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 Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick
5
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: December 16, 1928
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
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.

 2 Stephen King

Stephen King
5
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.

 3 Jack London

Jack London
6
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.

 4 William Faulkner

William Faulkner
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: September 25, 1897
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New Albany, Mississippi, United States
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.

 5 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.

 6 J. D. Salinger

J. D. Salinger
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 1, 1919
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Manhattan, New York, United States
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. 

 7 F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald
4
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: September 24, 1896
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States
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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 8 Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath
4
Famous As: Poet, Novelist
Birthdate: October 27, 1932
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: February 11, 1963

Sylvia Plath was an American short-story writer, novelist, and poet. Plath is credited with popularizing confessional poetry and won a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. Sylvia Plath achieved popularity and critical acclaim despite suffering from clinical depression for the most part of her adult life. Her story inspired the 2003 film Sylvia in which she was portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow.

 9 James Baldwin

James Baldwin
4
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: August 2, 1924
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Harlem, New York, United States
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.

 10 Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne
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Famous As: 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.

 11 O. Henry

O. Henry
5
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. 

 12 Herman Melville

Herman Melville
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 1, 1819
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
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.  

 13 Truman Capote

Truman Capote
4
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.

 14 George R. R. Martin

George R. R. Martin
9
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.

 15 John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck
4
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: February 27, 1902
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Salinas, California, United States
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.

 16 Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut
4
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.  

 17 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

 18 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.

 19 Washington Irving

Washington Irving
4
Famous As: Author, Historian, Diplomat
Birthdate: April 3, 1783
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York City, New York
Died: November 28, 1859

Widely known as the first American man of letters, Washington Irving penned the legendary tales of Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which are also called the first short stories by an American author. He had also had a brief stint as a lawyer.

 20 Ambrose Bierce

Ambrose 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

 21 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, United States
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.

 22 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.

 23 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.

 24 Dashiell Hammett

Dashiell Hammett
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: June 25, 1894
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: St. Mary's County, Maryland, United States
Died: January 10, 1961

 25 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.

 26 Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: May 27, 1934
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Cleveland

 27 Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz
4
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: July 9, 1945
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Everett, Pennsylvania, United States

 28 John Cheever

John Cheever
3
Famous As: Novelist & Short Story Writer
Birthdate: May 27, 1912
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Quincy
Died: June 18, 1982

 29 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

L. Frank Baum was an author remembered for writing children's books including The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which inspired the 1902 Broadway musical and the 1939 live-action film of the same name. His works anticipated the invention of gadgets like TV that would be invented later. In 2013, Baum was made an inductee of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame.

 30 Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: June 16, 1938
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Lockport, New York, United States

 31 Raymond Carver

Raymond Carver
4
Famous As: Short story writer
Birthdate: May 25, 1938
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Clatskanie, Oregon, United States
Died: August 2, 1988

 32 Robert E. Howard

Robert E. Howard
4
Famous As: Pulp Fiction Writer
Birthdate: January 22, 1906
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Peaster
Died: June 11, 1936

 33 Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 24, 1862
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New York City
Died: August 11, 1937

 34 Eudora Welty

Eudora Welty
3
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: April 13, 1909
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Jackson, Mississippi, United States
Died: July 23, 2001

 35 Sinclair Lewis

Sinclair Lewis
4
Famous As: Nobel Prize Winner in Literature
Birthdate: February 7, 1885
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Sauk Centre
Died: January 10, 1951

 36 John Updike

John Updike
4
Famous As: Poet, Novelist
Birthdate: March 18, 1932
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Reading, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: January 27, 2009

 37 Tabitha King

Tabitha King
5
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: March 24, 1949
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Old Town, Maine, USA

 38 Neal Stephenson

Neal Stephenson
4
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: October 31, 1959
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Fort Meade, Maryland, United States

 39 Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: October 15, 1974
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.

Roxane Gay is an American writer, editor, professor, and social commentator. She is credited with founding an Illinois-based small press called Tiny Hardcore Press as well as the now-defunct Gay Magazine, which was founded in association with Medium. Roxane Gay is the recipient of a couple of Lambda Literary Awards and an Eisner Award for Best Limited Series.

 40 Tobias Wolff

Tobias Wolff
3
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: June 19, 1945
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Birmingham, Alabama, United States

 41 Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: June 6, 1973
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Madison, Wisconsin, United States

 42 Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway
0
Famous As: Novelist
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.

 43 Patricia Highsmith

Patricia Highsmith
5
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: January 19, 1921
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Fort Worth, Texas, United States
Died: February 4, 1995

 44 Louis L’Amour

Louis L’Amour
3
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: March 22, 1908
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Jamestown, North Dakota, United States
Died: June 10, 1988

 45 Veronica Roth

Veronica Roth
4
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: August 19, 1988
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New York City, New York, U.S.

 46 Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Anne Morrow Lindbergh
4
Famous As: Renowned Author & Aviator
Birthdate: June 22, 1906
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Englewood, New Jersey
Died: February 7, 2001

 47 Carson McCullers

Carson McCullers
3
Famous As: American novelist
Birthdate: February 19, 1917
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Columbus, Georgia, USA
Died: September 29, 1967

 48 Joseph Heller

Joseph Heller
3
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: May 1, 1923
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York
Died: December 12, 1999

 49 Jim Butcher

Jim Butcher
4
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: October 26, 1971
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Independence, Missouri, USA

Hugo Award-nominated author Jim Butcher soared to fame with his bestselling urban fantasy series The Dresden Files and Codex Alera. He is an avid gamer, too, and often uses his pseudonym Longshot for a lot of his online writings. The Dresden Files was later adapted for TV audiences.

 50 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.