Authors who died in 2019

As 2019 comes to a close, we look back at the writers we lost this year.

As 2019 comes to a close, we look back on the writers we lost this year.

Mary Oliver

American poet Mary Oliver, pictured above at Maria Shriver's 2010 Women's Conference. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Mary Oliver was a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet whose rapturous odes to nature and animal life brought her critical acclaim and popular affection. Her poetry books included White PineWest Wind and the anthology Devotions, which came out in 2017. She won the Pulitzer in 1984 for American Primitive and the National Book Award in 1992 for New and Selected Poems. In 1998, she received the Lannan Literary Award for lifetime achievement. Her fans ranged from fellow poets Stanley Kunitz and Rita Dove to Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush.

Oliver died on Jan. 17, 2019. She was 83.

Diana Athill

Diana Athill on April 14, 2016 in London, England. (Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

Diana Athill was a writer and editor before finding late-life fame as a frank and fearless memoirist. She worked as an editor for five decades at the Andre Deutsch publishing house, nurturing writers including John Updike, Philip Roth, Norman Mailer, Jean Rhys, Margaret Atwood, Mordecai Richler, Mavis Gallant and V.S. Naipaul.

Athill wrote her first memoir, Instead of a Letter at the age of 43. She would go on to write several more memoirs and three novels. In 2008, she published Somewhere Towards The End, a book about coming to terms with aging and death. The book won the Costa Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award.

Athill died on Jan. 23, 2019. She was 101.

The celebrated editor and memoirist died on Jan. 23, 2019, at the age of 101. Speaking to Eleanor Wachtel in 2001, Athill discusses her memoir Stet, and some of the writers she worked with over her 50-year career, including Norman Mailer, Jean Rhys and Mordecai Richler. 53:16

Andrea Levy

British author Andrea Levy won the 2005 Whitbread Book Prize for her novel Small Island. (Associated Press)

Andrea Levy was a prize-winning novelist who chronicled the hopes and horrors experienced by the post-Second World War generation of Jamaican immigrants in Britain. One of the first black British authors to achieve both critical and commercial success, Levy was best known for her novel Small Island, which tells the story of two couples, one English and one Jamaican, whose lives intertwine in London after the Second World War.

Her other novels include Every Light in the House Burnin, Never Far From Nowhere, Fruit of the Lemon and The Long Song, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She also published Six Stories and an Essay, in 2014, a series of short stories and a piece about her Caribbean heritage.

Levy died on Feb. 14, 2019. She was 62.

Andrea Levy on Writers & Company (2005) 54:29

Patrick Lane

Patrick Lane was an award-winning Canadian poet and novelist. (Chris Hancock Donaldson)

Canadian writer Patrick Lane wrote award-winning poetry that was was celebrated for its beautiful writing and deft examination of the human condition. Lane's first collection Letters from a Savage Mind was published in 1966. It was followed by books such as Separations in 1969, Beware the Months of Fire in 1974 and Poems, New and Selected, which won the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry in 1978. 

Other books include Winter and Mortal Remains — which were consecutively shortlisted for Governor General's Literary Awards — and Too Spare, Too Fierce, winner of the 1995 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. With his wife Lorna Crozier, a fellow Governor General's Literary Award recipient, he published the collection No Longer Two People. 

In 2014, Lane was made an officer of the Order of Canada in honour of his vast and accomplished body of work.

Lane died on March 7, 2019. He was 79.

In honour of Canadian poet Patrick Lane, we replay an interview he did with Shelagh Rogers in 2012. He died on Thursday March 7, 2019. He was 79. 17:48

Teva Harrison

Teva Harrison was an illustrator and poet. (Teva Harrison/Facebook)

Canadian Teva Harrison was award-winning cartoonist known for her poignant comics about living with an incurable illness. Harrison was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at the age of 37. She began publishing short comics about her declining health and facing the end of her life in The Walrus.

Harrison later collected the comics in a graphic memoir called In-Between Days, published in 2016. Eye-opening and darkly funny, the book won the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Non-Fiction and was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction.

Harrison's poetry collection, Not One of These Poems is About You, will be published in Jan. 2020.

Harrison died on April 28, 2019. She was 42.

Wayson Choy, the author of the award-winning novel The Jade Peony, has died. He was 80 years old. Wayson Choy talked to Shelagh Rogers on The Next Chapter about his health problems and his memoir Not Yet: A Memoir of Living and Almost Dying. (Originally aired October 03, 2009) 18:53

Wayson Choy

Wayson Choy was a Giller Prize-nominated novelist, memoirist and short story writer. (John Beebe/Douglas & McIntyre)

Canadian Wayson Choy was a Giller Prize-nominated novelist, memoirist and short story writer.  His first novel, The Jade Peony, received the Trillium Book Award in 1995 and was a finalist in Canada Reads 2010, when it was defended by Samantha Nutt, founder of War Child.

The Jade Peony is set in Vancouver's Chinatown in the late 1930s and early 1940s and looks at a family of Chinese immigrants living in that time through the eyes of their three children. Choy was an important voice in portraying the lives and culture of Chinese Canadians.

His novel All That Matters won the Trillium Book Award in 2005 and was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2004. He has also written two autobiographical works, Paper Shadows, and Not Yet: A Memoir of Living and Almost Dying.

In 2005, Choy was made a member of the Order of Canada.

Choy died on April 27, 2019. He was 80.

Jean Vanier, the Canadian who created the L'Arche network of communities for intellectually disabled people, has died. Tapestry revisits a 2005 interview in which Jean Vanier told Mary Hynes about the genesis of his beliefs, the founding of L'Arche and what it brought him. 53:59

Jean Vanier

Jean Vanier, pictured above at a news conference in central London on May 11, 2015. (Lefteris Pitarakis/The Associated Press)

Jean Vanier was an award-winning Canadian humanitarian whose work helped improve conditions for people with developmental disabilities around the world. He founded the charity L'Arche, where people with and without disabilities live and work side-by-side as equal participants. The organization now maintains 154 residential communities in 38 countries.

He wrote about his philosophy and life in several books, including Life's Great Questions, Becoming Human, Community and Growth, Befriending the Stranger, Our Life Together and From Brokenness to Community.

Vanier was recognized throughout his life with the French Legion of Honour, the companion of the Order of Canada and the Templeton Prize. 

Vanier died on May 7, 2019. He was 90.

Former CBC colleague and the author of the Benny Cooperman series of crime novels died this week. In 2005, Howard Engel spoke with Michael Enright about how he wrote another book after a stroke left him able to write, but unable to read. We share that conversation once again. 18:42

Herman Wouk

Herman Wouk was a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. (AP Photo/Douglas L. Benc Jr.)

American Herman Wouk was the versatile author of The Caine Mutiny and the Second World War epics The Winds of War and War and Remembrance.

He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1952 for The Caine Mutiny, the classic Navy drama that made Captain Queeg a symbol of authority gone mad. He adapted his two-part war epic into a highly rated TV miniseries that aired in the 1980s.

Wouk died on May 17, 2019. He was 103.

Binyavanga Wainaina

Binyavanga Wainaina, pictured above at an interview in 2014. (Simon Maina/Getty Images)

Binyavanga Wainaina was one of Africa's best-known authors and gay rights activists. The Kenyan author won the 2002 Caine Prize for African Writing. He was a key figure in the artistic community who promoted local authors. His essay How to Write About Africa was one of the most popular ever published in Granta magazine.

After he came out, Time magazine named him one of the "100 most influential people," of 2014.

Wainaina died on May 21, 2019. He was 48.

Judith Kerr

In this May 23, 2003 file photo British writer Judith Kerr sits in her working room in London, England. (The Associated Press)

Judith Kerr was the author and illustrator of the bestselling The Tiger Who Came to Tea and other beloved children's books.

The beguiling story of the tea-drinking tiger has been shared by parents with young children since it was first published in 1968 and has never been out of print. It has sold more than 5 million copies.

Her next book introduced Mog the cat, who starred in some 15 books and developed a large following until Goodbye Mog was published in 2002.

Kerr died on May 22, 2019. She was 95.

Judith Krantz

In this May 12, 1986, file photo author Judith Krantz poses for a photo as she embarked on a non-stop talking tour of America to promote her new book. (Craig T. Mathew/Associated Press)

Judith Krantz wrote million-selling novels such as Scruples and Princess Daisy, which engrossed readers worldwide with their steamy tales of the rich and beautiful. Krantz wrote for Cosmopolitan and Ladies Home Journal magazines before discovering, at age 50, the talent for fiction. Her first novel — Scruples in 1978 — became a bestseller, as did the nine that followed.

Krantz's books have been translated into 52 languages and sold more than 85 million copies worldwide. They inspired a series of hit miniseries with the help of her husband, film and television producer Steve Krantz.

Krantz died on June 22, 2019. She was 91.

Howard Engel

Howard Engel was an award-winning Canadian crime writer and author of the Benny Cooperman detective series. (Submitted by Writers' Trust of Canada)

Canadian Howard Engel was the author of the Benny Cooperman detective novels and the co-founder of the Crime Writers of Canada.

The Benny Cooperman series, which included more than 10 titles, began in 1980. The first book, The Suicide Murders, introduced readers to an eccentric small town investigator from the fictional town of Grantham, Ont. — inspired by St. Catharines — who confronted murder cases with a sardonic, unassuming ease. 

In July 2001, Engel suffered a stroke, losing his ability to read, in a condition known as Alexia sine agraphia. Engel's memoir The Man Who Forgot How to Read also documents his experience with the condition.

His other books include the nonfiction book Lord High Executioner and the novel Mr. Doyle and Dr. Bell and Murder in Space, co-written with his wife Janet Hamilton.

Engel was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2007.

He died on July 16, 2019. He was 88.

The Nobel Prize-winning American author is being celebrated around the world following her death on Aug. 5th, 2019, at age 88. 52:52

Toni Morrison

In this photo, Toni Morrison attends the unveiling ceremony of a memorial bench marking the abolition of slavery in Paris on Nov. 5, 2010. (Franck/Fife/AFP/Getty Images)

Toni Morrison was an iconic American writer. She was the first black woman to receive the Nobel literature prize, awarded in 1993. 

Her novel Beloved, in which a mother makes a tragic choice to murder her baby to save the girl from slavery, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988.

Morrison published her first novel, The Bluest Eyein 1970 at the age of 39. Morrison went on to have a long and acclaimed career, publishing novels like Song of Solomon, Jazz, Sula, Paradise and A Mercy and essay collections like The Source of Self-Regardas well as plays and an opera.

Morrison received the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1977 for Song of Solomon, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 and the 2016 PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction.

Morrison died on Aug. 5, 2019. She was 88.

We pay tribute to the great Canadian historian and public intellectual Desmond Morton, who died on Sept. 4, by digging into The Sunday Edition vaults for his insights on an issue that's as relevant as ever in this political season: Promises, and what they're really worth -- especially when it's politicians who are making them. 21:12

Desmond Morton

Desmond Morton was the founding director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, and a professor in McGill's history department from 1998 to 2006. (Owen Egan/McGill University)

Desmond Morton was a renowned historian, author and professor at Montreal's McGill University. He authored more than 40 books on Canadian history and was a frequent commentator in the media on current events.

Morton was a graduate of the Collège Militaire Royal de Saint-Jean and the Royal Military College of Canada, as well as Oxford University and the London School of Economics in the U.K.

He was founding director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, and professor in McGill's history department from 1998 to 2006.

He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1996.

Morton died on Sept. 4, 2019. He was 81.

The celebrated Hungarian author, known for books such as "The Case Worker" and "A Guest in My Own Country," spoke to Eleanor Wachtel in May 2005. Konrad died on Sep. 13, 2019. He was 86. 56:13

György Konrád

György Konrád pictured in Brussels in 2012. (Associated Press/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

György (George) Konrád was a writer and sociologist who was an iconic figure of Hungary's dissident movement while the country was under communist rule.

Known internationally for books like his 1969 novel The Case Worker and his 2007 memoir A Guest in My Own Country: A Hungarian Life, Konrád was considered a steadfast advocate for individual freedoms. He was president of the writers' association PEN International from 1990 to 1993 and president of the Academy of Arts in Berlin from 1997 to 2003.

His work was rewarded with the prestigious Herder Award, conferred by German and Austrian universities, in 1983, an event not announced in Hungary at the time.

Konrád died on Sept, 13, 2019. He was 86.

Graeme Gibson talks to Shelagh Rogers about his life and his career in writing. (This interview originally aired on Sep 26, 2011.) 14:56

Graeme Gibson

Canadian writer Graeme Gibson poses while attending book fair America on Sept. 14, 2014 in Vincennes, France. (Ulf Andersen/Getty Images)

Graeme Gibson was a Canadian writer and conservationist. He was the long-time partner of celebrated writer Margaret Atwood.

He published four critically acclaimed novels: Five Legs, Communion, Perpetual Motion and Gentleman Death, and a nonfiction book, Eleven Canadian Novelists Interviewed by Graeme Gibson. The latter book included a conversation with Atwood, his future partner.

Gibson took on many leadership roles throughout his life. He co-founded the Writers' Trust of Canada and Writers' Union of Canada and served as president of PEN Canada. He has also been a council member of World Wildlife Fund Canada and chairman of the Pelee Island Bird Observatory.

He's received numerous lifetime achievement awards for his writing and advocacy, including the Harbourfront Festival Prize and Toronto Arts Award. He became a member of the Order of Canada in 1992.

Gibson died on Sept.  18, 2019. He was 85.

Alfred Alvarez was flirty, funny, adventurous, charming — and never, ever boring, his friend and former colleague Alexandra Pringle told As It Happens host Carol Off. 7:00

Alfred Alvarez

Alfred Alvarez was a British poetry critic and nonfiction writer. (Fairfax Media Archives/Getty Images)

Alfred Alvarez was a critic and author who helped shape the modern poetry canon in his native England. Writing alternately as A. Alvarez or Al Alvarez, he had a long, productive and controversial career. 

He began as a highly influential critic, who as poetry editor of the Observer, was an early champion of Sylvia Plath, her then-husband Ted Hughes, John Berryman and others he believed would enliven contemporary poetry.

He would go on to write novels and poems and to complete nonfiction books about life "beyond the fiddle" of the book world, whether rock climbing (Feeding the Rat), swimming (Pondlife), the search for oil in the North Sea (Offshore) or poker (The Biggest Game In Town).

Alvarez died on Sept. 23, 2019. He was 90.

The American literary critic and best-selling author died on October 14, 2019. He was 89. This interview originally aired in May 2001. 54:30

Harold Bloom

Literary critic and author Harold Bloom speaks at the CUNY campus in this 2003 photo. (Mark Mainz/Getty Images)

Harold Bloom was an eminent critic and Yale University professor whose seminal The Anxiety of Influence and melancholy regard for literature's old masters made him popular.

Bloom wrote more than 20 books and prided himself on making scholarly topics accessible to the general reader.

He appeared on bestseller lists with such works as The Western Canon and The Book of J, was a guest on Good Morning America and other programs and was a National Book Award finalist and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

A readers' poll commissioned by the Modern Library ranked The Western Canon at No. 58 on a list of the 20th century's best nonfiction English-language books.

Bloom died on Oct. 14, 2019. He was 89.

The Australian-born poet, memoirist, broadcaster and critic spoke to Eleanor Wachtel in 2008 about his best-selling book, Cultural Amnesia. James died on November 24, 2019. He was 80. 54:01

Ernest J. Gaines

This April 12, 1977 file photo shows author Ernest Gaines in his San Francisco home. (The Associated Press)

Ernest J. Gaines was an American novelist whose poor childhood on a small Louisiana plantation town germinated the stories of black struggles that grew into universal stories of grace and beauty.

He wrote eight books. His novel A Lesson Before Dying, published in 1993, was an acclaimed classic. Both The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971) and A Gathering of Old Men (1984) became honoured television movies.

Other books include Of Love and Dust (1967), Bloodline (1968), A Long Day in November (1971) and In My Father's House (1978).

In addition to the MacArthur and numerous other awards, Gaines received prestigious grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Rockefeller and Guggenheim Foundations. 

Gaines died on Nov. 5, 2019. He was 86.

Clive James

In this April 24, 1997 file photo, Clive James arrives at the Royal Albert Hall for the BAFTA ceremony. (Fiona Hansen/The Associated Press)

Clive James was an Australian journalist, poet, essayist, author and entertainer who had a long career as a writer and broadcaster in the U.K. James contributed to the Times Literary Supplement and London Review of Books, writing books, reviewing television for The Daily Telegraph and hosting Saturday Night CliveThe Clive James Show and other TV programs.

His bestselling book Cultural Amnesia celebrated 100 people whose lives he found inspirational.

James died on Nov. 24, 2019 He was 80.

Eleanor Wachtel’s conversation from 2000 with Jonathan Miller, the extraordinary British writer, performer, satirist, medical doctor, stage and opera director and artist. He died on Nov. 27, 2019. 52:14

Jonathan Miller

Jonathan Miller (left) directs Shakespeare's Taming Of The Shrew with Monty Python's John Cleese (right) on Dec. 12, 1980. (Associated Press)

 Jonathan Miller was a British writer, performer, satirist, medical doctor, stage and opera director and artist. Miller rose to prominence in the early 1960s when he performed in Beyond the Fringe, a satirical theatre review that began at the Edinburgh Festival and became a hit in London and New York. 

He went on to international success as a theatre and opera director, famous for his innovative re-imaginings of classic works. Miller was also a qualified physician and is widely known for The Body in Question, a television series about the history of medicine that aired in the late 1970s, and was also published as a book. 

He is the author of The Afterlife of Plays and two books on visual art, including a collection of his own photographs called Nowhere in Particular

Jonathan Miller was knighted in 2002 for his services to the arts.

Miller died on Nov. 27, 2019. He was 85.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.