18 Best British Authors Readers Will Love

Get ready to explore classic literature by taking a closer look at these 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 some recommendations.

1. Charles Dickens, 1812-1870

Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens via Wikimedia, Public Domain

Considered the greatest writer of the Victorian era, Charles Dickens created some of the most memorable characters in English literature. 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. 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.

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

2. Jane Austen, 1775-1817

Jane Austen
Jane Austen via Wikimedia, Public Domain

Even though she has just six major novels to her name, Jane Austen is 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, 1816-1855

Charlotte Bronte
Charlotte Bronte via Wikimedia, Public Domain

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, 1819-1880

George Eliot
George Eliot via Wikimedia, Public Domain

George Eliot is the pen name of Mary Ann Evans, another female novelist of the Victorian era who chose a male pen name. As an adult, she lived in London, where she edited the Westminster Review. 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. 

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

5. George Orwell, 1903-1950

George Orwell
George Orwell via Wikimedia, Public Domain

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

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

6. Virginia Woolf, 1882-1941

Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf via Wikimedia, Public Domain

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. Some of her other popular works include Mrs Dalloway, A Room of One’s Own and To the Lighthouse. 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, 1898-1963

C.S. Lewis
C.S. Lewis via Wikipedia, Public Domain

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. His most famous work is the Chronicles of Narnia series. 

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The Complete Chronicles of Narnia ( Boxed Set 7 Books )
  • C. S. Lewis (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 12/01/1995 (Publication Date) - Scholastic Books (Publisher)

8. J.R.R. Tolkien, 1892-1973

J.R.R. Tolkien
J.R.R. Tolkien via Wikimedia, Public Domain

J.R.R. Tolkien was an author and theologian of the early 1900s. 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. He is most famous for the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit, both of which have been transformed into major motion pictures. 

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

9. Emily Bronte, 1818-1848

Emily Bronte
Emily Bronte via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Another of the Bronte sisters, Emily Bronte, wrote just one book, Wuthering Heights, an English literature classic. She also published poetry with her sisters Anne and Charlotte. 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, 1564-1616

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare via Wikimedia, Public Domain

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. Some of his best-known works include Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Macbeth. Whether he wrote all of works with the help of a ghost writer is a matter of debate.

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

11. Agatha Christie, 1890-1976

Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie via Wikimedia, Public Domain

Called the best-selling author of all time, Agatha 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. If you like her work, check out our guide to the best Agatha Christie books.

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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, 1948

Ian McEwan
Ian McEwan via Wikimedia, Public Domain

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, 1965

J. K. Rowling
J. K. Rowling via Wikimedia, Public Domain

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, 1947

Salman Rushdie
Salman Rushdie via Wikimedia, Public Domain

Salman Rushdie is an award-winning novelist who is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature He is an India-born British-American writer. 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.

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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, 1916-1990

Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl via Wikimedia, Public Domain

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

Before starting his literary career, Dahl served in the Royal Air Force during World War II.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. 

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

16. Thomas Hardy, 1840-1928

Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy via Wikimedia, Public Domain

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. Hardy’s novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles is considered one of the top novels of the 19th century. His work earned him the Order of Merit, and he remains a prominent literary figure of his day.

17. Iris Murdoch, 1919-1999

Iris Murdoch
Iris Murdoch via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Iris Murdoch was a British and Irish novelist who wrote about relationships, sexuality and the unctuousness. She won the prestigious Booker prize in 1978 for her novel The Sea, The Sea. Other popular works by Murdoch include A Severed Head and Under the Net. In 1997She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s diseased and died two years later. 

18. Hillary Mantel, 1952-2022

Hillary Mantel
Hillary Mantel via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Mantel was a novelist, short story writer and critic. Mantel’s first novel was Every Day is Mother’s Day. However, she’s best known for the Wolf Hall series. It’s a series of historical fiction books covering the rise to the power Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII. She won the Booker Prize in 2009 and again in 2012 for the first book in the series and also for the sequel Bring Up the Bodies. Sadly, Hillary Mantel passed away in 2022. For more, check out our guide to the best historical fiction authors.

This is a selection of some of the great British authors of all time. For more reading recommendations, check out our article looking at conflict in classic literature.

FAQs About The Best British Authors

Who is the best-selling British author?

The best-selling British author of all time are William Shakespeare, who is also arguably Britain’s most famous author. Other best-selling British authors include Charles Dickens, J.R.R. Tolkien C.S. Lewis. More contemporary examples include J.K. Rowling and Philip Pullman.

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