16 Famous Short Story Authors and Their Best Stories

Short stories are short pieces of fiction focused on a single plot, character, setting, and theme. Since the 1800s, famous short story authors have left their mark on literary history, preserved in books and other publications.

Edgar Allan Poe

picture of Edgar Allan Poe, a well-known poet.

The influential short story writer was born in 1809. At 24, he wrote “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” which set him on course as one of the most critically acclaimed writers ever. Edgar Allan later gained fame for his dark tales such as:

Despite winning awards and selling out newspapers, Poe didn’t receive much recognition until after his death in 1849. Poe’s legacy lives on today, with media adaptations and literature classes studying his work.

Aside from being a short story writer, Edgar Allan Poe is also one of the most famous poets in the world.

Mark Twain

This prolific author was a master of satire and a genius for creating unforgettable characters. He gained international fame for works like “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Humorous Tales” and “The Million Pound Bank Note.”

Twain also wrote scathingly honest social commentaries and admired lectures on various topics. He was also a fierce abolitionist, growing up on the border between free Missouri and slave-owning states. Newspaper stories he wrote while traveling the globe were popular reads. The American literature giant grew up as Samuel Clemens and died in 1910.

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway was a Nobel Prize-winning journalist and hunter who greatly influenced 20th-century literature. Born in Oak Park, Illinois, he began his career as a writer while working as an ambulance driver during World War I. His works were known for their simplicity of language and modern themes. 

Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for Literature for “The Old Man and the Sea” in 1954. Hemingway was also well known for his adventurous lifestyle, hunting abroad, and fishing expeditions. Some of his other notable works include: 

  • A Farewell to Arms (1929)
  • For Whom The Bell Tolls (1940)
  • The Sun Also Rises (1926)

Virginia Woolf

The iconic English author became one of the famous short story authors thanks to her modernist writing style. She was a member of the Bloomsbury Group and wrote prose works such as “The Voyage Out ” (1915) and “Mrs. Dalloway” (1925). 

Her ground-breaking book “A Room of One’s Own” (1929) argued for equal opportunity for women in literature and brought the issue to international attention. 

She unhappily suffered from bouts of mental illness throughout her life, culminating in her death by drowning. 

James Joyce

Joyce was an Irish novelist, poet, and playwright. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential writers, celebrated worldwide for using the novelistic technique in his novels. 

A driving force behind modernism and a revered figure to both English language literature enthusiasts and postmodernist critics, Joyce published many short stories in magazines. He eternally remains one of history’s most profound minds whose works continue to shape literature seen everywhere today.

Ambrose Bierce

This celebrated American author’s career covered the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His writing style, which could be both cynical and darkly humorous, garnered him a strong following of devoted readers. Bierce’s most famous works include Killed at Resacaand Beyond the Wall. 

Still, he also wrote poetry, fiction, plays, essays, reviews, and letters and was widely acclaimed for his work in investigative journalism. Bierce penned several iconic war stories, such as “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” which many consider one of the most significant pieces of American literature. 

James Baldwin

James Baldwin’s works elaborated on themes of racial inequality, sexuality, and religious issues during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Born in 1924 in New York City, Baldwin struggled with his identity as an openly gay black man in America. He’s best known for his works, such as “Going to Meet the Man and “The Outing“.

Most of his works focused on human relationships with truth and morality during a difficult period in US history. In addition, he gave powerful speeches discussing social justice issues through his words and advocacy for African American rights. During the latter years of his life, he became popular globally due to his genius writing skills and charitable causes.

Flannery O’Connor

The passionate American writer loved to depict the Southern lifestyle from her Catholic faith-infused perspective. Flannery O’Connor was born in 1925 in Georgia and published two books of short stories and two novels during her lifetime – “Wise Blood ” and “The Violent Bear It Away.”

O’Connor also wrote numerous letters and nonfictional essays that were later collected and published. Her works earned many prestigious awards, including the National Book Award (1972) and the National Medal of Arts in 1996. 

George Saunders

Sander’s unique blending of humor and pathos makes him one of today’s most famous short story authors. He has written stories, essays, novellas, novels, children’s books, and screenplays which have won him critical acclaim from critics. He penned the National Magazine Award-winning work early in his career, later expanding into a novel. 

His “Tenth of December” publication was a significant turnaround for his career. George recently won The Man Booker Prize for his 2017 book and received numerous other awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship in 2006.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This Scottish writer became famous for creating the legendary detective Sherlock Holmes. Although he published over 200 works, including novels, poems, plays, and nonfiction, many know him for his 66 detective stories.

He also wrote popular historical romances such as “The White Company” (1891) and produced formidable science fiction tales such as “The Lost World” (1912). Doyle was a pioneering author in crime writer who used real-life issues to create compelling mysteries. 

Despite being immensely successful as an author, Doyle held firm religious beliefs, which led him to become a spiritualist advocate. 

Kate Chopin

Chopin began writing in the late 1890s after being inspired by local folk stories, Creole culture, and other famous short story authors. 

Her “The Awakening” is a forerunner to modern feminist literature, revealing feelings of freedom among women living in oppressive environments. Other works include: 

Several short story collections were published posthumously. Despite initial criticism for their focus on female sexuality and free will, many consider her a trailblazer for feminist writers.

Raymond Carver

Raymond Carver was a celebrated American short story writer, poet, and essayist. He associated his work with the “dirty realism” writing style due to its focus on ordinary people. They explore complex themes such as loneliness, depression, and alcoholism. 

Carver began his career in small magazines throughout the United States before having his first book published in 1976. He won an O. Henry award for “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” in 1981. He also received a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize and later died from cancer in 1988.

Shirley Jackson

This hugely influential figure is known for her works that blend horror, psychological terror, and black comedy. She became famous due to her short story “The Lottery.” 

Born in San Francisco, she grew up in Rochester before graduating from Syracuse University with a degree in English. She later moved to North Bennington, Vermont, where she’s written most of her works, which would become literary classics. 

An ardent feminist who wrote about women’s inner lives in ways unheard of for their time, it’s no surprise her legacy continues. Jackson died at her Vermont home from natural causes on August 8th, 1965.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Charlotte was an American feminist, scholar, novelist, and social reformer who advocated for women’s rights to employment and education. She is best known for her short story “The Yellow Wallpaper ” (1892), which discusses a woman’s mental health struggles. 

Gilman also wrote nonfiction works exploring issues of sex and gender roles. She wrote over two hundred poems and hundreds of other pieces on various social reform-related topics. Her efforts in influencing the world through scholarly works helped advance the cause of women everywhere during this historic time.

Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov is widely considered one of the famous short story authors, alongside Alexandr Ostrovsky and Nikolai Gogol. Born in 1860, he initially worked as a physician while writing short stories. Consequently, he marked 19th-century literature with short stories such as “The Darling” and “Vanka.”

He later turned his attention to plays, producing some of his most notable works. Additionally, he wrote over 500 letters collected in 1952 and can provide insight into his life and work as a writer. His stories often used understatement to make an emotional impression rather than relying on dialogue or plot.

Washington Irving

This legendary figure is one of the earliest American writers to combine influences of his home country and Britain successfully. He rose to fame with tales like “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” which not only spoke to the spirit of the people at that time but have become iconic cultural touchstones in the present day. 

Outside of writing, Washington was also an accomplished businessman and diplomat, becoming the United States ambassador to Spain from 1842-1846. As a result, Irving kept very close relationships with many influential figures, including William Cullen Bryant and James Fenimore Cooper. He broadened the literature palette through clever wordplay and sketches derived from local stories or European folklore. 

Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka was a German-speaking Bohemian novelist regarded as one of the most famous short story writers of the 20th century. Born in 1883 in Prague, his works often reflect alienation, anxiety, and isolation themes. He wrote extensively on existential topics and used his writing to address political tyranny and bureaucracy. 

Many of his works remained incomplete at his death. Kafka’s influence can still be seen today in literature, philosophy, film, visual arts, and beyond, despite his limited recognition during his lifetime. He died in 1924 after suffering from tuberculosis.

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