10 Important Contemporary Authors

Put These Authors on Your Reading List

While it is impossible to rank the most important authors in contemporary literature, here is a list of ten important authors for the English language with some biographical notes and links to more information about them and their work.

01
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Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende, writer 1999
Quim Llenas/Cover/Getty Images

Chilean-American author Isabel Allende wrote her debut novel, House of Spirits to great acclaim in 1982. The novel began as a letter to her dying grandfather and is a work of magical realism charting the history of Chile. Allende began writing House of Spirits on January 8th, and subsequently, has begun writing all of her books on that day.

02
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Canadian author Margaret Atwood has numerous critically-acclaimed novels to her credit, some of the bestselling of which are Oryx and Crake, The Handmaid's Tale (1986), and The Blind Assasin (2000). She is known for her feminist themes, but her prolific output of work spans both form and genre.

03
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Winner of the National Book Award for his 2001 novel, The Corrections, and a frequent contributor to The New Yorker magazine, Jonathan Franzen is also the author of a 2002 books of essays entitled How to Be Alone and a 2006 memoir, The Discomfort Zone.

04
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Ian McEwan

British writer Ian McEwan started winning literary awards with his first book, First Love, Last Rites (1976) and never stopped. Atonement (2001) won several awards and was made into a movie directed by Joe Wright (2007). Saturday (2005) won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

05
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English novelist David Mitchell is known for his tendency toward experimental structure. In his first novel, Ghostwritten (1999), he uses nine narrators to tell the story and 2004's is a novel comprised of six interconnected stories. Mitchell won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for Ghostwritten, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for number9dream (2001) and , and is on the Booker longlist for Black Swan Green (2006).

06
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Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison's Beloved (1987) was named best novel of the past 25 years in a 2006 New York Times Book Review survey. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988, and Toni Morrison, whose name has become synonymous with African American literature, won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993.

07
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Haruki Murakami

Son of a Buddhist priest, Japanese author Haruki Murakami first struck a chord with A Wild Sheep Chase in 1982, a novel steeped in the genre of magical realism which he would make his own over the coming decades. Murakami's most popular work among Westerners is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, though 2005's met with success in this country, as well. The English version of Murakami's novel, After Dark, was released in 2007. 

08
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Philip Roth

Philip Roth seems to have won more book awards than any other American writer alive. He won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History for The Plot Against America (2005) and a PEN/Nabokov Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2006. In Everyman (2006), Roth's 27th novel, he sticks to one of his familiar themes: what it's like growing old Jewish in America.

09
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Zadie Smith

Literary Critic James Wood coined the term "hysterical realism" in 2000 to describe Zadie Smith's hugely successful debut novel, White Teeth, which Smith agreed was a "painfully accurate term for the sort of overblown, manic prose to be found in novels like my own White Teeth." Her third novel, On Beauty, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and won the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction.

10
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John Updike

During his long career that spanned decades, John Updike was one of only three writers to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction more than once. Some of the most popular novels from John Updike included his Rabbit Angstrom novels, Of the Farm (1965), and Olinger Stories: A Selection (1964). His four Rabbit Angstrom novels were named in 2006 among the best novels of the past 25 years in a New York Times Book Review survey.