From an author of books about a talking dog to a writer of an Italian detective series to a Virginia Woolf scholar, there are all kinds of talented writers who have called Montclair home at one time during their careers. Many writers past and present have drawn inspiration from Montclair’s charming and comfortable surroundings. One of our neighbors even won a Pulitzer Prize for work done while he lived in town. To share all the amazing minds that have connections to the area, we compiled a list of all of these writers and authors. Read on to learn more about Montclair’s literary ties, and make a list for your next library run.
Virginia Hamilton Adair
Raised in Montclair in the early 1900s, Virginia Hamilton Adair wrote her first book of poetry, Ants on the Melon, at 83 years old after she had gone blind. There are 80 poems in the collection and the poems tackle topics such as her blindness, her husband’s suicide, and her childhood in Montclair. Although Virginia had been writing poems since the age of 2, this was the first time she published them all together.
Mary Travis Arny
Mary Travis Arny was born in 1909 in Montclair. She was a biology professor at Montclair State University (then called Montclair State College) and her second book, Seasoned with Salt, is about her family life and home in Montclair. Her family grew up in the Garrabrandt House at 149 Watchung Avenue in Montclair. She also was a columnist for the Montclair Times.
Current Montclair resident Eric Boehlert is an award-winning media and political writer. He has published two books: Lapdog: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush and Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press. He has written for Salon and Rolling Stone, and now is the founder and editor at Press Run.
(Photo credit: @justbobbidotcom)
Bobbi Brown, the beauty industry mogul, author, health coach, and Montclair resident for the last 30 years, has written nine books about beauty and wellness. Bobbi and her husband became obsessed with the Montclair area after their first visit there, and since moving there they’ve opened The George Inn in 2018, 18 Label Studio, and a flagship store for her new-ish beauty brand Jones Road.
Frank Bunker Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
The Gilbreths wrote a very famous book that has been read for generations and has been adapted for the silver screen multiple times, Cheaper by the Dozen. Written in 1948, it’s an autobiography about the Gilbreth’s family which included 12 children. They lived in a 14-room house at 68 Eagle Rock Way in Montclair.
Wendy Coakley-Thompson is an academic writer and fiction novelist whose works navigate race relations, interracial marriage, colorism, and immigration. She lived in Montclair for over a decade. Her published novels include Back to Life, Writing While Black, Triptych, and What You Won’t Do For Love, which was optioned for cable TV.
(Photo credit: @stephenathome)
Another author of nine books, Stephen Colbert is best known as a comedian and talk show host. His home in Montclair is well-known for its colonial-style remake. He’s had two television shows – The Colbert Report and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert – and The Late Show still airs today. Stephen’s books primarily focus on politics and satire.
Anthony DePalma has lived in Montclair for more than 20 years and wrote for The New York Times as a reporter and foreign correspondent for over 2 decades. He has published four books and won a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 as a member of the group that wrote Portraits of Grief. Anthony’s books are nonfiction and most focus on Latin America.
Louise DeSalvo was a lifelong New Jersey native who lived in Montclair during her adult life. She was a Virginia Woolf scholar, a memoirist, a teacher, and a biographer who used her Italian-American heritage as inspiration in her writing. She has written both academic and fiction books.
Jessie Redmon Faucet
Jessie Redmon Faucet was born in 1884 and was a poet, essayist, novelist, teacher, and editor who lived in Montclair after she married. Known as a powerful voice during the Harlem Renaissance, Jessie had several novels published that explored the lives of middle-class African-Americans. She was also the literary editor of The Crisis, NAACP’s magazine, and gave many authors like Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, and Anne Spencer their first chances to reach a national audience.
Philip L. Fradkin
Philip L. Fradkin was born in Montclair but was known for his love and adoration of the American West. His 13 books focused on environmentalism and the history of the region. He also wrote for the LA Times and received a Pulitzer Prize for his and the paper’s covering of the Watts riots.
Dorothea Benton Frank
Dorothea Benton Frank lived in Montclair for many years and wrote 20 novels during her lifetime. Her novels are known for having strong female characters and low-country South Carolina settings. Many made The New York Times’ Best Seller List and have been translated into different languages to be enjoyed around the world.
Jon Katz is a novelist, fiction and non-fiction author, and former Montclair resident. His book, The New Work of Dogs: Tending to Life, Love, and Family, focuses on 12 Montclair families and their relationships with their dogs. The book explores the relationship between the owner and the dog and dives into attachment theory.
Michael Laser has lived in Montclair since 1994 and most of his published books were written while living here. He is also an English Professor at Montclair State University. Almost all of his novels are fiction and came to life from small moments he experienced in his own life. He has also written an academic book to help college writers.
Donna Leon was born in Montclair in 1942 and is an acclaimed crime novelist. Her stories follow the life of her Venetian hero, Commissario Guido Brunetti. She now lives in Venice and her gripping stories have been translated into many foreign languages except, at her request, not into Italian.
Arthur Levine is a children’s book writer and publisher who is known for co-editing J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. His publishing company, Levine Querido, is “dedicated to building a platform for previously under-represented voices and points of view.” He lives in Montclair with his family.
Montclair High School graduate Anne McCaffrey was a fantasy and science fiction writer famous for her Dragonriders of Pern series. The series was on The New York Times’ Best Sellers list and Anne was the first woman to win the two top prizes for science fiction writing, the Hugo and Nebula awards.
(Photo credit: hmhbooks.com)
Susan Meddaugh was born and raised in Montclair and wrote popular children’s books about Martha the talking dog. Martha Speaks, one of the books in the series, was chosen in 1992 as a New York Times Best Illustrated Book. The series was also adapted into a television show for PBS.
Isabel Paterson was a journalist, novelist, political philosopher, and literary critic who lived in Montclair until her death in 1961. She wrote a weekly column for the Herald-Tribune Book Review called Turns With a Bookworm. She was also the author of a number of novels such as The Shadow Riders and Never Ask the End.
Julia Phillips graduated from Montclair High School in 2006. Her first novel, Disappearing Earth, was noted in The New York Times’ list of The 10 Best Books of 2019. She is also a Fulbright fellow and has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Paris Review.
Pamela Redmond Satran
(Photo credit: pamelaredmondsatran.com)
Pamela Redmond Satran lived in Montclair and is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 20 nonfiction and fiction books. She is well-known for her novel, Younger, which is now a television show created by Darren Star. Montclair and the author’s hometown of Norwood were inspirations for the town in which Younger takes place.
(Photo credit: us.macmillan.com)
Montclair resident Lee Siegel is the author of several books including The Draw and Falling Upwards. Much of his writing focuses on politics and culture. He is a National Magazine Award recipient and has written for many publications.