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
704 269
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
591 235
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
502 207
John Steinbeck is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
John Steinbeck Of Mice and Men

4
596 183
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
397 173
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
422 154
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
323 148
Herman Melville is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Herman Melville Moby Dick

8
325 159
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
341 130
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
217 125
Nathaniel Hawthorne is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Nathaniel Hawthorne Young Goodman Brown, The Scarlet Letter, The House of Seven Gables

11
263 112
Emily Dickinson is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Emily Dickinson Wild Nights: Selected Poems

12
235 103
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
266 125
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
216 132
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

Famous Schizophrenics

15
204 133
H.-P. Lovecraft is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
H. P. Lovecraft At the Mountain of Madness, The Dunwich Horror

16
244 100
Walt Whitman is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Walt Whitman Leaves of Grass

17
255 130
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
135 73
Isaac Asimov is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Garvin added Isaac Asimov I, Robot, Foundation

19
238 127
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
182 91
Henry David Thoreau is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Henry David Thoreau Civil Disobedience, Walden

21
192 99
Tennessee Williams is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire

The Best African American Poets of All Time

22
187 79
T. S. Eliot is listed (or ranked) 22 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

23
148 108
Truman Capote is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Truman Capote In Cold Blood, Breakfast at Tiffany's

24
131 79
Washington Irving is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Washington Irving Rip Van Winkle, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

25
345 225
Stephen King is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Stephen King Carrie, The Shining, The Dark Tower series

26
164 76
Ralph Waldo Emerson is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Ralph Waldo Emerson Self-Reliance

27
129 104
Charles Bukowski is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Charles Bukowski Post Office, Women, Ham on Rye

28
138 77
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

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die

29
169 85
Arthur Miller is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Arthur Miller The Crucible

30
122 83
Henry James is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Henry James The Turn of the Screw, The Portrait of a Lady

31
243 136
Harper Lee is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird

32
135 96
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
131 67
Thomas Pynchon is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Thomas Pynchon The Crying of Lot 49

34
100 72
Edith Wharton is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
mattpassant added Edith Wharton Ethan Frome, The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth

35
114 56
Joseph Heller is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Joseph Heller Catch-22

The Best Novelists of All Time

36
96 46
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
110 57
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
79 37
Raymond Chandler is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Clark Benson added Raymond Chandler Double Indemnity, Strangers on a Train, The Big Sleep

39
76 60
Tom Wolfe is listed (or ranked) 39 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

40
86 42
Thomas Jefferson is listed (or ranked) 40 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

41
105 59
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
120 87
Hunter S. Thompson is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Hunter S. Thompson Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72

All of Sue Grafton's Kinsey Milhone Books, Ranked Best to Worst

43
89 61
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
111 68
John Updike is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
John Updike Rabbit Run, Rabbit at Rest, Rabbit is Rich

45
64 66
William S. Burroughs is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
mattpassant added William S. Burroughs Drugstore Cowboy, Naked Lunch, Junkie

46
113 71
Sylvia Plath is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
Sylvia Plath The Bell Jar

47
89 52
Willa Cather is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
looksharp added Willa Cather Death Comes for the Archbishop, A Lost Lady, My √Āntonia

48
56 61
Norman Mailer is listed (or ranked) 48 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

49
102 43
E. B. White is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
E. B. White Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, The Elements of Style

50
56 26
Upton Sinclair, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest American Writers of All Time
2probb added Upton Sinclair, Jr. The Jungle, A World to Win, The Gnomobile