The British author died peacefully at her London home yesterday.
Born in Persia (modern day Iran) in 1919, Lessing grew up in Southern Rhodesia before emigrating to London after the Second World War with the manuscript of her first novel, The Grass is Singing, in her suitcase.
It was published in 1950 and across the course of her life she produced 54 further works, including poetry, two operas, short stories, plays and non-fiction.
In 2007, she became the oldest recipient of the Nobel Prize, aged 88, and only the 11th woman to win the award.
The writer is survived by her daughter Jean and granddaughters Anna and Susannah.
Tributes have poured in from friends and colleagues, who have heralded her novels as “handbooks” to a generation or readers.
Nicholas Pearson, her editor at HarperCollins, said:
“She wrote across a variety of genres and made an enormous cultural impact. Probably she’ll be most remembered for ‘The Golden Notebook’ which became a handbook to a whole generation, but her many books have spoken to us in so many various ways.
“Doris has been called a visionary and, to be in her company, which was a privilege I had as her editor towards the end of her writing life, was to experience something of that.
“Even in very old age she was always intellectually restless, reinventing herself, curious about the changing world around us, always completely inspirational. We’ll miss her hugely.”
The publishing house’s UK chief executive, Charlie Redmayne, added: “Doris Lessing was a compelling storyteller with a fierce intellect and a warm heart who was not afraid to fight for what she believed in. It was an honour for HarperCollins to publish her.”
Justifying her Nobel Prize six years ago, the Academy described the author as an “epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny”.
In response, Lessing famously poked fun at the judges for snubbing her work 40 years earlier. She joked: “So now they’ve decided they’re going to give it to me. So why? I mean, why do they like me any better now than they did then?”