Last week’s literary history brought us three literary birthdays, two literary deaths, and even a book publishing. Read more about last week in literary history.

July 13 — Nigerian Playwright Wole Soyinka is Born

Playwright Wole Soyinka
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Playwright Wole Soyinka
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Our first literary birthday of the week, Wole Soyinka was born in Nigeria in 1934. Soyinka is best known for his plays as well as his political activism. In 1986, Soyinka was the first African to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature.

July 14 — Writer and Illustrator Brian Selznick is Born

Author and Illustrator Brian Selznick
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Author and Illustrator Brian Selznick
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Our second literary birthday of the week, Brian Selznick was born in New Jersey in 1966. Selznick is best known for writing and illustrating The Invention of Hugo Cabret, described by Selznick as “not exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things.”

July 15 — Author Clive Cussler is Born

Celtic Empire by Clive Cussler
Photo courtesy of Amazon
Celtic Empire by Clive Cussler
Photo courtesy of Amazon

Our third and final literary birthday, Clive Cussler was born in Arizona in 1931. Cussler is best known for his thriller novels, many of which featured character Dirk Pitt. He was also the founder and chairman of the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), a group that has discovered over 60 shipwreck sites since its founding. Cussler died in February of 2020.

July 16 — The Catcher In The Rye is Published

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
Photo courtesy of Amazon
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
Photo courtesy of Amazon

Originally published in serial format from 1945 to 1946, The Catcher in the Rye was published on this date in 1951. Written by J. D. Salinger, the book is a critique of superficiality in society told through the story of Holden Caulfield. Arguably Salinger’s most famous book, The Catcher in the Rye is a popular choice in many English literature curriculums across the United States.

July 17 — French Writer Henri Pourrat Dies

Henri Pourrat
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Writer Henri Pourrat
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Our first literary death, French writer and anthropologist Henri Pourrat died on this day in 1959. He was born in central France in 1997. Pourrat went on to write more than 100 novels, biographies, collections of stories, and poems in his life.

July 18 — Author Jane Austen Dies

Author Jane Austen
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Author Jane Austen
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Our second and final literary death, Jane Austen died on this day in 1817. She was born in Hampshire, England in 1775. Austen is best known for her many classic novels, including Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Mansfield Park. Austen fell ill with Addison’s disease in 1816, but continued to write through her illness. She succumbed to the illness in 1817 at the age of 41.


Which day of Last Week in Literature did you find most interesting?