What to Read in April

Literary Birthdays Guide the Way

Source:http://www.lib.utexas.edu/photodraw/portraits/irving.jpg "Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin."

April 2nd: Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875). One of Denmark's most famous writers, Andersen is best known for his fairytales; however, he also wrote plays, novels, poetry and travelogues. Few writers have had as much influence on western culture as Hans Christian Andersen, whose fairy tales have become the stuff of legend.

·         The Tinder Box

  • The Two Baronesses

April 3rd: Washington Irving (1783-1859). Early American author, historian, essayist and biographer. Irving was also a diplomat, but he is best known as one of the founders of American letters, helping to form a non-British tradition in American writing. His work would inspire some of the greatest American writers, including Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

  • Salmagundi (1807-08)
  • Rip Van Winkle (1907)
  • A History of New York (1809)
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820)
  • Lives of Mahomet and His Successors (1850)
  • The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. (1819-20)
  • Tales of a Traveller (1824)
  • A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (1828)

April 13th: Samuel Beckett (1906-1989). Irish playwright, poet, novelist and theatre director best known for his avant-garde works and for his tragicomic pieces. Beckett spent much of his life in Paris and wrote in both English and French.

Beckett holds a significant position as a late-modernist and early-postmodernist, often claimed by both groups.

  • Murphy (1938)
  • Molloy (1951)
  • Dream of Fair to Middling Women (1932, 1992)
  • Waiting for Godot (1954)

April 15th: Henry James (1843-1916). American-British critic and author of novels, plays, and short stories.

James is one of the primary writers associated with literary realism.

  • The Aspern Papers (1888)
  • The Beast in the Jungle (1903)
  • Daisy Miller (1879)
  • The Portrait of a Lady (1881)
  • The Turn of the Screw (1898)
  • The Golden Bowl (1904)
  • The Ambassadors (1903)
  • The Wings of the Dove (1902)
  • The Bostonians (1886)

April 22nd: Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977). Russian-American novelist whose early career was devoted to writing in Russian but whose breakthrough came following some of his publications in English, including the infamous and influential Lolita.

  • The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (1941)
  • Lolita (1955)
  • Pnin (1957)
  • Pale Fire (1962)
  • Nobkov's Dozen: A Collection of Thirteen Stories (1958)

April 23rd: William Shakespeare (c1564-1616). The most famous playwright of all-time, Shakespeare was also a poet and actor. Much mystery has surrounded his life and works, but there is no doubt as to his influence.

April 24th: Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989). American novelist, poet, literary critic and Pulitzer Prize winner. Warren was important in forming the theoretical school of New Criticism, and he founded The Southern Review, an important literary journal.

  • All the King’s Men (1946)
  • John Brown: The Making of a Martyr (1929)
  • An Approach to Literature (1938)
  • At Heaven's Gate (1943)
  • Band of Angels (1955)

April 27th: Edward Gibbon (1737-1794). English historian and Parliamentarian. Gibbon's most famous and most important work, The Decline and Fall, has set a standard for historical writing.

  • Critical Observations on the Sixth Book of Vergil's The Aeneid (1770)
  • The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776, 1781, 1788-89)

April 28th: Harper Lee (1926- ). Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist infamous for her reclusive lifestyle. After more than 50 years, Harper Lee plans to publish her second novel in 2015.

April 29th: Constantine Cavafy (1863-1933). A Greek poet who worked as a civil servant and journalist.

He published more than 100 poems in his lifetime and many more were found unfinished after his death.

  • Poems by C.P. Cavafy (1951)
  • The Complete Poems of Cavafy (1961, trans. Rae Dalven)
  • The Greek Poems (1961, trans. Memas Kolaitis)


Other famous literary birthdays this month include: Maya Angelou, Algernon Swinburne, Donald Barthelme, Barbara Kingslover, Joseph Pulitzer, Leo Rosten, Cynthia Ozick, and Annie Dillard.