30 Author Names You Might Be Mispronouncing

'Roald' isn't "rolled."
'Roald' isn't "rolled." / (The Hobbit) William Morrow/Amazon; (Americanah) Penguin Random House; (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) Penguin Young Readers Group/Amazon; (The Sympathizer) Grove Press/Amazon; (Gone Girl) Ballantine Books/Amazon

You’ve seen their names on the front of your favorite books, but how exactly do you say those names? From Children of Blood and Bone’s Tomi Adeyemi to Middle-earth creator J.R.R. Tolkien, here’s the correct way to pronounce 30 famous authors’ monikers.

1. Tomi Adeyemi

The Children of Blood and Bone author pronounces her name “TOH-mee EH-deh-YEH-mee.”

2. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The name of Americanah author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is pronounced “CHI-muh-MAHN-duh NGO-zee ah-DEE-chee.”

3. Meg Cabot

Meg Cabot of The Princess Diaries fame doesn’t say her surname with a French spin: It’s just “KA-bit.”

4. Albert Camus

The name of this 20th-century French philosopher and author of The Stranger is “al-BARE ka-MOO.”

5. Michael Chabon

The surname of Michael Chabon, best known for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, is “SHAY-bahn.”

6. Eoin Colfer

Irish names tend to be simpler to say than they look: The Artemis Fowl creator’s first name is pronounced “OH-in,” just like Owen.

7. Michael Crichton

This Jurassic Park author is enough of a household name that many people know the ch in his surname is silent: It’s “KRI-tuhn,” where the long “i” matches that of kite and hike

8. Roald Dahl

Anyone who knows that the author of Matilda and The BFG was born in Wales might assume his first name is a tricky Welsh one. But Roald Dahl’s parents were Norwegian, and he’s actually named after Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, the first person to reach the South Pole. It’s pronounced “ROO-all,” not “rolled.”

9. Gillian Flynn

It’s not Jillian. Gillian Flynn says “GILL-ee-in” with a hard g, like those in Gone Girl.

10. Diana Gabaldon

So many people bungle the Outlander author’s last name that one of the FAQs on her website is “How is Gabaldon pronounced?”: “My name is pronounced GAB-uhl-dohn (long o). In Spanish it’s pronounced gav-ahl-DOHN (still with a long o). It rhymes with ‘stone.’”

11. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Goethe is a tricky case, since oe is an alternate rendering of ö, which doesn’t have a direct match in English. It’s not uncommon to hear American English speakers say “GER-tuh” with a hard r, but you’ll get closer to the correct German pronunciation if you cut off the first syllable just before you finish the “r” sound. It’s similar to how a British person would say the first syllable in girly, where there’s the slightest suggestion of an “r” sound that never comes (as opposed to the more open “guh” sound of gully).

The German polymath’s full name is pronounced “YO-hahn VOLF-gahng fon GUHR-tuh.” 

12. Khaled Hosseini

This acclaimed author of The Kite Runner and other books pronounces his name “KHAH-led hoh-SEH-nee,” but the opening “kh” sound isn’t the same as an English “k” sound. It comes from further back in your throat, like the guttural beginning of Chanukah. If you can’t quite achieve that sound, you’re better off erring toward an “h” sound than a “k” sound. (If you can achieve it, other Arabic names containing the “kh” sound are probably a breeze for you.)

13. John Lescroart

This legal thriller novelist says “leh-SKWAH.” You can figure John out for yourself.

14. Debbie Macomber

The middle of Macomber doesn’t sound like comb. It’s pronounced “MAY-cum-ber.”

15. Vladimir Nabokov

In a 1965 interview, the Lolita author specified that his first name should be pronounced like redeemer, i.e. “Vla-DEE-mer.” For his surname, Nabokov was fine with a few variations, including “Na-bo-kov [with a] heavy open ‘o’ as in ‘Knickerbocker,’” and “the long elegant middle ‘o’ of Nabokov” common in the U.S. So: “nah-BOH-kov,” where the last syllable rhymes with mauve.

16. Friedrich Nietzsche

This 19th-century German philosopher’s name is “FREE-drick NEE-chuh.”

17. Celeste Ng

Look no further than this Little Fires Everywhere author’s Twitter handle for guidance on how to say her surname: “@pronounced_ing.”

18. Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Pulitzer Prize–winning writer of The Sympathizer pronounces his name “VEE-et TAHN NWIN.”

19. Chuck Palahniuk

The Fight Club author says “PAUL-uh-nick.”

20. Samuel Pepys

The surname of this 17th-century English diarist (and Shakespeare hater) is pronounced “PEEPS,” just like the marshmallow treat.

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21. Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult pronounces her last name as “PEE-koh,” like pea coat without the t.

22. Annie Proulx

The lx in this Brokeback Mountain author’s surname is silent: It’s just “PROO.”

23. Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson creator Rick Riordan says “RY-ur-din,” where the first syllable rhymes with eye.

24. Louis Sachar

The Holes author says “SACK-er” (and Louis sounds like Lewis).

25. Jon Scieszka

Jon Scieszka, best known for The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!, says “SHEZ-kuh.”

26. Dr. Seuss

Theodor Geisel’s pseudonym technically shouldn’t rhyme with Zeus. It’s “SOICE,” like voice. Geisel’s friend Alexander Liang went so far as to pen a short poem to set people straight:

“You’re wrong as the deuce
And you shouldn’t rejoice
If you’re calling him Seuss.
He pronounces it Soice.”

Needless to say, the mispronunciation still stuck.

27. Olga Tokarczuk

The surname of Olga Tokarczuk, winner of 2018’s Nobel Prize for Literature, is pronounced “toh-KAR-chook,” where the last syllable rhymes with shook.

28. Colm Tóibín

The Irish author of Brooklyn and other novels is called “CALL-um toy-BEAN.” (Like Gollum.)

29. J.R.R. Tolkien

Speaking of Gollum, the Lord of the Rings author’s last name isn’t “TOLL-kin.” It’s “TOLL-keen.”

30. Judith Viorst

The last name of Judith Viorst, best known for writing Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, is “vee-ORST.”

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