100 Most Influential Authors

By March 15, 2015April 24th, 2020Discussion and Recommendations

We asked you to name the author who has had the most influence upon you. From the response we received I can tell that books have certainly played an important role in all our lives; we had over 1,200 replies and a total of 342 different authors were named. Very few of you could restrict themselves to naming just one author (fear not, we have included them all). So here we are; your 100 most influential authors…

J. K Rowling – 84 mentions

Harry Potter Box Set

Harry Potter Box Set (US)
Harry Potter Box Set (UK)

Unsurprisingly, at the number one spot is Rowling. Harry Potter regularly tops our polls. Loved by both young and old alike, JK Rowling is now considered to be our most influential author.

Paulo Coelho – 54 mentions

The Alchemist

The Alchemist (US)
The Alchemist (UK)

The Alchemist is also a very popular choice and often features in comments and posts on our Facebook page. The spiritual journeys that Paulo Coelho takes his readers on has put him in second place on our most influential authors list.

Jane Austen – 46 mentions


Sense and Sensibility (US)
Sense and Sensibility (UK)

Although we have contemporary authors at the top, influence has been passed down through the generations in the form of Jane Austen. Sense and sensibility tells us that Austen would make this list!

Stephen King – 37 mentions


Revival (US)
Revival (UK)

King has thrilled us for years with his dark tales, although I am concerned about the way he may have influenced our readers!

J. R. R. Tolkien – 32 mentions


Lord of the Rings Box Set (US)
Lord of the Rings Box Set (UK)

Lord of the Rings continually makes it into our top ten lists, not surprising then that the author J.R.R. Tolkien reaches number five. One author to rule them all.

Charles Dickens – 27 mentions


Great Expectations – FREE (US)
Great Expectations – FREE (UK)

What the Dickens! 27 of you had great expectations for this classic
English author.

William Shakespeare – 26 mentions


All’s Well That Ends Well (US)
All’s Well That Ends Well (UK)

Perhaps surprisingly low for an author who has brought so much to the English language, but then all that glitters is not gold. All’s well that ends well for the Bard as his love’s labour is not lost, still having influence four hundred years after his death.

John Green – 20 mentions


The Fault in our Stars (US)
The Fault in our Stars (UK)

For John Green there is no fault in starring in our influential authors list.

John Steinbeck – 19 mentions


Of Mice and Men (US)
Of Mice and Men (UK)

With a constant presence on the school reading list, Steinbeck’s books have touched us all. So no shock that he made it into the top ten.

Oscar Wilde – 19 mentions


The Picture of Dorian Gray (US)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (UK)

Oscar Wilde, the master of the witty quip rounds up our top ten in joint place with Steinbeck. His timeless influence will never age, but you should see the portrait.

So that’s the top ten, but we thought why stop there!

With 18 mentions:

Mark Twain
Edgar Allen Poe

With 16 mentions:

Ernest Hemingway
George Orwell
Ayn Rand

With 14 mentions:

Harper Lee
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

With 13 mentions:

Terry Pratchett
Leo Tolstoy
Haruki Murakami
Anne Rice

With 12 mentions:

Maya Angelou
Cassandra Clare
Sylvia Plath

With 11 mentions:

Nicholas Sparks
Charlotte Bronte
Thomas Hardy
Khaled Hosseini
F.Scott Fitzgerald
Agatha Christie
C.S Lewis
Kurt Vonnegut

With 9 mentions:

Apostles: Holy Bible
J.D Salinger
Robert Heinlein
Danielle Steel
Ray Bradbury

With 8 mentions:

Jodi Picoult
Dan Brown
Diana Gabaldon
Toni Morrison
Neil Gaiman

With 7 mentions:

Charles Bukowski
Sidney Sheldon
Isabel Allende
Dean Koontz
Gabriel Garcia Marquez

With 6 mentions:

Emily Bronte
A. A. Milne
Christopher Hitchens
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Pablo Neruda
Mitch Albom
Rick Riordan
Dr Seuss

With 5 mentions:

Umera Ahmad
Herman Hesse
Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Alexanrdre Dumas
Friedrich Nietzsche
George R.R. Martin
Victor Hugo
Henry David Thoreau
Enid Blyton
Isaac Asimov

With 4 mentions:

Donna Tartt
Virginia Woolf
Margaret Atwood
Lewis Carroll
W Somerset Maugham
Douglas Adams
Bryce Courtenay
Richard Bach
Louisa May Alcott
Aldous Huxley
Markus Zusak
Cornelia Funke
John Grisham
Stephenie Meyer

With 3 mentions:

Franz Kafka
Frank McCourt
Arundhati Roy
Ruskin Bond
John Irving
Louis L’Amour
James Patterson
Roald Dahl
Ted Dekker
Judy Blume
Jack Kerouac
William Yeats
Daphne Du Maurier
Gibran Khalil Gibran
Terry Goodkind
Veronica Roth
Chuck Palahniuk
Ken Follett
Dr Wayne W. Dyer
Jean M Auel
Margaret Mitchell

And that’s where we end. I’ve heard of many of these, I haven’t heard of many others. I’ve taken the spellings from your own posts on page, if there are any corrections do let me know in the comments, and let us know your own influential author!

Original Post

Leave your vote


  • Matt Wickham says:

    Wouldn’t be my list, there’s an awful lot of pap on there. Harry Potter top of the list?! Give me a break! Where’s Mervyn Peake, Iain Banks, John Buchan, Haggard, Jules Verne, HG Wells, etc, etc.

    • Alyssa says:

      Unfortunately for you, this is a list compiled of over a hundred people’s opinions, and not just yours.

    • Lucía says:

      It’s no wonder you think your choices are better if you’ve been genuinely influenced by Jules Verne, a misogynist and a racist. You are probably one of those people who’s never read Harry Potter but loves to criticise it. I find that snobbish and pretentious. Everyone has their own path and you should respect it.

  • freddythepig says:

    Nice try, but the appearance of “the Apostles,” Danielle Steel, and Dan Brown render this exercise laughable.

  • Hariprbhu k says:

    Readers may suggests what they are reading books (any title) it will be helpful for select books for further reading.Recently I studied the book “finding meaning in life at midlife and beyond” very interesting helpful for seniors.thank you.

  • Pauline says:

    I think it might be helpful if people qualify their choices. For example: a book which influenced me was Thomas Mann’s ‘The Magic Mountain’ as it taught me that books can have layers of meaning. I read about half of it at age 12 and just enjoyed the descriptions of the characters and the mountains ( I was also a fan of ‘Heidi’!)
    However, when I read it again, at about 16, I became interested in the interplay of the personalities – the power struggles and influences. It was only when I read it at 20, I realised it was also a political allegory and finally understood why the Nazis burnt such dangerous books.

    There seems to be quite a lot of book-snobbery in the comments. It’s not what you read, surely – it’s what you get out of it? Harry Potter might be aimed at youngsters, but the books provide an enjoyable reading experience and it’s interesting to try to analyse how JKR managed to take handfuls of old myths and legends and retell them in a way that made vast numbers of readers – young and adult – want to read them. Very useful instruction for an aspiring author.

    I like to look through lists of other people’s choices and discover books that I’ve missed. Unfortunately there are the snooty comments to wade through, too…

  • Sara says:

    Let’s see how many of the contemporary authors, besides Stephen King and very few others, are still being read in 50 years. That is the real test. And no one mentioned TSEliot. The first half of the 20th century is known as the Age of Eliot. Wow. Amazing. No one mention the Noble prize winners Saul Bellow, Pearl S Buck, Eugene O’Neil, Tony Morrison, or Golding. The contemporary reader and who he/she thinks is important amazes me.

    • Jenny says:

      Toni Morrison is mentioned by the way.
      Everyone’s reading interests and those who have influenced them are different than yours. It is okay, so do not be amazed by this list. This is a pretty typical, and good, list in my opinion because it has so much range.

  • Margie says:

    While one might argue the classics and authors we’ve “all” read (which must mean they’re influential), this list is awesome just the way it is! Rowling is much deserving of the top spot for she has absolutely drawn people into the world of reading who had not been previously engaged. My kids read and re-read the Harry Potter series and I have no doubt it will be a “classic” when they introduce their own children to it, someday. Thanks for taking the time to compile this!

  • lakshmi says:

    was Harper Lee not mentioned??? or did i accidentally skip her name??? she deserved to be there..

  • judy murphy says:

    I’d like to mention John Grisham. He is contemporary, but so satisfying to read. Also, although these great writers have passed on, I think James Michener, Herman Wouk, Frank Slaughter…so many more. They made reading a book such a joy.

  • Shanna says:

    I think Cate Tiernan was my most influential author. Her books literally changed my life growing up. She is a young adult author but even now as an adult I find her books to be amazing. I think Diana Wynne Jones, is a very close second.

  • Therese Gauthier says:

    How about Wally Lamb and Joyce Carol Oates?
    Other than that, GREAT COMPILATION!

  • Mac Sintes says:

    I think the important thing here is to remember that the poll was designed to ask readers to name the authors who had the most influence on their lives, not the best writer, nor the most popular. I am a librarian and am familiar with nearly all these authors and have read works by nearly all of them. I have a lot of favorites here and a lot of favorites that are missing. But of the 6 authors that changed my life profoundly, 4 are here. Try ĺooking again. (The one that was was most influential may not be the one which is the most critically acclaimed.)

  • Deon CLOETE says:

    I agree with many on your list.If I had the opportunity to vote I would have voted for Deon Meyer, Lee Child, Jo Nesbo and Stieg Larsson not only did they sell an tremendous amount of books but they are excellent writers.
    How about having another voting session on facebook?

  • SMFJ says:

    It doesn’t matter what people read as long as they read, especially children. People may start reading what is regarded as trash, I loved Denis Wheatly as a teenager, but whith luck it will lead to better things.

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