The greatest authors of all time have done more than dominate bookshelves across the world.
Their words have shaped human thought, encapsulated the human experience, and given a creative outlet to the millions who have turned through their pages.
Who Are the Greatest Authors of All Time?
From old-school classic authors like Jane Austen, Ernest Hemingway, and Bram Stoker to contemporary writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, George R.R. Martin, and Joan Didion, we’ve compiled 50 of the greatest authors of all time for your reading pleasure.
Now, crack those books and get to turning those pages!
1. Ernest Hemingway
From The Old Man and the Sea to The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway is unmatched in his influence on American literature.
2. Jane Austen
Mr. Darcy is the love of millions of people’s lives, created by the inimitable Jane Austen in her mega-bestseller Pride & Prejudice.
3.Gabriel García Marquez
Known best for One Hundred Years of Solitude, no one does beautiful fiction quite like Gabriel García Marquez.
4. John Steinbeck
Whether exploring the intricacies of life during The Great Depression in The Grapes of Wrath or biblical allegory in East of Eden, Steinbeck explores the human condition during hard times.
5. Margaret Atwood
A science and dystopian fiction magnate, Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale paints the horrifying story of a dystopian future in a land called Gilead – just one of Atwood’s many thrilling reads.
6. Agatha Christie
A prolific mystery writer, Christie has written well over 50 mystery novels and short stories, including Murder on the Orient Express and And Then There Were None.
7. Daphne du Maurier
Daphne du Maurier wrote one of the most pivotal books in mystery history with Rebecca, cementing her place as a powerhouse.
8. Arthur Conan Doyle
You simply cannot have
9. Mary Higgins Clark
With millions and millions and millions of book sales under her belt, Mary Higgins Clark has been a bestseller since the beginning – in fact, her debut Where Are the Children? has been printed well over 50 times.
10. Gillian Flynn
Everyone loves an unreliable heroine, and Gillian Flynn does it best, whether with her runaway bestseller Gone Girl or her insanely popular Sharp Objects.
11. Stephen King
From Pet Sematary to The Shining, Stephen King has a style and repertoire that is completely unmatched.
12. Bram Stoker
There just simply is no horror genre without Bram Stoker and his Dracula.
13. Mary Shelley
No one would have ever heard the story of a man-made of pieces without Shelley’s iconic Frankenstein.
14. Edgar Allan Poe
Suspense, darkness, and mystery reign in Edgar Allan Poe’s writings, from The Tell-Tale Heart to The Raven.
15. Anne Rice
Modern-day vampire stories wouldn’t exist without Anne Rice, whose famous The Vampire Chronicles series paved the way.
16. Flannery O’Connor
Flannery O’Connor’s brilliant short stories and fiction won the National Book Award with her collection The Complete Stories, showcasing her immense talent.
17. Neil Gaiman
Gaiman is famous for his beautifully woven stories, and his collection Fragile Things showcases some of his best works.
18. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A brilliant novelist and essayist, Adichie is also a phenomenal short story writer, especially in The Thing Around Your Neck.
19. Junot Diaz
Junot Diaz’s short fiction has appeared in the pages of the New Yorker, alongside winning him a myriad of awards. While his short stories can be mostly found online, his Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, is a great place to start with his work.
20. James Joyce
Joyce is one of the best-known and influential writers in history, and his book Dubliners
21. George R.R. Martin
Martin’s world of Westeros is completely unmatched in its scope in literature and in world influence as he tells an epic story of the battle between the changing tides of time and family.
22. J.K. Rowling
The hallowed halls of Hogwarts and the many adventures of a lightning-scarred boy have brought joy to millions of readers as a brainchild of J.K. Rowling.
23. Diana Gabaldon
Romance, magic, and fantasy abound in Gabaldon’s beautiful Outlander series.
24. C.S. Lewis
Beyond the wardrobe, adventure and challenges await in Lewis’ iconic Chronicles of Narnia.
25. J.R.R. Tolkien
It’s hard to imagine popular culture without the epic story centered around a certain ring, with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series.
26. Joan Didion
Didion’s distinctive voice has made her one of the most distinctive memoir writers of her time, from The White Album to The Year of Magical Thinking.
27. Nora Ephron
With her famous biting wit and style, Nora Ephron’s words have graced movie screens and books alike, and many of her best writings are collected in The Most of Nora Ephron.
28. Frank McCourt
Perhaps most well-known for the hauntingly beautiful Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt’s memoirs delve deep into childhood and the coming-of-age.
29. Mary Karr
With a smash hit memoir of her own, The Liars’ Club, Mary Karr teaches the memoir form too, and has a book on it, The Art of Memoir.
30. Anthony Bourdain
Anthony Bourdain spent years embroiled in the culinary scene, and his memoirs speak to both his experience in the kitchen and the life that it led to, from Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly to Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook.
31. Roald Dahl
Whether rolling around in a giant peach with James and the Giant Peach or delving into books and magic with Matilda, Dahl has no shortage of childhood adventures in his repertoire.
32. Dr. Seuss
Whether you’re reading Cat in the Hat or The Lorax, there’s simply no childhood literature without Dr. Seuss books. Dr. Seuss has inspired children and adults around the world with his books (and funny and thoughtful Dr. Seuss quotes).
33. Madeleine L’Engle
L’Engle manages to combine fantasy, science, and religious undertones masterfully in her books, from A Wrinkle in Time to A Ring of Endless Light.
34. Ludwig Bemelmans
The tales and adventures of a certain French girl named Madeline have captured the hearts of readers everywhere, thanks to Bemelmans.
35. Bill Martin, Jr.
From Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See
36. Jon Krakauer
Krakauer told the stories of his tragic climb up Mount Everest in Into Thin Air that captured millions of readers along the way, and has also written about tragic, adventurous, and beautiful stories of others in his books like Into the Wild and Under the Banner of Heaven.
37. Ron Chernow
Pulitzer-Prize winning biographer Ron Chernow has written several incredible epic histories and biographies, some of his most notable being Alexander Hamilton – which influenced the musical – and Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
38. Jon Meacham
An incredible biographer, Meacham has written books on everyone from presidents like George H.W. Bush and Thomas Jefferson to Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.
39. Betty Friedan
Perhaps one of the most absolutely influential feminist writings to ever exist, Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique is pretty much-required reading.
40. Stephen Hawking
Known as one of the most absolutely brilliant minds of our time, Hawking’s scientific musings in The Theory of Everything and A Brief History of Time were groundbreaking.
41. Nora Roberts
With over 200 novels, there is simply no romance without the books of Nora Roberts, from the swoony Bride Quartet to the more suspenseful Tribute.
42. Nicholas Sparks
Modern-day romance is, in huge part, due to Nicholas Sparks and his literal blockbuster bestsellers, from The Notebook to A Walk to Remember.
43. Emily Giffin
By exploring relationships deeper than just romantic ones – sibling dynamics, friendships
44. Taylor Jenkins Reid
By constantly reinventing her own wheel, Taylor Jenkins Reid has always remained far away from the typical romance trope, instead of spiking it with a tragedy like in her early Forever, Interrupted or exploring the world of old Hollywood in The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.
45. Christina Lauren
The dynamic duo of Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings put out saucy, hilarious romantic fiction – some fan favorites being Love and Other Words and Dating You/Hating You.
46. Orson Scott Card
Most famous for the incredible Ender’s Game series, Orson Scott Card has written magical science fiction for young readers and older ones alike.
47. Ray Bradbury
From Fahrenheit 451 to Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury writes dystopian literature and science fiction at its best.
48. Aldous Huxley
A prolific novelist and essayist, Huxley’s Brave New World — his most famous novel — is an icon in itself.
49. Andy Weir
Andy Weir is a science fiction novelist for the modern age, and his novel The Martian was recently made into a movie starring Matt Damon.
50. George Orwell
George Orwell wrote one of the most influential novels of all time with 1984, cementing his place in science fiction and dystopian history.
The best thing about reading is the large variety of genre and writers you can read, and we’ve done our best to pull out as many of the greatest authors of all time as we possibly could.
Get to reading, and let us know who you think we may have left out. To whom would you give the title of greatest author of all time? Let us know in the comments.
About the Author
At the ripe old age of 3, Susannah decided that life was just a blank canvas and took Magic Marker to the newly installed carpet in her room just to “see what happened.” She’s taken that approach to life since, curious about pretty much everything. She earned a journalism degree from Texas A&M University with the mission of making asking questions and telling stories her life, and since then has done everything from social media strategizing and content creation on the national level to writing a career column for USA TODAY. Susannah is a high school teacher and yearbook adviser with a huge passion for reading (Harry Potter is her absolute favorite), and is excited to bring another book-loving voice to Hooked to Books.