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
794 306
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
648 273
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
555 244
John Steinbeck is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
John Steinbeck Of Mice and Men

4
439 192
William Faulkner is listed (or ranked) 4 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

5
653 213
Ernest Hemingway is listed (or ranked) 5 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

6
463 167
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
360 161
Herman Melville is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Herman Melville Moby Dick

8
350 183
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
290 118
Emily Dickinson is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Emily Dickinson Wild Nights: Selected Poems

10
362 144
Kurt Vonnegut is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Kurt Vonnegut Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five

11
236 131
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
255 114
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
288 135
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
232 145
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

Celebrities Who Were Rich Before They Were Famous

15
267 106
Walt Whitman is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Walt Whitman Leaves of Grass

16
224 148
H.-P. Lovecraft is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
H. P. Lovecraft At the Mountain of Madness, The Dunwich Horror

17
269 146
J. D. Salinger is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
J. D. Salinger The Catcher in the Rye, Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey

18
265 136
Dr. Seuss is listed (or ranked) 18 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

19
210 84
T. S. Eliot is listed (or ranked) 19 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

20
210 105
Tennessee Williams is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire

21
154 85
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 African American Poets of All Time

22
197 100
Henry David Thoreau is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Henry David Thoreau Civil Disobedience, Walden

23
145 87
Washington Irving is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Washington Irving Rip Van Winkle, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

24
162 121
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
184 87
Ralph Waldo Emerson is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Ralph Waldo Emerson Self-Reliance

26
139 90
Henry James is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Henry James The Turn of the Screw, The Portrait of a Lady

27
368 247
Stephen King is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Stephen King Carrie, The Shining, The Dark Tower series

28
182 92
Arthur Miller is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Arthur Miller The Crucible

20 Books to Read in Your 20s

29
151 87
Flannery O'Connor is listed (or ranked) 29 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

30
140 117
Charles Bukowski is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Charles Bukowski Post Office, Women, Ham on Rye

31
261 150
Harper Lee is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird

32
147 107
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
113 79
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
141 76
Thomas Pynchon is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Thomas Pynchon The Crying of Lot 49

35
124 63
Joseph Heller is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Joseph Heller Catch-22

The All-Time Greatest Works of Stephen King

36
108 53
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
121 65
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
102 51
Thomas Jefferson is listed (or ranked) 38 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

39
133 94
Hunter S. Thompson is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Hunter S. Thompson Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72

40
124 71
John Updike is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
John Updike Rabbit Run, Rabbit at Rest, Rabbit is Rich

41
113 62
Eugene O'Neill is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
mattpassant added Eugene O'Neill The Long Voyage Home, Anna Christie, Mourning Becomes Electra

42
87 44
Raymond Chandler is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Clark Benson added Raymond Chandler Double Indemnity, Strangers on a Train, The Big Sleep

Super Popular Movies That Were Unfaithful Adaptations

43
98 67
Ken Kesey is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Ken Kesey One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

44
82 68
Tom Wolfe is listed (or ranked) 44 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

45
90 48
Abraham Lincoln is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
looksharp added Abraham Lincoln Lincoln on Race and Slavery, Of the People, By the People

46
69 29
Upton Sinclair, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
2probb added Upton Sinclair, Jr. The Jungle, A World to Win, The Gnomobile

47
115 47
E. B. White is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
E. B. White Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, The Elements of Style

48
98 57
Willa Cather is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
looksharp added Willa Cather Death Comes for the Archbishop, A Lost Lady, My √Āntonia

49
120 74
Sylvia Plath is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Sylvia Plath The Bell Jar

50
63 67
Norman Mailer is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
mattpassant added Norman Mailer The Naked and the Dead, The Executioner's Song, Ancient Evenings