gentry and other feminist issues of her time. Many praise her way with words as her stories often mix humor and irony to create effective satire.

Austen has a handful of famous works, but many consider “Pride and Prejudice” to be the most successful one. The story revolves around Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters, who are all subject to the societal pressure women faced during the Regency era to marry early and rich.

Austens’ other famous works include “Sense and Sensibility,” “Mansfield Park,” and “Emma,” all of which are often included in “best books ever” lists.

William Blake

Years Active: November 28, 1757 – August 12, 1827
Nationality: English
Type of works: Poetry

Aside from being a famous painter, Blake was also one of the most famous authors in England. Both his paintings and writings were part of Britain’s Romantic movement. Unfortunately, he did not receive acclaim until after his death.

Blake is most known for his book, “Songs of Innocence.” It also has a companion book, “Songs of Experience.” These books are collections of his poems, along with illustrations that Blake himself painted.

Some of his other famous works are “Visions of the Daughters of Albion.”

Emily Brontë

Years Active: July 30, 1818 – December 19, 1848
Nationality: English
Type of works: Poetry and prose

Emily Jane Brontë has only published one novel in her life. Despite this, she is still one of the most famous authors from England. She used the pen name Ellis Bell to publish her work. In fact, people don’t know much about Brontë’s private life.

The English classic, “Wuthering Heights,” which many consider to be one of the best books of all time, is by Brontë. “Wuthering Heights” follows the lives of the Earnshaws and the Lintons as they get caught up in revenge. The novel is retrospective, and it uses poetic language and dry humor.

Brontë also published a collection of poems. However, she co-authored this with her sisters, Charlotte and Anne. The title of the book is “Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell.”

Dan Brown

Years Active: June 22, 1964 – Present
Nationality: American
Type of works: Prose

Dan Gerhard Brown is a familiar name for most thriller novel enthusiasts. He writes stories that revolve around cryptography, art, and conspiracies about religion. Because of the themes of his novels, many people accuse him of being “anti-Christian.” However, he has denied this himself on his website.

This famous author wrote “Angels & Demons,” which is the first installment in a series of novels. The story follows the life of Robert Langdon, a university professor who finds out about the Illuminati hidden within the Vatican’s ranks. “The Da Vinci Code,” and “The Lost Symbol” also follow the story of Robert Langdon.

Brown’s other famous works include “Digital Fortress” and “Deception Point.”

Lewis Carroll

Years Active: January 27, 1832 – January 14, 1898
Nationality: British
Type of works: Prose and poetry

Famous Authors: Lewis Carroll
Image from ThoughtCo

Lewis Carroll is one of the most famous children’s authors today. His real name is Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Aside from being a writer, Carroll was also a mathematician and inventor. In fact, he also contributed to the fields of geometry and algebra.

Carroll’s most famous work is “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” This story is one of the most famous children’s stories out there. It is about Alice, who falls into a rabbit hole and enters a magical world of fantasy creatures.

He also wrote a sequel with the title “Through the Looking-Glass.” “Jabberwocky” and “The Hunting of the Snark” are some poems that he also published.

Barbara Cartland

Years Active: July 9, 1901 – May 21, 2000
Nationality: British
Type of works: Prose

Dame Mary Barbara Hamilton Cartland is one of the most famous romance authors, with over 700 published books. While some critics call her books formulaic, her books are still some of the most popular from the 20th century.

Some of her most popular works include “A Hazard of Hearts.” This also has a film adaptation. Her first published work is “Jigsaw.” It is a thriller novel that later became a bestseller.

Aside from writing romance novels, Cartland has also written cookbooks, plays, and biographies. She also holds the Guinness World Record for the most novels published in a single year (1977).

Anton Chekhov

Years Active: January 29, 1860 – July 15, 1904
Nationality: Russian
Type of works: Plays and short stories

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov is one of the most famous authors in Russia. He is a household name in theater, alongside Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg. He is one of the most influential writers of early modernism in theater. Aside from being a writer, Chekhov was also a doctor.

Chekhov wrote many acclaimed plays and short stories. This includes “A Dreary Story,” “Ivanov,” “Peasants,” and “The Bear.” Critics describe his writings as lacking complex plots. However, his haunting and lyrical technique captured audiences and readers worldwide.

Agatha Christie

Years Active: September 15, 1890 – January 12, 1976
Nationality: English
Type of works: Detective novels and short stories

You have likely heard about Agatha Christie. She is the world’s best-selling author of all time. Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie has published 66 novels and several short stories, and many believe that she is the greatest mystery novelist ever. Consequently, the Golden Age of Detective Fiction happened during her career.

Christie wrote “The Mysterious Affair at Styles” and “And Then There Were None,” where the latter sold over 100 million copies worldwide. Aside from novels, she also wrote the play, “The Mousetrap.”

Roald Dahl

Years Active: September 13, 1916 – November 23, 1990
Nationality: British
Type of works: Children’s books, poetry, and screenplays

Among the famous authors on this list, Roald Dahl is one of the best when it comes to children’s stories. Before he was a writer, he served in the Royal Air Force as a fighter pilot. In the 1940s, he slowly started gaining recognition for his works.

Some of his famous children’s stories include “James and the Giant Peach,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” and “Matilda.” All of these also have film adaptations that were successful among children and adults.

Charles Dickens

Years Active: February 7, 1812 – June 9, 1870
Nationality: British
Type of works: Novels and short stories

Charles Dickens
Image from History.com

England no doubt produced some of the most famous authors of today. Yet another is Charles John Huffman Dickens. Many believe that he is one of the best authors from the Victorian era.

His most famous work is “A Christmas Carol.” However, many argue that “Oliver Twist” and “A Tale of Two Cities” are just as popular. Filmmakers, playwrights, and artists have all adapted most of his works.

Today, people use “Dickensian” to describe literature that has similar themes to Dickens’ works. An example of these themes is poor social or economic conditions.

Emily Dickinson

Years Active: December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886
Nationality: American
Type of works: Poetry

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson is an influential American poet. Despite this, only a few of her poems were ever published. Some say she wrote around 1,800 poems, and only 10 appeared in publications. It wasn’t until after her death that her sister discovered her poems that more of them were published.

Her poems had recurring themes of death and immortality. These themes were also often the topics of her letters with her friends.

In 1955, Thomas H. Johnson published “The Poems of Dickinson,” a collection containing Dickinson’s mostly unedited poems.

John Donne

Years Active: January 22, 1572 – March 31, 1631
Nationality: English
Type of works: Sonnets, elegies, sermons, and poetry

John Donne earned his title as one of the most famous authors through his many sonnets and love poems. His works highlighted themes such as love, sexuality, and religion. He also wrote about death using paradoxes and ironies.

Some of Donne’s most famous works are “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning,” “Anniversaries,” and “Holy Sonnets.” Despite being a successful author, he was unfortunately not one of the richest authors. He often squandered his money on trivial matters.

Arthur Conan Doyle

Years Active: May 22, 1859 – July 7, 1930
Nationality: British
Type of works: Detective fiction, historical novels, non-fiction, and plays

Among the famous authors on this list, you probably already expected this one. Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle is famous for creating the beloved character Sherlock Holmes. Doyle had an illustrious literary career, but he was also a doctor. He was also a part of a football club as a goalkeeper.

He published his first Sherlock Holmes novel in 1887. This was “A Study in Scarlet.” His sequels, such as “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” were also highly successful. Everybody loved the enigmatic detective Holmes and his doctor friend John Watson. Sherlock Holmes has inspired so many characters and adaptations. From films to comics to anime, there is no shortage of love for Doyle’s detective.

T.S. Eliot

Years Active: September 26, 1888 – January 4, 1965
Nationality: British
Type of works: Poetry and plays

Thomas Stearns Eliot is one of the 20th century’s most famous authors. People especially regard his works as monumental to Modernist poetry. He was originally an American citizen as Boston was his hometown. In 1927, he became a British citizen after moving there and settling down with his family.

Some of his notable works include “Ash Wednesday,” “The Hollow Men,” and “Burnt Norton.” Among his plays, “Murder in the Cathedral” was very popular.

In 1948, Eliot received the Nobel Prize in Literature for his contributions.

Anne Frank

Years Active: June 12, 1929 – February or March 1945
Nationality: German-Dutch
Type of works: Diary

Anne Frank and her father, Otto Frank
Image from Napa Valley Register

Annelies Marie “Anne” Frank differs from the other famous authors on this list. Anne Frank did not publish stories, poems, or plays. She was one of the victims of the Holocaust. In 1947, her father found her diary and published it.

Thus, the “Diary of a Young Girl” was a collection of Frank’s diary entries during her life before and during the German occupation. It shows her life with her family as they hid in the secret annex. Many TV shows, movies, and documentaries have adapted her diary. In addition, the Anne Frank House also provides a visual journey and homage to Anne Frank and her family.

Robert Frost

Years Active: March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963
Nationality: American
Type of works: Poetry and plays

Robert Lee Frost is one of the most famous American authors. In fact, you’ll often hear of him in movies as they often reference his works. The hype, of course, is not misplaced. Frost is the only poet with four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry. In 1960, he also received the Congressional Gold Medal. In 1961, he received the title of poet laureate of Vermont.

Frost’s well-known works include “A Boy’s Will,” “After Apple-Picking,” and “In the Clearing.”

Ernest Hemingway

Years Active: July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961
Nationality: American
Type of works: Novels, short stories, and articles

Much like other famous authors, Ernest Miller Hemingway started off as a journalist. He worked for The Kansas City Star. Then, during the 1920s, he began publishing his works. He wrote several novels, short stories, and non-fiction books.

His famous books include “A Farewell to Arms,” “A Clean Well-Lighted Place,” and “A Moveable Feast.” Hemingway received the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In 1954, he also received the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Franz Kafka

Years Active: July 3, 1883 – June 3, 1924
Nationality: Austrian
Type of works: Novels and short stories

Many argue that Franz Kafka should be at the top of famous authors’ lists. Kafka is one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. His works often explore themes such as isolation and existentialism. Furthermore, his works are absurdist despite the realist themes.

His most famous work is “The Metamorphosis.” His other stories such as “The Trial” and “The Castle” are also very famous. In addition, scholars came up with the word, “Kafkaesque,” to describe literature similar to Kafka’s stories.

Stephen King

Years Active: September 21, 1947 – Present
Nationality: American
Type of works: Novels, nonfiction, and short stories

Among the famous authors of today, Stephen Edwin King is the “King of Horror.” Plus, he is the household name in horror stories. His works all revolve around horror, fantasy, and the supernatural.

King has published many famous horror books. “Carrie,” “It,” and “The Shining” are just a few. Most of his books have also been adapted for film. These films, too, are extremely successful.

Furthermore, he has received several awards. This includes the Bram Stoker Awards and World Fantasy Awards. In 2015, he also received a National Medal of Arts from the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts.

H.P. Lovecraft

Years Active: August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937
Nationality: American
Type of works: Novels, short stories, and poetry

Famous Authors: H.P. Lovecraft
Image from slate.com

Among the famous horror authors, H. P. Lovecraft is a household name. People know Lovecraft for his weird horror fiction. He mixes gothic horror with science fiction. Because of this, people have even taken to calling him by his own subgenre: Lovecraftian horror.

One of his famous works is “At the Mountains of Madness,” and another example is “The Call of Cthulhu.”

George Orwell

Years Active: June 25, 1903 – January 21, 1950
Nationality: British
Type of works: Novels, essays, and articles

Despite being one of the most famous authors, few know that George Orwell is actually just a pen name. His real name is Eric Arthur Blair. Throughout his life, Blair traveled frequently. Despite this, he often isolated himself.

Orwell’s famous works include “Animal Farm” and “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” He is most known for these two novels, both of which provide criticism about society.

Like they did for other authors, scholars also coined the term, “Orwellian.” This term describes totalitarian social practices, which is a recurring theme in his stories.

Edgar Allan Poe

Years Active: January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849
Nationality: American
Type of works: Poetry and short stories

Like other famous authors, Edgar Allan Poe did not live an easy life. Poe was an orphan as a young boy. As an adult, he also struggled financially. Despite this, he became a well-known writer, even earning a spot on the Hall of Fame for Great Americans in 1910.

His “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” is famous for inspiring more detective stories. Among his works, the most famous might be “The Raven.” He published this in 1845.

J.K. Rowling

Years Active: July 31, 1965 – Present
Nationality: British
Type of works: Novels and screenplays

Another one of the most famous authors is J.K. Rowling, whose real name is Joanne Rowling. She also has another pen name, Robert Galbraith. Her books are some of the best-selling book series ever.

Rowling wrote the famous fantasy series, “Harry Potter.” The first novel is “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” Many regard the Harry Potter series as one of the best fiction books of all time. The Harry Potter franchise also includes plays, films, and games.

In addition, Rowling also writes crime fiction, where she publishes the “Cormoran Strike” series under her other pen name.

William Shakespeare

Years Active: April 26, 1564 – April 23, 1616
Nationality: English
Type of works: Plays, poems, and sonnets

Famous Authors: William Shakespeare
Image from Grunge

William Shakespeare is no doubt one of the famous authors that everybody knows about. Even if you haven’t read his works, you’ve likely heard of his name. Shakespeare is England’s national poet. People also call him the “Bard of Avon.”

Shakespeare has written over 30 plays, 150 sonnets, and narrative poems. Some of his famous works include “Romeo and Juliet” and “Hamlet.” His writing boasts of versatility as he wrote comedies, romances, and tragedies. Over the years, the BBC has adapted his plays for television. There is also no shortage of radio plays and operas of his plays.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Years Active: August 4, 1792 – July 8, 1822
Nationality: English
Type of works: Novels, dramas, essays, and poetry

As one of the most famous authors, Percy Bysshe Shelley had many fans. This includes political figures such as Karl Marx and Mahatma Gandhi. However, he did not always have fans. In the 20th century, people almost forgot about him. This is likely because the 20th century saw a rise in many brilliant authors.

Today, people praise his works for their radical views and political statements. Shelley’s most famous works include “Ozymandias,” “A Defence of Poetry” and “To a Skylark.”

An interesting fact about Shelley is that he is married to Mary Shelley, the author of “Frankenstein.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

Years Active: January 3, 1892 – September 2, 1973
Nationality: British
Type of works: Novels and poetry

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien is probably another familiar name from this famous authors’ list. He is a high fantasy novelist born in South Africa. However, that is not all there is to this writer. Tolkien was also a professor for subjects like English language and literature.

The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” are his most famous works. Both stories have large fan followings to this day. Furthermore, the film adaptations are also critically acclaimed.

Today, many consider Tolkien as the “father of modern fantasy literature.” This is because he revived the fantasy genre through the amazing world-building in his books.

Oscar Wilde

Years Active: October 16 – 1854 – November 30, 1900
Nationality: Irish
Type of works: Poetry and plays

Oscar Wilde is a playwright from London. He has also dabbled in different literary forms. Despite Wilde’s successful writing career, he experienced a lot of hardships. In the late 1800s, Wilde was arrested for partaking in homosexual acts with men, which was outlawed at the time.

Wilde’s most famous work is “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” This novel is about artist Basil Hallward, who meets Dorian Gray and paints portrait after portrait of him. Conflict arises when Lord Henry influences Dorian negatively.

Another example of his work is “Salome.” Many also praise “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” and “Intentions.” In 1878, Wilde received the Newdigate Prize.

Virginia Woolf

Years Active: January 25, 1882 – March 28, 1941
Nationality: English
Type of works: Novels and essays

Famous Authors: Virginia Woolf
Image from Literary Hub

When talking about famous authors, you can’t forget about Virginia Woolf. Adeline Virginia Woolf is a writer from the 20th century. Her education played a huge role in shaping her writing, during which she learned about the English classics. For college, she continued to study literature. However, she also met and learned more about advocates of the women’s rights movement.

Her writing popularized the narrative mode of stream of consciousness. You can easily observe this in her best work, “Mrs. Dalloway.” Although it is plotless, the novel features multiple stories that are all connected to each other. Some of her other famous works are “To the Lighthouse” and “Orlando.”

Unfortunately, Woolf struggled throughout her life with mental illnesses. People speculate that she likely had bipolar disorder. In 1941, she committed suicide by drowning herself in a river.