During the 19th and 20th centuries, the United States produced several literary geniuses whose works defined and shaped Americana. You will likely find your favorites and perhaps discover new ones among this list of famous American authors.
1. Mark Twain
Birthdate: November 30, 1835
Birthplace: Florida, Missouri, United States
Died: April 21, 1910
Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Twain left school after the fifth grade to start a printer apprenticeship. He later received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Oxford in 1907. Twain achieved acclaim and money after writing humorous tall tales, like the Jumping Frog story published in New York’s The Saturday Press.
- The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (1867)
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)
- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
2. F. Scott Fitzgerald
Birthdate: September 24, 1896
Birthplace: Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States
Died: December 21, 1940
Fitzgerald’s early education at St. Paul Academy and Newman School prepared him for a writing career. He then attended Princeton University, although he left to join the army during World War I.
- This Side of Paradise (1920)
- The Great Gatsby (1925)
- Tender is the Night (1934)
3. Ernest Hemingway
Birthdate: July 21, 1899
Birthplace: Oak Park, Illinois, United States
Died: July 2, 1961
Hemingway received the 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature. He had been nominated three times previously. It celebrated his influence on contemporary writing, with “The Old Man and the Sea” cited as the most recent example.
- The Sun Also Rises (1926)
- A Farewell to Arms (1929)
- For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940)
4. Toni Morrison
Birthdate: February 18, 1931
Birthplace: Lorain, Ohio, United States
Died: August 5, 2019
Chloe Ardelia Morrison, or Toni Morrison, got her B.A. in English from Howard University and her Master of Arts from Cornell University.
She received several accolades in her lifetime, including the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1977, the Pulitzer Prize in 1987, the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.
- Sula (1973)
- Song of Solomon (1977)
- Beloved (1987)
5. J.D. Salinger
Birthdate: January 1, 1919
Birthplace: Manhatten, New York, United States
Died: January 27, 2010
Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” built a reputation as one of the greatest novels of the last century. It is #15 on the BBC’s The Big Read while making both Time Magazine’s and Modern Library’s list of top 100 English novels of the 20th century.
- A Perfect Day for Bananafish (1948)
- The Catcher in the Rye (1951)
- Nine Stories (1953)
6. Edgar Allan Poe
Birthdate: January 19, 1809
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: October 7, 1849
Poe is considered the first American writer to earn a living from his works. History looks back to him as one of the famous American authors for his poetry, pioneering work in science fiction, and the invention of the detective fiction genre.
- The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841)
- Lenore (1843)
- The Raven (1845)
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