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Greatest Writers of All Time

There are many great writers and novelists in world history. To come up with a list of the greatest writers is no ordinary task. The job is complicated by the fact not everyone shares the same taste and preference. A writer may be adored by some, while is despised by others. This post offers an imperfect list of the greatest writers of all time. The list is presented in no particular order. Feel free to challenge it.  

1) William Shakespeare (English poet and playwright)

No discussion with regards to the subject of the greatest writers of all time can be complete without a mentioning of the great William Shakespeare. The famous English playwright is arguably the most influential writer in world literature. His 38 plays and 154 sonnets have served as inspirations for numerous works of literature. No literary person could be oblivious of Shakespeare and his acclaimed works. 

Shakespeare was particularly renowned for his tragedies, Hamlet and Macbeth to name a few. His best and most famous play, Romeo and Juliet, was regarded by many as the greatest love story in literature. In addition to being a masterful playwright, Shakespeare was also a terrific poet; his sonnets were widely acknowledged as the precursor to modern love poetry. William Shakespeare is, without question, the best playwright and poet in world’s history.

2) Leo Tolstoy (Russian novelist)

Leo Tolstoy was a person of grand ideas. His novels were fine specimens of those ideas. Tolstoy’s best novel (titled War and Peace) is the most significant novel in Western literature. I was once told by my high school teacher, “If a learned man spent a lifetime without reading War and Peace, he’s not really a learned man.” To underscore his point, my high school teacher even gave me a certificate in recognition that I had completed my reading of the masterpiece novel. War and Peace embodies everything that was Leo Tolstoy—his ingenious skills, realist beliefs, and idealistic visions. 

It should be noted that Leo Tolstoy was not a one-hit wonder. His other works, most notably Anna Karenina, were equally as good. But Leo Tolstoy will forever be remembered for War and Peace—history’s greatest novel.

3) Victor Hugo (French poet and writer)

If we could give Victor Hugo a title that best describes his literary achievements, we would call him “The Activist Writer”. Indeed, Victor Hugo was not a typical writer. Almost every one of his novels was written not to entertain the masses, but to educate and empower them. For example, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and the Hunchback of Notre Dame put the social problems of his time on trial. 

Hugo was never hesitant in exposing what he perceived as unjust and perverse, and he did it in the most public ways possible—in words and in deeds. In addition to being a terrific writer, the famed author was also a major social and political figure. Hugo strongly believed that writing without a voice is one of lesser worth. The great novelist was interchangeably a writer and an idealist. He will be remembered as such. 

4) Ernest Hemingway (American writer and journalist)

For a country with less than 500 years of history, the United States has produced a great number of fantastic writers. Ernest Hemingway is perhaps the best among these literary greats. The Nobel Prize laureate’s influence on 20th century literature can never be overstated. His powerful narrative prose and economical style challenged the prevalent wisdom of his time – the elaborate structures used in English and French literature. 

Although Hemingway’s rise to prominence was largely due to his novels, many of which became instant American classics, his most famous work was actually a long story or a novella some liked to call it. The Old Man and the Sea (1951) depicts the fierce struggles between an aging fisherman and a large marlin. The deeply philosophical work helped Hemingway earn a Nobel Prize in Literature and firmly cemented him in the pantheon of the greatest writers. 

5) Louis Cha (Chinese wuxia novelist)

Throughout its history, China has produced some of the finest writers ever. In fact, any one of the country’s best writers could easily rival Shakespeare and Tolstoy. Louis Cha (penname Jin Yong) is one of these writers. 

Louis Cha is nicknamed “the Father of Wuxia” and for a very good reason. Cha is single-handedly responsible for the popularity of Wuxia or martial arts fiction. He published 15 works in all; almost all of them were best-sellers. It is estimated that over 300 million copies of his works have been sold or distributed. His novels have been adapted (numerous times) into films, TV series, stage plays, comics and video games. The characters of his novels are part of Asian popular culture. They are often referenced in a wide array of media. Louis Cha is so well-known in Asia and in Chinese-speaking communities around the world that it has been quoted, “If you don’t know who Jin Yong is, you are not a Chinese person.” Indeed, Louis Cha is one of the greatest writers of all time.

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