Americans The Greatest American Writers of All Time  

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List Rules Vote up and rerank U.S.-born writers in any genre, alive or dead

Who are the greatest American authors of all time? In just two short centuries, the great U.S. of A. has produced an incredible number of writers that have influenced literature and art the world over. This list includes great American novelists, poets, the best playwrights, and writers in the all genres of fiction and nonfiction alike. What American writers did you read in school and actually like? While most kids in this country are assigned works by top novelists like Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway, many don't truly love to read until their teen years, when they first find less traditional writers like J.D. Salinger or Kurt Vonnegut. Others are swept away by authors as varied as Stephen King, Harper Lee, or good ol' Dr. Seuss.

Who are the greatest American authors? This list include writers in all mediums, both living and deceased. Maybe your all-time favorites include poets like Emily Dickinson or Robert Frost. If your tastes are more for the pictures, you may consider Mel Brooks, Quentin Tarantino, or even Wes Anderson among the top American screenwriters. Other authors on this list have created some of the most beloved and widely read series in history, including Louisa May Alcott and George R. R. Martin.

The greatest American writers are some of the tops in their fields, producing some of the best novels, essays, films, short stories, stage plays, and poems of all time. While many have stood the test of time and are firmly represented in the literary canon, it remains to be seen whether more contemporary American authors of the 21st Century will be remembered in decades to come. Vote up your the absolute best, and please add any famous American authors that are missing.

list ordered by

1
1,105 431
Mark Twain is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

2
891 382
Edgar Allan Poe is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
The Raven, The Cask of Amontillado, The Fall of the House of Usher

3
782 324
John Steinbeck is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Of Mice and Men

4
891 293
Ernest Hemingway is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea, The Sun Also Rises

5
568 271
William Faulkner is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
The Sound and the Fury, A Rose for Emily, As I Lay Dying

6
480 208
Herman Melville is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Moby Dick

7
608 237
F. Scott Fitzgerald is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
The Great Gatsby, Tender Is the Night

8
455 252
Jack London is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
The Call of the Wild, White Fang, Martin Eden

9
468 200
Kurt Vonnegut is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five

10
329 165
Nathaniel Hawthorne is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Young Goodman Brown, The Scarlet Letter, The House of Seven Gables

11
374 165
Emily Dickinson is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Wild Nights: Selected Poems

12
391 185
Ray Bradbury is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451

13
333 150
Robert Frost is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Birches, The Road Not Taken

14
312 199
Cormac McCarthy is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
All the Pretty Horses, The Road, No Country for Old Men

15
342 145
Walt Whitman is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Leaves of Grass

16
383 173
Dr. Seuss is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
The Cat in the Hat, Oh the Places You'll Go!, Green Eggs and Ham

17
347 201
J. D. Salinger is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
The Catcher in the Rye, Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey

18
276 133
Tennessee Williams is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
A Streetcar Named Desire

19
274 133
Henry David Thoreau is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Civil Disobedience, Walden

20
286 198
H.-P. Lovecraft is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
At the Mountain of Madness, The Dunwich Horror

21
217 125
Isaac Asimov is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Garvin added I, Robot, Foundation

22
200 117
Washington Irving is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Rip Van Winkle, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

23
275 106
T. S. Eliot is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
looksharp added The Waste Land, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats

24
521 323
Stephen King is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Carrie, The Shining, The Dark Tower series

25
218 161
Truman Capote is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
In Cold Blood, Breakfast at Tiffany's

26
210 114
Flannery O'Connor is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
A Good Man is Hard to Find, Everything that Rises Must Converge

27
353 191
Harper Lee is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
To Kill a Mockingbird

28
174 90
James Fenimore Cooper is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
looksharp added The Last of the Mohicans, The Last of the Mohicans, The Pilot: A Tale of the Sea

29
231 111
Ralph Waldo Emerson is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Self-Reliance

30
233 118
Arthur Miller is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
The Crucible

31
182 106
Henry James is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
The Turn of the Screw, The Portrait of a Lady

32
196 137
Philip K. Dick is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Minority Report, Total Recall, Blade Runner

33
183 155
Charles Bukowski is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Post Office, Women, Ham on Rye

34
155 74
O. Henry is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
mattpassant added The Gift of the Magi, Cabbages and Kings, The last leaf

35
157 83
Thomas Jefferson is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
2probb added The family letters of Thomas Jefferson, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 3: June 1779 to September 1780

36
149 98
Edith Wharton is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
mattpassant added Ethan Frome, The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth

37
147 77
Abraham Lincoln is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
looksharp added Lincoln on Race and Slavery, Of the People, By the People

38
181 130
Hunter S. Thompson is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72

39
133 87
Ken Kesey is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

40
111 86
Tom Wolfe is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
clash1977 added Almost Heroes, The Last American Hero, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

41
170 102
Thomas Pynchon is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
The Crying of Lot 49

42
111 40
Benjamin Franklin is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, Compleated Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin

43
133 57
Stephen Crane is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
The Red Badge of Courage, The Red Badge of Courage, Poems of Stephen Crane

44
138 81
Eugene O'Neill is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
mattpassant added The Long Voyage Home, Anna Christie, Mourning Becomes Electra

45
114 47
Thomas Paine is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
2probb added Common Sense, Rights of Man, The crisis

46
160 85
Joseph Heller is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Catch-22

47
100 52
Ralph Ellison is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
TommyLobotomy added Invisible Man, The collected essays of Ralph Ellison, Shadow and Act

48
108 46
Upton Sinclair, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
2probb added The Jungle, A World to Win, The Gnomobile

49
124 62
Raymond Chandler is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Clark Benson added Double Indemnity, Strangers on a Train, The Big Sleep

50
94 49
Frederick Douglass is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
2probb added Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave