The Best Late-20th-Century Authors

While ranking the best authors in late-20th-century literature is nearly impossible, we have collected a list of writers who are widely considered as major influences. These writers made their mark over the past five decades and are each recognized for their written contributions.
A long list of variables comes to play when ranking the most important writers of the century, including style, time period, genre, personality, and production. Upon learning their works, we’ve concluded that these authors have a reason, after all, why they earned a degree of fame.
From Philip Roth to Haruki Murakami, we will further know why their works are worth exploring. Here are some of the best late-20th-century authors:

1. Philip Roth

Philip Roth won more book awards than his contemporaries. For The Plot Against America, he garnered the Sidewise Award for Alternate History in 2005. He also won a Lifetime Achievement in 2006 by PEN/Nabokov Awards. Roth’s work usually focuses on mostly Jewish themes and explores a fraught relationship with the Jewish tradition. In his 27th novel titled In Everyman, he explored what it’s like to grow old as a Jewish person in America.

2. Toni Morrison

This flooring author’s early work Beloved was named the best novel in a 2006 survey by the New York Times Book Review. The searingly painful story offers a personal window into the horrors of the bondage of people and its aftermath. It won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize, and Morrison, a legend of African American literature, received the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature.

3. David Mitchell

English novelist David Mitchell is widely recognized and given credit for his repeated use of complex yet intricate structure in his work. His first novel, Ghostwritten, uses nine narrators to share the story. His 2004 work, Cloud Atlas, is a piece that comprises six interconnected stories. He won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for Ghostwritten and was included in the Booker longlist for The Bone Clocks in 2014.

4. Haruki Murakami

Japanese author Haruki Murakami first evoked his literary genius with A Wild Sheep Chase in 1982, a novel that won the 1982 Noma Literary Newcomer’s Prize. Most of the author’s works are melancholic, fantastic, and often written in the first person. Murakami once said that the focal point of his early books is individual darkness, while his later works are themed into the darkness found in history and society. His notable works, Kafka on the Shore and 1Q84, brought electricity into the hearts of the Western readers.

5. John Updike

During his career of nearly six decades, John Updike was one of three writers to garner the Pulitzer Prize more than once. Some of his renowned works include his Rabbit Angstrom novels, Olinger Stories: A Selection, and Of the Farm. His Rabbit Angstrom stories were named among the best novels in a 2006 survey by the New York Times Book Review.

6. Margaret Atwood

Canadian author Margaret Atwood has a long list of critically acclaimed written works to her credit. Some of her chart-topping titles are The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake, and The Blind Assassin. She is famous for her dystopian themes, and her prolific work spans many genres, including short stories, poetry, and essays. She is also notable for distinguishing her “speculative fiction” from science fiction, saying that speculative fiction could really happen, whereas science fiction involves “monsters and spaceships.”

7. Zadie Smith

Literary critic James Wood described Zadie Smith’s successful debut novel, White Teeth, as “hysterical realism”. The British writer’s third novel, On Beauty, won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2006. Her 2012 novel entitled NW was also shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Ondaatje Prize. Her investment pieces often deal with the immigrants’ postcolonial experience.