With National Day on Writing having just taken place, a day when we can all appreciate the importance of literature and storytelling, it only feels right to celebrate some of the most influential and adored writers of our time. Every book we read today has been influenced by one great writer or another - and, without certain names in the literary world, many of the classic genres we know would likely not exist in their current form. Some may not even exist at all...
Below we've compiled a list of some of the most inspiring writers who, with either a single book or a lifetime of work, shaped their genre and continue to influence writers all over the world today. From the epic to the mysterious, from the cheerful to the horrifying, here are some influential writers from the world of classic literature we will forever be indebted to.
What better name is there to kick this list off with than the almighty J.R.R. Tolkien? Known as the "Father of Modern Fantasy" with his vast Middle-Earth and Arda legendarium (and rightly so), there arguably isn't a fantasy writer alive that hasn't been influenced by Tolkien in one way or another. As one of the best-selling books of all time, The Lord of the Rings is the ultimate fantasy tale that gave birth to so many of the wonderful genre traits and aspects that remain prevalent in the genre.
It's hard to believe that almost a century has passed since The Hobbit (the first book in the Middle-Earth legendarium) was first published - until we look at just how much the vast genre of fantasy has branched out and grown to be. Including dark fantasy, metaphysical fantasy, high and low fantasy, and all other corners of the genre, none would exist in their current form without the lifelong efforts of J.R.R. Tolkien. And, no matter how much this genre and its sub-genres grow, all fantasy fans will respectfully remember the name of Tolkien as the true creator of epic fantasy for the rest of time.
The wonderful world of science fiction has been growing stronger and stronger for decades. Some would argue that it truly came into prominence with Star Wars in the late 1970's, others earlier with classic films such as Forbidden Planet and It Came From Outer Space in the 1950's. However, the genre's roots truly stretch all the way back into late 19th century literature, with the innovative and mind-bending works of H.G. Wells.
From The War of the Worlds to The Invisible Man, H.G. Wells earned his moniker as the "Father of Science Fiction" just as much as Tolkien did for fantasy. His works were not only ahead of their time, but also predicted a great many technological advancements - as well as warning us what horrors can come from the errors of mankind reaching farther than it has any right or reason to reach. The hysteria caused by a radio reading of The War of the Worlds, which was believed by many to be a broadcast of an actual alien invasion, speaks volumes for the talents of a writer who shaped and continues to influence science fiction in literature, film, and television to this day.
Few names are as renowned or beloved in the world of children's literature and fictional stories as Rudyard Kipling. His heartfelt writings gave us some of the most enjoyable and fondly-remembered works to ever grace the world of fiction, including (but not limited to) The Jungle Book, How The Leopard Got His Spots, and his many Just So stories.
It's almost impossible to read a Rudyard Kipling story and not feel inspired to pick up a pen or grab a laptop and start writing for yourself. With The Jungle Book going on to be one of the most famous and adored stories in well over a century - not only in literature, but also in film too with its 1967 adaptation - Kipling has shown as what wonders can be achieved through the magic of passionate writing.
With an almost unbelievable sixty-six detective novels under her name (not including her short stories), as well as the world's longest running play with The Mousetrap, Agatha Christie has sold a staggering two billion copies with her crime and mystery books - most of which have been adapted to one medium or another, including theatre, television, radio, video games, comics, and over thirty feature length films.
Like some of the other authors in this listen, Christie too has earned herself a moniker through her talents and success - the Queen of Crime. And, considering the consistent success of the crime and mystery genre up to the present day, it's fair to say she has done a fantastic job at influencing writers and keeping the genre alive. Who knows who the next great crime novelist may be thanks to her inspirational success?