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
1,160 460
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
937 403
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
821 342
John Steinbeck is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Of Mice and Men

4
935 313
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
598 285
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
633 246
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
500 223
Herman Melville is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Moby Dick

8
476 258
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
495 209
Kurt Vonnegut is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five

10
392 171
Emily Dickinson is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Wild Nights: Selected Poems

11
341 173
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
411 190
Ray Bradbury is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451

13
349 154
Robert Frost is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Birches, The Road Not Taken

14
332 205
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
356 150
Walt Whitman is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Leaves of Grass

16
401 176
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
360 209
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
287 138
Tennessee Williams is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
A Streetcar Named Desire

19
298 207
H.-P. Lovecraft is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
At the Mountain of Madness, The Dunwich Horror

20
282 141
Henry David Thoreau is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Civil Disobedience, Walden

21
230 131
Isaac Asimov is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Garvin added I, Robot, Foundation

22
231 163
Truman Capote is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
In Cold Blood, Breakfast at Tiffany's

23
549 335
Stephen King is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Carrie, The Shining, The Dark Tower series

24
283 109
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
206 123
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
367 195
Harper Lee is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
To Kill a Mockingbird

27
218 119
Flannery O'Connor is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
A Good Man is Hard to Find, Everything that Rises Must Converge

28
181 93
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
244 121
Arthur Miller is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
The Crucible

30
191 107
Henry James is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
The Turn of the Screw, The Portrait of a Lady

31
235 117
Ralph Waldo Emerson is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Self-Reliance

32
203 140
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
190 160
Charles Bukowski is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Post Office, Women, Ham on Rye

34
165 77
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
156 100
Edith Wharton is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
mattpassant added Ethan Frome, The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth

36
161 85
Thomas Jefferson is listed (or ranked) 36 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

37
153 79
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
117 88
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
138 88
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
187 132
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
139 58
Stephen Crane is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
The Red Badge of Courage, The Red Badge of Courage, Poems of Stephen Crane

42
174 105
Thomas Pynchon is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
The Crying of Lot 49

43
116 43
Benjamin Franklin is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, Compleated Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin

44
121 48
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
142 83
Eugene O'Neill is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
mattpassant added The Long Voyage Home, Anna Christie, Mourning Becomes Electra

46
166 88
Joseph Heller is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Catch-22

47
102 50
Frederick Douglass is listed (or ranked) 47 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

48
105 56
Ralph Ellison is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
TommyLobotomy added Invisible Man, The collected essays of Ralph Ellison, Shadow and Act

49
130 61
James Baldwin is listed (or ranked) 49 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

50
112 49
Upton Sinclair, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
2probb added The Jungle, A World to Win, The Gnomobile