Famous American Writers

Books are keystones. They express volumes through their words, their pages, their covers, and their content. America has been home to many splendid writers — of enlightened minds and liberated American spirits, and of capacious verbal heritage. It is both startling and sad that so little credit has heretofore been given to the American writers, the key keepers of American culture. Across decades, from the time of the Revolution till now, America's home-bred writers have stressed on the issues and concerns of the American people and have, in turn, influenced their thinking. Kudos to these writers for producing some of the world’s great literature, essays and poetry! The literate world has acknowledged and lauded famous American writers since Thoreau and Emerson. Poets like Whitman and Emily Dickinson have inspired a whole generation of poem lovers and rank among the oft-translated poets of their time. The writing force continues, with more and more readers seeking solace in the pantheon of America’s great writers. And while America’s literary traditions are not as expansive as other cultures, its literature is as rich and enduring as any in the canon. Read the biographies to explore the timelines, life stories and interesting trivia & facts related to the lives of famous literary illuminates that America has produced.

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 Stephen King

Stephen King
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: September 21, 1947
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American

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.

 2 Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 19, 1809
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
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).

 3 Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: March 2, 1904
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American
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.

 4 H. P. Lovecraft

H. P. Lovecraft
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 20, 1890
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American
Died: March 15, 1937

HP Lovecraft was a writer of weird and horror fiction and is known for his creation of Cthulhu Mythos, which has inspired a large body of games and music. His stories focused on his interpretation of humanity's place in the universe. He was virtually unknown during his lifetime, but is now considered a significant 20th-century author of supernatural horror fiction.

 5 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.

 6 Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath
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Famous As: Poet, Novelist, and Writer
Birthdate: October 27, 1932
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American
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.

 7 Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: December 10, 1830
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
Died: May 15, 1886
Victorian-era poet Emily Dickinson apparently wrote around 1800 poems, mostly revolving around themes such as death and immortality. However, she was a recluse, dressed up in white, and mostly interacted with people through correspondence. Her poems were mostly without titles and had short lines, slant rhyme, and unconventional punctuation.
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 8 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.

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 9 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.

 10 Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: April 4, 1928
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American
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.
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 11 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.

 12 John Hughes

John Hughes
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Famous As: Filmmaker
Birthdate: February 18, 1950
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
Died: August 6, 2009

 13 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.

 14 Guy Fieri

Guy Fieri
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Famous As: Restaurateur, Cookbook Author
Birthdate: January 22, 1968
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American

Primarily a restaurateur, Guy Fieri is a testimony to the fact that any professional can become famous if they are passionate enough in doing what they do best. From being a restaurateur, he went on to become a TV personality, hosting shows for Food Network channel. By mid-2010, he had become the face of the network.

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 15 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.

 16 Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller
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Birthdate: October 17, 1915
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
Died: February 10, 2005

Arthur Miller was an American essayist and playwright. Miller is credited with creating popular plays, such as Death of a Salesman, which is widely regarded as one of the best American plays of the 20th century. Thanks to his illustrious career, which spanned more than 70 years, Arthur Miller is regarded as one of the 20th century's greatest dramatists.

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 17 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.

 18 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.

 19 Jordan Belfort

Jordan Belfort
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: July 9, 1962
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
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.

 20 Helen Keller

Helen Keller
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: June 27, 1880
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
Died: June 1, 1968

A prolific author, having written 12 published books and several articles, Helen Keller was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. Her autobiography, The Story of My Life, made Keller famous and was adapted for film and stage. She was also an activist and campaigned for women's suffrage, labour rights, socialism and other such causes.

 21 Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov
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Famous As: Writer, Professor
Birthdate: January 2, 1920
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
Died: April 6, 1992

Isaac Asimov was an American writer. Best known for his science fiction works, Asimov was regarded as one of the Big Three writers along with Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein. Asimov is credited with influencing most sci-fi writers since the 1950s. Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman stated that one of Asimov's works inspired him to take up Economics.

 22 Mackenzie Phillips

Mackenzie Phillips
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: November 10, 1959
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American
Mackenzie Phillips made her acting debut at 12, with American Graffiti. Fans loved her in the series One Day at a Time and So Weird. She has struggled with drug issues and has appeared on Celebrity Rehab. She also confessed to being raped by her father, in her memoir.

 23 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.

 24 Steve Martin

Steve Martin
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Famous As: Comedian
Birthdate: August 14, 1945
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American

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.

 25 Larry David

Larry David
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Birthdate: July 2, 1947
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American

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.

 26 Amanda Knox

Amanda Knox
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: July 9, 1987
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American

Amanda Knox is an American woman who made headlines when she was convicted for the murder of Meredith Kercher in Italy. After spending almost four years in prison, Amanda was definitively acquitted after a new trial that found her not guilty. Her story inspired books and documentaries; Knox's memoir Waiting to Be Heard became popular.

 27 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.

 28 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.  

 29 Ann Coulter

Ann Coulter
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Birthdate: December 8, 1961
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
Ann Coulter is a political commentator and has written countless bestselling books, including High Crimes and Misdemeanors, which enumerated the reasons why Bill Clinton should have been impeached. She assisted Paula Jones’s attorneys for free. Her columns are featured on various conservative websites. She opposes same-sex marriage and hate-crime laws.

 30 Caroline Kennedy

Caroline Kennedy
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: November 27, 1957
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American

Caroline Kennedy is an American author, diplomat, and attorney. The only surviving child of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Caroline served as the US Ambassador to Japan between 2013 and 2017. A prolific author who writes about civil liberties, Caroline Kennedy has also served as a spokesperson for the Kennedy family's legacy.

 31 Mara Wilson

Mara Wilson
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Famous As: Writer, Actress
Birthdate: July 24, 1987
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American

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.

 32 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

 33 Francis Ford Coppola

Francis Ford Coppola
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Famous As: FilmMaker
Birthdate: April 7, 1939
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

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.

 34 Phil McGraw

Phil McGraw
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Famous As: College Student Personnel, Actor, Television presenter, Psychologist, Writer
Birthdate: September 1, 1950
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American

 35 Common

Common
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Famous As: Rapper
Birthdate: March 13, 1972
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American

 36 Roger Stone

Roger Stone
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Famous As: Political Consultant
Birthdate: August 27, 1952
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American

Roger Stone, a conservative political consultant and lobbyist, was convicted of witness tampering and lying to investigators in November 2019 subsequent to the Mueller report. He’s worked on campaigns of Republican politicians like Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George W Bush and Donald Trump. He’s also written several books on John F Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump.

 37 Busy Philipps

Busy Philipps
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: June 25, 1979
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American

 38 Karamo Brown

Karamo Brown
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Famous As: Television host
Birthdate: November 2, 1980
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American

 39 Abbie Hoffman

Abbie Hoffman
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Famous As: Anti-War Activist
Birthdate: November 30, 1936
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
Died: April 12, 1989

The co-founder of the Youth International Party, Abbie Hoffman was an American social and political activist. A popular exponent of the Flower Power movement, Abbie Hoffman played a major role in the events leading up to the violent confrontations with the cops during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. He remains an iconic figure of the counterculture era.

 40 Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: February 29, 1960
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American
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.

 41 Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes
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Famous As: Poet, Novelist, Playwright, & Columnist
Birthdate: February 1, 1902
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
Died: May 22, 1967

Langston Hughes is best remembered as a prominent leader of the Harlem Renaissance. He was one of the first to write jazz poetry. He also wrote plays and short stories. He was a columnist for The Chicago Defender and wrote the iconic poem The Negro Speaks of Rivers.

 42 Adrianne Palicki

Adrianne Palicki
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: May 6, 1983
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American

Adrianne Palicki is an American actress known for playing important roles in TV series like Friday Night Lights and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Adrianne Palicki went on to establish herself as a respectable actress despite suffering from celiac disease.

 43 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.

 44 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.

 45 Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes
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Famous As: Television Producer
Birthdate: January 13, 1970
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American

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.

 46 Stacey Dash

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

 47 Ashley Fliehr

Ashley Fliehr
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Famous As: Professional Wrestler
Birthdate: April 5, 1986
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

 48 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. 

 49 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.

 50 William Baldwin

William Baldwin
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: February 23, 1963
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American
William Baldwin, the third-oldest of the four Baldwin brothers of Hollywood, was a wrestler in his varsity days. He gained fame with his roles in films such as Sliver and Flatliners. He also played major roles in the TV film The Craigslist Killer and the series Parenthood and Northern Rescue.