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, 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 many that are missing.
list ordered by

1
640 238
Mark Twain is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Mark Twain The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

2
547 207
Edgar Allan Poe is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Edgar Allan Poe The Raven, The Cask of Amontillado, The Fall of the House of Usher

3
463 185
John Steinbeck is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
John Steinbeck Of Mice and Men

4
536 161
Ernest Hemingway is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Ernest Hemingway For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea, The Sun Also Rises

5
364 153
William Faulkner is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
William Faulkner The Sound and the Fury, A Rose for Emily, As I Lay Dying

6
385 132
F. Scott Fitzgerald is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby, Tender Is the Night

7
294 131
Herman Melville is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Herman Melville Moby Dick

8
284 142
Jack London is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Jack London The Call of the Wild, White Fang, Martin Eden

9
313 118
Kurt Vonnegut is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Kurt Vonnegut Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five

10
239 104
Emily Dickinson is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Emily Dickinson Wild Nights: Selected Poems

11
195 114
Nathaniel Hawthorne is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Nathaniel Hawthorne Young Goodman Brown, The Scarlet Letter, The House of Seven Gables

12
215 92
Robert Frost is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Robert Frost Birches, The Road Not Taken

13
242 116
Ray Bradbury is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Ray Bradbury The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451

14
194 118
Cormac McCarthy is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Cormac McCarthy All the Pretty Horses, The Road, No Country for Old Men

The Greatest American Novels

15
235 117
J. D. Salinger is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
J. D. Salinger The Catcher in the Rye, Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey

16
226 94
Walt Whitman is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Walt Whitman Leaves of Grass

17
186 121
H.-P. Lovecraft is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
H. P. Lovecraft At the Mountain of Madness, The Dunwich Horror

18
167 84
Henry David Thoreau is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Henry David Thoreau Civil Disobedience, Walden

19
216 116
Dr. Seuss is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Dr. Seuss The Cat in the Hat, Oh the Places You'll Go!, Green Eggs and Ham

20
171 73
T. S. Eliot is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
looksharp added T. S. Eliot The Waste Land, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats

21
121 67
Isaac Asimov is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Garvin added Isaac Asimov I, Robot, Foundation

The Best Novels About World War 2

22
177 95
Tennessee Williams is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire

23
323 202
Stephen King is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Stephen King Carrie, The Shining, The Dark Tower series

24
133 99
Truman Capote is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Truman Capote In Cold Blood, Breakfast at Tiffany's

25
119 73
Washington Irving is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Washington Irving Rip Van Winkle, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

26
161 80
Arthur Miller is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Arthur Miller The Crucible

27
147 71
Ralph Waldo Emerson is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Ralph Waldo Emerson Self-Reliance

28
125 71
Flannery O'Connor is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Flannery O'Connor A Good Man is Hard to Find, Everything that Rises Must Converge

The Best American Poets

29
125 59
Thomas Pynchon is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Thomas Pynchon The Crying of Lot 49

30
223 126
Harper Lee is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird

31
112 76
Henry James is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Henry James The Turn of the Screw, The Portrait of a Lady

32
127 89
Philip K. Dick is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Philip K. Dick Minority Report, Total Recall, Blade Runner

33
93 64
Edith Wharton is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
mattpassant added Edith Wharton Ethan Frome, The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth

34
114 99
Charles Bukowski is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Charles Bukowski Post Office, Women, Ham on Rye

35
102 52
Joseph Heller is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Joseph Heller Catch-22

The Most Heartbreaking Novels Ever Written

36
86 40
O. Henry is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
mattpassant added O. Henry The Gift of the Magi, Cabbages and Kings, The last leaf

37
98 52
James Fenimore Cooper is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
looksharp added James Fenimore Cooper The Last of the Mohicans, The Last of the Mohicans, The Pilot: A Tale of the Sea

38
97 54
Eugene O'Neill is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
mattpassant added Eugene O'Neill The Long Voyage Home, Anna Christie, Mourning Becomes Electra

39
69 34
Raymond Chandler is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Clark Benson added Raymond Chandler Double Indemnity, Strangers on a Train, The Big Sleep

40
82 45
Willa Cather is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
looksharp added Willa Cather Death Comes for the Archbishop, A Lost Lady, My √Āntonia

41
100 61
John Updike is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
John Updike Rabbit Run, Rabbit at Rest, Rabbit is Rich

42
73 39
Thomas Jefferson is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
2probb added Thomas Jefferson The family letters of Thomas Jefferson, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 3: June 1779 to September 1780

Famous Irish American Writers

43
104 65
Sylvia Plath is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Sylvia Plath The Bell Jar

44
108 83
Hunter S. Thompson is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Hunter S. Thompson Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72

45
50 21
Upton Sinclair, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
2probb added Upton Sinclair, Jr. The Jungle, A World to Win, The Gnomobile

46
63 55
Tom Wolfe is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
clash1977 added Tom Wolfe Almost Heroes, The Last American Hero, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

47
77 58
Ken Kesey is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Ken Kesey One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

48
56 61
William S. Burroughs is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
mattpassant added William S. Burroughs Drugstore Cowboy, Naked Lunch, Junkie

49
62 44
Henry Miller is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
mattpassant added Henry Miller Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, Sexus

50
90 39
E. B. White is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
E. B. White Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, The Elements of Style