Who? (Nelle) Harper Lee, American novelist
When? 28 April 1926
Where? Monroeville, Alabama
Why should I read her work? To Kill a Mockingbird is an uncompromising morality tale of an honourable Southern lawyer who stands up against racism and mob rule. It has stood the test of time and is as relevant today as it was when it was written.
Try: To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)
Interesting fact: In December 1956, Lee’s friends gave her a year’s wages so she could leave her job as an airline reservations clerk to concentrate on writing. The message said: ‘You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.’ The result was To Kill a Mockingbird.
Who? Karen Blixen (also known as: Isak Dinesen; Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke), Danish novelist
When? 17 April 1885
Where? Rungsted, Zealand, Denmark
Why should I read her work? Blixen’s most famous work, Out of Africa, is a vivid and thoughtful account of life on a pre-war colonial plantation in the dying days of the British Empire, and a tribute to the people who lived and worked there.
Try: Out of Africa (1937), Babette’s Feast (1958)
Interesting fact: Blixen wrote her novels in English and then translated them into Danish, her native language!
Who? Sue Townsend (Susan Lillian Johnstone), English writer, playwright, humorist
When?2 April 1946
Why should I read her work? Townsend was one of Britain’s most original and celebrated comic writers; her most famous works are realistic and humorous treatments of the inner life of an adolescent boy, appealing to younger readers and adults alike.
Try:The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾ (1982); The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole (1984)
Interesting fact: Adrian Mole first appeared in a single radio play, The Diary of Nigel Mole, Aged 13 ¾ on New Year’s Day 1984. His name was changed to avoid confusion with Nigel Molesworth, the hilariously unruly schoolboy created by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle.
Who? Emile (Emile-Edouard-Charles-Antoine) Zola, French novelist, playwright, journalist
When? 2 April 1840
Why should I read his work? Zola is an important early example of the use of ‘naturalism’ in fiction.
Try: Thérèse Raquin (1867), Germinal (1885), La Bête Humaine (The Beast Within) (1890)
Interesting fact: Zola was a major figure in the exoneration of the falsely-accused Jewish-French army officer, Alfred Dreyfus, in the notorious Dreyfus Affair. Zola wrote the famous headline, J’accuse…
Who? William Wordsworth, English poet
When? 7 April 1770
Where? Cockermouth, Cumbria
Why should I read his work? Wordsworth’s work is still read worldwide and he is possibly the most influential of England’s Romantic poets.
Try: Lyrical Ballads (1798) (with ST Coleridge), The Prelude (1850), Collected Poems
Interesting fact: Lyrical Ballads is considered to mark the beginning of the English Romantic movement.
Who? Seamus (Justin) Heaney, Northern Irish poet, playwright, translator and lecturer
When? 13 April 1939
Where? Castledawson, County Derry, Northern Ireland
Why should I read his work? Heaney is one of the twentieth century’s major poets; his work evokes Ireland – rural lives, civil and political strife, Irish culture – in readable, accessible verse.
Try: New Selected Poems (1966-1987), New Selected Poems (1988-2012)
Interesting fact: A farmer’s son, Heaney won a scholarship to St Columb’s College, a Catholic boarding school, going from ‘the earth of farm labour to the heaven of education’; he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995.