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
1,197 474
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
962 413
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
844 357
John Steinbeck is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Of Mice and Men

4
617 294
William Faulkner is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
The Sound and the Fury, A Rose for Emily, As I Lay Dying

5
965 327
Ernest Hemingway is listed (or ranked) 5 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

6
648 256
F. Scott Fitzgerald is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
The Great Gatsby, Tender Is the Night

7
511 230
Herman Melville is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Moby Dick

8
482 271
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
508 218
Kurt Vonnegut is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five

10
404 179
Emily Dickinson is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Wild Nights: Selected Poems

11
345 180
Nathaniel Hawthorne is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Young Goodman Brown, The Scarlet Letter, The House of Seven Gables

12
421 198
Ray Bradbury is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451

13
356 160
Robert Frost is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Birches, The Road Not Taken

14
343 210
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
365 156
Walt Whitman is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Leaves of Grass

16
412 185
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
371 219
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
306 212
H.-P. Lovecraft is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
At the Mountain of Madness, The Dunwich Horror

19
291 145
Tennessee Williams is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
A Streetcar Named Desire

20
291 147
Henry David Thoreau is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Civil Disobedience, Walden

21
236 136
Isaac Asimov is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Garvin added I, Robot, Foundation

22
561 346
Stephen King is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Carrie, The Shining, The Dark Tower series

23
236 170
Truman Capote is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
In Cold Blood, Breakfast at Tiffany's

24
293 113
T. S. Eliot is listed (or ranked) 24 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

25
212 128
Washington Irving is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Rip Van Winkle, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

26
230 123
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
378 202
Harper Lee is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
To Kill a Mockingbird

28
197 111
Henry James is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
The Turn of the Screw, The Portrait of a Lady

29
247 125
Arthur Miller is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
The Crucible

30
184 100
James Fenimore Cooper is listed (or ranked) 30 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

31
240 121
Ralph Waldo Emerson is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Self-Reliance

32
210 144
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
193 167
Charles Bukowski is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Post Office, Women, Ham on Rye

34
167 80
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
168 88
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
159 103
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
159 84
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
123 92
Tom Wolfe is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
clash1977 added Almost Heroes, The Last American Hero, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

39
141 89
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
192 137
Hunter S. Thompson is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72

41
179 109
Thomas Pynchon is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
The Crying of Lot 49

42
119 45
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
141 61
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
125 50
Thomas Paine is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
2probb added Common Sense, Rights of Man, The crisis

45
174 91
Joseph Heller is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Catch-22

46
144 87
Eugene O'Neill is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
mattpassant added The Long Voyage Home, Anna Christie, Mourning Becomes Electra

47
139 63
James Baldwin is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
2probb added Go Tell It on the Mountain, Another Country, Notes of a Native Son

48
104 52
Frederick Douglass is listed (or ranked) 48 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

49
134 67
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
108 59
Ralph Ellison is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
TommyLobotomy added Invisible Man, The collected essays of Ralph Ellison, Shadow and Act