Are you someone who finds literary history one of the most astonishing, brilliant, and inspiring fields of history? Well, if yes then you are in luck here. We have enlisted a few of the most influential writers in history and trust me when I say that it is not an easy task to pick a few from a long list of greats. Without further ado let’s check out out some of the notable writers of the past whose writings still feel relatable.
1. William Faulkner (1897-1962)
William Faulkner was an American writer who also won a Nobel Prize for his exceptional work in the field of literature. He is one of the most influential writers in history, who had written novels, screenplays, poetry, short stories, plays, and essays. Here is a quote from one of his most notable books, “The Sound and the Fury”, “…I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire…I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it. Because no battle is ever won he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.” Some of his most famous works include, As I lay Dying, The Reivers, The Hamlet, Barn Burning, and Absalom, Absalom!
2. Willa Cather (1873-1947)
Willa Cather was an exceptional American novelist. She was most praised for her novels based on the frontier life on the Great Plains. These novels include O Pioners!, Tthe Song of the Lark, and My Ántonia. For her novel, One of Ours, published in 1922, based on the events during World War I, Cather was awarded Pulitzer Prize. One of this novel’s inspirational quote is, “Life was so short that it meant nothing at all unless it were continually reinforced by something that endured; unless the shadows of individual existence came and went against a background that held together.” Each sentence of Cather’s writing digs deep inside you.
3. Harper Lee (1926- 2016)
Harper Lee was an astounding American novelist, best known for her novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird”, published in 1960. For its immense popularity, the novel won Pulitzer Prize, the very next year in 1961. This novel discusses racial injustice and its normalcy in society in an utterly effective manner. Lee wrote in the novel, ” You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view — until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”, ” People don’t like to have somebody knowing more than they do. It aggravates them”, and at another place, ” You don’t have to learn much out of books, it’s like if you want to learn about cows, you go milk one.” This novel teaches us a lot. This was her only published novel.
4. F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)
Fitzgerald was a short story writer and novelist. He reached heights of popularity with his third novel, The Great Gatsby published in 1925. This novel mesmerizingly displays the contradiction of two sides of America, one for the rich and the other for the poor. He remarkably portrays the Jazz age through his words and tells the story of a boy. “All the bright precious things fade so fast, and they don’t come back.”, “Thirty—the promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning brief-case of enthusiasm, thinning hair.”, and “I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.” are few of the great lines from The Great Gatsby. His other great works include, Tender is the Night, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Diamond as Big as the Ritz, The Beautiful and the Damned, This Side of Paradise, Bernice Bobs Her Hair, and the list goes on and on.
5. Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
Hemingway was an American novelist, journalist, and short-story writer. His writings are still loved in literary clubs all around the world. Here, have a taste of Hemingway’s beautiful words in his great book, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”,
“There is nothing else than now. There is neither yesterday, certainly, nor is there any tomorrow. How old must you be before you know that? There is only now, and if now is only two days, then two days is your life and everything in it will be in proportion. This is how you live a life in two days. And if you stop complaining and asking for what you never will get, you will have a good life. A good life is not measured by any biblical span.”
For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Torrents of Spring, The Old Man and the Sea, A Farewell to Arms are some of the Hemingway’s most appreciated works.
6. Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)
Hawthorne was among the most influential writers in history. His writing is intricate, detailed, and dig deep into the threads of your brain. For example, here is an excerpt from his book, The Scarlet Letter, “It is a curious subject of observation and inquiry, whether hatred and love be not the same thing at bottom. Each, in its utmost development, supposes a high degree of intimacy and heart-knowledge; each renders one individual dependent for the food of his affections and spiritual life upon another; each leaves the passionate lover, or the no less passionate hater, forlorn and desolate by the withdrawal of his object.” He is famous for The Scarlet Letter, Fanshawe, and Twice-Told Tales.
7. Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
Walt Whitman was an American essayist, poet, and journalist. He was very thorough, direct, and deep in his writing. A collection of his gems include “Poems” published in 1868, “Selected Poems” published in 1904, Franklin Evans published in 1842, “Leaves of Grass” published in 1855, and numerous others. Feast yourself with a poem from “Leaves of Grass”,
“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere – on water and land.”
8. Herman Melville (1819-1891)
Herman Melville was an American novelist and with his amazing work, he became one of the most influential writers in history. He is best known for Moby Dick. Do check out some of his brilliant works including, Moby Dick, Typee, Melville, Billy Budd, and Pierre; or The Ambiguities. Here is to lure your interest, a paragraph from Pierre; or, The Ambiguities,
“The interest light of reason and revelation combined, cannot shed such blazonings upon the deeper truths in a man, as will sometimes proceed from his own profound gloom. Utter darkness is then his light, and cat-like he distinctly sees all objects through a medium which is mere blindness to common vision.”
Undoubtedly, once you will get your hands on any of his books, it will become impossible for you to get it down.
9. Jack London (1876-1916)
Jack London was an American journalist, novelist, and social activist. He pioneered commercial fiction and magazines in America. With his brilliant advertising skills, he became one of the first American authors to be known as international celebrities. And with that, he made an exceptional amount of fortune.
You can start by reading any of the following books, Adventure, White Fang, The Call of the Wild, The Sea-wolf, The Road, and The assassination Bureau Limited. And once started, it will be a reading chain reaction. White Fang is particularly loved by the young and inquisitive minds of the modern world. Here is a line from this novel,
“But it did not all happen in a day, this giving over of himself, body and soul, to the man-animals. He could not immediately forego his wild heritage and his memories of the Wild. There were days when he crept to the edge of the forest and stood and listened to something calling him far and away.”
His style of writing makes you fall in love with his work.
10. Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Mark Twain was his literary name whereas his real name was, Samuel Langhorne Clemens. He was an American writer, publisher, lecturer, and humorist. Here is a list of some of his notable works, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Prince, and the Pauper, The Million Pound Bank Note, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Roughing it.
Here are a few lines from The Prince and the Pauper, “That which I have seen, in that little moment, will never go out from my memory, but will abide there; and I shall see it all the days, and dream of it all the nights, till I die. Would God I had been blind!” and “When I am king they shall not have bread and shelter only, but also teachings out of books, for a full belly is little worth where the mind is starved.” William Faulkner remarked Twain as “the father of American literature”.
11. Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
Henry David Thoreau was an American poet, philosopher, and essayist. With his most famous book, Walden, he surely made his mark as one of the most influential writers in history.
Some of the most incredible and appreciated books of Henry David Thoreau include Walden, Walking, A Yankee in Canada, Excursions, Wild Apples, and A Plea for Captain John Brown.
Here are a few lines from “A Plea for Captain John Brown “, “I should say that [John Brown] was an old-fashioned man in his respect for the Constitution, and his faith in the permanence of this Union. Slavery he deemed to be wholly opposed to these, and he was its determined foe.” and “We talk about a representative government; but what a monster is that where the noblest faculties of the mind, and the whole heart, are not represented.”
12. John Steinbeck (1902-1968)
John Steinbeck was an American author who won Nobel Prize for fiction in 1962. A few of his most celebrated works include The Red Pony, Of Mice and Men, The Pearl, East of Eden, The Winter of Our Discontent, Sweet Thursday, and The Pastures of Heaven. Check out the brilliance of his writing style with a few lines from “The Grapes of Wrath”,
“…and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.” And, “If he needs a million acres to make him feel rich, seems to me he needs it ’cause he feels awful poor inside hisself, and if he’s poor in hisself, there ain’t no million acres gonna make him feel rich, an’ maybe he’s disappointed that nothin’ he can do ‘ll make him feel rich.” His writing style and deep imagination skills were marvelous.
13. Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
Poe was one of the most influential writers in history. He was a writer, editor, poet and also worked as a literary critic. He died at the young age of 40, but his work made a never-ending mark on the literary minds of all times.
His notable works include The Pit and the Pendulum, The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Writings, The Messenger of the Red Death, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Raven, The Black Cat, William Wilson, Ligeia, The Descent into the Maelstrom, and several others. Relish yourself with a few lines from ” The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Writings”!
“And have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the sense? –now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man’s heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.” Here is another line from the same book, “They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.” You will love his style of poetry as well.
14. Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
The full name of Dickens was Charles John Huffam Dickens FRSA. He was an English writer and was one of the best writers of the Victorian era.
Just to name a few of his most amazing works, A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, Nicholas Nickleby, Our Mutual Friend, Hard Times, All the Year Round, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, A Chicken on the Hearth, The Chimes, and A Tale of Two Cities.
Here are the most famous lines of Dickens from the book “A Tale of Two Cities”,
“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.”
15. George Orwell (1903-1950)
George Orwell was a novelist, journalist, critic, and essayist. Some of his most famous books include Homage to Catalonia, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Animal Farm, Coming Up for Air, A Clergyman’s Daughter, A Nice Cup of Tea, Such, Such Were the Joys and A Hanging. Here are a few lines from ” Coming Up for Air”,
“The past is a curious thing. It’s with you all the time. I suppose an hour never passes without your thinking of things that happened ten or twenty years ago, and yet most of the time it’s got no reality, it’s just a set of facts that you’ve learned, like a lot of stuff in a history book. Then some chance sight or sound or smell, especially smell, sets you going, and the past doesn’t merely come back to you, you’re actually IN the past. It was like that at this moment.” No matter which book you of him you pick to read, it is guaranteed that you will fall in love with his writing.
16. William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Who doesn’t know William Shakespeare! He is one of the most influential writers in history. He not only a great poet and playwright but also an actor as well.
Romeo and Juliet, Anthony and Cleopatra, As You Like It, King Lear, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing, Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Rape of Lucrece are just a few of Shakespeare’s pieces of mesmerizing storytelling brilliance. Here, let me quote some beautiful lines from “The Rape of Lucrece”,
“What win I, if I gain the thing I seek?
A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy.
Who buys a minute’s mirth to wail a week?
Or sells eternity to get a toy?
For one sweet grape who will the vine destroy?
Or what fond beggar, but to touch the crown,
Would with the sceptre straight be strucken down?”
If you are a fan of the play, then you will love Shakespeare’s work.
17. Arthur Conan Doyle (1859- 1930)
Arthur Conan Doyle was a British writer who wrote remarkable stories in the genre of detective fiction, fantasy, and science fiction. The Lost World, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Professor Challenger, The Valley of Fear, The White Company, Micah Clarke, The Poison Belt, The Adventures of Wisteria Lodge, and Rodney Stone are a few of Doyle’s most celebrated writings.
Checkout a line from “The Poison Belt”, “Sometimes I think that it is only the monstrous conceit of mankind which makes him think that all this stage was erected for him to strut upon.” Arthur Conan Doyle was particularly known for “Sherlock Holmes”. To this date, people use this character in adaptations.
18. Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
Emily Dickenson was not an author, but one of the most admired, loved, and highly appreciated American poet of all time. She wrote more than 1800 poems. Her main subjects were love, joy, death, and natural beauty. Her work was published in her life, but unfortunately, most of the gem of her work was found in her bedroom after her death. Here is a glimpse of Dickinson’s beautiful work, “Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”
Here is another one,
“I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us—don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.
How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!”
She will always remain alive in the hearts of people with her mesmerizing poetry.
19. Franz Kafka (1883- 1924)
Franz Kafka was a German-speaking novelist and short story writer. To name a few of the Kafka’s incredible work, The Metamorphosis, Amerika, The Castle, The Trial, In the Penal Colony, The Great Wall of China, and The Judgment fall top of the list.
Here is a short excerpt from “The Trial”, “They’re talking about things of which they don’t have the slightest understanding, anyway. It’s only because of their stupidity that they’re able to be so sure of themselves.” And here is another one from “The Metamorphosis”, ” Calm —indeed the calmest— reflection might be better than the most confused decisions”.
This is just a glimpse of Kafka’s brilliance. You must dig deep into his work.
There you have it. Sure, these names are not all, and the list can go on and on. However, we truly hope that you have felt inspired and amazed by knowing some of the most influential writers in history. And to take things to another level, do check out their work and read their books to enjoy an affair in the past.