10 Best Authors Like Upton Sinclair for Your Next Historical Satire Book

Check out our list of the best authors like Upton Sinclair and discover satirical and historical works that changed the face of society!

Born in 1878, Upton Sinclair was quite prolific as an author, with close to 100 books in his name. Quite popular in the first half of the 20th century, his books earned him the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1943. The Jungle, a muckraking novel shedding light on the labor conditions of America’s meatpacking industry, was responsible for passing the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.

Sinclair also published The Brass Check, a novel that exposed the yellow journalism of his era that was preventing a true free press. This work led to creating of the first code of ethics for journalists. These are just two examples of books Sinclair wrote that changed the political and legal structure within the United States.

Sinclair grew up in a family that moved frequently, and his lack of stability caused him to turn to books for entertainment. A voracious reader, he started formal school at age 10, but he worked hard to catch up and entered City College of New York when he was just 13 years old. After graduation, he went to law school at Columbia University but kept finding himself drawn to writing, starting with poetry.

To write his 1906 novel The Jungle, he spent several weeks in disguise and worked undercover to get first-hand experience. Sinclair wrote throughout his life, and his final book, The Coal War, was published after his death. If you’re interested in this topic, you’ll love the works of the best authors of historical fiction!

Best Authors Like Upton Sinclair Ranked

1. Edith Wharton, 1862 – 1937

Edith Wharton
Photo of Edith Wharton holding two dogs on her lap

Edith Wharton was an American writer and designer who knew what life was like in the upper-class world of New York City. In her books, she wrote on the lifestyle of the Gilded Age. The prolific author showed an ability for writing as a child, making up entertaining stories when she was just four or five years old, but she set the ambition aside when she entered the social debutante era in the late 180s. After her marriage, she spent time traveling abroad, then started writing.

Her first novel, The Valley of Decision, was published when she was 40 years of age, but before that, she had published a novella, nonfiction book, short story collection, and book of poetry. In 1920, The Age of Innocence won the Pulitzer Prize, making her the first female award winner in history.

“The real loneliness is living among all these kind people who only ask one to pretend!”

Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence
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  • 336 Pages - 08/26/2004 (Publication Date) - Barnes & Noble Classics (Publisher)

2. Joseph Heller, 1923 – 1999

Joseph Heller
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Brooklyn-born author Joseph Heller was a Jewish author who started writing as a young child. At 19, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps, serving 60 combat missions during World War II. When the war was over, he graduated from New York University with a degree in English, then went on to get graduate training at Columbia University. While working as a copywriter for an advertising agency after his graduation, he worked with Mary Higgins Clark.

When he was not working, he was writing, and in 1961 he published his first novel, Catch-22. Though he didn’t write many books, with only seven to his name, including one published after his death, he was quite successful. By selling the movie rights to Catch-22, he became a millionaire and could dedicate his life to writing. Most of his works are satirical works looking at middle-class life.

“The enemy is anybody who’s going to get you killed, no matter which side he is on.”

Joseph Heller, Catch-22

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3. Richard Russo, 1949 – present

Richard Russo
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Born in New York, Richard Russo is a well-educated writer with a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Arizona. He studied Charles Brockden Brown’s works for his dissertation, which led to a passion for writing. Russo published Mohawk, his first novel, in 1986 while teaching at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. In 2001 he published Empire Fallswhich won the Pulitzer Prize a year later. Russo also writes film scripts, including the script for the 1994 film Nobody’s Fool, which was based on his 1993 novel by the same name. Somebody’s Fool, his 2003 novel, is his most recent work. Several of his short stories show up in anthologies as well.

“And there comes a time in your life when you realize that if you don’t take the opportunity to be happy, you may never get another chance again.”

Richard Russo, Empire Falls
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  • 483 Pages - 04/12/2002 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

4. Virginia Woolf, 1882 – 1941

Virginia Woolf
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Virginia Woolf is one of the most important modernist writers of the 20th century. Many literary scholars attribute the popularity of stream-of-consciousness writing to her publications. Born in London, she studied English classics throughout her childhood before attending King’s College. Her father encouraged her to write professionally while she was in college, and in 1912 she married. With her husband, she founded Hogarth Press, which published most of her books. The Voyage Out was her first novel, published in 1915, but she is best known for To the Lighthouse and Mrs. Dalloway.

“He thought her beautiful, believed her impeccably wise; dreamed of her, wrote poems to her, which, ignoring the subject, she corrected in red ink.”

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
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  • 216 Pages - 10/28/2002 (Publication Date) - Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Publisher)

5. Henry James, 1843 – 1916

Henry James
Oil portrait painting of Henry James

Originally from New York City, Henry James attended Harvard Law School but decided he didn’t enjoy practicing and studying law, so he turned his attention to literature. As a writer, he started with a stage performance and short stories, and then he took a year-long trip through Europe where he met many famous authors, including Charles Dickens and George Eliot.

After falling in love with Europe, he applied for British citizenship and lived out his life in Europe. Because of living in both countries, his writing often compares characters from the Old and New Worlds. In 1881, his first novel, The Portrait of a Lady, was published and remains one of his most famous pieces. The Turn of the Screw, one of his 1898 novels, was another popular book.

“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”

Henry James, Portrait of a Lady
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6. F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1896 – 1940

F. Scott Fitzgerald
Photo of F. Scott Fitzgerald

Another classic author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, was known for the vivid characters he wove into his stories set in the Jazz Age. The Great Gatsby is his most famous work, often called the “Great American Novel,” but his first book was This Side of Paradise, published in 1920. It was immensely popular and set him up as one of the top writers of his decade.

Fitzgerald was born in Minnesota but moved to New York State when he was young. As a young man, he attended Princeton and fell in love with a young woman from a wealthy family. Sadly, her parents disapproved of their relationship, and the resulting depression drove Fitzgerald to enlist in the army. After his service, he struggled to find publishers for his work until he finally succeeded with his first book, which was a revision of an earlier, rejected manuscript. He had five finished novels and a sixth, The Last Tycoon, that he didn’t finish before his death.

“Do you ever wait for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always wait for the longest day of the year and then miss it!”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby: Original 1925 Edition (An F. Scott Fitzgerald Classic Novel)
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  • 114 Pages - 09/01/2022 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

7. Norman Mailer, 1923 – 2007

Norman Mailer
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Norman Mailer wrote novels, journalistic pieces, plays, and film scripts and was an actor. He had 11 bestselling books and several that didn’t hit the bestseller lists. His most notable works include the 1948 novel The Naked and the Dead and his 1968 nonfiction work The Armies of the Night, which won the Pulitzer Prize. The success of his nonfiction works led to the creation of New Journalism, a creative style of nonfiction.

Many works have a political stance, and Mailer often worked as an activist against the Cold War and the Vietnam War. In 1967 he was arrested for participating in an anti-Vietnam War demonstration, and in 1968 he signed a pledge refusing to pay taxes because of his feelings about the war. For more, check out our list of the best Kurt Vonnegut books.

“Mediocrities flock to any movement which will indulge their self-pity and their self-righteousness, for without a Movement the mediocrity is on the slide into terminal melancholia.”

Norman Mailer, The Armies of the Night
The Armies of the Night: History as a Novel, the Novel as History (Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award Winner)
  • The Armies of the Night By Mailer Norman
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  • English (Publication Language)
  • 304 Pages - 01/01/1995 (Publication Date) - Plume (Publisher)

8. Thomas Wolfe, 1900 – 1938

Thomas Wolfe
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Thomas Wolf had four novels and multiple novellas in his bibliography when he died at 37. Though his life was short, he found great success as a writer. In 1929 he published Look Homeward, Angel, and in 1935 Of Time and the River came to market. Several works, including You Can’t Go Home Again, were published after his death. The books and plays he produced were long, making it difficult to find publishers at first, but he found a following over time. Sadly, tuberculosis cut his life short before he could complete many of his works.

“All things on earth point home in old October; sailors to sea, travellers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken.”

Thomas Wolfe, Of Time and the River
Of Time and the River: A Legend of Man's Hunger in His Youth (Scribner Classics)
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  • 896 Pages - 09/08/1999 (Publication Date) - Scribner (Publisher)

9. Charles Dickens, 1812 – 1879

Charles Dickens
Photo of Charles Dickens

Few names in English literature are quite as famous as Charles Dickens. During the Victorian era, he wrote works that brought attention to the plight of the common people in England. Dickens started his literary career with The Pickwick Papers, a serial publication that caused him to become an international celebrity in the literary world. Because he used humor in his work and left each episode with a cliffhanger, people kept coming back for more.

In 1943 his novella A Christmas Carol came to print, and it continues to be made into adaptations today. Other famous works of Dickens include Great Expectations, published as a serial from 1960 to 1961; David Copperfield, published from 1949 to 1950; and Oliver Twist, published from 1837-1839. Check out these authors like Yaa Gyasi.

“Poetry makes life what lights and music do the stage.”

Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers
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10. Sinclair Lewis, 1885 – 1951

Sinclair Lewis
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Sinclair Lewis was the first American author to earn the Nobel Prize in Literature, which he was awarded due to his varied characters and ability to bring humor into his writing. As a graduate of Yale, Lewis wrote multiple novels, including the popular Main Street in 1920 and ending with The God-Seeker in 1949. World So Wide was an additional book published after his death.

Lewis began his literary career writing romantic poetry and sketches for literary magazines at Yale, and then he wrote fiction while working odd jobs to protect himself from boredom. Eventually, he started working for newspapers and publishing houses and even made money selling plots to author Jack London. Our Mr. Wrenn was his first novel under his name, published in 1914. By 1916 he was writing full-time and started working on Main Street, one of his most successful books, earning him $2 million in sales, which was quite a lot for his day.

“Most troubles are unnecessary. We have Nature beaten; we can make her grow wheat; we can keep warm when she sends blizzards. So we raise the devil just for pleasure–wars, politics, race-hatreds, labor-disputes.”

Sinclair Lewis, Main Street
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  • 448 Pages - 03/02/1999 (Publication Date) - Modern Library (Publisher)

Looking for more? Check out our guide with classic literature books!

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