Technology may play an increasingly integral role in the way we work and live, but reading remains a hugely popular hobby. Studies show that over 70% of US adults read at least one book in 2021 (source). Other studies show that 40% of UK adults read for pleasure at least once per week (source).
Reading a book can transport you to different worlds. It can provide a distraction from the stresses and strains of daily life and broaden your horizons. Reading can also help you to expand your knowledge base and explore different perspectives, points of view, ideas and concepts.
For centuries, writers have inspired readers through short stories, tales, experiences and literary adventures. If you’re looking for ideas, this guide shines a light on some of the world’s most inspirational writers.
The most inspirational writers
One of the most significant traits and talents shared by successful authors and writers is their ability to inspire others. This can be done via their stories and personal experiences, as well as their literary works. Over the course of decades, writers from all over the world have inspired readers.
It’s impossible to list all of the writers who have inspired individuals or generations, but there are some standout names. Here’s our pick of inspirational writers:
Most inspirational female authors and writers
Historically, it hasn’t always been easy for female authors to carve out a career path. Writing, like most other industries, was dominated by men and it has taken a long time for female writers to get the credit and respect they deserve. It has taken some time for them to have the opportunity to showcase their talents and share their stories.
There have been some truly incredible female authors who have not only delighted audiences and readers with amazing tales and exceptional writing skills but also paved the way for women to excel in the writing industry.Here are some female authors to look out for next time you’re searching for a book to read:
Toni Morrison is one of the most influential and well-loved female writers on the planet. Best known for her novels, including Beloved and Song of Solomon, Morrison explores race, providing insight into what it is like to live as a Black person, specifically a Black woman. She won multiple awards and captivated audiences when appearing on TV shows and giving interviews about her works. In 1993, she became the first Black female winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Zadie Smith attracted attention from the moment her debut novel, White Teeth, launched in 2000. A Cambridge University graduate, Smith has an English father and a Jamaican mother. Her first book documents the friendship between Bangladeshi and English families, exploring the chaos and complications of interracial relationships and cultural and social differences. Smith’s powerhouse debut was included in Time’s Top 100 English language novels from 1925-2003.
Canadian writer Eleanor Catton hit the headlines with her second novel, The Luminaries, becoming the youngest-ever winner of the Man Booker Prize. Catton received intense criticism for her comments about the governments in Canada and her second home, New Zealand, but she rejected the negative aspects and remained resolute in sharing her story and opinions.
American poet and writer Lucia Perillo used her health struggles as inspiration for thought-provoking works, which combined humour and humility with raw emotion. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in her 30s, she never let her illness hold her back, using it as a catalyst to share experiences and depict life with a disability.
Virginia Woolf is one of the most high-profile writers of the 20th century. Known for discussing male and female roles within society with openness and honesty, Woolf opened the door for other female writers and shone a spotlight on the themes of male dominance and female subordination. She is best known for works, including Mrs Dalloway and To The Lighthouse.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Born in 1977, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of the most successful and inspirational African writers. She won the Commonwealth and Orange Broad prizes for her debut novel, Purple Hibiscus, and is known for discussing themes, including race, love, politics, relationships, war, religion and feminism.
There are clearly some other names to mention from Margaret Atwood to Sylvia Plath for their depth and complexity are mind blowing. Or some other writers like Jodi Picoult for her popularity.
Inspirational male authors to explore
Inspirational male authors to explore include:
Uwem Akpan: a Nigerian priest who was inspired to write by his congregation and subsequently became a best-selling author.
Philip Levine: a US author known for his authentic, beautifully understated depiction of working-class America.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez: an award-winning writer famed for using words to create magical experiences.
J.D Salinger: author of literary works that have intrigued and enchanted readers for decades thanks to their simplicity, authentic voice and outstanding character analyses.
As an American writer whose name is known by so many readers Stephen King still surprises us with his work in fantasy and even science fiction. Richard E. Grant’s book named “Write Around the World with Richard E. Grant” is a brilliant collection of stories and experiences of the talented actor. With all that, writers around the world, male and female, keep producing work to enrich our lives.
The best authors of all time
The debate surrounding the best authors of all time is fierce. One of the most appealing aspects of reading is the ability and opportunity to form opinions and views. Reading is subjective. It gives you licence to think and feel and create your own impressions, perceptions and ideas.
There is no right or wrong answer to questions about who is the greatest author in the world or the most inspirational writer in history, but there are some names that crop up in most lists. As an avid reader, you can draw up your own list, but here are some ideas if you’re searching for book inspiration:
1. William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare is one of the best-known writers of all time. An English playwright, Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564. Shakespeare produced a vast library of plays and poems and he is often credited with inspiring audiences to go to the theatre.
Most schoolchildren still study at least one Shakespeare classic as part of the English curriculum and his plays still attract vast audiences at theatres and venues across the world. His most popular works include:
Romeo and Juliet
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Much Ado About Nothing
2. Leo Tolstoy
Best known for his epic literary work, War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy was a Russian author born in 1828. War and Peace combines excerpts from history with fiction and philosophical thought to produce one of the most unique books of all time. Tolstoy’s works, which also include Anna Karenina and The Kreutzer Sonata, remain very popular and are often referred to as foundations of realistic fiction.
3. Jane Austen
Jane Austen is viewed as a trailblazer for female authors and a source of inspiration for women who wanted to read and forge a career in the literary industry. Austen penned six incredibly successful novels during the 1700s and is widely regarded as one of the first literary feminists.
Austen’s novels, which include Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion and Mansfield Park, explore themes that were relevant to women of the era but remain pertinent today. Examples include marriage, social standing and the role of women in society.
5. Ernest Hemingway
American novelist, Ernest Hemingway, was one of the most inspirational literary forces of the 20th century. Born in Illinois in 1899, Hemingway travelled extensively, bringing new ideas and perspectives to readers based on his experiences. He was famed for his understated style and his openness in confronting difficult, sometimes controversial subjects, such as bullfighting, macho culture and war.
6. Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou is widely regarded as one of the most inspirational women of all time. As well as earning a reputation for her incredible ability to write and connect with audiences, Angelou was also a dancer, actor, poet, screenwriter and civil rights activist. When she died in 2014, there was an enormous outpouring from fans across the globe.
Maya Angelou left behind a legacy that will endure through inspirational quotes that will bring hope and joy to many for decades to come. Her most well-known quote is, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
7. Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens is one of the most prolific authors in history. He has an extensive catalogue of novels and tales, which provide a fascinating insight into life in the 1800s. Dickens attracted readers thanks to his ability to tell stories in the most captivating way but he also explored important themes and concepts, tackling difficult issues with sensitivity through expert character building. Popular Dickens novels include:
A Tale of Two Cities
A Christmas Carol
The Pickwick Papers
Inspirational books for women
Suggestions for inspirational books for women include:
Toni Morrison: Beloved and The Source of Self-Regard
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: We Should All Be Feminists
Gretchen Rubin: The Happiness Project
Jhumpa Lahiri: The Namesake
Maya Angelou: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
Michelle Obama: Becoming
Elizabeth Gilbert: Eat, Pray, Love
Melinda Gates: The Moment of Lift
Margaret Attwood: The Handmaid’s Tale
Alice Munro: Dear Life
Sally Rooney: Normal People
Isabel Allende: The House of the Spirits
Writers and authors have inspired us for centuries. From incredible stories and experiences that shape novels, poems and plays to artistic skills and unrivalled storytelling abilities, the inspirational writers featured in this guide have the ability to connect and engage with readers, take them away and trigger reactions, emotions and thought processes.
If you’re looking for book inspiration, these writers and their words could change your life.