A prolific novelist, essayist, and screenwriter, Didion is considered one of America's leading intellectuals.

A native of Sacramento, Didion graduated from UC Berkeley in 1956 and headed east for an internship at Vogue. She spent eight years at the magazine, during which time she wrote her first novel, 1963's River Run. Her first essay collection, Slouching Towards Bethlehem—a portrait of California counterculture in the '60s—appeared in 1968 and established Didion as an important writer; it also got her lumped in with the New Journalism of Tom Wolfe and Gay Talese, although she was never closely connected with them. She published the bestselling novel Play It As It Lays in 1970, earning a nomination for the National Book Award. From there, she has published at a steady pace of at least a book a year for most of her career, with The Year of Magical Thinking, which won the National Book Award in 2005, and Blue Nights as recent standouts. [Image via Getty]