1875 – Kunio Yanagita, Japanese writer, folklorist, linguist, Esperantist, university teacher, agronomist, anthropologist, and lexicographer who is considered the father of Japanese native folkloristics, or minzokugaku.
1880 – Premchand (pen name for Dhanpat Rai Shrivastava), prolific Indian writer, screenwriter, novelist, essayist, translator, and short-story author who wrote in Hindi and Urdu and also used the pen names Munshi Premchand and Nawab Rai. He is one of the most celebrated writers of the Indian subcontinent, and has been called the “Upanyas Samrat” (“Emperor among Novelists”).
1893 – Fatima Jinnah, Pakistani biographer, dental surgeon, stateswoman, and one of the leading founders of Pakistan; she was widely known as Mader-e Millat (“Mother of the Nation”).
1904 – Bret Halliday, the most famous pseudonym of American author Davis Dresser, who wrote in the mystery, romance and western genres; he wrote under a variety of names, including Asa Baker, Matthew Blood, Kathryn Culver, Don Davis, Hal Debrett, Anthony Scott, Peter Field, and Anderson Wayne.
1912 – Milton Friedman, influential American free-market economist, statistician, writer, and professor.
1912 – Irv Kupcinet (known as “Kup”), American newspaper columnist, talk-show host, author, and Chicago Bears football commentator.
1919 – Primo Levi, Italian chemist, author, and poet who is best known for writing about his time in a Nazi concentration camp; the Royal Institution of Great Britain named his book The Periodic Table the greatest science book ever written.
1926 – Hilary Whitehall Putnam, American philosopher, author, professor, mathematician, and computer scientist who is a central figure in analytic philosophy.
1929 – Lynn Reid Banks, British author of novels for children and adults and of biographies about the Bronte family; Banks is best known for her bestselling children’s book, The Indian in the Cupboard.
1933 – Cees Nooteboom, Dutch novelist, poet, translator, travel writer, and journalist who is considered a Nobel Prize contender.
1938 – Muriel Feelings, American writer and educator whose picture books aimed to introduce children to African culture; a Caldecott Honor Book winner and American Book Award nominee.
1940 – Fleur Jaeggy, award-winning Swiss novelist and translator who writes in Italian.
1943 – Susan Cheever, American novelist, nonfiction author, columnist, essayist, biographer, literary critic, and teacher; novelist and short-story writer John Cheever was her father.
1944 – Jonathan Dimbleby, British writer, political commentator, filmmaker, and radio and TV presenter; he is the son of prominent war correspondent and news commentator Richard Dimbleby.
1952 – Faye Kellerman, bestselling American mystery author.
1956 – Lynne Rae Perkins, Newbery Medal-winning American author and illustrator of children’s books.
1956 – Pam Withers, American-born Canadian author of outdoor adventure and sports novels for young adults; she is also a former journalist, magazine editor, whitewater kayak racer, and whitewater rafting guide.
1959 – Andrew Marr, British broadcaster, journalist, political commentator, and actor.
1965 – Joanne Rowling, phenomenally successful British author best known for the Harry Potter fantasy books (written as J.K. Rowling), which make up the bestselling book series ever, and on which are based the highest-grossing movie series ever; she has also written novels for adults, including the Cormoran Strike detective series (written as Robert Galbraith), and is known for her philanthropy and her support of left-wing causes. In recent times she has come under fire for prejudicial comments about transgender people. (Her character Harry Potter has his birthday today, too.)
1967 – Elizabeth Wurtzel, controversial bestselling American memoirist, essayist, and journalist.
1978 – Tui T. Sutherland, Venezuelan-American children’s book author who has written under pen names Heather Williams, Erin Hunter, and Rob Kidd, sharing some of those names with other authors who write for the same popular series; she once won $46,000 as a two-day champion on the Jeopardy quiz show.