It took me only a minute to think of what must be the answer to the first question: J. K. Rowling. Her books have sold hundreds of millions of copies and been translated into umpteen languages. I’m having a hard time thinking of who could even rival her for best-known.
Mot highly regarded, however, is much trickier, if for no other reason than that it enters the realm of the subjective in a way that best-known does not. What do you think?
Depends on how you measure “highly regarded”. If it’s just the number of people who think her books are good, it’s probably Rowling again. The answer might change, though, if you just consider the opinions of critics, or if you weight opinions by how good they think an author is.
Probably not in contention for this thread, though. She’s written an enormous number of books, and has a small following who buy a great many of them. She may be very well-regarded by that small following, but she has no wider appeal.
Besides, is Danielle Steel even a single person? I had the impression that the name was a shared pseudonym, used by a number of writers of romance novels.
I think Rowling might be in the running; other than a minority reacting to Too Much Harry Fucking Potter and the group that thinks it’s satanism in disguise, I think she’s well-regarded personally - a single mom on the dole who really hit the big time, and on something a lot like merit, and has been fairly gracious and humble about it.
Stephen King might be a close runner-up. Michael Crichton might have qualified before he (1) went off the rails and (2) was exposed as a major TFH loony and (3) died.
I wonder about this. I’ve never been able to make it past the first chapter of any of his books. I hate fantasy and it took me years to make it through Lord of the Rings. I think there is a strong affinity for Pratchett amongst message boards and nerds, but I’ve never heard any one mention him in real life.
I’m inclined to agree, and to give the nod to King over Rowling because I suspect that not everybody who recognizes Harry Potter would recognize her as the author, whereas “everybody” knows who Stephen King is even if they haven’t read any of his books. Although I’m wondering whether there’s a children’s author we’re forgetting (i.e. who’s the Dr. Seuss of today?).
As for best regarded: Harper Lee, maybe? On the one hand, she’s a one-hit wonder who hasn’t written anything in a long time; but on the other hand, that one hit of hers is very highly esteemed by lots and lots of people.
This may be true for the US, but it’s my impression that Rowling is far more famous internationally than King. I don’t know how accurate these figures are, but a quick Google indicates that (some of) King’s books have been translated into about 30 different languages while the Harry Potter series has been translated into over 60 different languages.