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10 Classics Loved by Contemporary Authors

May 9, 2024

By Christa Protano

May is National Get Caught Reading Month, so why not get caught reading like a Nobel or Pulitzer Prize winner? Below, these 10 renowned authors share the literary classics that inspired them the most.

Margaret Atwood

You might not be surprised to learn that the Canadian author of the dystopian best-seller, The Handmaid’s Tale, and other feminist writings loved the works of Jane Austen and Emily Brontë. “When I hit high school, I read Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights, and developed what was, in those days before rock stars, a standard passion for Mr Darcy and Heathcliff,” Atwood is quoted as saying in The Pleasure of Reading.

Mark Twain

John Grisham

The author of more than 25 legal thrillers once told Entertainment Weekly that he’s been reading Mark Twain ever since he discovered the epic adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn as a kid.

Joan Didion

For Joan Didion, the notorious Ernest Hemingway is the classic author that influenced her most of all. In a 1978 interview published in The Paris Review she said, “When I was fifteen or sixteen I would type out [Hemingway’s] stories to learn how the sentences worked. I taught myself to type at the same time. A few years ago when I was teaching a course at Berkeley I reread A Farewell to Arms and fell right back into those sentences. I mean they’re perfect sentences. Very direct sentences, smooth rivers, clear water over granite, no sinkholes.”

The Sun Rises Hemingway

Haruki Murakami

The author synonymous with magical realism has said in Far Out Magazine that The Great Gatsby is one of his top five books of all time: “If I were forced to select [one book that meant the most to me], I would unhesitatingly choose Gatsby,” Murakami declared. “Had it not been for Fitzgerald’s novel, I would not be writing the kind of literature I am today (indeed, it is possible that I would not be writing at all, although that is neither here nor there).”

 Isabel Allende

On Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the author of one of last year’s national best sellers, The Wind Knows My Name, said in The Week: “We all know this macabre Victorian novel loaded with sexual innuendo, suspense, Christian paranoia, blood, mystery, and even a zoophagous madman. What is there not to like? It is badly written, but the story fascinates me to this day.”


Cormac McCarthy

In Books Are Made Out of Books: A Guide to Cormac McCarthy’s Literary Influences, it is noted that Moby-Dick is one of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s most favorite books and that he also admired Fyodor Dostoyevsky and William Shakespeare, among others.

Maya Angelou

“When I read [Louisa May] Alcott, I knew that these girls she was talking about were all white. But they were nice girls and I understood them. I felt like I was almost there with them in their living room and their kitchen,” the acclaimed poet and author told The Week. In the same article, she also named A Tale of Two Cities as another one of her six favorite books.

Iliad & Odyssey

Kazuo Ishiguro

The author of The Remains of the Day, describes Homer’s Odyssey to as a magical experience and also said that the 2,700-year-old poem reads to a surprising extent like a modern novel. “It has a sophisticated structure, with alluring subplots and flashbacks supporting the central story of Odysseus,” says Ishiguro. “It’s about the memory of home and the fear that it may no longer correspond to reality, the sadness of losing comrades, the kindness of strangers, the will to keep going against relentless obstacles, and a whole lot more.”

Alice Munro

It was all about the fairy tale for the Canadian short story writer and Nobel Prize in Literature recipient, Alice Munro. reported that as a child, Munro remembers reading Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales and changing the endings of those she didn’t like, such as that of The Little Mermaid. The writer was so upset that in the original tale, the mermaid—ahem—died. So she rewrote the story herself with a happy ending.

Hans Christian Andersen's Complete Fairy Tales

Stephen King

It has been widely reported that the King of Horror was heavily influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien when he wrote his Dark Tower series, and remains inspired by the King of Fantasy to this day. In Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, he writes: “Sometimes it’s beautiful and we fall in love with all that story. Even after a thousand pages we don’t want to leave the world the writer has made for us, or the make-believe people who live there. You wouldn’t leave after two thousand pages, if there were two thousand. The Rings trilogy of J.R.R.Tolkien is a perfect example of this. A thousand pages of hobbits hasn’t been enough for three generations of post-World War II fantasy fans.”

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