A regular monthly feature by Elaine Henderson featuring noteworthy authors born in this month.
Who? (Helen) Beatrix Potter, English writer, illustrator and conservationist
When? 28 July 1866
Where? Kensington, London
Why should I read her work? Her exquisitely illustrated little books fuse her love for animals and the English countryside with a sharp, observant imagination and appeal to adults as well as children.
Try: The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902), The Tale of Benjamin Bunny (1904), The Tale of Two Bad Mice (1904), The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-winkle (1905)
Interesting fact: Potter bought a substantial amount of land in the Lake District and left it all to the National Trust in her will, thereby helping to form the Lake District National Park.
Who? Emily Brontë, English poet and novelist
When? 30 July 1818
Where? Thornton, near Bradford, Yorkshire
Why should I read her work? Her powerful exploration of the human psyche draws in elements of passion, mystery, spirituality, sorrow and revenge as well as class prejudice and social commentary.
Try: Wuthering Heights (1847)
Interesting fact: Reclusive, intensely private, free spirited and deeply spiritual, Emily Brontë has become ‘an icon to tortured geniuses’ everywhere.
Who? J K Rowling (Joanne Rowling), English novelist
When? 31 July 1965
Where? Yate, Gloucestershire
Why should I read her work? Rowling’s work is immensely popular with both adults and children worldwide; her Harry Potter series creates an intricate, magical world with a traditional and satisfying ‘good versus evil’ plotline.
Try: Harry Potter series: from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997) to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007)
Interesting fact: Rowling was working as a bi-lingual secretary and researcher for Amnesty International when she conceived the idea for the Harry Potter series while on a delayed train in 1990. She is now a global brand with over 450 million copies of her books sold.
Who? Franz Kafka, German-language short story writer
When? 3 July 1883
Where? Prague, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary (now Czech Republic)
Why should I read his work? Kafka fuses fantasy and realism in his intense portrayals of the alienated, powerless individual grappling with unresponsive bureaucracy and arbitrary governing systems.
Try: The Metamorphosis (1915), The Trial (1925), The Castle (1926)
Interesting fact: Kafka died at the age of 40 and left only a small body of work, but his fantastic vision has influenced a wide range of writers, critics, artists and philosophers.
Who? Aldous Huxley, English writer, novelist, screenwriter and philosopher
When? 26 July 1894
Where? Godalming, Surrey
Why should I read his work? Huxley is regarded as one of the pre-eminent intellectuals of his time and his witty and malicious satires of twenties society and its morals are as entertaining today as when they were written; Brave New World is an astonishingly prescient account of the future.
Try: Crome Yellow (1921), Antic Hay (1923), Point Counter Point (1928), Brave New World (1932)
Interesting fact: Huxley intended to study science but an illness when young rendered him partially sighted; he abandoned science and studied literature at Balliol, Oxford, using a magnifying glass and eye drops to help him read.
Who? William Makepeace Thackeray, Indian-born English writer and journalist
When? 18 July 1811
Where? Calcutta, India
Why should I read his work? Thackeray’s epic novels draw in a huge crowd of characters from all walks of life and his themes concentrate on satirising the mores of upper middle class Victorian society, the military, marriage and hypocrisy.
Try: Barry Lyndon (1844), Vanity Fairy (1848), The History of Henry Esmond (1852), The Newcomes (1855)
Interesting fact: Thackeray only turned to serious writing when the bank in which he had invested his inheritance suddenly collapsed. At the height of his career he was as popular as Charles Dickens.