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It's a new year, and we're back with the next installment of our blog series that celebrates authors' birthdays! As usual, we've chosen to feature authors with January birthdays from classic and contemporary times, as well as various genres. If you're still looking for books to add to this year's to-be-read list or want to learn more about famous names in literature, read on and find your next favorite book with us at Discover Books!
Besides being one of the most recognized American writers, Edgar Allan Poe was a literary pioneer during the 19th century. He was one of the first Americans to write short stories primarily, he experimented with science fiction when that genre was new, and he essentially invented the genre of detective fiction. But no matter what style Poe was writing in, he usually included mysterious and macabre elements. Some of his popular short stories include “The Fall of the House of Usher, The Tell-Tale Heart, and The Cask of Amontillado; however, Poe's most famous work is probably his narrative poem The Raven (Nevermore!).
Despite being the youngest and least known of the Brontë sisters, Anne Brontë was still a major figure in British literature. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë published many of their early poems and short stories together, usually under the pen names Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. All three sisters died young- the older two in their thirties, and Anne at age 29. Because of this, Anne only published two novels, Agnes Grey in 1847 and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall in 1848. Both works are classics, and critics cite The Tenant of Wildfell Hall as one of the earliest feminist novels.
Zora Neale Hurston grew up in Eatonville, Florida, where she would eventually set many of her novels and short stories. While a student at Barnard College and Columbia University, she researched the impact of African-American and Caribbean folklore on community formation. Hurston's research impacted many of her later writings, including her most famous work, Their Eyes Were Watching God. This classic novel cemented her as a major author in African-American literature. She also wrote much short fiction and nonfiction, including the posthumously published historical book Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo.
Jerome David Salinger started his writing career in the 1940s by publishing short stories in the New Yorker and other magazines. While Salinger was serving in World War II, he met Ernest Hemingway, who was working as a foreign news correspondent and became a writing mentor to Salinger. Salinger published his most famous work in 1951, the coming-of-age novel The Catcher in the Rye, which gained a major following and became a subject of intense controversy at the same time. This overwhelming attention caused him to become reclusive and write less afterward. However, Salinger did publish several successful short story collections later in life, including Nine Stories and Franny and Zooey.
At age 21, California native John Griffin London and his brother-in-law traveled north to join the Klondike Gold Rush. Despite not striking it rich and developing scurvy while in the Yukon Territory, London found the setting for his most famous short stories and adventure novels there. The Call of the Wild, in particular, has remained popular for more than a century, and a successful film adaptation came out in early 2020. Between his fictional and journalistic works, London was one of the first American authors to make lots of money from writing and become an international celebrity.
Although he wrote many poems and plays during his lifetime, Alan Alexander Milne is best remembered as the creator of the beloved children's character Winnie-the-Pooh. During his early writing career, he played cricket recreationally and was on a writers-only team with J.M. Barrie and Arthur Conan Doyle. Milne later served in both World Wars and had one child, Christopher Robin Milne, who inspired the similarly-named character in the Winnie-the-Pooh books. Pooh's popularity grew throughout Milne's lifetime and even more after his death. Disney acquired the rights to the character in 1966, and children around the world still fall in love with the stories of Pooh Bear and his friends in the Hundred-Acre-Wood today.
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien is best known for writing the epic fantasy series The Lord of the Rings and its prequel The Hobbit. While these books are popular around the world today, especially because of the six blockbuster movies based on them, they got off to a slow start. Tolkien originally wrote The Hobbit just for his own children, but an editor persuaded Tolkien to publish the manuscript. He then started to work on The Lord of the Rings, which he also planned as a single children's story. However, it turned into a trilogy that was better suited for an older audience. Tolkien was also a university professor for many years and became close friends with fellow British author C.S. Lewis. After Tolkien's death, his son Christopher published his father's translation of Beowulf and a collection of fantasy stories called The Silmarillion, making Tolkien's work even more famous.
Arizona native Diana Gabaldon began her career in science: she completed a Ph.D. in behavioral ecology and served as the founding editor of a scientific journal in the 1970s and 1980s. She eventually decided to work on a novel in her spare time. Inspired by an episode of Doctor Who, Gabaldon chose historical speculative fiction as her genre and Scotland as her setting. The result was a book originally published in Britain under the title Cross Stitch, but U.S. printers changed the name to Outlander. The Outlander series now comprises nine novels (the most recent being 2021s Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone and has been adapted into a popular television series. Click here to read more about Diana Gabaldon.
When Julie Cotler Pottinger was a teenager, her father disapproved of her love of romance novels. But Pottinger continued to read them anyway as she hoped to write one of her own someday. She began writing historical romances in college as a diversion from studying for her pre-med courses, and she dropped out of medical school after just a few months because her first published books were selling well. Using the pen name Julia Quinn, she has published dozens of novels and has appeared on the New York Times Best-seller List 19 times. Quinn's most famous novels are the Bridgerton series, which Netflix has adapted for television. The second season, based on the second book (The Viscount Who Loved Me), is scheduled to premiere in March 2022.
Before becoming a novelist, Casey McQuiston studied journalism in college and worked in magazine publishing for several years. McQuiston's first romance novel Red, White, and Royal Blue came out in 2019, and it was the only book to win two Goodreads Choice Awards that year. McQuiston followed this success in 2021 with a second best-selling adult romance, One Last Stop. The third book, I Kissed Shara Wheeler, will be McQuiston's first young-adult novel and is scheduled for release in May 2022.
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