16 Best British Authors Every Reader Should Try

Get ready to explore classic literature by taking a closer look at these 16 best British authors of all time.

From William Shakespeare to modern-day authors like J. K. Rowling, England has brought many exceptional writers to the forefront of modern literature. If you are looking for your next book to enjoy, studying some of these classic and modern British authors is a good starting point. On this list, you’ll find everything from classic detective tales to historic works that have stood the test of time.

British Authors to Read Today

Top british authors

As you consider reading works from the United Kingdom, there are several world-famous authors that should be on your list. Here are 16 of them.

1. Charles Dickens

Considered the greatest writer of the Victorian era, Charles Dickens created some of the most memorable characters in English literature. Three of his most famous novels, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, and A Christmas Carol, are still widely read in modern times and have been the subject of numerous movies and plays. When Dickens was just 12 years old, his father went to debtor’s prison, and young Charles was forced into factory work. That may have been part of the inspiration for the downtrodden but plucky characters in his books.

A Christmas Carol
  • Dickens, Charles (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 64 Pages - 12/04/2020 (Publication Date) - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)

2. Jane Austen

Even though she has just six major novels to her name, Jane Austen remains one of the most influential female novelists in English literature. She had biting irony and a sense of realism in her work that made it stand out. Some of her most famous novels include Sense and SensibilityPride and Prejudice, and Mansfield Park, though she gained more fame for her work after her death in 1817 rather than while she was living.

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Pride and Prejudice
  • Great product!
  • Jane Austen (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 480 Pages - 12/31/2002 (Publication Date) - Penguin Books (Publisher)

3. Charlotte Bronte

The eldest of the three Bronte sisters, Charlotte Bronte, wrote both novels and poetry. Her first published novel, Jane Eyre, was published under the pen name Currer Bell in an attempt to hide her gender from the publication house. Sadly, Bronte died in childbirth after publishing just two other novels, and her first piece, The Professor, was officially published after her death.

Jane Eyre
  • Bronte, Charlotte (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 296 Pages - 02/22/2010 (Publication Date) - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)

4. George Eliot

George Eliot is the pen name of Mary Ann Evans, another female novelist of the Victorian era who chose a male penname. She has seven novels to her name, and Silas Mariner and Middlemarch are the two most famous. Much of her work is set in provincial England, where she was raised. As an adult, she lived in London, where she edited the Westminster Review.

Middlemarch
  • Eliot, George (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 684 Pages - 11/26/2020 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

5. George Orwell

George Orwell was a prolific author that wrote satirical works that took on the politics of his day. His allegorical novella Animal Farm is one of his most famous works. He also tackled the topic of totalitarianism in his book Nineteen Eighty-Four. Because of his criticism of authoritarian governments, his name became the adjective “Orwellian.” It describes these social practices which he stood against.

Animal Farm: 75th Anniversary Edition
  • George Orwell (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 140 Pages - 04/06/2004 (Publication Date) - Signet (Publisher)

If you like George Orwell, check out this list of the best dystopian novels

6. Virginia Woolf

Often called one of the most important modernist writers of the 20th century, Virginia Woolf pioneered stream of consciousness writing. One of her most famous works, Mrs. Dalloway, showcases this form of storytelling well. Woolf battled mental illness throughout her life and died by suicide after finishing her last novel, Between the Acts.

Mrs. Dalloway
  • Woolf, Virginia (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 108 Pages - 01/01/2021 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

7. C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis was a theologian and writer who lived in England in the early 1900s. Many of his works, including The Chronicles of Narnia, which has sold over 100 million copies to date, weave religious themes into fanciful tales. In addition to publishing over 30 works, Lewis was a professor at Oxford University until he was elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge University.

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The Complete Chronicles of Narnia ( Boxed Set 7 Books )
  • C. S. Lewis (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 08/17/1995 (Publication Date) - Scholastic Books (Publisher)

8. J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien was also an author and theologian of the early 1900s. He is most famous for the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit, both of which have been transformed into major motion pictures. Some of the inspiration for his battle scenes in his high fantasy books came from his time in the military. Tolkien served in the First World War, and in World War II, he worked as a codebreaker.

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The Hobbit
  • Mariner Books
  • J. R. R. Tolkien (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 300 Pages - 09/18/2012 (Publication Date) - Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Publisher)

9. Emily Bronte

Another of the Bronte sisters, Emily Bronte, wrote just one book, Wuthering Heights, an English literature classic. Emily Bronte published under the pen name Ellis Bell to hide her gender. She also worked as a teacher for a few years before dying of tuberculosis at age 30.

Wuthering Heights
  • Bronte, Emily (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 308 Pages - 08/18/2021 (Publication Date) - East India Publishing Company (Publisher)

10. William Shakespeare

British Authors: William Shakespeare
By John Taylor – Official gallery link, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5442977

No discussion of the best British writers could be complete without mentioning the famous playwright and poet William Shakespeare. His plays and poems are the subjects of British literature classes and movies, and some consider him the greatest writer in the English language. He lived in the early 1600s, and one of his best-known works is the play Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo and Juliet
  • Shakespeare, William (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 144 Pages - 03/17/2010 (Publication Date) - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)

11. Agatha Christie

Called the best-selling author of all timeAgatha Christie wrote 66 detective novels, 14 short stories, and multiple plays, including The Mousetrap, the longest-running play in the world. A bright young girl born in 1890, she taught herself to read at age five. And Then There Were None is the top-selling of her novels, with around 100 million copies sold.

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And Then There Were None
  • Christie, Agatha (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 300 Pages - 03/29/2011 (Publication Date) - William Morrow (Publisher)

12. Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan is a modern writer from Britain who has multiple awards to his name, including two awards for A Child in Time. His works have publications in over 30 languages. The stories take on ethical and political dilemmas and disguise them as intriguing fiction to get readers thinking about important controversial topics.

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A Child in Time
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Ian McEwan (Author) - Simon Prebble (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 10/23/2008 (Publication Date) - Recorded Books (Publisher)

13. J. K. Rowling

J. K. Rowling, the author of the famous Harry Potter series, created a fanciful world of wizards that has an almost cult-like following today. Rowling’s rags-to-riches story adds to her appeal, as she published the book as a struggling single mom and faced rejection for over a year before finding a publisher.

Today, she has over 500 million copies of just her Harry Potter book series to her name, making it the best-selling book series in history. She has continued publishing adult novels since the end of the Potter books.

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Harry Potter Paperback Box Set (Books 1-7)
  • Brand New in box. The product ships with all relevant accessories
  • J. K. Rowling (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 07/01/2009 (Publication Date) - Arthur A. Levine Books (Publisher)

14. Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie is an award-winning novelist who is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. In 2008, The Times ranked him among the 50 greatest British writers since 1945. He often writes about India, and in the 1980s, his controversial book The Satanic Verses provoked threats from people of the Muslim faith, causing him to receive police protection from the British government.

The Satanic Verses
  • Hardcover Like New Condition
  • Hardcover Book
  • Rushdie, Salman (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 560 Pages - 02/22/1989 (Publication Date) - The Viking Press (Publisher)

15. Roald Dahl

Writer of magical children’s tales like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant PeachRoald Dahl, captured the imagination of childhood beautifully in his books.

Though best-known for his children’s books, Dahl also wrote screenplays, including the script for the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice, as well as a few books for adults. Before starting his literary career, Dahl served in the Royal Air Force during World War II.

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Puffin Books
  • Dahl, Roald (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 192 Pages - 08/16/2007 (Publication Date) - Viking Books for Young Readers (Publisher)

16. Thomas Hardy

Hardy’s novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles is considered one of the top novels of the 19th century. Thomas Hardy started as an architect but quickly realized he could earn a living writing and turned to that career. He has over 900 poems to his name and multiple books. His work earned him the Order of Merit, and he remains a prominent literary figure of his day.

For more reading check out our article looking at conflict in classic literature.

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