1817 – Henry David Thoreau, American author, essayist, poet, and philosopher, best known for his works Walden and Civil Disobedience.
1876 – Max Jacob, French poet, painter, writer, and critic whose work is seen as an important link between the symbolism and surrealism; despite the fact that the Jewish-born Jacob had converted to Catholicism decades earlier, he was arrested by the Gestapo and died while awaiting deportation to a concentration camp.
1892 – Bruno Schulz, Polish writer, artist, literary critic, and art teacher who is considered one of the great Polish-language prose stylists of the 20th century.
1904 – Pablo Neruda, pen name and, later, legal name of the Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet, diplomat, and politician who was born as Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto; Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez called him “the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language.”
1909 – Herbert Zim, naturalist, author, and educator best known as founder and editor of the Golden Guides nature books for children.
1918 – Betty Sue Cummings, author of books of history and of fiction for both adults and children.
1920 – Pierre Berton, Canadian nonfiction author, journalist, and television personality.
1928 – Tayeb Salih, Sudanese novelist, broadcaster, and teacher.
1933 – Donald Westlake, American writer of mostly crime fiction; he also wrote under many pseudonyms, including Richard Stark and Alan Marshall.
1937 – Bill Cosby, controversial actor, comedian, educator, Jello spokesperson, and activist who has written many books, including books of comedy; nonfiction about children, parenting, education, and family relationships; and fiction for children. His reputation as the quintessential family man was shattered by revelations of multiple incidents of sexual assault and rape.
1939 – Phillip Andrew Hedley Adams, Australian columnist, broadcaster, and farmer; In 1997 the International Astronomical Union named a minor planet orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter after him.
1944 – Delia Ephron, bestselling American author, screenwriter, and playwright; sister of writer Nora Ephron.
1946 – Robert Fisk, Beirut-based English journalist.
1951 – Joan Bauer, Newbery Honor-winning American author of young-adult literature.
1955 – Timothy Garton Ash, British historian, professor, author and commentator who specializes in modern history of Central and Eastern Europe.
1967 – Adam Johnson, Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist and short-story writer.