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Happy birthday! A reading list of authors with July birthdays

Posted on July 17, 2018 at 6:00 am

By Nathaniel Youmans

This one’s for all you with summer birthdays out there.

Remember in grade school when the end of the year drew close and teachers, even more burnt out than their students, had to find some reason (summon the willpower) to celebrate students with summer birthdays?

At my elementary school, this took the form of a gigantic jelly bean scavenger hunt. School custodians would scatter cupfuls of jelly beans out onto the soccer field as if they were applying pesticides in preparation for a plague of locusts. Nothing says “Happy birthday, kids” like being asked to crawl on hands and knees to sift candy from dirt, fertilizer, insects, and clippings of freshly mown grass. Even Sisyphus would stop pushing his boulder up the hill long enough to say “Whoa man, that seems kind of pointless.” Kudos, school district that shall not be named, on a truly phenomenal waste of time and the attempt to create Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. Actually, the dirt flavor wasn’t too bad.

For those of you with summer birthdays out there, I hope someone is developing a finer celebration in your honor. With dog days and wildfire season bearing down on us before long, I invite you to chill out with this reading list of authors born in the month of July. Happy Birthday!


Wisława Szymborska was a Polish poet and the 1996 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. She has been called “A Poet of Consciousness” by The New York Review of Books. Check out Map: Collected and Last Poems as an eBook on OverDrive.


Franz Kafka, the deadpan mage of absurdism, was one of the greatest short story writers of the 20th century who never wanted to be read by anyone. Check out Metamorphosis and Other Stories.


Nathaniel Hawthorne may be the author of one of the least favorite required high-school readings, The Scarlet Letter, as well as other novels and short stories.


Margaret Walker, author of Jubilee, won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award in 1942 and “became one of the youngest Black writers ever to have published a volume of poetry in this century,” as well as “the first Black woman in American literary history to be so honored in a prestigious national competition,” noted Richard K. Barksdale in Black American Poets between Worlds, 1940-1960.


Ann Radcliffe was one of the world’s first horror writers and a pioneer of gothic fiction. You can check out the eBook version of The Mysteries of Udolpho.

Oliver Sacks was an author, neuroscientist, Renaissance man, former weightlifter, and motorcyclist. You can check out some of his books at the library: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Musicophilia, The River of Consciousness, and On the Move.


Alice Munro is a Canadian short story writer and recipient of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature. You can check out many of her short story collections: Runaway, Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, The Beggar Maid, Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You, and many more.


Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Idaho-born historian and writer, won the Pulitzer Prize for history for A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812. You can check out Well-behaved Women Seldom Make History and A House Full of Females at the library.

E. B. White was a contributor to The New Yorker and authored Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and Trumpet of the Swan.


Pablo Neruda was a much beloved, crooning exile extraordinaire—a Chilean poet, diplomat, and politician. He also happens to be one of the world’s most prolifically translated poets. Check out I Explain a Few Things, Love Poems, Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda Poems, and others.

Henry David Thoreau, advocate of camping in mom’s backyard and going home for the weekends while writing about how transcendental roughing it in the natural world is, may be the reigning heavyweight champion of atrocious neckbeards. You can add Walden, Civil Disobedience, and others to your reading list.


Brian Selznick is the Caldecott Medal-winning creator of the New York Times bestsellers The Invention of Hugo Cabret, adapted into Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning Hugo; Wonderstruck, adapted into Todd Haynes’s eponymous movie; and The Marvels.

Mike Abrahams/Alamy


Anita Brookner was a novelist, the first female art professor at the University of Cambridge, and recipient of the 1984 Man Booker Prize. Check out her novels: Strangers, Hotel du Lac, Leaving Home, and Making Things Better.


Hunter S. Thompson could just be everyone’s favorite lunatic step-uncle who comes by unannounced in a hurricane of cologne and mysterious smoke who then leaves with all the snacks and contents of both the liquor and “special” cabinets. Check out Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga, and more.


Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson, a poet, journalist, and political activist, was one of the prominent African Americans involved in the thriving artistic movement of the Harlem Renaissance. You can read Violets and Other Tales and other titles of hers as free eBooks from Project Gutenberg.


Cormac McCarthy, the loveable patron saint of American doom, is well known for The Road, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and was adapted into the film of the same name. Also in the library’s collection are Blood Meridian, No Country for Old Men, All the Pretty Horses, and others.


Tess Gallagher, a Washington state native, is a poet, essayist, and short story writer, known for her accessible, intimate poetry. Midnight Lantern and Moon Crossing Bridge are both available from the library.

Ernest Hemingway, minimalist short story writer, novelist, journalist, and recipient of the 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature, took on poet Wallace Stevens in a fist brawl once while in the Florida Keys. That’s a fight I’d pay to see. Who do you think would win?


Alexandre Dumas is one of the most widely read French authors and many of his historical novels of high adventure were originally published as serials, including The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After, and The Vicomte de Bragelonne.


Aldous Huxley is the author of what may just be everyone’s favorite required high-school reading, Brave New World. He authored dystopian fiction, essays, and nonfiction and was an avid supporter of controlled psychedelic use (The Doors of Perception).


Beatrix Potter was an English writer, illustrator, natural scientist, and conservationist best known for her children’s books featuring animals, such as those in The Tale of Peter Rabbit.


Chang-Rae Lee, a novelist and professor of creative writing at Stanford University, is the author of several novels including On Such a Full Sea and The Surrendered, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Stanley Kunitz, an American poet, was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1974 and was the tenth Poet Laureate of the United States in 2000.


Emily Brontë, the famously reclusive, shy one of the three Brontë sisters, authored Wuthering Heights, her only novel, and wrote poetry under the pseudonym Ellis Bell. She probably wouldn’t care much for Hunter S. Thompson.


And last but not least, J. K. Rowling, creator of the world of Harry Potter, is currently the wealthiest author on Earth. Now it all comes full circle… I wouldn’t have had to scavenge for Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans on my elementary school’s soccer field on my hands and knees if it weren’t for you, J. K. Rowling…

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