Famous British Writers Of The 20th Century

They have penned some of the most classic tales of romance that have kindled a feeling of love in the most brazen of hearts, created characters whose fame extends beyond the novel and tides, conceived plots that have captivated the minds and sense of many for decades, and written lines that have been the most quoted and the most recognized ones – British literary connoisseurs are not holding it back and giving British literature a new avenue with every passing decade and century. Though 19th century literature undoubtedly belonged to the British (with the greatest minds at pen, a counted few including Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll, Thomas Hardy and Oscar Wilde), they continued their dominance well into the 20th century as well. If you don’t believe us, here’s a sneak peek. JRR Tolkien, one of the greatest 20th century writers was a British. He was the man behind epic works of fantasy including ‘The Hobbit’, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and so on. Tolkien did not just create characters and plots but an entire mythology to go with them. Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie is a British who is credited for creating two of the most well-known literary sleuths, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. If you love the James Bond series of spy novels, you have a British to thank – Ian Fleming. Other famous British writers include William Golding, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh and so on. Take a look at some of the famous British writers of the 20th century.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 J. K. Rowling

J. K. Rowling.
49
Famous As: Novelist & Producer
Birthdate: July 31, 1965
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Yate, England

JK Rowling’s story is that of rags-to-riches. She is the author of the Harry Potter fantasy series, which have sold more than 500 million copies and is the best-selling book series in history. She also writes crime fiction albeit under a pen name. Rowling supports many charities and has founded Lumos, an international NGO, working for children.

 2 J. R. R. Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien.
28
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 3, 1892
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Bloemfontein, South Africa
Died: September 2, 1973

Considered one of the greatest authors, JRR Tolkien is popularly called the father of the modern fantasy literature. He is best known for his high fantasy classic works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, which is set in a conceived world called the Middle-Earth. Many years after his death, Tolkien continues to be one of the best-selling writers.

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 3 Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl.
43
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: September 13, 1916
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Llandaff, Cardiff, Wales
Died: November 23, 1990

British writer, Roald Dahl, is considered as one of the greatest children’s authors. He is one of the best-selling authors of all-time and had a career spanning decades. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, The Witches, The Twits and Matilda are some of his classic works. He also wrote short stories and novels meant for adults.

 4 Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie.
8
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: September 15, 1890
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Torquay, Devon, England
Died: January 12, 1976

Even after four decades after her death, Agatha Christie remains an influential figure in the world of literature and entertainment as most of her books continue to serve as inspiration to films, TV series, and video games. With over two billion copies of her novels sold, she holds the Guinness World Records for best-selling fiction writer of all time.

 5 Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf.
11
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: January 25, 1882
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: South Kensington, London, England
Died: March 28, 1941

Virginia Woolf was an English writer who pioneered a narrative mode called stream of consciousness to describe the thoughts and feelings of the narrator. Regarded as one of the most prominent modernist 20th-century writers, Woolf's works have gained much attention for inspiring feminism. Her life and work have inspired several films, novels, and plays.

 6 George Orwell

George Orwell.
5
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: June 25, 1903
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Motihari, Bihar, India
Died: January 21, 1950

The king of dystopia and satire, George Orwell, the pen name adopted by Eric Arthur Blair, was a well-known novelist and critic of the 20th century. A man with a strong mind of his own, Orwell never backed down from stating his views on the socio-political climate he lived in, which he expressed profusely through his influential essays and novels.

 7 C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis.
8
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: November 29, 1898
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Belfast, Ireland
Died: November 22, 1963

C. S. Lewis was a British writer whose books have sold millions of copies worldwide after having been translated into over 30 languages. His works, such as The Chronicles of Narnia, have inspired the works of other famous authors. Lewis' work continues to attract readership and he was ranked 11th on The Times' 50 greatest British writers since 1945 list.

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 8 Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming.
5
Famous As: Author of James Bond Series
Birthdate: May 28, 1908
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Mayfair, London
Died: August 12, 1964

Ian Fleming was a British writer, naval intelligence officer, and journalist. Fleming is credited with creating one of the most popular characters of all time, James Bond. His James Bond series of novels have sold more than 100 million copies, making them one of the best-selling fictional book series in history. Jamaica’s Ian Fleming International Airport is named after him.

 9 H. G. Wells

H. G. Wells.
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: September 21, 1866
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Bromley, Kent, England
Died: August 13, 1946

H. G. Wells was an English writer. Although he was prolific in many genres, he is best remembered for his work on sci-fi novels, for which he is often referred to as the father of science fiction. His 1901 novel The First Men in the Moon became so influential that a lunar impact crater is named after him.

 10 Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie.
6
Famous As: British-Indian novelist
Birthdate: June 19, 1947
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Mumbai

Salman Rushdie is a British Indian novelist whose work Midnight's Children is widely considered the best novel of all Booker Prize winners. In 2007, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to literature. In 2008, he was ranked 13th in the 50 greatest British writers since 1945 list published by The Times.

 11 Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins.
4
Famous As: Evolutionary Biologist
Birthdate: March 26, 1941
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Nairobi, Kenya

Richard Dawkins is a British ethologist, author, and evolutionary biologist. He first achieved popularity after publishing his book, The Selfish Gene, which is credited with popularizing the gene selection theory. The book is also credited with introducing the term meme. In 2006, he established the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science to promote secularism and scientific literacy.

 12 John Le Carré

John Le Carré
4
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: October 19, 1931
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Poole, Dorset, England

 13 Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams.
5
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: March 11, 1952
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Cambridge
Died: May 11, 2001

English author, screenwriter, and essayist, Douglas Adams, is most remembered for his comedy science fiction series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. As a screenwriter, he wrote two stories for the TV series Doctor Who. He advocated for environmentalism and spoke about environmental issues in his non-fiction radio series Last Chance to See.

 14 Sir Arthur Charles Clarke

Sir Arthur Charles Clarke.
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: December 16, 1917
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Minehead, Somerset, England
Died: March 19, 2008
Sir Arthur C. Clarke is best known for his short story The Sentinel, which became the basis of the screenplay of Stanley Kubrick’s science-fiction movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Clarke spent the final years of his life in Sri Lanka and hosted shows such as Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World.

 15 Ted Hughes

Ted Hughes.
6
Famous As: Poet and Children's Writer
Birthdate: August 17, 1930
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Mytholmroyd
Died: October 28, 1998
Poet and children’s author Ted Hughes is best remembered for his iconic poems The Hawk in the Rain, Birthday Letters, and Crow. He was married to poet Sylvia Plath, who eventually committed suicide at 30. Most people blamed him for mistreating Plath and indirectly causing her death.   

 16 Martin McDonagh

Martin McDonagh.
7
Famous As: Playwright, Screenwriter, Filmmaker
Birthdate: March 26, 1970
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Camberwell

The director and writer of the Academy Award-winning short film, Six Shooter, Martin McDonagh is also well known as a playwright and stage director. The Beauty Queen of Leenane is one of the his noted works. The crime drama film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was another successful venture of McDonagh. He says he prefers films to plays.

 17 Sir James Matthew Barrie

Sir James Matthew Barrie.
5
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: May 9, 1860
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kirriemuir, Angus, Scotland
Died: June 19, 1937

Sir James Matthew Barrie was a Scottish playwright and novelist. He is credited and remembered for creating the famous fictional character, Peter Pan. In the 1922 New Year Honours, Barrie was made a member of the Order of Merit. Before his death, he gifted the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children with the rights of his Peter Pan works.

 18 W. H. Auden

W. H. Auden.
9
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: February 21, 1907
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: York, England
Died: September 29, 1973

W. H. Auden was an Anglo-American poet. His poetry was noted for its technical achievement and versatility. He wrote poems on love, political and social themes, and cultural and psychological themes. Throughout his career, Auden was both influential and controversial. His personal life also attracted attention as he had sexual relationships with men, which was unusual at the time.

 19 Henry Graham Greene

Henry Graham Greene.
5
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: October 2, 1904
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Berkhamsted, England
Died: April 3, 1991

English author Henry Graham Greene, better known as Graham Greene, is remembered for his pathbreaking Catholic novels and thrillers. He was shortlisted for the Nobel Prize in Literature. His works include The Third Man and The Human Factor, and his Academy Award-nominated script of the film The Fallen Idol.

 20 Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier.
4
Famous As: Novelist & playwright
Birthdate: May 13, 1907
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London, England
Died: April 19, 1989

Daphne du Maurier was an English playwright and author. Many of her works, which have been praised for narrative craft, have been adapted into films, including three of Alfred Hitchcock's movies. Such was her popularity that she was selected along with four other Women of Achievement to be featured on a set of British stamps, which were issued in 1996.

 21 Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman.
4
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: November 10, 1960
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Portchester, Hampshire, England
Author Neil Gaiman has written numerous novels, short stories, film scripts, and comics. He has won the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and Nebula awards, and the Carnegie and Newbery medals. Some of his best works are American Gods, Stardust, The Graveyard Book, and the comic series The Sandman

 22 David Walliams

David Walliams.
5
Famous As: Comedian
Birthdate: August 20, 1971
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Wimbledon, London, England

Best known as Matt Lucas from Rock Profile, David Williams has judged Britain's Got Talent; written bestselling children’s books, such as The World's Worst Children series; and swum across the English Channel to raise funds for the charity Sport Relief. His philanthropic efforts won him the OBE in 2017.

 23 Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry.
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 24, 1957
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Hampstead, London, England, United Kingdom

One half of the famous comedy duo Fry and Laurie, Stephen Fry is an English actor and comedian. Considered a living legend by many, Stephen Fry has made major contributions to the field of entertainment and literature. An openly gay man, Fry serves as an inspiration to the LGBT community. He is also known for his charitable activities.

 24 John Cleese

John Cleese.
4
Famous As: Actor & Comedian
Birthdate: October 27, 1939
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, England,
Before stepping into sketch comedy with Monty Python's Flying Circus, John Cleese wrote scripts for Broadway and West End shows. A Cambridge law graduate, John has had a species of lemurs named after him, owing to his love for the animal. His dark humor is part of his signature style.

 25 Mary Berry

Mary Berry.
4
Famous As: Food Writer, TV Presenter
Birthdate: March 24, 1935
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Bath, Somerset

Author of over 75 cookbooks, Mary Berry has also hosted several culinary shows, such as Mary Berry Cooks. The Guardian ranked her the second-best-dressed person over 50. A CBE and DBE recipient, she has also received the Guild of Food Writers Lifetime Achievement Award and an honorary degree.

 26 Evelyn Waugh

Evelyn Waugh.
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: October 28, 1903
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: West Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Died: April 10, 1966

Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh was an English author, known for his novels, biographies, and travelogues. Hailed as the most brilliant satirical novelist of his day, he wrote mostly satires before WWII. But during the war, his writings took a serious turn; he published Brideshead Revisited in 1945, a book that continues to appear on the best books list till now.

 27 David Thewlis

David Thewlis.
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: March 20, 1963
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Blackpool, Lancashire, England, United Kingdom
David Thewlis gained fame with his role in Naked, a film that won him a Cannes Film Festival Award. Fans loved him as Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter film franchise and Sir Patrick Morgan/Ares in Wonder Woman. He has also written a novel and directed a BAFTA-nominated short film. 

 28 Richard Ayoade

Richard Ayoade.
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: June 12, 1977
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Whipps Cross

English comedian, film director, screenwriter, and actor Richard Ayoade gained international fame for his role in Channel 4 sitcom The IT Crowd. Even though he studied law in college, he was more interested in working in the entertainment industry. He started working as a comedian and actor in the early 2000s and has since come a long way.

 29 Alan Watts

Alan Watts.
4
Famous As: Philosopher, Writer & Speaker
Birthdate: January 6, 1915
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Chislehurst, Kent, England
Died: November 16, 1973

Alan Watts was a British writer, philosopher, and speaker. He is credited with popularizing Hinduism, Taoism, and Buddhism in the Western world. A prolific writer, Alan Watts wrote one of Buddhism's first bestselling books, The Way of Zen. He also explored psychedelics and human consciousness in his works, such as The Joyous Cosmology and The New Alchemy.

 30 Zoe Kazan

Zoe Kazan
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: September 9, 1983
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, USA

 31 Sarah Ferguson

Sarah Ferguson.
6
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: October 15, 1959
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: The London Welbeck Hospital, London, England, United Kingdom

Sarah Ferguson is one of the members of the British royal family. She started working with several charity organizations after marrying Prince Andrew, Duke of York. Even after her divorce, she has continued working with organizations like the American Cancer Society. In 2020, she set up her own foundation called Sarah's Trust.

 32 William Golding

William Golding.
4
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: September 19, 1911
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Newquay
Died: June 19, 1993

William Golding was a British playwright, novelist, and poet whose novel Rites of Passage earned him the Booker Prize in 1980. In 1983, Golding was honored with the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature. In 1988, William Golding was knighted for his contributions to literature. In 2008, he was mentioned in The Times' list of 50 greatest British writers since 1945

 33 Sharon Osbourne

Sharon Osbourne.
6
Famous As: Television host
Birthdate: October 9, 1952
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Brixton, South London, England
Heavy metal singer Ozzy Osbourne’s wife, Sharon Osbourne is a music manager. She rejuvenated Ozzy’s career by organizing the Ozzfest tour. She was the star of the reality show The Osbournes, wrote several books, was a panelist on Loose Women, and judged America's Got Talent and The X Factor.

 34 Lucy Hawking

Lucy Hawking.
4
Famous As: Journalist, Novelist, Writer
Birthdate: November 2, 1970
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: England
Lucy Hawking, daughter of legendary physicist Stephen Hawking, has been a journalist with New York Magazine, The Times, and The Telegraph. She has also authored several children's books, such as George's Secret Key to the Universe. She is the VP of National Star College and also works for autism research.

 35 Jane Hawking

Jane Hawking
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: March 29, 1944
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: St Albans, Hertfordshire, England

Jane Hawking is an English teacher and author. She is best known as the ex-wife of popular physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking. She was married to Hawking for 30 years, during which she doubled up as his caretaker. Jane Hawking took good care of Stephen Hawking despite struggling from depression, for which she is much-respected in the scientific community.

 36 Steve-O

Steve-O.
5
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: June 13, 1974
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Wimbledon, London

British-born American comedian and TV personality, Steve-O, gained international fame with his performance stunts in the TV series Jackass. Following a nomadic childhood, he graduated from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College and began his career as a clown. He eventually started appearing on TV shows and became popular.

 37 David Icke

David Icke.
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: April 29, 1952
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Leicester

A popular English conspiracy theorist, David Icke has written books and delivered lectures on various theories, such as infinite dimensions, reptoid humanoids, and the Illuminati. While he has faced criticisms and accusations, he also has a large following and has influenced people who support counter-cultural movement and ancient astronaut theories.

 38 Philip Larkin

Philip Larkin.
4
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: August 9, 1922
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Radford, Coventry, United Kingdom
Died: December 2, 1985

 39 Sue Perkins

Sue Perkins.
4
Famous As: Comedian
Birthdate: September 22, 1969
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Croydon, London, England
Sue Perkins soared to fame as part of the comedy duo Mel and Sue, with Mel Giedroyc, and co-hosted The Great British Bake Off, with her. Sue has also hosted Insert Name Here and has also authored two autobiographical works. An LGBT icon, she is dating TV host Anna Richardson.

 40 P. L. Travers

P. L. Travers.
6
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 9, 1899
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Maryborough, Queensland, Australia
Died: April 23, 1996

Australian-British author and Shakespearean actor Pamela Lyndon Travers, known by her pseudonym, P. L. Travers, soared to fame with her Mary Poppins series of children's books. Disney later bought the rights to her Mary Poppins series and released a film version. It was later made into a Broadway play, too.

 41 Richard Hammond

Richard Hammond
4
Famous As: Television presenter, Writer, Journalist, Autobiographer, Children's writer
Birthdate: December 19, 1969
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Solihull

 42 Joan Collins

Joan Collins.
6
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: May 23, 1933
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paddington, London, United Kingdom
Joan Collins, sister of renowned author Jackie Collins, is best known for her Golden Globe-winning role of Alexis Carrington in Dynasty, an iconic soap of the 1980s. She has also written several books, including beauty books, memoirs, and novels. A seasoned theater actor, she also received the DBE and OBE.

 43 Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri.
6
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: July 11, 1967
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: London
Jhumpa Lahiri is an Indian-American author who mainly writes mostly about the experiences faced by East Indian immigrants and also about their practices and traditions. Recipient of several awards, she received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and PEN/Hemingway Award for her first publication, Interpreter of Maladies.

 44 Ken Follett

Ken Follett
4
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: June 5, 1949
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Cardiff, Wales

 45 Harold Pinter

Harold Pinter.
7
Famous As: Nobel Prize Winner in Literature
Birthdate: October 10, 1930
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Metropolitan Borough of Hackney
Died: December 24, 2008

 46 Christopher Robin Milne

Christopher Robin Milne
4
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: August 21, 1920
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Chelsea, London, United Kingdom
Died: April 20, 1996

 47 Jill Ireland

Jill Ireland.
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: April 24, 1936
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London
Died: May 18, 1990

Jill Ireland was an English singer and actress. She is best known for working with her husband Charles Bronson in 15 films. After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Ireland started writing books chronicling her fight with cancer. She also started working with the American Cancer Society. Her fight with cancer inspired the movie Reason for Living: The Jill Ireland Story.

 48 Geri Halliwell

Geri Halliwell.
7
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: August 6, 1972
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Watford

Geri Halliwell is a British singer-songwriter who achieved international fame as part of the popular girl group, The Spice Girls, which has sold more than 85 million records worldwide. Also a well-known philanthropist, Geri Halliwell has worked closely with the United Nations Population Fund, becoming its goodwill ambassador in 1998. She is widely regarded as a girl power icon.

 49 Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro.
4
Famous As: Nobel Prize Winner in Literature
Birthdate: November 8, 1954
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Nagasaki, Japan
Nobel Prize-winning British-Asian author Sir Kazuo Ishiguro also won the Man Booker Prize for the novel The Remains of the Day. Time named his Never Let Me Go the best novel of 2005. He has also penned several screenplays and songs, and is known for his signature first-person narrative style.

 50 John Barrowman

John Barrowman
6
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: March 11, 1967
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland

John Barrowman is a Scottish-born author, comic book writer, presenter, singer, and actor. Barrowman is also known for his charity work and activism. Over the years, he has been a strong supporter of the LGBT community and has worked with organizations like Stonewall. He also has his own skincare line named HIM.