Famous 21st Century American Writers

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou
11
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: April 4, 1928
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Died: May 28, 2014
Poet, author, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou was a champion for black feminism and is best remembered for her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sing. The recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and over 50 honorary degrees was also a child sex abuse survivor.

 2 Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky
10
Famous As: Linguist
Birthdate: December 7, 1928
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Regarded by many as the father of modern linguistics, Noam Chomsky has authored over 100 books on varied topics, such as politics, linguistics, and war. A multi-talented personality, Noam Chomsky is considered a popular figure in analytic philosophy. Apart from influencing a wide array of academic fields, he has also contributed to the development of cognitivism.

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 3 George R. R. Martin

George R. R. Martin
12
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: September 20, 1948
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Bayonne, New Jersey, United States
George R. R. Martin wrote the epic fantasy series of novels, A Song of Ice and Fire, which inspired the iconic Emmy-winning HBO series Game of Thrones. Also known as the "American Tolkien," he was featured on TIME 100. He has earned the Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker awards, too.

 4 Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut
5
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: November 11, 1922
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Died: April 11, 2007

Science-fiction author Kurt Vonnegut is best remembered for the novel Slaughterhouse-Five, which became a New York Times bestseller. The Hugo Award-winner had also fought against the Germans in World War II and expressed his anti-war and atheist views through his works, which also include short stories, plays, and autobiographical works.  

 5 David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: February 21, 1962
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Ithaca, New York, United States
Died: September 12, 2008

David Foster Wallace was an American author who is regarded as one of the most innovative and influential writers of the past 20 years. His best-known work, Infinite Jest, was named one of the best English-language novels between 1923 and 2005 by Time magazine. Wallace continues to serve as an inspiration to writers like Darin Strauss and George Saunders.

 6 Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison
6
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: February 18, 1931
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lorain, Ohio
Died: August 5, 2019
Author, editor, and Princeton professor Toni Morrison is best remembered for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Beloved, part of a trilogy. Some of her other notable works include The Bluest Eye and Song of Solomon. She received the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature. She also wrote several children’s books and plays.

 7 John Grisham

John Grisham
7
Famous As: American writer
Birthdate: February 8, 1955
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Jonesboro, Arkansas
Criminal lawyer-turned-author John Grisham is known for his bestselling legal thrillers The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Rainmaker, and A Time to Kill. Nine of his novels have been made into films. He is one of three authors to have sold 2 million copies in his first printing.
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 8 Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell
4
Famous As: Writer, Journalist
Birthdate: September 3, 1963
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Fareham, Hampshire, England
Malcolm Gladwell is best known for his bestselling books The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers. He has also written for The New Yorker and The Washington Post. His writings encompass subjects such as psychology, economics, and sociology. Gladwell has also co-founded a podcast company and hosts the podcast Revisionist History.

 9 Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 22, 1920
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Waukegan, Illinois, United States
Died: June 5, 2012
Ray Bradbury is best remembered for his writings in the science-fiction, mystery, and horror genres, the most notable being the short story anthology Martian Chronicles and the novel Fahrenheit 451. He also contributed to the screenplays of various series and films, and won an Emmy for writing The Halloween Tree.

 10 Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal
9
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: October 3, 1925
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: West Point, New York, United States
Died: July 31, 2012

Gore Vidal was an American intellectual and writer. He served as a major inspiration to gays, lesbians, and bisexuals as he was openly bisexual and often incorporated LGBT characters in his novels, which was very unusual at the time. He was also known for his debates with William F. Buckley Jr., which inspired the 2015 documentary film Best of Enemies.

 11 Dan Brown

Dan Brown
6
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: June 22, 1964
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Exeter, New Hampshire, United States

Dan Brown is an American author best known for writing a series of Robert Langdon novels; three such novels, namely The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, and Inferno, have been made into films, with Tom Hanks portraying Robert Langdon in all three movies. Also known for his charity work, Dan Brown donates money to several charitable causes.

 12 Tracy Letts

Tracy Letts
6
Famous As: Actor, Screenwriter
Birthdate: July 4, 1965
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tracy Letts is a highly acclaimed American actor, screenwriter, and playwright. Letts has received several prestigious awards, including the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a couple of Tony Awards. Tracy Letts is credited with popularizing Edward Albee's play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which he revived in 2012.

 13 Philip Roth

Philip Roth
6
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: March 19, 1933
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, USA

Philip Roth was a novelist and short-story writer best remembered for creating the fictional character Nathan Zuckerman, who featured in many of his novels. The recipient of the 1997 Pulitzer Prize, he also received the inaugural Franz Kafka Prize. Roth was one of the most awarded American writers of his generation. Born a Jew, he became an atheist later on.

 14 James Watson

James Watson
4
Famous As: Molecular Biologist
Birthdate: April 6, 1928
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States

James Watson is a geneticist, molecular biologist, and zoologist. He is credited with co-authoring the academic paper that propounded the double helix structure of nucleic acids such as DNA for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962. In 1977, he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1997, he was awarded the National Medal of Science.

 15 Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy
4
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: July 20, 1933
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Providence, Rhode Island, United States
Renonwed as one of the most gifted contemporary writers, Cormac McCarthy is distinguished for his unique writing style and graphic depictions of violence. His novels depict wayward characters in the rural American South and Southwest. He shot to fame with his novel All The Pretty Horses and bagged in Pulitzer Prize for his post-apocalyptic novel The Road.

 16 Neil Simon

Neil Simon
5
Famous As: Playwright & Screenwriter
Birthdate: July 4, 1927
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: The Bronx, New York
Died: August 26, 2018

 17 Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates
4
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: September 30, 1975
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates gained international prominence while serving as the national correspondent at The Atlantic. His writings on socio-political issues related to African Americans and white supremacy garnered him much appreciation. He is a recipient of the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center Prize for Writing to Advance Social Justice. He also writes fiction and comics.

 18 Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 2, 1942
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Lima
Chilean author Isabel Allende is known for her bestselling Spanish-language novels The House of the Spirits and City of the Beasts. The Chilean National Literature Prize-winner explores women’s perspectives and includes magic realism and autobiographical aspects in her works. She has also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 19 Jon Krakauer

Jon Krakauer
4
Famous As: Journalist, Explorer, Writer
Birthdate: April 12, 1954
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Brookline, Massachusetts, United States

 20 Stephen King

Stephen King
14
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: September 21, 1947
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Portland, Maine

One of the most popular American authors, Stephen King has sold over 350 million copies of his works. Many of his books have been adapted into television series, miniseries, and films. One of the most decorated authors, King believes in giving back to society as he and his wife are noted philanthropists.

 21 Stan Lee

Stan Lee
10
Famous As: Creator of Daredevil, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Thor, X-Men
Birthdate: December 28, 1922
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States
Died: November 12, 2018

Stan Lee was one of the most popular comic book writers, thanks to his appearances in several Marvel movies. He is well-known as the co-creator of many famous superheroes, including Iron Man, Spider-Man, and the Hulk. He pioneered a naturalistic method to writing superhero comics and challenged the Comics Code Authority, which ultimately led to changes in its policies.

 22 David Mamet

David Mamet
6
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: November 30, 1947
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Author, screenwriter, and playwright David Mamet is best known for his Pulitzer-winning and Tony-nominated play Glengarry Glen Ross. He has written for many Broadway and off-Broadway plays and also for films such as House of Games. He has produced and written for the show The Unit and authored several books.

 23 Steve Martin

Steve Martin
4
Famous As: Comedian
Birthdate: August 14, 1945
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Waco, Texas, United States

A man of many talents, Steve Martin is a successful comedian, actor, and musician. In 2004, he was ranked sixth in Comedy Central's 100 greatest stand-up comics list. Despite achieving great fame and success as a comedian and actor, Steve decided to pursue a career in music and began appearing seldom in films to record and tour with bluegrass acts.

 24 Viggo Mortensen

Viggo Mortensen
5
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: October 20, 1958
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Watertown, New York, United States

Danish-American actor, Viggo Mortensen, is best known for portraying the role of Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Some of his other films are A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, Captain Fantastic and Green Book. He is also an author of various books on poetry, photography and painting.

 25 John Mulaney

John Mulaney
4
Famous As: Comedian
Birthdate: August 26, 1982
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Former SNL writer John Mulaney is best known for his Comedy Central special New in Town and his Fox series Mulaney. The Emmy Award-winning stand-up comedian plays George St. Geegland in a comedy duo. He has also voiced Peter Porker/Spider-Ham in the Oscar-winning movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

 26 Lisa Kudrow

Lisa Kudrow
6
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: July 30, 1963
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Encino, Los Angeles, California, United States

An actress, writer, singer, and comedian, Lisa Kudrow gained international fame for portraying the iconic character Phoebe Buffay in one of the most popular American sitcoms of all time - Friends. She is also one of the highest-grossing film actresses as her movies have grossed more than $2 billion worldwide.

 27 Jordan Belfort

Jordan Belfort
4
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: July 9, 1962
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: The Bronx, New York, United States
The former stock broker, who was convicted for stock-market manipulation and cheating several investors, Jordan Belfort spent 22 months in prison before he was released and altered his way of living. Using his life experiences, he became a motivational speaker and also authored two memoirs, one of which, The Wolf of Wall Street, was adapted into an award winning film.

 28 Fran Drescher

Fran Drescher
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: September 30, 1957
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Kew Gardens, New York, United States

Fran Drescher is an American actress and comedian. Characterized by her thick New York accent and nasal voice, Fran Drescher serves as an inspiration to many cancer patients as she successfully fought off the disease after suffering from uterine cancer. She is also an outspoken LGBT rights activist and healthcare advocate.

 29 Common

Common
4
Famous As: Rapper
Birthdate: March 13, 1972
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: South Side, Chicago, Illinois, United States

 30 Larry David

Larry David
4
Famous As: Comedian
Birthdate: July 2, 1947
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Comedian, writer, actor, director, and television producer Larry David is best known as the co-creator of the television series Seinfeld. He discovered his talent for comedy as a college student and began his career as a stand-up performer. After a few years of struggle, he achieved success and went on to become an accomplished actor, director, and producer.

 31 Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins
4
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: February 29, 1960
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: North Hollywood, California, United States
Named one of Accenture’s Top 50 Business Intellectuals, motivational speaker, author, and philanthropist Tony Robbins is best known for books such as Awaken the Giant Within. His workshop Unleash The Power Within features a fire-walking exercise. He owns the Anthony Robbins Foundation and co-owns the Robbins-Madanes Center for Intervention.

 32 Bob Woodward

Bob Woodward
4
Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: March 26, 1943
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Geneva, Illinois, United States

 33 Danai Gurira

Danai Gurira
18
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: February 14, 1978
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Grinnell, Iowa
Danai Gurira is best known as Michonne from The Walking Dead and as Okoye from the Marvel films Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame. She earned a Tony nomination for writing the Broadway play Eclipsed. She has been a UN Goodwill Ambassador and promotes arts and women empowerment.

 34 David McCallum

David McCallum
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: September 19, 1933
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland

David McCallum is a Scottish musician and actor who gained recognition for portraying Illya Kuryakin in the popular spy fiction TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. He gained international recognition for playing Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard in the action police procedural TV series NCIS. David McCallum has also contributed as a writer, publishing a novel titled Once a Crooked Man.

 35 Ted Kennedy

Ted Kennedy
4
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: February 22, 1932
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Dorchester, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: August 25, 2009

The brother of President John F. Kennedy, Ted Kennedy played an important role in American politics during his term as a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, a position which he served for almost 47 years. He was the fourth-longest-continuously-serving senator in the history of the United States. He was regarded as a major spokesman for American progressivism.

 36 Mara Wilson

Mara Wilson
8
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: July 24, 1987
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Burbank, California, United States

Mara Wilson stole the hearts of many with her performance as a child actress in films like Mrs. Doubtfire, Miracle on 34th Street, and Matilda. After growing up, she decided to pursue a career as a writer. In one of her interviews, she spoke about her mental illnesses, including OCD, depression, and anxiety. She also came out as bisexual.

 37 John Leguizamo

John Leguizamo
4
Famous As: Actor, Stand-up Comedian
Birthdate: July 22, 1964
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Bogotá, Colombia

John Leguizamo is a popular stand-up comedian and actor who is credited with voicing Sid the Sloth in the Ice Age film series. Over the years, John Leguizamo has also played a major role in helping the Hispanic community and has been honored by organizations, such as the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors.

 38 David Sedaris

David Sedaris
4
Famous As: Humorist
Birthdate: December 26, 1956
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Johnson City, New York, United States

 39 Regis Philbin

Regis Philbin
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 25, 1931
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: The Bronx, New York, United States

 40 Octavia Spencer

Octavia Spencer
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: May 25, 1972
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Montgomery, Alabama, United States

 41 Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier
4
Birthdate: February 20, 1927
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Miami, Florida, U.S.

Sidney Poitier is a Bahamian-American actor who became the first Afro-Bahamian and Black male actor to receive an Oscar for Best Actor in 1964. In 2009, he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His life and work inspired a couple of documentary films, including the 2008 film Sidney Poitier, an Outsider in Hollywood.

 42 Francis Ford Coppola

Francis Ford Coppola
4
Famous As: FilmMaker
Birthdate: April 7, 1939
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Francis Ford Coppola is an American filmmaker. Widely regarded as one of the greatest filmmakers ever, Francis Ford Coppola was a prominent figure in the Hollywood Renaissance filmmaking movement of the 1960s and 1970s. A much revered and celebrated filmmaker, he is credited with directing some of the greatest films of all time, including The Godfather movie series.

 43 Joel McHale

Joel McHale
4
Famous As: Comedian, Actor
Birthdate: November 20, 1971
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Rome

Actor, comedian, and producer Joel McHale is best known for hosting the television series The Soup. He was interested in sports as a young boy but shifted his focus to acting while in college and earned his master's degree in acting. Even though he is more popular as a television actor, he has appeared in many films too.

 44 Angela Davis

Angela Davis
4
Famous As: Political Activist
Birthdate: January 26, 1944
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Birmingham

Activist, philosopher, academic and author, Angela Davis is a founding member of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS). She has worked in the areas of feminism, class, race and the US prison system. She has also received criticism for supporting the erstwhile Soviet Union and has been accused of supporting political violence.

 45 Gene Hackman

Gene Hackman
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: January 30, 1930
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: San Bernardino, California, United States

For someone who was voted by his acting school peers as 'The Least Likely To Succeed', Gene Hackman went on to have a remarkable acting career spanning around half a century with multiple prestigious awards. His notable films include Bonnie and Clyde, The French Connection, Unforgiven, Mississippi Burning and The Royal Tenenbaums. Apart from acting, Gene Hackman is also a novelist and has written six books.

 46 Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes
6
Famous As: Television Producer
Birthdate: January 13, 1970
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Chicago

Shonda Rhimes is a screenwriter, author, and television producer. She is credited with creating, writing, and executive producing one of the most popular American medical drama TV series ever, Grey's Anatomy. She is also credited with creating series like Private Practice and Scandal. In 2007, she was named in Time magazine's list of 100 People Who Help Shape the World.

 47 Mick Mars

Mick Mars
4
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: May 4, 1951
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States
Mick Mars gained fame as the guitarist for the heavy metal band Mötley Crüe and came to be known for his aggressive style of playing the instrument. He has also written songs for bands such as Crashdïet. He has suffered from ankylosing spondylitis since his teenage years. 

 48 Zoe Kazan

Zoe Kazan
5
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: September 9, 1983
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, USA

 49 Hoda Kotb

Hoda Kotb
4
Famous As: Journalist, Author, TV Anchor
Birthdate: August 9, 1964
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Norman, Oklahoma
Egyptian-American TV journalist Hoda Kotb is best known as the co-host of the shows NBC Morning Show, Dateline NBC, Today. Named to Time 100, she has also authored several books, including a bestselling autobiography. A breast cancer survivor, she now also works to raise awareness about the disease.

 50 John Green

John Green
4
Famous As: Author, Vlogger
Birthdate: August 24, 1977
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
John Green soared to fame with his bestselling novel The Fault in Our Stars, which was turned into a movie. His other notable works include the novels Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska. Also a prominent YouTuber, he manages the channel Vlogbrothers and has co-founded the educational channel Crash Course.