Literary Critics

Literary critics are people who critique a book or novel. Their intellectually stimulating review of a book is eagerly awaited by avid readers and help them make their mind whether to read a particular book or not. Here is a list of famous literary critics from all over the world. The list contains well-known literary critics, such as Charles Du Bos, Evelyn Waugh, Theodor W. Adorno, George Plimpton and many more.

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 Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood
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Famous As: Poet, Novelist, Literary Critic & Environmental Activist
Birthdate: November 18, 1939
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Ottawa, Canada

Margaret Atwood is a Canadian poet and novelist. Her works encompass themes, such as religion and myth, climate change, and gender and identity. An award-winning writer, many of Atwood's works have been made into films and television series; her work, The Handmaid's Tale, has had several adaptations. Perhaps, Margaret Atwood's most important contribution is her invention of the LongPen device.

 2 Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault
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Famous As: Philosopher & Historian
Birthdate: October 15, 1926
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Poitiers, France
Died: June 25, 1984

If others thought the body was the prison of the soul, Paul-Michel Foucault felt the other way round. The French philosopher, literary critic and Leftist who interpreted the link between power and knowledge, was a post-structuralist whose theories have left a mark on anthropology, psychology and criminology. The feminist was one of the noted personalities to have died of HIV/AIDS.

 3 T. S. Eliot

T. S. Eliot
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: September 26, 1888
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Died: January 4, 1965
American-born British poet T. S. Eliot is best remembered for his poems The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Waste Land, and Ash Wednesday, and his plays such as Murder in the Cathedral. He won the Nobel Prize for literature and became a prominent figure of Modernist poetry.  
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 4 George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw
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Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: July 26, 1856
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Portobello, Dublin, Ireland
Died: November 2, 1950

Nobel Prize-winning playwright and author George Bernard Shaw was best known for his realism and his support for women’s rights and socialism. His ideas gave rise to the word “Shavian.” His drama Pygmalion inspired the musical My Fair Lady. His other notable works include Candida and Man and Superman.

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 5 Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: October 21, 1929
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Berkeley, California, United States
Died: January 22, 2018

Ursula K. Le Guin was an American author. In a career spanning almost six decades, Ursula wrote about political and social themes like race and sexuality. Throughout her career, Ursula had a major influence on speculative fiction. Her book A Wizard of Earthsea is credited with inspiring ideas like 'wizard school', which was later popularized in the Harry Potter series.

 6 John Updike

John Updike
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Famous As: Poet, Novelist
Birthdate: March 18, 1932
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Reading, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: January 27, 2009

 7 Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Henry Louis Gates Jr.
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: September 16, 1950
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Keyser, West Virginia

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is an American literary critic, historian, professor, filmmaker, and public intellectual. He is currently serving as the director of the Hutchins Center at Harvard University. Over the years Gates has been honored with several prestigious awards including the National Humanities Medal. In 1997, he was named in Time magazine's 25 Most Influential Americans list.

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 8 Roland Barthes

Roland Barthes
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Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: November 12, 1915
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, France
Died: March 25, 1980
Born to middle-class parents in France, literary theorist and critic Roland Barthes explored Ferdinand de Saussure’s semiology and influenced fields such as structuralism. His iconic works, such as Mythologies and The Death of the Author, influenced later thinkers. He died of injuries sustained in a road accident at 64.

 9 Liu Xiaobo

Liu Xiaobo
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Famous As: Chinese Human Rights Activist
Birthdate: December 28, 1955
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Changchun, China
Died: July 13, 2017

Liu Xiaobo was a Chinese activist, literary critic, and philosopher. He is best remembered for organizing campaigns that aimed at ending the one-party rule in China. He was honored with the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize for his struggle for human rights in China. Liu is the first Chinese citizen to be honored with a Nobel Prize while residing in China.

 10 Robert Graves

Robert Graves
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Famous As: Poet & Novelist
Birthdate: July 24, 1895
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Wimbledon, England
Died: December 7, 1985

 11 John Dryden

John Dryden
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: August 9, 1631
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Aldwincle, Northamptonshire, England
Died: May 12, 1700

 12 Stanisław Lem

Stanisław Lem
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: September 12, 1921
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Lviv, Ukraine
Died: March 27, 2006

Stanisław Lem was a Polish writer who specialized in the science fiction genre. He was also a noted essayist who wrote on varied subjects, including philosophy, futurology, and literary criticism. His books, which have been translated into over 50 languages, have sold more than 45 million copies worldwide. He was the recipient of numerous awards and honors. 

 13 Fernando Pessoa

Fernando Pessoa
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Famous As: Portuguese Modernist Poet and Author of 'Mensagem' and 'The Book of Disquiet'
Birthdate: June 13, 1888
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Lisbon, Portugal
Died: November 30, 1935

Fernando Pessoa was a Portuguese poet, writer, translator, and publisher. A prolific writer, he is considered one of the most significant literary figures of the 20th century. While he mostly wrote in the Portuguese language, he also wrote in English and French occasionally. Besides writing under his own name, he also wrote under approximately 75 other names.

 14 George Plimpton

George Plimpton
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Famous As: Journalists
Birthdate: March 18, 1927
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: New York City, New York, USA
Died: September 26, 2003

 15 Andre Aciman

Andre Aciman
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 2, 1951
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Alexandria, Egypt

 16 Heinrich Heine

Heinrich Heine
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: December 13, 1797
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Düsseldorf, Germany
Died: February 17, 1856

Heinrich Heine was a German poet, literary critic, and writer. He is known internationally for his lyric poetry, which was popularized by composers like Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann who adapted Heine's lyric poetry into art songs. Heinrich Heine's radical political views forced the German authorities to ban his works, which only added to his popularity.

 17 Mikhail Bakhtin

Mikhail Bakhtin
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: November 17, 1895
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Oryol, Russia
Died: March 7, 1975
Mikhail Bakhtin was a Russian philosopher, scholar, and literary critic who worked on ethics, literary theory, and the philosophy of language. Bakhtin's writings inspired scholars who were working on various traditions, such as structuralism, semiotics, religious criticism, and Marxism. Mikhail Bakhtin is also credited with influencing various Western schools of theory.

 18 Eugene Ionesco

Eugene Ionesco
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Famous As: Playwright and dramatist
Birthdate: November 26, 1909
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Slatina, Romania Slatina, Romania
Died: March 28, 1994

 19 Clive James

Clive James
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Famous As: Writer, Journalist, Literary critic
Birthdate: October 7, 1939
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Kogarah, Australia
Died: November 24, 2019

Clive James was an Australian critic, journalist, and writer who worked mainly in the United Kingdom. He had a difficult life as a young man and faced many challenges on his way to building a successful career. He began his career as a TV critic and proceeded to establish himself as a writer and poet as well. 

 20 Johann Gottfried Herder

Johann Gottfried Herder
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: August 25, 1744
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Morąg, Poland
Died: December 18, 1803

German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder is best remembered as a significant figure of the Sturm und Drang literary movement. Born into poverty and largely self-educated till 17, he later became a disciple of Immanuel Kant and was associated with Enlightenment and Weimar Classicism. He was eventually ennobled.

 21 Terry Eagleton

Terry Eagleton
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Famous As: Literary critic
Birthdate: February 22, 1943
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: County Borough of Salford Salford, England

English literary theorist and critic Terry Eagleton, presently serving as Distinguished Professor of English Literature at Lancaster University, is a prominent critic of postmodernism and the New Atheism. His oeuvre includes over forty books among which Literary Theory: An Introduction (1983), which describes the emerging literary theory of the period, is considered to be one of his most notable works.   

 22 William Ernest Henley

William Ernest Henley
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: August 23, 1849
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Gloucester, England
Died: July 11, 1903

Best known for his short poem Invictus, William Ernest Henley was a Victorian-era British poet and author. A disease he contracted in childhood caused one of his legs to be amputated. It is believed, he was the inspiration behind the crippled character Long John Silver in RL Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

 23 Bruno Schulz

Bruno Schulz
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: July 12, 1892
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Drohobych, Ukraine
Died: November 19, 1942

One of the best Polish authors of the 20th century, Bruno Schulz is remembered for his iconic works such as The Cinnamon Shops, a collection of short stories that had a Kafkaesque style. He was shot dead by a Nazi officer while returning home with a loaf of bread.

 24 Anne Tyler

Anne Tyler
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: October 25, 1941
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Hennepin County, Minnesota, United States

 25 René Girard

René Girard
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Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: December 25, 1923
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Avignon, France
Died: November 4, 2015

René Girard was a French philosopher of social science, literary critic, and historian. Over the years, Girard's work has had an influence on disciplines like philosophy, anthropology, psychology, mythology, theology, economics, sociology, and cultural studies among other important disciplines. In 2006, René Girard was honored by the University of Tübingen with the prestigious Dr. Leopold Lucas Prize.

 26 Ford Madox Ford

Ford Madox Ford
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: December 17, 1873
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Merton, Surrey, England
Died: June 26, 1939

Best remembered for his novel The Good Soldier, author Ford Madox Ford was the grandson of Pre-Raphaelite painter Ford Madox Brown. He had been part of World War I. He spent his final years in France and the US, mostly authoring criticism. The tetralogy Parade's End remains one of his best-known works.

 27 Peter Ackroyd

Peter Ackroyd
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: October 5, 1949
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: East Acton, West (London sub region) London, England, United Kingdom

English author and critic Peter Ackroyd is mostly known for his novels that depict the history of London. The Cambridge and Yale alumnus had initially worked at The Spectator. Apart from writing award-winning novels such as Hawksmoor, he has also penned biographies of T.S. Eliot and Dickens, among others.

 28 Stéphane Mallarmé

Stéphane Mallarmé
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Famous As: Poet, Critic
Birthdate: March 18, 1842
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 9, 1898

Stéphane Mallarmé was a French poet whose work inspired many artistic schools of the 20th century like Surrealism, Futurism, Dadaism, and Cubism. Over the years, his poetry has also served as an inspiration for many musical pieces, including Claude Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. Mallarmé's work also influenced Man Ray's film, Les Mystères du Château de Dé.

 29 Hélène Cixous

Hélène Cixous
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: June 5, 1937
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Oran, Algeria

Hélène Cixous is a professor, poet, playwright, rhetorician, literary critic, philosopher, and French feminist writer. She is best known for writing an article titled The Laugh of the Medusa, which earned her popularity and established her as a thinker in post-structural feminism.

 30 Northrop Frye

Northrop Frye
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Famous As: Literary theorist and philosopher who was best remembered for being one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century.
Birthdate: July 14, 1912
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Sherbrooke, Canada
Died: January 23, 1991

Considered one of the most important literary theorists of the century, Herman Northrop Fry gained international fame with his first book, Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake and later with Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays. Prolific writer and respected educator, he went on to write many more, concurrently championing Canadian literature and identity, receiving several honors for his contributions.

 31 Georg Simmel

Georg Simmel
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Famous As: Sociologist
Birthdate: March 1, 1858
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: September 26, 1918

Georg Simmel was a German sociologist, philosopher, and critic considered a forerunner to structuralist styles of reasoning in the social sciences. He was neo-Kantian in his approach and laid the foundations for sociological antipositivism. He broadly rejected academic standards and wrote extensively on the philosophy of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. He was married to philosopher Gertrud Kinel and had one son. 

 32 Samuel R. Delany

Samuel R. Delany
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: April 1, 1942
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York City New York, New York, US

Known for his science-fiction novels such as Dhalgren, Babel-17, and the Nèverÿon series, author Samuel R. Delany often touches upon themes of sex, race, and language. A descendant of civil rights activists, he dropped out of college to write. Though gay, he was once married to lesbian poet Marilyn Hacker.

 33 Charles Maurras

Charles Maurras
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: April 20, 1868
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Martigues, France
Died: November 16, 1952

 34 Lytton Strachey

Lytton Strachey
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: March 1, 1880
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: London, England
Died: January 21, 1932

English biographer Lytton Strachey is best remembered for his masterpiece Eminent Victorians, which looks at the lives of Victorian figures such as Florence Nightingale and Thomas Arnold, using tools such as irony and paradox. He had also penned an award-winning biography of Queen Victoria. His short biographies discarded irrelevant details.

 35 George Steiner

George Steiner
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Famous As: Literary critic, Essayist, Philosopher, Novelist
Birthdate: April 23, 1929
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Died: February 3, 2020

 36 F.R. Leavis

F.R. Leavis
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Famous As: Literature Critic
Birthdate: July 14, 1895
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Cambridge, England
Died: April 14, 1978

 37 Théophile Gautier

Théophile Gautier
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: August 30, 1811
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Tarbes, France
Died: October 23, 1872

 38 Ernest Renan

Ernest Renan
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: February 27, 1823
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Tréguier, France
Died: October 2, 1892

Ernest Renan was a French Semitic and Orientalist scholar. A multi-talented personality, Renan was also an expert of Semitic civilizations and languages, philologist, philosopher, historian of religion, critic, and biblical scholar. Ernest Renan is credited with writing pioneering and influential works on the origins of Christianity. Ernest Renan is also credited with writing the extremely popular book, Life of Jesus.

 39 Cesare Pavese

Cesare Pavese
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Famous As: A Very Influential Italian Novelist, Poet and Short story writer
Birthdate: September 9, 1908
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Santo Stefano Belbo, Italy
Died: August 27, 1950

Italian author Cesare Pavese is remembered for his themes of gloom and loneliness and for his protagonists who were often loners. His prolonged fight with fascists and the failure of his affair with actor Constance Dowling led him to commit suicide by consuming sleeping pills in a Turin hotel.

 40 Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
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Famous As: Scholar
Birthdate: February 24, 1942
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Ballygunge, Kolkata, India

 41 Walter Pater

Walter Pater
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Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: August 4, 1839
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Stepney, London, England
Died: July 30, 1894

Nineteenth-century critic and essayist Walter Pater redefined aestheticism with his idea of "art for art’s sake." Though initially interested in a church career, he later studied classics and began writing reviews on Renaissance art. Marius the Epicurean remains his most notable work. Some of his works reveal his homosexuality.

 42 Walter Benjamin

Walter Benjamin
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: July 15, 1892
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: September 26, 1940

Walter Benjamin was a German Jewish essayist, philosopher, and cultural critic. An eclectic thinker, Benjamin made significant contributions to literary criticism, aesthetic theory, and historical materialism. Although Benjamin's work did not earn much recognition during his lifetime, it continues to be revered by academics several years after his death.

 43 William Dean Howells

William Dean Howells
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: March 1, 1837
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Martins Ferry, Ohio, U.S.
Died: May 11, 1920

 44 George Henry Lewes

George Henry Lewes
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: April 18, 1817
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: London, England
Died: November 30, 1878

 45 Janet Maslin

Janet Maslin
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Famous As: Journalist, Best Known as a Film & Literary Critic for 'The New York Times'
Birthdate: August 12, 1949
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States

 46 Tzvetan Todorov

Tzvetan Todorov
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Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: March 1, 1939
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Sofia, Bulgaria
Died: February 7, 2017

Tzvetan Todorov was a Bulgarian-French historian, philosopher, literary critic, and sociologist. He completed his doctorat ès lettres at the University of Paris and had a brilliant academic career. He helped to found the journal Poétique and served as one of its managing editors. He authored many books, including Conquest of America: The Question of the Other. 

 47 Harold Bloom

Harold Bloom
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Famous As: Most famous literary critic in the English-speaking world 2017
Birthdate: July 11, 1930
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States
Died: October 14, 2019

 48 Donald Hall

Donald Hall
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: September 20, 1928
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Hamden, Connecticut, United States
Died: June 23, 2018

 49 Stanley Fish

Stanley Fish
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Famous As: Scholar
Birthdate: April 19, 1938
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Providence, Rhode Island, United States

 50 Margaret Forster

Margaret Forster
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: May 25, 1938
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Carlisle, England
Died: February 8, 2016

English author and freelance critic Margaret Forster is best remembered for her bestselling novel Georgy Girl, which was made into a film later. She also penned biographies and contributed to BBC Radio 4 programs. She had also been a Booker Prize judge but mostly remained away from book-signing events.