While short blog posts, tweets, and all manners of media may be the rage, the sheer range of books out there that are the result of the life of an author appeals to more and more, given that supporting oneself as an author seems to get easier every year.
The desire for good fiction and nonfiction sees so many people vying for your attention, but how do you find something new or something good that isn’t the same old rehash of a superhero tale? Here are the 30 best male writers to sink your teeth into.
1. Haruki Murakami
The Japanese author lists Raymond Chandler and Kurt Vonnegut as his influences and writes across many genres including science fiction, fantasy, and crime fiction.
Having seen international success through his works in fiction, Murakami has branched out into non-fiction including Underground and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.
With the 1987 release of Norwegian Wood, Murakami achieved domestic and eventually international success, and his writing has been noted as containing allusions to shamanism, collective trauma, detachment, and commitment.
2. David Foster Wallace
Best known for his 1996 novel Infinite Jest, Wallace has been cited by the Los Angeles Times‘s David Ulin as ‘one of the most influential and innovative writers of the modern era.
Winning the MacArthur Fellowship in 1997 among a litany of other awards, Wallace is known for pursuing a post-postmodern or metamodern style.
His heavy use of irony and strong character development focuses around unself-conscious experience, search for earnest expression, and communication in an atomized society.
3. Sir Kazuo Ishiguro
Hailing from Nagasaki, Japan but a citizen of the United Kingdom since 1983, Ishiguro is a Nobel Prize for Literature laureate also writing across a variety of genres including science fiction and historical fiction.
His works have been critiqued as having great emotional force, which also explores the superficiality of connection through our senses to the greater world.
The dystopian Never Let Me Go, later adapted as a 2010 film, was rated as the best novel of 2005 by Time and one of the 100 best English-language novels published between 1923 and 2005.
4. Jonathan Franzen
Lauded as the ‘Great American Novelist’, Franzen’s novels often focus heavily on American political machinations and the suburban family as well as themes of social criticism.
Franzen has been outspoken on many topics, including that ‘writing fiction that isn’t an author’s personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn’t worth writing for anything but money.
Heavy use of the third-person point of view is key to his works, with the book The Corrections, in particular, taking on this device to overcome the limits of the first-person narrative.
Franzen’s critiques of modern America are biting, and his masterful use of language as well as refusal to spoon-feed his readers has made him both a hero and villain in literary circles.
5. David Mitchell
Known for his 2004 epic Cloud Atlas, Mitchell’s work is often described as ‘undeniably intellectual’ and being bold and experimental without totally unraveling due to its inability to have any coherent structure.
Mitchell’s gift for making sentences, as well as appropriately putting characters in the right context in a way few authors can muster, sets him and his novels quite apart from many others.
Known for his multi-stranded narrative style, you can expect some confusion with his work if you’re reading idly. Mitchell often writes by starting out with standalone stories the length of novellas, then stitching them together into the final work.
6. Cormac McCarthy
Another MacArthur Fellowship recipient, McCarthy’s writing style is known for its uniqueness in the almost total eschewing of any grammatical rules including extremely minimal punctuation.
Employing themes of romanticism, bleakness, and switching from western settings to post-apocalyptic wastelands, McCarthy has seen many of his works get adapted into films.
His overpowering use of language is said to remind people of Ernest Hemingway, however his later works use restrained vocabulary. Morals and their consequences feature heavily, as well as conflicts between authorities, who are constantly portrayed as weak and ineffective.
7. George Saunders
A writer whose work appears in syndicated columns and magazines as well as a bestselling author of novels, Saunders’ fiction often focuses on the absurdity of consumerism and its ties to corporate culture. He is also highly critical of the role of mass media.
Generally utilizing a satirical tone as a vehicle to raise moral and philosophical questions, Saunders uses collections of short stories and novellas to weave narratives.
Lincoln in the Bardo is one of Saunders’s masterpieces, firmly in the experimental fiction genre. With a structure more resembling that of a theater play, the multi-layered nature of this book lends itself to simultaneously listening to the audiobook while reading along.
Saunders’ short story collections are where some of his best work can be found, and he has been credited with restoring many a disillusioned person’s faith into contemporary fiction.
8. David Sedaris
Sedaris’ rise to fame was slightly unconventional, as he gained his first gigs after a public reading of his diary was heard by a radio host in a Chicago, United States club.
While he has been criticized for labeling his work as nonfiction despite it lacking a factual basis in many instances, instead Sedaris’s readers claim the intentional exaggeration is obvious and manipulated for comic effect.
Known as a humorist, Sedaris is famous for his self-deprecating and quirky writing style. Drawing on autobiographical inspirations, his writing is deeply personal and vulnerable while being full of unexpected comparisons, exaggerations, and innovative use of language.
9. Richard Russo
The 2002 Pulitzer Prize winner for Fiction for his novel Empire Falls, Russo’s semi-autobiographical style has endeared him to many. Centering his books around stories of the haves and have-nots, Russo uses humor and emotion to great effect.
Russo’s ability to take mundane settings and transform them into moving, generous storytelling that resonates with that little voice inside all of us has made him a sort of everyman writer that can be enjoyed by the young and old.
The exploration of a character’s pathos set against a small-town backdrop, normally slowly dying, brings out the worst and best of human nature.
10. Neil Gaiman
Straddling the genres of fantasy, horror, science fiction, comedy, and a plethora of others, Gaiman has written some of the most entertaining books about a range of topics.
His 2001 American Gods was a bestseller, after his first foray into novels following a career in journalism and comic books. He has collaborated with many other authors, including the literary giant Terry Pratchett for his first novel Good Omens.
Gaiman’s work uses the device of allusions to historical figures, and mythological figures as well as a common pattern of Gothic influences. Gaiman’s writing goes through clear changes in tone from work to work, from childlike and nostalgic, to magical and whimsical.
11. Gary Indiana
Sitting at the top of deflationary realism writers, Indiana has been successful in the world of plays, film, art, and novels, with his Do Everything in the Dark noted for its hilarious and heartbreaking moments.
Indiana uses humor to balance out the many dark moments that abound in his writing, as the chilling chronicle of madness and failure that features so heavily in his works would be hard to stomach otherwise.
12. Michael Connelly
Connelly has made the detective novel his specialty, with his character Detective Hieronymus ‘Harry’ Bosch helping him sell over 70 million books.
Drawing heavily on life experiences to form the settings and characters, Connelly’s stories always have that elusive feeling of realism despite being works of fiction.
Connelly’s work is refreshing as it has an organic feel to it. So many writers approach penning a series via outlines, whiteboards, and character charts, but Connelly insists that writing is organic and either happens or doesn’t. This natural style comes through strongly.
13. Dennis Lehane
With considerable success in having his books adapted to film, Lehane’s penchant for writing gritty characters in the mystery and thriller genre have seen him top the New York Times bestseller list.
Not content with successes like having major Hollywood film adaptations of Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island, and Mystic River, Lehane has also turned his hand to writing for TV for HBO’s The Wire and Boardwalk Empire.
Lehane credits Richard Price’s The Wanderers as one of the biggest game-changers of his life, with the novel showing him that you can write about working-class people and their day-to-day life and it can still be compelling, engaging literature.
14. Stieg Larsson
Swedish author Larsson, most famous for his Millennium series, saw widespread success in the crime and thriller genre.
His writings reveal a strong abhorrence of violence and abuse against women, shaped by traumatic experiences in his teenage years.
Common themes include injustice in society and truth between people, however, Larsson died before the series was published and so never saw the success of his novels.
15. Roberto Bolaño
Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño is stated to be one of the most significant Latin American literary voices of his generation, compared to greats such as Jorge Luis Borges, Pablo Neruda, and Julio Cortázar.
While most well-known for his novels and short stories, Bolaño also wrote many poems and free verse texts.
The extraordinary quality of his writing often touches on quests, with the main character often being an extension of Bolaño.
The inescapable violence of modern life in Latin America caused by corruption and crime are heavily featured, including how this world interacts with base human experiences such as youth, love, and death.
16. Chris Adrian
Squarely in the surrealist genre, Adrian’s journey to becoming an author is perhaps slightly unusual, as he is a medical doctor who completed a pediatric residency. His short stories and short fiction have gained acclaim, making him a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship recipient.
He often writes about incompetent or inept doctors, which perhaps should draw suspicion however Adrian asserts it is merely a caricature.
Mixing humor into his work to mask the horror that abounds, Adrian writes with a profound sense of sadness at the destruction that such doctors and characters can wreak, while highlighting how information and trust is so important in our society.
17. Jon Ronson
A Jon Ronson book is a bizarre experience, as they are part investigative journalist, part Twilight World episode. The Men Who Stare at Goats follows various military projects, such as trying to cause goats to explode by staring at them and trying to walk through walls.
Whether Ronson is being 100% serious is hard to gauge, but he certainly has a knack for writing engaging narratives around captivating subjects.
His 2011 work The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry, asks questions that could lead to answers too scary to consider, including what happens to someone who pleads insanity to avoid jail, but then is stuck in an insane asylum.
Because of course, they would say that it was all an act to get out.
18. Roald Dahl
With over 250 million book sales and counting to his name, Dahl is one of the bestselling authors of all time. While famous for his range of books aimed at children and young adults, the narrative style and unexpected twists make them great reads for adults too.
Known for classics such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr Fox, The BFG, and so many others, Dahl cemented himself among the greats, with macabre adult short stories blending humor and innocence also being popular.
Dahl’s books perfectly capture the child’s view of the world, often surrounded by cruel or ignorant adults who act in a bewildering, unexplainable way. The result is often the downfall of such villains, often at the hands of clever children who act in a righteous and pure way.
19. George Orwell
The unfortunate thing about Orwell’s dystopian writings is how true they turned out to be.
However, his works including the allegorical novella Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four tower above are similar works for both their ability to convey messages as well as being full of masterful writing.
The horrors and destitution of working-class life in the industrial north of England during the leadup to World War II are documented in The Road to Wigan Pier, which along with Homage to Catalonia are based on his real-life investigations and participation in the Spanish Civil War.
20. Franz Kafka
While the term Kafkaesque exists to this day as a representative of the power of Kafka’s work, his influence goes further than the (often misused) word.
Kafka’s work often features isolated protagonists facing bizarre or surrealistic predicaments, such as in ‘The Metamorphosis’, and contradictory and nightmarish bureaucratic scenarios and mazes such as featured in The Trial.
The wider social commentary found in Kafka’s work has not become any less applicable, particularly given the insanity of the current bureaucratic systems found throughout the world, as well as the bewildering oppressiveness of modern life.
21. Kurt Vonnegut
With a career spanning 50 years, Vonnegut published 14 novels as well as a smattering of plays, short stories, and five nonfiction works, with further collections being published posthumously.
Moderate success led to the critically successful Slaughterhouse-Five, loosely based on Vonnegut’s own experiences through World War II. Vonnegut’s signature style involves a story broken into small pieces with simple syntax and sentence structure are present.
Vonnegut’s use of biting satire towards issues of science, technology, religion, and its usefulness, and the military-industrial complex is seamlessly combined with the use of black humor, although discerning exactly what Vonnegut’s message is can be opaque.
22. Albert Camus
Absurdism is a constant theme in Camus’ books although he is routinely categorized as an existentialist.
His writings are accessible and deal with confronting emotions stemming from situations such as oppression, injustice, and the human condition, particularly in relation to its disparagement.
Camus was the second-youngest recipient in history of the Nobel Prize in Literature, with his absurdist tome The Stranger, and existentialist masterpiece The Plague among his many great works.
23. Philip K Dick
A prolific writer, Dick focused on epistemological and social questions regarding reality and perception, using alternate realities, drug-induced illusory environments, and altered states to contrast these thought experiments.
Authoritarian governments and their fascistic tentacles in the business world were also critiqued, with his novels such as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? becoming the basis for the film Blade Runner.
Any work by Dick will almost invariably descend into imaginative, paranoid fiction, however, his impact on western culture and science fiction is almost unparalleled.
24. Ray Bradbury
While accomplishing success in a variety of genres, undoubtedly Bradbury’s greatest achievement was in science fiction, and he is credited with bringing these stories into the mainstream.
His iconic Fahrenheit 451 is eminently readable to this day, being an early critique of political correctness and censorship, with his predictions about technology being eerily prescient.
Bradbury also stressed in his works that undirected technological development is likely to lead to bad outcomes, but was not against technology in general as is often proposed. He draws on the progress versus tradition concept heavily, as well as the ripple effect from this.
25. Jon Krakauer
An outdoorsman who later turned into a writer, Krakauer’s two books Into the Wild and Into Thin Air both deal with the dangers associated with mother nature and trying to survive.
Into Thin Air was his account of being part of the 1996 Mount Everest climb that saw several of his group die. Krakauer’s writing style is strikingly clear and recounts the drama from this situation, and his skills as a journalist shine through.
26. John Steinbeck
With over 33 books to his name and focusing on realistic, everyday people generally in the setting of California, United States. Steinbeck was the 1962 Nobel Prize laureate for literature and also received the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964.
Interwoven throughout his work are the themes of fate and injustice, as well as contentment and happiness in the face of hardship. His use of relationships as a vehicle to explore these emotions allows for the reader to see these interactions affect major life decisions.
With several successful plays and movie adaptations, Steinbeck was a literary master who focused on the Great Depression of the 1930s in many of his works, bringing this time to life through expert storytelling.
27. David Baldacci
An attorney by trade, Baldacci’s writing has an authentic feel due to his focus on legal thrillers and suspense novels.
A strong theme through his multi-year career is the will to survive when up against seemingly insurmountable odds, particularly in a good versus evil battle. These universal tropes speak deeply to a lot of readers, who find motivation in these words to apply to their own life.
The doggedness required to be a lawyer is present in almost all of his novels, and this ability to capture the grit and determination that is inside all of us enables hidden talents and powers to become dominant in even the most unlikely of readers.
28. John Sandford
Gaining praise for his features writing and an eventual Pulitzer Prize, Sandford branched out into fiction writing and has the popular Prey series to his name featuring the affable Lucas Davenport.
While having a long-running traditional detective series, Sandford has also written several works of nonfiction including on art, and of all things, plastic surgery.
Sandford’s books often feature perfectly paced suspense; just when you think the situation can’t get more desperate, he’ll turn it up to 11.
29. Mark Steyn
A columnist, media commentator and author, Steyn is one of the best writers on the planet, blending his sharp wit and insight to bear on today’s political, economic and social issues.
Steyn is no boring anchor however, his ability to link stories and find commonalities reveals that he is not stuck in the perpetual 24 hour news cycle, but thinks big picture on the scale of decades and centuries. His interests range to classic songs, plays and novels: a true man of culture.
His books on demographics and geopolitics have become bestsellers, and his clashes with human rights tribunals and other political bodies, as well as trevails in the court system, are legendary.
Steyn has also some of the most well-rounded knowledge on the western world, with his affinity for the British Empire and its institutions, as well as in-depth appreciation of the Commonwealth, making him one of the premier voices in the media.
30. Paul Beatty
A master in the use of comedy, Beatty’s first foray into writing started with a book deal after getting first place in the Grand Poetry Slam Champion of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.
Combining this humor with biting satire, Beatty’s standout novel is about a young man’s isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court. Riffing on all the absurdities in modern American life, Beatty presents a worldview that is unique and terrifying.
Beatty’s work is powerful and draws on the misplaced trust people have in those who claim to be our superiors and rule us, but instead disappoint and fail time after time. Beatty forces the reader to have a good hard look at ourselves by examining what it is to be human.