Posted on January 3, 2021 at 8:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

Here are the literary birthdays to celebrate over the week of January 3, 2021:

J.R.R. Tolkien (January 3, 1892): Tolkien is popularly known for the Lord of the Rings trilogy and its companion books, but some of his academic publications — including the lecture “Beowulf, the Monsters and the Critics” and essay “English and Welsh” — are considered equally influential.

Umberto Eco (January 5, 1932): Eco is best known for his bestselling medieval mystery, The Name of the Rose, though he was also a prominent literary critic and semiotician.

Kahlil Gibran (January 6, 1883): Gibran’s most famous work, The Prophet, has never been out of print and has been translated into more than fifty languages.

E. L. Doctorow (January 6, 1931): Doctorow is considered one of the greatest American novelists of the 20th century for such works as Ragtime, Billy Bathgate, and The March.

Elizabeth Strout (January 6, 1956): Strout won a Pulitzer Prize (and other honors) for her novel Olive Kitteridge; other works that have earned acclaim are Amy & Isabelle and My Name Is Lucy Barton.

Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891): Hurston was celebrated in her lifetime for her fiction (most notably Their Eyes Were Watching God), her folklore studies, and her anthropological work and found a second surge of fame after author Alice Walker wrote about a pilgrimage to her grave.

William Peter Blatty (January 7, 1928): Most of Blatty’s fiction and screenwriting was comedy, but his smash hit in both arenas came from the horror genre: The Exorcist.

Alexandra Ripley (January 8, 1934): Ripley’s bestselling historical novels earned her the official nod from the Margaret Mitchell estate to write Scarlett, a sequel to Gone with the Wind that didn't receive the same critical reception but did notch impressive sales.

Simone de Beauvoir (January 9, 1908): Beauvoir became a household name for The Second Sex, a treatise on feminism, but also wrote fiction (including prize-winning The Mandarins), philosophical works, and autobiographical accounts (like Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter).

Judith Krantz (January 9, 1927): Krantz’s sex-and-shopping novels, like Scruples and Princess Daisy, have sold 85 million copies in more than fifty languages.

Birthdays sourced from Calendar of Literary Facts; biographical information sourced from Encyclopedia Britannica, the BBC, the Guardian, and author websites. Did we miss someone? Email and let us know!

Categories: Today in Books

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