In honor of UNESCO’s World Book and Copyright Day, the AdBiblio team rounded up a list of some of our favorite non-American authors. Check out our picks below, and let us know which of your favorites we missed!
Elena Ferrante (Italy)
Almost as well-known for her anonymity as for her novels (Elena Ferrante is a pen name), Ferrante’s real-life identity remains private despite rampant speculation. Her four-part series The Neapolitan Novels delves into the lives and complex relationships of two girls growing up in a poor neighborhood in Naples, Italy. With characters so deeply developed it’s easy to forget they’re fictional and Ferrante’s ability to bring Naples vividly to life, it’s no wonder the quartet has garnered a cult-following. HBO recently picked up a televised adaption of the novels, expected to air next year.
Haruki Murakami (Japan)
Born in Kyoto, Japan, Murakami writes Kafka-esque fiction that is weird, often confusing, and endlessly entertaining. Among our favorites are Norwegian Wood, 1Q84, and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. Murakami non-fiction works are also excellent – Underground is a haunting collection of interviews with people affected by the 1995 sarin gas attacks in the Tokyo subway, and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a favorite among our colleagues at our sister company Racery.
Alina Bronsky (Russia / Germany)
Bronsky’s most well-known English translations include her debut novel Broken Glass Park (2008) and her 2011 bestseller The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine, which was named a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year. Bronsky’s unique comedy and portrayal of complicated family dynamics has also earned her recognition from Library Journal, Kirkus, World Literature Today, and LA Times.
Andri Snær Magnason (Iceland)
From children’s fairy tales to dystopian science-fiction, Andri Snær Magnason is one of Iceland’s most prolific and well-known authors. His works have been published in more than 30 countries around the globe and his novel LoveStar was nominated for the 2013 Philip K Dick Award for Science Fiction. With his more recent work focusing on environmental issues, Maganson ventured into the political realm in 2016 and was a candidate for the Icelandic presidential elections.
Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia)
Described by Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos as “the greatest Colombian who ever lived,” García Márquez is best known for popularizing magical realism and was the first Colombian author to win a Nobel Prize for Literature. His best known novels, One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, are both masterpieces but his lesser-known works are also well worth checking out – especially News of a Kidnapping, a non-fiction account of a series of kidnappings by Pablo Escobar’s Medellín Cartel.
Marlon James (Jamaica)
In 2015 Marlon James became the first Jamaican author to win the Man Booker Prize, awarded for his third novel A Brief History of Seven Killings. Based on the real-life assassination attempt of Bob Marley and told by multiple narrators ranging from the would-be assassins to CIA agents, the book is ambitious, beautifully written, and often deeply disturbing. We can’t wait for James’s much-anticipated fantasy trilogy, rumored to be coming sometime next year and described as “an African Game of Thrones.”
Samuel Beckett (Ireland)
The life of Irish avant-garde novelist, poet, playwright, and Nobel Prize winner Samuel Beckett is almost as fascinating as his works. From an affair with Peggy Guggenheim to being stabbed by a pimp to joining the French Resistance, Beckett’s biography reads more like a work of fiction. His play Waiting for Godot was famously described by critic Vivian Mercier as “a theoretical impossibility—a play in which nothing happens, that yet keeps audiences glued to their seats. What’s more, since the second act is a subtly different reprise of the first, he has written a play in which nothing happens, twice.”
Yōko Ogawa (Japan)
If your reading tastes tend to favor the dark and bizarre, look no further than Yōko Ogawa. Ogawa has received a number of Japanese and American literary awards including Shirley Jackson Award (The Diving Pool) and the Tanizaki Prize (Meena’s March). Her 2013 collection of short stories, Revenge, was hailed by NPR as “a delicious, perplexing, absorbing and somehow singular experience.” We couldn’t agree more, as Revenge is one of the most haunting short story collections we’ve ever encountered.
Kristín Ómarsdóttir (Iceland)
Renowned in Iceland for her skills as a poet, journalist, novelist, artist, and playwright, Kristín Ómarsdóttir has a wide variety of talent. Originally published in 2004, her novel Children in Reindeer Woods became her first book to be translated into English (Open Letter Books). The story explores aspects of violence and identity in an unnamed war-torn country, made all the more sinister by its 11 year-old narrator Billie.
Herman Koch (Netherlands)
Dutch author Herman Koch is most widely known for his international bestseller The Dinner, which has been translated into 21 languages. In the book, two couples sit down over a fancy dinner to discuss what to do about their teenage sons, who have been filmed committing a terrible crime but have not yet been identified. Get ready for the US movie release on May 5, starring Richard Gere! Koch is no one-hit-wonder either – his novels Summer House with Swimming Pool (2011) and Dear Mr M. (2014) are also international bestsellers.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)
Winner of a MacArthur Genius Grant, Adichie has written three highly-regarded novels: Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, and Americanah. A 2014 film adaptation of Half of a Yellow Sun, about Nigeria’s Biafran War, starred Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton. A film adaptation of Americanah starring Lupita Nyong’o is also supposedly in the works. In addition to her novels, Adichie is known for speaking and writing about feminism. Her powerful TEDx speech “We Should All Be Feminists” was sampled in Beyonce’s song “***Flawless” and later published as a book-length essay.
Francoise Sagan (France)
Not many writers can say that they became bestselling authors at the age of 18, but Francoise Sagan’s timeless classic Bonjour Tristesse has remained a cult phenomenon since its publication in 1954, and is still in print more than 60 years later. A coming-of-age novel that translates into “Hello Sadness,” Bonjour Tristesse scandalized its French readers with its portrayal of youth, sexuality, jealousy and mental illness. Since then the novel has been adapted into a 1958 film and Sagan produced dozens more novels, short stories, and plays.
Who are your favorite international authors? Let us know in the comments so we can add them to our reading list!
(Co-author credit: Karli Cude)