Famous American Novelists

No high school graduate is alien to the famous nineteenth and twentieth century British classic novels like Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and Treasure Island. But come to think of this millennium and suddenly you will find the world of novels murkier and gray. While there is no dearth of classic novelists, we often find it hard to recommend a new age fiction to our book-loving cronies. So does that mean there is a dearth of new classics today? Absolutely not! America has always had a bunch of novelists — some old, some new and a few overlooked — who have given the world some great novels that shouldn’t be missed. From best-selling novelists Emma Donoghue and Colm Toibin to essential new reads from Michael Lewis and Lena Dunham, America’s novel scene is pretty fascinating. But before you dig into American classics, take a quick tour of the biographies, trivia and facts of famous American novelists.

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 Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway
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Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: July 21, 1899
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
Died: July 2, 1961

Ernest Hemingway was an American novelist and short-story writer who had a strong impact on 20th-century fiction. He published seven novels and six short-story collections and won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea are some of his classic works. He ended his own life in July 1961.

 2 George R. R. Martin

George R. R. Martin
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Famous As: Screenwriter, Novelist
Birthdate: September 20, 1948
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American
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.

 3 Mark Twain

Mark Twain Image
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: November 30, 1835
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
Died: April 21, 1910

Mark Twain, “the father of American literature,” was one of the world’s greatest 19-th century humorists and authors. His novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were drawn from his childhood experiences in Missouri. In his later life, he sunk into bankruptcy and also recovered.

 4 F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: September 24, 1896
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
Died: December 21, 1940

Novelist, essayist, screenwriter, and short-story writer F. Scott Fitzgerald is widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. However, he wasn’t much popular during his lifetime. His works gained international acclaim only in the years following his untimely death at 44. Many of his works have been adapted into films.

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 5 Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson
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Famous As: Journalist and Author
Birthdate: July 18, 1937
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
Died: February 20, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson was an American author and journalist. He is credited with creating his own subgenre of New Journalism called the gonzo journalism. The author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which was later adapted into a film, Thompson was famous for his lifelong use of drugs and alcohol. His books have had a major impact on counterculture.

 6 David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: February 21, 1962
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American
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.

 7 James Baldwin

James Baldwin
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: August 2, 1924
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American
Died: December 1, 1987

Amongst the greatest writers of the 20th century and a leading literary voice in the civil rights movement, James Baldwin extensively explored issues like race, sexuality and humanity in his work. His best known work include his debut novel Go Tell It on the Mountain and his books of essays Notes of a Native Son and Nobody Knows My Name.

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 8 Truman Capote

Truman Capote
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: September 30, 1924
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
Died: August 25, 1984
Truman Capote is best known for his novella Breakfast at Tiffany's, which was made into a movie that starred Audrey Hepburn, and the non-fiction novel In Cold Blood. His short story Shut a Final Door won the O. Henry Award. He was a lifelong friend of author Harper Lee.

 9 Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: December 16, 1928
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
Died: March 2, 1982

Philip K. Dick was an American writer who was known for his work that explores varied social and philosophical themes. Dick's novels have inspired films like Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, and The Adjustment Bureau. In 2005, his novel Ubik was included in Time magazine's list of 100 greatest novels published in English since 1923.

 10 Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: February 18, 1931
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
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.

 11 Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut
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Famous As: American writer
Birthdate: November 11, 1922
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American
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.  

 12 Harper Lee

Harper Lee
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: April 28, 1926
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American
Died: February 19, 2016

Harper Lee was an American novelist who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic To Kill a Mockingbird. Despite publishing only two books, Lee was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to literature, such was her impact in the world of literature. A friend of Truman Capote, Lee has been portrayed by popular actresses in Capote's biographical films.

 13 Tom Clancy

Tom Clancy
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: April 12, 1947
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American
Died: October 1, 2013
Tom Clancy is best remembered for his espionage- and war-themed novels, many of which, such as The Hunt for Red October, The Sum of All Fears, and Clear and Present Danger, have been made into hit films. He was also a co-owner of the MLB team Baltimore Orioles

 14 John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: February 27, 1902
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American
Died: December 20, 1968

Famous for his novels The Grapes of Wrath and Tortilla Flat, John Ernst Steinbeck was noted for his sympathy for the plight of workers in his books. The Nobel laureate, who said he did not deserve the prize, authored 33 books, some of which were best sellers during his time. His books were also adapted into films.

 15 J. D. Salinger

J. D. Salinger
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 1, 1919
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
Died: January 27, 2010
J. D. Salinger is best remembered for his controversial novel The Catcher in the Rye, which was banned in many school libraries due to its sexual content. His other notable works include the anthology Nine Stories and the novella Hapworth. He spent much of his life in seclusion. 

 16 John Green

John Green
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Famous As: Author, Vlogger
Birthdate: August 24, 1977
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American
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.

 17 Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: November 29, 1832
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
Died: March 6, 1888
Novelist and short story writer Louisa May Alcott is best remembered as the author of the 1868 novel Little Women and its sequels, Little Men and Jo's Boys. She initially wrote using the pseudonym “A. M. Barnard.” She never married and remained a life-long feminist and abolitionist.

 18 Zelda Fitzgerald

Zelda Fitzgerald
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: July 24, 1900
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American
Died: March 10, 1948

Zelda Fitzgerald was a painter, socialite, and novelist. Along with her husband Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda became a prominent personality of the Jazz Age. Renowned for her high spirits and beauty, she was named the first American flapper by Scott. For her work as a novelist and painter, Fitzgerald was posthumously made an inductee to the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame.

 19 John Grisham

John Grisham
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Famous As: American writer
Birthdate: February 8, 1955
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
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.

 20 Dalton Trumbo

Dalton Trumbo
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Famous As: Screenwriter, Novelist
Birthdate: December 9, 1905
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
Died: September 10, 1976
Screenwriter/author Dalton Trumbo had written many popular films such as Roman Holiday and Spartacus. He was one of the Hollywood Ten and was blacklisted by the industry for refusing to testify before the HUAC during the investigation on Communist influences in Hollywood. He later continued to write, using pseudonyms.

 21 Nicholas Sparks

Nicholas Sparks
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: December 31, 1965
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
Novelist Nicholas Sparks is known for his bestselling books which have been translated into over 50 languages. Eleven of his books, such as Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, and The Notebook, have been adapted into films. He also owns the educational non-profit The Nicholas Sparks Foundation.

 22 William Faulkner

William Faulkner
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Famous As: Writer, Nobel Laureate
Birthdate: September 25, 1897
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
Died: July 6, 1962
Nobel Prize-winning Southern author William Faulkner is remembered for works The Sound and the Fury, A Rose for Emily, and As I Lay Dying. He immortalized Mississippi as the fictional "Yoknapatawpha County" in his works. He also won two Pulitzers, one each for A Fable and The Reivers.

 23 Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal
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Birthdate: October 3, 1925
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
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.

 24 Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 22, 1920
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American
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.

 25 Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: December 19, 1975
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American

 26 William S. Burroughs

William S. Burroughs
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Famous As: Novelist, Short Story Writer
Birthdate: February 5, 1914
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
Died: August 2, 1997
Beat Generation author William S. Burroughs soared to fame with his novels Junkie and Naked Lunch, with the latter being at the center of a censorship issue. Also known by his pseudonym, "William Lee," he exhibited artwork such as the Gunshot Paintings. He accidentally shot and killed his second wife.

 27 Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: July 20, 1933
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
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.

 28 James Patterson

James Patterson
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: March 22, 1947
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

One of the highest-earning authors in the contemporary world, James Patterson is the writer of many mystery fictions which sold records copie globally. Born to working-class parents of Irish-origin, the American writer whose thriller novels include Alex Cross and Michael Bennett series is also a philanthropist and contributes to promoting reading. He founded the James Patterson PageTurner Awards.

 29 Richard Belzer

Richard Belzer
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Famous As: Stand-up Comedian, Actor, Author
Birthdate: August 4, 1944
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American
Richard Belzer is best known as John Munch from the series Homicide: Life on the Street and Law & Order: SVU. He continued to play the role in several other series and a TV movie. He has also written several books on conspiracy theories, of which two became bestsellers.

 30 Thomas Clayton Wolfe

Thomas Clayton Wolfe
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: October 3, 1900
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
Died: September 15, 1938
Novelist Thomas Wolfe is remembered for his novels Look Homeward, Angel and Of Time and the River. He had also authored countless short stories and plays. His signature style included elements of autobiographical writing mixed with poetic and lyrical prose. His works influenced Beat Generation writers, too.

 31 Philip Roth

Philip Roth
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: March 19, 1933
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American

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.

 32 Herman Melville

Herman Melville
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Birthdate: August 1, 1819
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American
Died: September 28, 1891

Herman Melville was an American short story writer, novelist, and poet. One of his best-known works, Moby-Dick is widely regarded as one of the great American novels, although it did not garner much attention during his lifetime. Livyatan melvillei, a species of an extinct sperm whale, which was discovered in 2010, was named in his honor.  

 33 Gertrude Stein

Gertrude Stein
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Famous As: American novelist
Birthdate: February 3, 1874
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
Died: July 27, 1946

Gertrude Stein was an American playwright, novelist, poet, and art collector. She is remembered for publishing works about lesbian sexuality, which was considered a taboo at that time. Over the years, Gertrude Stein has been the subject of several works of art. In the 2011 movie Midnight in Paris, Stein was portrayed by Kathy Bates.

 34 Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne
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Famous As: American Novelist
Birthdate: July 4, 1804
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
Died: May 19, 1864

Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American writer, known for dark romanticism and moral-themed novels and short stories. A descendant of judge John Hathorne of the Salem witch trials infamy, the writer was a friend of late American president Franklin Pierce. His well-known books include Twice-Told Tales, The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables. Nathaniel was married to painter Sophia Peabody.

 35 Joan Didion

Joan Didion
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Famous As: Screenwriter, Novelist, Journalist, Writer, Essayist
Birthdate: December 5, 1934
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American

 36 Joe Hill

Joe Hill
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Famous As: Novelists
Birthdate: June 4, 1972
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American
Bram Stoker Award-winning author Joseph Hillström King, known by his pseudonym, Joe Hill, has gained famed with his novels such as Heart-Shaped Box and Horns and his short story anthologies such as 20th Century Ghosts and Strange Weather. He has also authored the comic book series Locke & Key.

 37 Valerie Plame

Valerie Plame
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 13, 1963
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American

 38 Robert A. Heinlein

Robert A. Heinlein
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Famous As: Science Fiction Writer
Birthdate: July 7, 1907
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
Died: May 8, 1988

Robert A. Heinlein was an American author, naval officer, and aeronautical engineer. Heinlein is credited with pioneering a literary subgenre called hard science fiction as he was among the first to stress the importance of scientific accuracy in fiction. Robert A. Heinlein is one of the most influential science-fiction writers of all time.

 39 MacKenzie Scott

MacKenzie Scott
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Famous As: Novelist, Ex-Wife of Jeff Bezos
Birthdate: April 7, 1970
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

 40 Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: December 14, 1916
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
Died: August 8, 1965
Shirley Jackson redefined the genres of horror and mystery through her works, which include over 200 short stories and six novels. Her iconic novel The Haunting of Hill House was made into a popular Netflix series and several movies, including the 1963 and 1999 versions of The Haunting

 41 Henry James

Henry James
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: April 15, 1843
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American
Died: February 28, 1916

Henry James was an author, regarded as one of the greatest novelists ever to write in the English language. One of his novellas titled The Turn of the Screw has been the most analyzed ghost story in the history of English language literature. While his works have been adapted into films, he has been the subject of several other stories.

 42 Stacey Dash

Stacey Dash
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: January 20, 1967
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American

 43 Upton Sinclair

Upton Sinclair
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Famous As: American writer
Birthdate: September 20, 1878
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American
Died: November 25, 1968
Pulitzer Prize-winning author and political activist Upton Sinclair is best remembered for his novels such as The Jungle and The Brass Check, which mirrored the exploitative and unjust nature of various sectors. He was also an occult and telepathy enthusiast. He was actively involved with the Socialist and Democratic parties.

 44 Gillian Flynn

Gillian Flynn
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: February 24, 1971
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American

 45 Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston
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Famous As: Folklorist, Anthropologist
Birthdate: January 7, 1891
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
Died: January 28, 1960

Zora Neale Hurston was an author, anthropologist, and filmmaker. As an African American woman, she often depicted racial issues in the films she made. Her works also reflected her struggles as a black woman. In her early career, she conducted anthropological and ethnographic research and focused more on writing and film-making in her later years.

 46 Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: June 6, 1973
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American

 47 Rachel Dolezal

Rachel Dolezal
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: November 12, 1977
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American

 48 Anais Nin

Anais Nin
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Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: February 21, 1903
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American
Died: January 14, 1977

French-Cuban-American diarist, essayist, and novelist Anais Nin wrote several volumes of journals, erotica, novels, critical studies, essays, and short stories. Her journals and diaries are among her most studied works. She had a deep interest in psychoanalysis and studied it extensively with René Allendy and Otto Rank. Critics consider her one of the finest writers of female erotica.

 49 Diana Gabaldon

Diana Gabaldon
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: January 11, 1952
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American

Author Diana Gabaldon, daughter of Arizona senator Tony Gabaldon, is best known for her Outlander novel series, which has also been adapted into a TV series. Gabaldon has also authored the Lord John series. She is known for mingling several genres, including historical fiction, mystery, science fiction, and romance.

 50 Jim Webb

Jim Webb
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Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: February 9, 1946
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American