15 Best Australian Authors Of All Time

Discover the best Australian authors that will give you a glimpse into Australian culture and history while entertaining you with some of the best fiction books on the market.

Although the Australian literary movement is still relatively young compared to countries in the ‘old world,’ it’s already a melting pot of brilliant fiction and non-fiction novels. The sheer size of Australia and the difference between society in the outback and the major cities means that the writers in this list all bring unique perspectives of what it means to be Australia and to live in Australia.

In this post, you’ll find authors that use compelling narratives to uncover Australia’s colonial history, culture, and tell gripping non-fiction stories. You can also check out our list of the best Urdu writers.

Popular Australian Authors

Best Australian Authors

1. Tim Winton, 1960 –

Best Australian Authors: Tim Winton
Tim Winton via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Tim Winton is one of the most well-known Australian novelists. His work primarily focuses on non-fiction, children’s books, and short stories. Born in Western Australia in the second half of the 20th century, Tim Winton grew up in a suburb of Perth, and his love for the Australian landscape and incredible nature often shines through in his work.

Winton started writing early on in life. He won his first literary award, the Australian/Vogel Literary aware, in 1981 for his novel The Open Swimmer, which he wrote while studying at just 20.

His early success encouraged Winton to continue writing, and in 2008, he published Breath, his most successful book to date. The novel focuses on a cornerstone of Australian society – surfing. Breath follows the two-story of two teens growing up in the 1970s, risking their lives chasing the perfect wave.

“It’s the pointless things that give your life meaning. Friendship, compassion, art, love. All of them pointless. But they’re what keeps life from being meaningless.”

Tim Winton

2. Melina Marchetta, 1965 –

Melina Marchetta grew up in an Italian immigrant family in Australia. As an immigrant, she developed a unique perspective on Australian society, and her work most successful novels often explore themes of identity, community, and displacement.

Her book Looking for Alibranid is a must-read Australian novel for anyone interested in learning about Australian society from the perspective of an immigrant.

The moving story follows a young girl who attends an expensive Australian all-girls school. The protagonist, Josephine Alibranid, wrestles with her own identity as she develops a deeper understanding of her family roots.

Marchetta has been an inspiration to immigrants and women in Australia who want to break into the highest literary circles.

“But grief makes a monster out of us sometimes . . . and sometimes you say and do things to the people you love that you can’t forgive yourself for.”

Melina Marchetta

3. Kate Grenville, 1950 –

Kate Grenville
Kate Grenville via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Kate Grenville is a multi-award-winning Australian author who has published over a dozen successful novels covering several literary fields, including non-fiction, fiction, and biographies.

She was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2006 for her best-selling novel The Secret River, which captured the literary world’s attention with its brutal tale of the treatment that indigenous Australians suffered at the hands of European colonizers.

The story’s protagonist, William Thornhill, a convict that rebuilds his life in Australia, provides an interesting medium for story-telling.

The Secret River is a brilliant way to learn more about Australia’s history, the struggles of the prisoners abandoned on the country’s shores, and the tragic impact of British colonialism on the indigenous population.

“This place had been here long before him. It would go on sighing and breathing and being itself after he had gone, the land lapping on and on, watching, waiting, getting on with its own life.”

Kate Grenville

4. Richard Flanagan, 1961 –

Richard Flanagan
Richard Flanagan via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Richard Flanagan is one of the most successful Australian novelists, and his work has been recognized formally several times with prestigious literary awards.

Flanagan is the descendant of Irish convicts who were deported to Australia during the Great Famine. Since the 1990s, his work has repeatedly found itself in high demand in Australian bookshops.

His debut novel, Death of a River Guide, became a best seller for its exciting narrative of a river guide in Tasmanian being helplessly washed downstream after being thrown from his boat.

Following the success of his first novel, he published several novels before winning the Man Booker Prize for his novel The Narrow Road to The Deep North in 2014.

The Narrow Road to The Deep North tells the tragic story of prisoners of war captured by the Japanese during World War II in Myanmar. Falangan navigates the tragic chapter in Australia’s history with finesse and has been widely praised for his work.

“There are words and words and none mean anything. And then one sentence means everything.”

Richard Flanagan

5. Helen Garner, 1942 –

Helen Garner
Helen Garner via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Helen Garner is one of the earliest female Australian authors to become a major star in the country’s literary circles. She is seen by many as a trailblazer who inspired a generation of female Australian writers in the 20th century.

She is primarily a realist writer focusing on women’s rights and sexuality. In addition, she’s also written several successful crime-fiction novels. If you’re looking to expand your crime-fiction reading list, then The First Stone and This House of Grief are two of Garner’s books that come highly recommended.

Her most well-known novel is Monkey Grip which explores 1970s counterculture in Melbourne. The novel follows the story of several problematic characters but focuses on the story of a teenage girl who falls in love with a heroin addict. Garner won the National Book Council Award for Monkey Grip.

”On Melbourne summer mornings the green trams go rolling in stately progress down tunnels thick with leaves: the bright air carries along the avenue their patient chime, the chattering of their wheels.”

Helen Garner

6. Matthew Reilly, 1974 –

If you want to add some thrillers to your reading list Matthew Reilly’s novels will be right up your street.

Reilly is one of the most famous Australian thriller writers, and he’s become especially popular among fans of Lee Child and Stephen King.

His books combine high-paced action with complex plots led by heroic characters that are forced to make tough decisions under immense pressure.

Matthew Reilly has sold over 20 million copies worldwide, and his books have been translated into over a dozen languages.

The Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves is one of Matthew Reilly’s best action-thrillers. The gripping story takes place in the arctic, where a Soviet military base comes where a secret weapon is underdevelopment and comes under attack from a terrorist group.

“There’s an Oriental saying I like: “If aggression meets empty space it tends to defeat itself.”

Matthew Reilly

7. Markus Zusak, 1975 –

Markus Zusak
Markus Zusak via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Markus Zusak is an Australian novelist with a German-Austrian background. He was born to immigrant parents in Sydney who often told their children stories of World War II, which heavily impacted Zusak’s writing.

He has written dozens of books and won multiple literary awards, including the American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults and Queensland Premier’s Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction.

His novel The Book Thief has been translated into 40 languages and is one of the most well-known Australian novels in the world. The fiction novel is set during World War II and follows the story of a traumatized young orphan. The novel explores several themes, including power, resilience, and suffering.

What really makes The Book Thief stand out is Zusak’s decision to narrate the story through the eyes of ‘Death’ himself. After being published in 2006, the book quickly became an international bestseller, and bookshops around the world filled their shelves with copies as Zusak’s name caught traction on all continents.

If you enjoyed our round-up of the best Australian authors, we have many more articles on the best authors from around the globe. You might want to check out our list of the best Filipino authors. Or use the search bar at the top right of the page to search for authors in a country or region you are interested in.

“Imagine smiling after a slap in the face. Then think of doing it twenty-four hours a day.”

Markus Zusak

8. Miles Franklin, 1879 – 1954

Miles Franklin
Miles Franklin via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Miles Franklin is one of the few female Australian novelists who was born in the 19th century, and as a result, her work went on to inspire several generations of Australian authors. She is primarily known for the novel My Brilliant Career, which she wrote at the age of 20 and published in 1901. The fiction story tapped into real-life themes that were especially present in early 20th-century Australia.

In the novel, a young woman from a poor family who dreams of becoming a writer struggles to overcome societal obstacles such as misogyny and a lack of social mobility. Miles Franklin was committed to building a pure Australian literary movement, and in 2013 her efforts were recognized when she was awarded the Stella Prize. After her death, she left all her money and possessions to be spent on establishing The Miles Franklin Award, which has been awarded to some of the best Australian writers since 1957.

“There are only two kinds of parents. Those who think their offspring can do nothing wrong, and those who think they can do nothing right.”

Miles Franklin

9. Jane Harper, 1980 –

The British-Australian author Jane Harper is part of a new generation of Australian writers who started writing at the dawn of the 21st century. Like a few other names on this list, Jane Harper is also primarily a crime writer who produced exciting and suspenseful stories.

Her novels are often set in rural Australia, making them a great way to learn about Australian society outside the major cities while enjoying an exciting crime story. She studied journalism as a young adult but reporting the news didn’t satisfy her appetite for writing, so she transferred her skills into novel writing.

In 2014 she published her first fiction novel, The Dry, which became a considerable success and drove her to become a full-time novel writer. Arguably Harper’s best book to date is The Lost Man, which follows two brothers who find their sibling dead in the outback. In the process of trying to understand their brother’s death, the pair uncover a series of disturbing secrets about their own family.

Someone can decide it’s in their best interests to agree to something, but a choice is only really a choice if there’s a genuine alternative. Otherwise it’s manipulation and it’s taking advantage.”

Jane Harper

10. Liane Moriarty, 1966 –

When Liane Moriarty’s book Big Little Lies became an HBO hit, she became one of the most famous Australian writers in the world. Although most people know her for the series, the become that preceded HBO’s adaptation was already a New York Times bestseller.

The story is driven by three main characters that develop a deep bond after meeting at school. The story deals with some extremely heavy themes, such as domestic abuse, bullying, and rape. Within the dark themes and the tragic events, Liane Moriarty is able to weave in funny moments that act as an intriguing contrast to the overall story.

In 2017, three years after the book was published, HBO released the Big Little Lies series, and it quickly became one of the company’s most successful mini-series, winning over half a dozen Emmy Awards. The book sold over 10 million copies and has been translated into over 40 languages.

“Every day I think, ‘Gosh, you look a bit tired today,’ and it’s just recently occurred to me that it’s not that I’m tired, it’s that this is the way I look now.”

Liane Moriarty

11. Melissa Lucashenko, 1967-

Melissa Lucashenko is an Australian author of Aboriginal descent who writes primarily for young adults and teens. She is the go-to author for teens and adults looking to learn more about Australia from an aboriginal perspective. One of the motivations for her to take up writing full-time was that she felt that there was very little, if any, aboriginal representation in Australian literature.

One of her most popular books is Steam Pigs, which won the Dobbie Literary Award for Australian Women’s Fiction. The story follows a young aboriginal woman Sue Wilson who leaves behind her life in the outback in favor of the big city. The story dives into the difficulties many people of aboriginal descent face in Australian society.

“Respect is a fulltime job, twenty-four seven. The way to behave in the world so that nobody’s pride gets trampled, so that anger doesn’t get a chance to ripen into disaster.”

Melissa Lucashenko

12. Craig Silvey, 1982 –

Craig Silvey
Craig Silvey via Wikipedia, Public Domain

The Sydney Morning Herald named Craig Silvey The Best Young Australian Novelist twice after he published his first book at the age of just 19. He was born in rural Western Australia in a small town called Dwellingup to a teacher and a librarian. At the age of 19, he published Rhubarb, which won the 2009 Indie Book of the Year Award for the fiction category.

By his late teens, it was clear that Craig Silvey was going to dedicate his life to writing, and in 2009, his second book Jasper Jones became a success winning over half a dozen literary awards and selling over half a million copies.

Jasper Jones has become a coming-of-age classic, and it amusingly follows the story of a teenage boy discovering his own self-dignity and navigating the complexity that early adulthood often brings. One of his latest books, titled Honeybee, follows the story of a transgender teen and their process of self-acceptance and discovery.

“I don’t understand a thing about this world: about people, and why they do the things they do. The more I find out, the more I uncover, the more I know, the less I understand.”

Craig Silvey

13. Sally Morgan, 1951 –

Sally Morgan is a Perth-based writer and artist with an aboriginal background who often uses her talent for novel writing to tell stories related to the Aboriginal population. Her family has a fascinating history, and her sister became the first aboriginal woman to qualify as a medical doctor, while her mother grew up in a children’s home along with countless other aboriginal children who were taken from their families by British colonialists.

Her most widely-read book, My Place, is an autobiography that explores her own family’s past, touching on some painful stories and surprising details. The book was considered an important addition to Australia’s aboriginal literary base and continues to be a must-read for anyone looking to learn more about the aboriginal community in Australia. My Place is still regularly added to school reading lists for programs educating students about the country’s history.

“I came to the realisation that it was impossible to change my environment. I decided to try and change myself instead.”

Sally Morgan

14. Mem Fox, 1946 –

Mem Fox
Mem Fox via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Mem Fox’s background is unique. She was born in Melbourne to missionary parents, and as a result, she was educated in modern-day Zimbabwe. As a young adult, she studied drama in London and later moved to Rwanda with her husband before settling in Adelaide.

She didn’t start writing until later on in her life. As an adult, she took a children’s story writing course, and as part of one of the modules, she wrote a short story.

Her professor was impressed by the story and pushed Fox to try and get it published. After several rewrites, her original story was published with the title Possum Magic.

Possum Magic is a captivating children’s story about a possum who turns invisible and goes on various adventures. It’s considered a classic in Australia, with generation after generation reading it to their children.

“When I say to a parent, “read to a child”, I don’t want it to sound like medicine. I want it to sound like chocolate.”

Mem Fox

15. Patrick White, 1912 – 1990

Patrick White
Patrick White via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Patrick White, a British-Australian World War II vet, is the 1973 Novel Prize winner for literature. He published a dozen novels during his career and several short story collections.

His fiction style uses a stream-of-consciousness technique that results in captivating prose, which White compliments with humor. He was born in London to Australian parents who moved back to Sydney while White was still a child. His upbringing was fairly turbulent, and he spent most of his early adulthood in England.

When World War II broke out, he was drafted into the British army and served as an intelligence officer in Royal Air Force. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature for contributing more to Australian literature than just about anyone else in the 20th century.

His novel Voss is based on the real-life events surrounding the life of a 19th-century Prussian explorer, Ludwig Leichhardt, who got lost in the outback. The book uses a lot of symbolism and is full of hidden messages relating to religion, morality, and philosophy. You might also be interested in reading about the passing of Australian author Gabrielle Carey.

“If truth is not acceptable, it becomes the imagination of others.”

Patrick White

The Final Word On The Best Australian Authors

Australian literature experienced a boom in the 20th century, with writers contributing various styles and genres to the country’s library. Authors with aboriginal roots, like Melissa Lucashenko, have opened the world’s eyes to the lives of the Australian aboriginal population.

Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies became a globally watched TV show. And a new generation of writers guarantees that the 21st century will be littered with fantastic Australian novels. If you enjoyed this guide on the best Australian authors, you might be interested in our round-up of the best British authors.

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