Choosing just 10 writers from the hundreds of influential writers isn’t an easy task. Some writers bring depth and emotion, others make us look at the world differently, and some provide levity. Finally, however, there is a list of writers who truly stand the test of time.
Homer’s birth date is controversial. It is estimated he lived around 850 BC. Homer is credited with writing the epic poems the Iliad and the Odyssey. Although the world doesn’t know much about the poet, his works were used widely in Greek education, and today, his works are studied in English classes all over the nation. Homer wrote, “I detest that man who hides one thing in the depths of his heart and speaks for another.”
An Italian poet, Dante’s full name was Dante Alighieri. Dante was born in 1265 and lived until 1321. He is best known for his work The Divine Comedy. With The Divine Comedy, he used his native language of Italian, and the book is now known as the greatest Italian work of literature ever created. Dante’s words within the poem include: “Thy soul is hurt by cowardice, which oftentimes encumbered a man so that it turns him back from honorable enterprise.”
It is thought that Shakespeare was born around April of 1564, but records are sketchy. He lived until 1616. William Shakespeare is arguably one of the best-known writers of all time. His work, written in Old English, still resounds today with the tenets of human emotion and weakness that made it so popular during his time. His plays have inspired many movies, including Lion King and West Side Story. Today, many of Shakespeare’s phrases are used in everyday speech, such as “love is blind” and “like the Dickens.”
Jane Austen lived from 1775 to 1817. Austen’s brilliance was her ability to take ordinary people and put them into extraordinary circumstances. She thus changed the face of the modern novel from stilted, two-dimensional fictional characters to characters that seem to leap off the page and come to life. Her books were filled with realism and modern social conventions. In fact, she often poked fun at the traditions and moral mechanization of the time. One of Austen’s more famous works is Pride and Prejudice, with the famous opening line: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
Jefferson was born in 1743 and lived until 1826. Although the task would likely have been handed to someone else had he not existed, leaders of the American Revolution gave the job of writing the Declaration of Independence to Thomas Jefferson. We might have a document, but the words would not be the same, and who knows if they would have had the same impact as the document we have today. He would set the path for speakers who came after him and would also run the new country as the third President of the United States. His words still ring through the ages, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that their Creator endows them with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Nathanial Hawthorne lived from 1804 to 1864. The Encyclopedia Britannica said of Hawthorne in the book The 100 Most Influential Writers of All Time that he was “a master of the allegorical and symbolic tale.” He published many works of fiction, but his story The Scarlet Letter is a tale that reaches down to today’s generation and remains modern. The story took on the tough issue of the worst in human nature. However, many truths still resound today, such as, “She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom.” The recent movie Easy A took its inspiration from this story that is read in most high schools.
Carroll was born in 1832 and passed away in 1898. When Alice followed the white rabbit down the rabbit hole, Carroll introduced readers to whimsy and stories geared toward children that created a world specifically for them. In his book, life did not follow the same rules as in the normal world. The book is still beloved by children everywhere. It is little wonder with language like this: “Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the riverbank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversation?’”
Samuel Clemens, who wrote as Mark Twain, is one of America’s most loved and popular writers of all time. He lived from 1835 to 1910. His quirky sense of humor and attention to the details of a small slice of America gave his books a unique voice that encouraged other writers to open up and share stories about their own home towns and from their own unique perspectives. Upon false reports of his death, Twain once said, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
Frost was born in 1874 and lived until 1963. Robert Frost brought colloquial speech to his poetry. The poems still ring true today. The very simplicity of reading about a fork in the road is made deeper when one reflects on the meaning of the fork and which way the traveler chooses to traverse. Frost is one of the most easily recognized and beloved poets ever. He wrote: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.”
King was born in Oregon in 1947 and is still living. This modern author changed the horror genre, creating massive sales and successfully taking his books from print to film. King has also pioneered efforts to release e-book versions of his stories and create new niches for authors to explore. In The Stand, King wrote these chilling words: “`He looked fixedly at the rat for a long time before letting the mattress fall back, mercifully hiding it from sight. “Just in case,” Lloyd Henreid whispered into the silence. “Just in case, is all.”