Frederick Buechner, a Presbyterian minister and the author of 38 books across several genres, died in Rupert, Vt., on August 15. He was 96.

Born in New York City on July 11, 1926, Buechner (pronounced Beek-ner) began writing his first novel, A Long Day’s Dying, as part of his undergraduate thesis at Princeton University. It was published by Knopf in 1950 to critical acclaim. Over the course of his career, Buechner’s writing spanned fiction, autobiography, theology, essays, and sermons. Publishers of Buechner’s books include Knopf, Simon & Schuster, Athenaeum, and, Westminster John Knox, and, primarily, HarperOne.

Buechner is the recipient of nine honorary degrees (including from Cornell, the University of Virginia, and Yale), the winner of the O. Henry Award, and a finalist for both a Pulitzer and National Book Award. His writing has been compared to Christian thinkers including Jonathan Edwards, C.S. Lewis, Ignatius of Loyola, Thomas Merton, and more. In addition to his writing career, Buechner attended Union Theological Seminary, and was ordained in 1958.

In a statement about Buechner’s passing, Michael Maudlin, senior v-p, executive editor at HarperOne, said he is mourning “a unique figure, a literary figure.” He added that Buechner "confounded everybody by becoming ordained as a Presbyterian minister while continuing to publish in multiple genres. His books are on many leaders’ shelves of ‘most influential.’”

Quoting Buechner’s 1983 memoir Now and Then (HarperOne), Maudlin says: “Despite the diversity of means, all his books shared his overriding mission: ‘Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.’”

Recurring themes in Buechner’s work centered on death, grief, life's darkness and light, and he often drew on both his father’s suicide and his daughter’s near-death from anorexia. Speaking to PW during an interview in 2005, Buechner emphasized the importance of offering readers “life and meaning,” an accomplishment that brought him great pleasure and gratitude. “Gladness is many times the last thing you think about in terms of life's work,” he said. “Lots of people tell you to make money, do your duty, be responsible—all of which are important. But if you leave out gladness, you have a dreary life.”

Maudlin noted: “The world needs more authors like him, not less.”

Buechner is survived by his wife, Judith Merck; three daughters; 10 grandchildren; and one son-in-law. Memorial service details are to be determined.