The best creative writers are Austen, Roy, Angelou, Hemingway, Beckett, Joyce, Tolstoy, Homer, Shakespeare and Woolf. These writers are highly awarded, celebrated, and influential in Western and global literature. You can’t go wrong by familiarizing yourself with these literary titans.
So, who are these creative writers?
Austen was writing early! Consequently her influence is just about everywhere in Western literature.
Born in 1775, her six novels are firstly an absolute joy to read, and secondly function as a profound commentary on and satire of British landed gentry at the end of the eighteenth-century.
Reading her novels is such a pleasurable experience as she perfectly balances humor with tragedy, and eschews didacticism entirely while landing her often poignant observations.
Perhaps Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility are the two best novels to start with, although all six of her novels are absolute jewels.
Roy’s The God of Small Things is a novel you just can’t escape: it won the Booker Prize and contributed to her becoming on of the best selling Indian authors of all time.
Roy apparently received half a million pounds as an advance for this novel. Wow! Popular, literary, and financially successful – what an astonishing achievement.
This novel explores the lingering effects of Casteism, and shows how small things like ‘Love Laws’ can have profound impacts on people’s lives.
Angelou was the ultimate polymath whose influence extends to a surprising number of fields – poetry, autobiography, theatre, essays, politics … it just goes on and on.
She is perhaps known best for her autobiographical account I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings which examines the themes of the power of love, and racism.
Angelou’s body of work is an absolute joy to read for many reasons including her technical mastery, the force of her intellect, and her undeniable influence on society.
The sooner you get Angelou onto your reading list the better.
Hemingway was a true literary celebrity: one of the most famous figures alive in his time.
Many people attribute the modern prose style to his restrained, Romantic, and heartfelt fiction.
Hem started life as a journalist, where he honed his craft, before turning his hand to short fiction, which was enormously popular from the outset.
His journalism was celebrated during his life, but his novels took the world by storm.
For Whom the Bell Tolls is concerned with a band of rebel fighters in the Spanish hills during the Spanish Civil War. Hem traveled to Spain during this time and was able to draw from his experiences to craft his fiction.
A Farewell to Arms concerns a disillusioned soldier during WW1, who must escape the madness of the battlefields, all while following the dictates of his heart. As ever, Hem finds the beautiful and tender moments in hyper-masculine worlds.
He picked up the Nobel Prize for fiction, and is many readers’ favourite author even to this day.
Samuel Beckett wrote numerous novels, but is best remembered for his plays, especially Waiting for Godot and Endgame.
Beckett was a freedom fighter during WW2 in France, and witnessed the collapse of polite society as the conflagration of war ripped through some of the most civilized centers of Europe.
This society wide trauma is often credited for giving rise to Existentialism as writers were forced to confront the human capacity for evil.
Meaning itself had broken down, and meaninglessness haunts the works of Beckett as humans search around in their own small ways for reasons to go on.
Having said that, his works are incredibly funny, and it is this juxtaposition of humor and tragedy that keeps audiences returning again and again to Beckett’s astonishing plays and novels.
James Joyce is most remembered for his work Ulysses, which was formally innovative. Endless ink has been spilled over this novel, and it is regularly cited as the greatest novel of all for numerous reasons.
It is considered the ultimate Modernist novel, and foregrounds thinking in a way which was received as revolutionary.
It contains many different styles of novel within its pages, as Joyce sought avenues to demonstrate his mastery of the form. It features resonances with the Odyssey, taking place in Dublin over the course of one single day.
His other astonishing works include the novel Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Dubliners, the latter of which is a short story collection which is extremely highly regarded for its verisimilitude.
Leo Tolstoy is one of the giants of Russian literature, and global literature too.
His two most celebrated works are War and Peace, and Anna Karenina, which are both regarded as paragons of Realist fiction.
War and Peace features over 580 characters: Tolstoy thought of it as an exploration of the mores of nineteenth-century life. It covers so much ground it’s hard to say exactly what it is about, but it has a ‘unity’ which is undeniable and widely celebrated.
It covers a lot of Napoleon’s exploits which is a big draw card if that interests you!
Homer is often considered one of the fathers of creative writing, as he wrote his two great epic poems around 800 BC.
His influence over the Greek, Roman, and European spheres of creative writing simply couldn’t be larger.
Much of what we know of Greek culture is passed down in Homer’s works.
His two great epic poems depict events related to the Trojan war, in which a Greek army attacks the Trojan city of Troy (modern day Turkey), to retrieve a beautiful woman named Helen, who was married to King Menelaus of Sparta and abducted by Paris of Troy.
The Iliad concerns the events of the ten year war itself, and the Odyssey is about a Greek general by the name of Odysseus and his ten year difficult journey home!
Reading these two works is incredibly rewarding, and once you have done so you will see references to these two texts absolutely everywhere you look!
The inescapable titan of theater and poetry, Shakespeare is a household name worldwide and has been for hundreds of years.
Author of roughly 39 plays, and about 160 poems, Shakespeare’s complete works is a mighty tome – hard to lift, and requiring many a session to read in its entirety.
Imagine writing all of that with ink and quill! Good thing RSI hadn’t been invented.
His poems are mainly on the topic of love, and are the best selling poems of all time.
Certainly worth a read, even though they can require a bit of decoding at times. Language has never soared higher than in these literary gems.
As for the plays … Romeo and Juliet … Hamlet … Macbeth … the list just goes on and on. They are excellent in a variety of different ways: the complex plots, the rich characters, the way Shakespeare explores both the lowest depths of tragedy and the highest heights of love and bliss.
Don’t skip reading Shakespeare.
Why is this? Her style was so innovative and deft that novels seem to be different before and after her offerings.
The way she compressed time, captured interiority flawlessly (pioneering Stream of Consciousness), and keeps you on the edge of your seat.
She is possibly the leading figure in Modernist literature.
Just a joy to read. You might like to start with The Waves, or To the Lighthouse. Once you’ve read these works you will find almost every writer you know will be keen to discuss them with you.
Her essay A Room of One’s Own will also perennially live in your mind free of rent once you imbibe it. A powerful example of rhetoric at its best.
The best creative writers is a list which extends into the thousands, and each list will vary slightly in those that it foregrounds. By starting with the authors mentioned above, you will lay a strong foundation to begin your exploration of the greats of world literature.
Always follow wherever your curiosity leads, and never stop reading entirely! Before you know it, you’ll have your very own list titled the best creative writers!