Matt is a bay area based writer and UC San Diego alumnus with a degree in literature.
Surely we can agree that when it comes to literature, there are authors who are good and authors who are bad. But there is a third group of writers who, because of their monumentally high standing in literary canon, have been taken for granted or cast aside by modern readers seeking the instant gratification of a plainly written book. We owe it to masters like Gustave Flaubert, Marcel Proust, Franz Kafka and George Orwell to dive into their elaborate works with the same vigor and excitement we would J.K. Rowling's chain of sorcery-filled novels. To know literature is to know literature it at its best. What follows is a list of 10 of the best writers to ever pick up a pen or hammer away at a typewriter:
The Best Authors in Literature
- J.W. von Goethe
- Jane Austen
- Gustave Flaubert
- Charles Dickens
- Leo Tolstoy
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- Marcel Proust
- Franz Kafka
- George Orwell
François-Marie Arouet, better known by his pen name Voltaire, was a French writer, historian and philosopher born in Paris, France. He wrote during the Age of Enlightenment (1715-1789) and aimed the majority of his rhetorical firepower at subjects such as religion, free speech and the separation of church and state. In his satirical book titled Letters Concerning the English Nation, published in 1773, Voltaire criticized the behavior of his countrymen by juxtaposing England's friendliness to France's intolerance when it came to trading with foreigners. The book was censored shortly after it was published.
What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly–that is the first law of nature.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Goethe was a German writer and politician born in Frankfurt, a city which was at that time located within the the Holy Roman Empire. His most famous work was an epic drama titled Faust, published in 1808, which tells the story of man who seeks to know everything. Not everything in a particular field ... literally, everything. (Intrigued?) Goethe doubtless inserted much of himself into Faust, because aside from being a prolific writer, he was also a war and highway commissioner, critic, botanist and illustrator. Feel inadequate yet?
He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home.
Jane Austen (1775-1817)
Jane Austen was an English novelist born in Hampshire, England. She is one of the great moralists of literature, encouraging readers through her dramatic storytelling to improve themselves when it comes to matters of character, love and independence. Since starting her writing career with Pride and Prejudice, published anonymously in 1811, Austen has rarely been out of print as contemporary readers continue to find pleasure in the wholesome themes she masterfully interpolated into spheres Victorian decadence.
We do not look in our great cities for our best morality.
Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880)
Gustave Flaubert was a French writer born in Rouen, France, and is considered one of the pioneers of the realism genre. His debut novel and magnum opus Madame Bovary, published in 1857, took an unflinching look at the oppression and jarring lack of agency women of his period were forced to either endure or submit to. Emma, the main character of the novel, is a beautiful young girl from the country who, expecting true love to be like the fantastic romantic novels she reads, is swept off her feet by the first caller who shows her his unwavering attention. But when she discovers marriage is not all it has cracked up to be, she resumes her search for prince charming in a series of extra-marital affairs. Read the book to find out what happens next. It's a novel you'll be hard pressed to set down.
Read in order to live.
Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
Charles Dickens was an English novelist and great literary caricaturist born in Portsmouth, England. His work often sought to correct the wrongs he saw in the world, such as violations of workers' rights, the Victorian obsession with utilitarianism, and the pompousness of the 18th- and 19th-century gentleman. A true lover of the comma, Dickens is known for his flowery prose style, where sentences sometimes occupy a paragraph all their own. While sometimes frustrating to read, Dickens is worth the time and effort, leaving the reader feeling edified after closing the cover on one of his carefully planned and thematically rich novels.
The whole difference between construction and creation is this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists.
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)
Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, known in English as Leo Tolstoy, was a Russian writer, pacifist and religious theorist born in Yasnaya Polyana, Russian Empire. Regarded as one of the best writers to have ever lived, Tolstoy specialized in narrative dramas set in the Russian countryside. His most famous works, War and Peace and Anna Karenina, published in 1869 and 1877, respectively, make up only a small portion of his body of work, which includes a semi-autobiographical trilogy and numerous short stories and novellas. Tolstoy is also known to have been a great oral storyteller.
We lost because we told ourselves we lost.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881)
Fyodor Dostoyevsky was a Russian novelist, essayist, journalist and philosopher born in Moscow, Russian Empire. Beginning to write seriously in his 20s, his work takes a peculiar interest in the workings of the human psyche as it endures various stressors, something there was no shortage of in the Russia of the 19th century. After being introduced to literature through the medium of fairytales and legends, Dostoyevsky got to work on creating an enormous body of work which includes his most famous novels: Crime and Punishment (1866), The Idiot (1869) and The Brothers Karamazov (1880). Overall, the author lays claim to 11 novels, 17 short stories and an unquantifiable mass of other works.
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Man only likes to count his troubles, but he does not count his joys.
Marcel Proust (1871-1992)
Marcel Proust was a French novelist, critic and essayist born in Auteuil, France. Best known for his seven volume work À la recherche du temps perdu or In Search of Lost Time, published between 1913 and 1927, the novel is officially the longest in the world and contains more than 2,000 characters. It was regarded immediately as a masterpiece, weaving immaculate prose descriptions of sights and people together with philosophical insights to create a colorful thread of images and ideas. The first volume of Proust's novel was rejected by the publisher Gallimard. Shortly after rejecting the work, the publisher said it was the worst decision of his life.
The time at our disposal each day is elastic; the passions we feel dilate it, those that inspire us shrink it, and habit fills it.
Franz Kafka (1883-1924)
Franz Kafka was a German-language novelist and short story writer born in Prague, Austria-Hungary (now Czech Republic). Most are familiar with his short story Metamorphosis, published in 1915, which tells the story of a salesman waking up to find himself transformed into a cockroach. His parents knock on the door to wake up him up for work, calling him lazy for sleeping in. But when they finally force the lock and discover a giant cockroach in the room they become frightened and begin to attack him, eventually locking him in. If this sounds strange to you, you haven't read enough Kafka. The author is known for depicting bizarre, surreal and strange scenarios, and often focuses on themes of alienation, existential anxiety or the absurd, and guilt.
God gives the nuts, but he does not crack them.
George Orwell (1903-1950)
Eric Arthur Blaire, better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English novelist, journalist and nonfiction writer. Best known for his horrifying depiction of the future in his perennial novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, published in 1949, Orwell perfected the dystopian novel, a genre that encapsulates Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and depicts the opposite of a utopia. Orwell also excelled in the realms of poetry, literary criticism and allegorical writing. His novella Animal Farm, published in 1945, reflects the events that lead up to the Russian Revolution of 1917. Aside from fiction, in 1938 Orwell published Homage to Catalonia, which documents his experiences and observations during his time as a soldier in the Spanish Civil War. After arriving in Barcelona in 1936, Orwell told John McNair "he had come to Spain to join the militia and fight fascism."
To survive it is often necessary to fight and to fight you have to dirty yourself.
The men and women listed above changed the world with their writing one person at a time. If you haven't already, take some time to read the works of these literary masters and watch as the wisdom they disseminate through carefully chosen words enters you; it will affect your personality, your thought processes, your perception–all for the better. When you finally return to lighter literature, you'll be better equipped to cut through the filler, identify the theme and goal of a book, and take away from your reading experience not only what you want, but what you need.
Kàrthik on January 07, 2020:
Gud tq for u r information
Someone on September 07, 2019:
WhErEs H.P. lovecraft?
Shree on May 16, 2019:
Thank you so much to all
Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on November 15, 2017:
Some of these Authors are firm favorites of mine and a few are not familiar to me. I am looking forward to checking them out. Thank you and welcome to HubPages Matt.
Gilbert O'Sughrue from Auckland, New Zealand on November 15, 2017:
Thanks for the list. I've only read one of these authors. Got some catching up to do.
Nikki Khan from London on November 14, 2017:
Good article,I am a huge fan of Jane austen,she was a novelist of class,thanks for sharing some details of writers.