Notable Literary Deaths in 2021
An Incomplete List of the Writers, Editors, and Great Literary Minds We Lost This Year
It’s safe to say that in general, 2021 was an improvement on 2020—but that doesn’t mean it was a big one. Among the many disappointments of this year was the fact that we lost far too many members of the literary community, from poets to novelists to editors to critics to publishers. To them, we say a last thank you, and goodbye. They will be missed.
Mary Catherine Bateson, the daughter of Margaret Mead and the author of Composing a Life, died on January 2 at the age of 81.
Eric Jerome Dickey, bestselling novelist and one of the greatest wordsmiths of the 21st century, died on January 3 at the age of 59.
Christopher Little, the literary agent who took a chance on J.K. Rowling, died on January 7 at the age of 79.
Prodigious cookbook editor Maria Guarnaschelli died on February 6 at the age of 79.
Essayist and cultural critic Lawrence Otis Graham died on February 19 at the age of 59.
Poet, publisher, at Beat-era legend Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who opened the famous San Francisco bookstore City Lights in 1953, died on February 22 at the age of 101.
Norton Juster, the writer best known for his beloved, innovative children’s classic The Phantom Tollbooth, as well as The Dot and the Line, died on March 8 at the age of 91.
Children’s book author and illustrator Joan Walsh Anglund, most famous for A Friend Is Someone Who Likes You, died on March 9 at the age of 95.
Historian Robert Middlekauff died on March 10 at the age of 91.
Polish poet and dissident Adam Zagajewski died on March 21 at the age of 75.
Literary critic and cultural historian Morris Dickstein died on March 24 at the age of 81.
Children’s literature legend Beverly Cleary died on March 25th at the very impressive age of 104.
Larry McMurtry, the storyteller and subversive mythmaker of the American west who was best known as the author of Lonesome Dove, died on March 25 at the age of 84.
Irish academic and literary critic Denis Donoghue died on April 6 at the age of 92.
Vartan Gregorian, who saved the New York Public Library, died on April 15 at the age of 87.
Journalist and memoirist Linda Franks, the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, died on May 5 at the age of 74.
Kentaro Miura, author of the Japanese manga series Berserk, died on May 6 at the age of 54.
Dan Frank, editorial director of Pantheon Books, died on May 24 at the age of 67.
Influential German poet Friederike Mayröcker died on June 4 at the age of 96.
Richard Robinson, who turned Scholastic into a major children’s book publisher, died on June 5 at the age of 84.
Pulitzer prize winning poet Stephen Dunn died on June 24, which was his 82nd birthday.
Elizabeth Martínez, author and community organizer who helped jumpstart the Chicana movement, died on June 29 at the age of 95.
Historian Athan Theoharis died on July 3 at the age of 84.
The Italian novelist, critic, scholar, and legendary publisher Roberto Calasso, whom The Paris Review once described as “a literary institution of one,” died on July 28. He was 80 years old.
Jean Breeze, “the first woman of dub poetry,” died on August 4 at the age of 65.
Historian Donald Kagan died on August 6 at the age of 89.
Sociologist James W. Loewen, the author of Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, died on August 19 at the age of 79.
Mountain climber and adventure writer David Roberts died on August 20 at the age of 78.
Writer, editor, and “rouge transparence activist” Russ Kick, who was also the mastermind behind The Graphic Canon, died on September 12 at the age of 52.
Charles W. Mills, “one of the most important philosophers ever to treat race and racism as their primary subject,” died on September 20 at the age of 70.
Takao Saito, who created the bestselling Japanese manga series Golgo 13, died on September 24 at the age of 84.
Celebrated children’s book illustrator Jerry Pinkney died on October 20 at the age of 81.
Sylvère Lotringer, the founder of Semiotext(e) (who is also famous for his portrayal in Chris Kraus’s I Love Dick), died on November 8 at the age of 83.
Buddhist priest and feminist writer Jakucho Setouchi, who published over 400 novels and translated The Tale of Genji, died on November 9 at the age of 99.
NPR books editor and “resident nerd” Petra Mayer died on November 13 at the age of 46.
Etel Adnan, who wrote about the Middle East and whose novel Sitt Marie Rose has become a classic of war literature, died on November 14 at the age of 96.
Spanish novelist and feminist Almudena Grandes, described by her prime minister as “one of the most important writers of our time,” died on November 27 at the age of 61.
Marie-Claire Blais, the French Canadian novelist known to her countrymen as “one of Canada’s greatest contemporary writers,” died on November 30 at the age of 82.
Journalist and cultural critic Greg Tate died on December 7 at the age of 64.
bell hooks, essential feminist thinker, died on December 15 at the age of 69.