Famous American Short Story Writers

For those who love reading short stories, imagine the genre without the likes of Edgar Allen Poe or O’Henry, J.D Salinger or Issac Asimov, Washington Irving or F Scott Fitzgerald! Completely bleak and sombre isn’t it? And why not for reading short stories is incomplete without having read O’Henry’s ‘The Gift of Magi’ or Poe’s ‘The Tell Tale Heart’, Asimov’s ‘I, Robot’ and ‘The Bicentennial Man’ or Irving’s ‘Rip Van Winkle’. That is the influence that American writers have casted over the genre of short story. Usually shorter than a novel with a brief fictional prose narrative, short stories have found universal acceptance. A short story usually has a small cast of characters and revolves around one or two incidents, thus evoking a particular effect or mood. What gives short story an edge over lengthy novels is that despite relatively limited scope, it provides a satisfying treatment to its characters and subjects! While the aforementioned are some of the greatest American short story writers that the country has ever produced, the new-age writers have also given readers compelling work that has simply been unputdownable, be it George Saunders and his ‘Pastoralia’ or Wells Tower and his ‘Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned’ or Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan and her ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’. Read this section to know about the life and works of famous American short story 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 Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 19, 1809
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: October 7, 1849

American writer Edgar Allan Poe is regarded as the architect of modern short story, the inventor of the detective-fiction genre and a major contributor towards science fiction genre. The influential writer is recognised for his tales of mystery and macabre. His notable works include The Raven (poem), The Tell-Tale Heart and The Fall of the House of Usher (short stories).

 2 Mark Twain

Mark Twain Image
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: November 30, 1835
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Florida, Missouri, United States
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.

 3 John Hughes

John Hughes
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Famous As: Filmmaker
Birthdate: February 18, 1950
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lansing, Michigan, United States
Died: August 6, 2009

Largely known for popularizing the teen movie genre in the 1980s, John Hughes had dropped out of university to work as an ad copywriter and then a comedy writer. He soared to fame with his stories in National Lampoon magazine and then directed many films of the National Lampoon franchise.

 4 Truman Capote

Truman Capote
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: September 30, 1924
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
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.

 5 Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: December 16, 1928
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois
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.

 6 William Faulkner

William Faulkner
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Famous As: Writer, Nobel Laureate
Birthdate: September 25, 1897
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New Albany, Mississippi, U.S
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.

 7 J. D. Salinger

J. D. Salinger
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 1, 1919
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: New York City
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. 
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 8 John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: February 27, 1902
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Salinas
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.

 9 Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 22, 1920
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Waukegan, Illinois, U.S.
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 Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: November 29, 1832
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Germantown, Pennsylvania, United States
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.

 11 Jack London

Jack London
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Famous As: Novelist & Journalist
Birthdate: January 12, 1876
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States
Died: November 22, 1916

Jack London was an American novelist, social activist, and journalist. A pioneer of American magazines and commercial fiction, London was one of the first authors from the US to become an international celebrity. His life and work inspired several films, such as the 1943 movie Jack London and 1980 film Klondike Fever. He was also portrayed in several TV series.

 12 William S. Burroughs

William S. Burroughs
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Famous As: Novelist, Short Story Writer
Birthdate: February 5, 1914
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
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.

 13 Herman Melville

Herman Melville
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Birthdate: August 1, 1819
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New York City
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.  

 14 O. Henry

O. Henry
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Famous As: Short Story Writer
Birthdate: September 11, 1862
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Greensboro, North Carolina
Died: June 5, 1910
William Sydney Porter, better known by his pseudonym, O. Henry, is remembered as one of the world’s greatest short story writers. One of his most notable works is The Gift of the Magi. His signature style included plot twists in the end. He was once jailed for embezzlement. 

 15 Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne
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Famous As: American Novelist
Birthdate: July 4, 1804
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Salem, Massachusetts, United States
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.

 16 Robert A. Heinlein

Robert A. Heinlein
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Famous As: Science Fiction Writer
Birthdate: July 7, 1907
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Butler, Missouri, USA
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.

 17 Henry James

Henry James
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: April 15, 1843
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York City
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.

 18 Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: May 27, 1934
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Cleveland

 19 Washington Irving

Washington Irwing
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Famous As: Author, Historian, Diplomat
Birthdate: April 3, 1783
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York City, New York
Died: November 28, 1859

 20 Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway
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Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: July 21, 1899
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Oak Park, Illinois, United States
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.

 21 Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: July 9, 1945
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Everett, Pennsylvania, United States

 22 Holiday Reinhorn

Holiday Reinhorn
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Famous As: Fiction Writer
Birthdate: March 12, 1964
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Portland, Oregon

Holiday Reinhorn is the author the bestselling book Big Cats. She has written for various literary magazines such as Zoetrope: All-Story and Gulf Coast. She and her husband, actor Rainn Wilson, both follow the Baháʼí faith. Reinhorn has also co-established a non-profit for Haitian women interested in writing, named Lide.

 23 Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: March 2, 1904
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States
Died: September 24, 1991

Dr. Seuss was an American children's author, illustrator, and political cartoonist. He is credited with writing some of the most famous children's books ever, including The Cat in the Hat. His works were translated into over 20 languages and sold more than 600 million copies by the time of his death. Many of his creations were adapted into animated cartoons.

 24 Ambrose Bierce

Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce
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Famous As: Journalist & Writer, soldier
Birthdate: June 24, 1842
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Meigs County, Ohio, United States
Died: December 1, 1914

 25 Tabitha King

Tabitha King
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: March 24, 1949
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Old Town, Maine, USA

 26 Sinclair Lewis

Sinclair Lewis
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Famous As: Nobel Prize Winner in Literature
Birthdate: February 7, 1885
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Sauk Centre
Died: January 10, 1951

 27 Celeste Ng

Celeste Ng
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: July 30, 1980
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States

 28 Dashiell Hammett

Dashiell Hammett
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: May 27, 1894
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: St. Mary's County, Maryland, United States
Died: January 10, 1961

 29 Saul Bellow

Saul Bellow
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: June 10, 1915
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Lachine, Quebec, Canada
Died: April 5, 2005

 30 Flannery O'Connor

Flannery O'Connor
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: March 25, 1925
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Savannah, Georgia, United States
Died: August 3, 1964

 31 Joseph Heller

Joseph Heller
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: May 1, 1923
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York
Died: December 12, 1999

 32 Harry Turtledove

Harry Turtledove
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: June 14, 1949
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, USA

 33 Edward Gorey

Edward Gorey
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Birthdate: February 22, 1925
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Chicago
Died: April 15, 2000

 34 Damon Runyon

Alfred Damon Runyon
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: October 4, 1880
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Manhattan, Kansas, United States
Died: December 10, 1946

 35 Samuel R. Delany

Samuel R. Delany
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: April 1, 1942
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York City New York, New York, US

 36 Poul Anderson

Poul Anderson
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: November 25, 1926
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Bristol, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: July 31, 2001

 37 Robert Silverberg

Robert Silverberg
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: January 15, 1935
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States

 38 Greg Bear

Greg Bear
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 20, 1951
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: San Diego, California, United States

 39 Philip José Farmer

Philip José Farmer
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: January 26, 1918
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States
Died: February 25, 2009

 40 Irwin Shaw

Irwin Shaw
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Famous As: Illness
Birthdate: February 27, 1913
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: The Bronx
Died: May 16, 1984

 41 Clifford D. Simak

Clifford D. Simak
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Famous As: Fiction writer
Birthdate: August 3, 1904
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Millville, Wisconsin, United States
Died: April 25, 1988

 42 Richard Kostelanetz

Richard Kostelanetz
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Famous As: Artist
Birthdate: May 14, 1940
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States

 43 George R. R. Martin

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

 44 Diane Ladd

Diane Ladd
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: November 29, 1932
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Meridian

Diane Ladd is an American actress, author, and filmmaker. Over the years, Diane Ladd has contributed immensely to the success of several films and TV series. Perhaps, her greatest contribution to Hollywood is guiding and mentoring her daughter and Academy Award-winning actress Laura Dern. Both Ladd and Dern received Academy Award nominations for Best Actress for the film Rambling Rose

 45 Thomas Clayton Wolfe

Thomas Clayton Wolfe
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: October 3, 1900
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Asheville, North Carolina, United States
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.

 46 Donna Douglas

Donna Douglas
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: September 26, 1932
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Pride, Louisiana, United States
Died: January 1, 2015
Donna Douglas is best known as Elly May Clampett from the sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies. After retiring from acting, she juggled with a number of careers, becoming a real-estate agent, a motivational speaker, and a gospel singer. She has also written a Bible-themed children’s book and a cookbook.

 47 Reginald VelJohnson

Reginald VelJohnson
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 16, 1952
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Queens, New York, United States

Reginald VelJohnson gained fame for portraying policemen such as Carl Winslow in Family Matters and Sgt. Al Powell in the Die Hard franchise. Fans also loved him as Dash DeWitt in the series Hart of Dixie. In 2017, he had to “tweet” to dispel rumors of his death.

 48 Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: December 14, 1916
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, U.S.
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

 49 Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: June 6, 1973
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Madison, Wisconsin, United States

 50 L. Frank Baum

L. Frank Baum
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: May 15, 1856
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Chittenango, New York, United States
Died: May 6, 1919