10 Best Authors like Ian McEwan to Get You Thinking

Check out our list of the best authors like Ian McEwan. Each award-winner will take you on a thought-provoking adventure as you add them to your reading list.

Born in Hampshire, England, in 1948, author Ian McEwan is one of the most influential people in Great Britain, according to The Daily Telegraph. As a young child born, his military father was stationed in East Asia, Germany, and North Africa, so McEwan saw much of the world in his youth. After graduation from the Wolverstone Hall School, he attended the University of Sussex, earning a degree in English, and the University of East Anglia, where he got graduate training. 

First Love, Last Rites, a collection of short stories, was his first published work, and it won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1975. People became aware of him as a writer for the first time in 1979 when the BBC stopped working on his play, Solid Geometry, because of its obscenity. During his early writing years, he also published The Cement Garden in 1978 and The Comfort of Strangers in 1981. These early works earned him the nickname “Ian Macabre” because they were very dark in nature.

In 1988 McEwan switched his style to gain more readers and started publishing historical spy novels, starting with The Innocent in 1990 and Black Dogs in 1992. Not long after, he won the Booker Prize for Amsterdam, his 1998 novel. Atonement hit the stores in 2001, and it won the Booker Prize. As he moved into the new century, he started taking a more political slant on his writing, including writing against climate change through Solar, his 2010 work.

McEwan was nominated for the Booker Prize six times throughout his literary career. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and a Fellow of the Academy of Arts and Sciences. The American Academy of Achievement awarded him their Golden Plate award in 2019, and in 2020 he earned the Goethe Medal for his literary achievements.

Best Authors like Ian McEwan Ranked

1. John Banville, 1945 –

John Banville
Photo of Author John Banville

John Banville is an Irish author of novels and short stories who has won multiple awards for his books. Banville credits authors Henry James and W. B. Yeats for inspiring his writing, and he published his first book, a collection of short stories called Long Lankin. Next, he published a novel called Nightspawn, but he hated it so much he has since disowned it.

After that, the author started his first trilogy, The Revolutions Trilogy, which were novels about famous scientists published in 1976, 1981, and 1982. Many of his books were shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, but he won until his 2005 novel The Sea. Two more recent novels, Snow and April in Spain, were bestsellers and shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger award. In 2011 he won the Franz Kafka Prize for his body of work.

“Perhaps all of life is no more than a long preparation for the leaving of it.”

John Banville, The Sea

2. Louis de Bernieres, 1954 –

Louis de Bernieres
Black and white photo of Author Louis de Bernieres

Novelist, musician, and poet Louis de Bernieres started his life in a military family. Though his family lived in Jordan, he was sent to a boarding school in Kent, where his headteachers abused him. After that, de Bernieres attended Bradfield College and tried his hand at military life before going to Manchester University to study philosophy.

After graduating, he held a number of jobs, including spending some time teaching English in Columbia. That time in Latin America influenced him to write his first three novels, The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts in 1990, Senior Vivo and the Coca Lord in 1991, and The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman in 1992. Birds Without Wings, his 2004 novel, was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award and the Commonwealth Writers Prize.

“Man is a bird without wings and a bird is a man without sorrow.”

Louis de Bernieres, Birds Without Wings

3. Paul Auster, 1947 –

Paul Auster
Author Paul Auster

Paul Auster is from New Jersey and is an award-winning filmmaker, poet, and novelist. Educated at Columbia University, he has written multiple books, starting with his 1984 novel Squeeze Play, which he wrote under the pen name Paul Benjamin. The New York Trilogy came next, starting in 1985, then In the Country of Last Things in 198.

In addition to fiction, Auster has several nonfiction works, including Burning Boy: The Life and Work of Stephen Crane, which he published in 2021. Auster earned the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award in 1990 and the NYC Literary Honors for fiction in 2012. In 2017 his most recent fiction work, 4321, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. If you like Paul Auster, you’ll be happy to know he’s releasing a new book with Faber.

“There is no escape from this. Either you do or you don’t. And if you do, you can’t be sure of doing it the next time. And if you don’t, you never will again.”

Paul Auster, In the Country of Last Things

4. William Boyd, 1952 –

William Boyd
Photo of Author William Boyd

Bestselling author William Boyd has 17 novels, many of which center on experiences he gained while growing up in Ghana and Nigeria. The author attended the universities of Nice and Glasgow before moving to Oxford to get his doctorate in English Literature at Jesus College. In addition to writing, he has spent time teaching English Literature and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in England. 

A Good Man in Africa was his first book, which he published in 1981, and it won the Whitbread Ward and the Somerset Maugham Prize. An Ice Cream War, his second novel in 1982, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. These two initial works catapulted his literary career, and he continued to publish bestsellers year after year. In addition, he has worked as a scriptwriter.

“When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.”

William Boyd, A Good Man in Africa

5. Kate Atkinson, 1951 –

Kate Atkinson
Photo of author Kate Atkinson

Known for her crime novels, Kate Atkinson is an award-winning British author famous for her Jackson Brodie series. Atkinson’s literary career was successful when she published Behind the Scenes at the Museum in 1995. This first novel won her the Whitbread Book of the Year Prize. However, her historical fiction series set in World War II won her critical acclaim. Life After Life, published in 2013, and A God in Ruins, published in 2014, both won the Costa Novel Award. In 2011, Atkinson was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire for her contributions to the British literary world.

“In the end, it is my belief, words are the only things that can construct a world that makes sense.”

Kate Atkinson, Behind the Scenes at the Museum

6. Julian Barnes, 1946 –

Julian Barnes
Photo of author Julian Barnes

Popular for his historical fiction novels, Julian Barnes is a prolific author from Leicester, England. Starting with Metroland in 1980 and until his most recent work, Elizabeth Finch, in 2022, Barnes has earned multiple awards for his works, including winning the Booker Prize in 2011 for The Sense of an EndingHe also earned the Dan Cohen Prize for Literature and the Austrian State Prize for European Literature in 2004. In addition to his historical fiction books, Barnes wrote four crime novels about an English detective under the pen name Dan Kavanagh.

“This was another of our fears: that Life wouldn’t turn out to be like Literature.”

Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending

7. Zadie Smith, 1975 –

Zadie Smith
Photo of author Zadie Smith

One of the younger writers on this list, Zadie Smith, was born in London and attended King’s College and Cambridge. Smith’s literary career started in college with the publication of multiple short stories, and these attracted the attention of a publisher who offered her a novel-writing contract. This action caused her to hire a literary agent, and she started working on her first novel. White Teeth was brought to publishers before it was completed, and the winning publisher produced it in 2000. It became an instant bestseller and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Betty Trask Award, among other accolades.

After that success, she published The Autograph Man in 2002 and solidified her place among English writers. The author eventually moved to New York to teach at New York University, where she also contributed to several magazine and newspaper publications. In 2021 her first play, The Wife of Willesden, debuted, adding another type of writing to her skillset. The Fraud is her latest novel, set to release in the fall of 2023.

“Every moment happens twice: inside and outside, and they are two different histories.”

Zadie Smith, White Teeth

8. Jeffrey Eugenides, 1960 –

Jeffrey Eugenides
Photo of author Jeffrey Eugenides

Jeffrey Eugenides grew up in Detroit, Michigan, and received his undergraduate degree from Brown University and a master’s from Stanford. During his college years, he spent time traveling in Europe and volunteering with Mother Teresa in India. The desire to be a writer hit him when he was very young, and The Virgin Suicides was his first novel, published in 1993. Wildly successful, it was translated into 34 languages and made into a film in 1999.

His second novel, Middlesex, came out nine years after The Virgin Suicides, and in between the two books, he wrote many short stories. Eugenides won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Middlesex, and then nine years later, he published The Marriage Plot. Though he doesn’t have many novels on his list of books, the ones he has published have multiple awards, making him well worth adding to your reading list.

“It was one of those humid days when the atmosphere gets confused. Sitting on the porch, you could feel it: the air wishing it was water.”

Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

9. Margaret Atwood, 1939 –

Margaret Atwood
Photo of author Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood became a household name after the launch of The Handmaid’s Tale television show, but her success started long before the scripts were written. Born in Ontario, Canada, she is an avid environmental activist, inventor, and author. Her childhood was spent in the outdoors as her father researched entomology, and she started school for the first time at the age of 12. All of her time alone turned her into an avid reader, which helped fuel her passion for writing.

Atwood attended Victoria College and Radcliffe College and started her literary career by publishing a book of poetry, Double Persephone, in 1961. The Edible Woman, her first novel, was published in 1969. By the mid-1970s, the Canadian literary world had quite a bit of buzz surrounding her writing, and in 1985 she published The Handmaid’s Tale, which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the Governor General’s Award. Many of her works were shortlisted for the Booker Prize, but in 2000, The Blind Assassin finally won it.

“Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

10. Martin Amis, 1949 – 2023

Martin Amis
Photo of author Martin Amis

Martin Amis writes many things, including essays and screenplays, but he is most famous for Money and London Fields, two of his novels, and Experience, his memoir. Experience earned the author the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Amis was also shortlisted in 1991 and 2003 for the Booker Prize, and The Times calls him one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945.

Many of his works expound on his dark view of Modern English society. He published several nonfiction works and his novels, including The Second Plane in 2009 and Invasion of the Space Invaders in 1982. Amis was born in Oxford, England, and lived most of his life in England, though he spent a few years in Uruguay. His father and stepmother were successful writers, which helped create a desire for him to write as a young man. Amis sadly passed away in 2023.

“Death helps. Death gives us something to do. Because it’s a full-time job looking the other way.”

Martin Amis, London Fields

Looking for more? Check out our round-up of the best Roman authors!