It is a well-documented fact that humans love superlatives. We love assigning accolades to anything and everything—the best restaurants, the top models, the most beautiful buildings, the worst failures. The designations we give things are endless, and the disagreements over the assignations are almost as plentiful. It sometimes seems like that’s what the internet was invented to do—give people a place to argue about each other’s opinions on everything. And lists seem to be the internet's favorite way to share likes and dislikes.

One such opinion that is constantly thrown around is the best American author. How does one decide who earns that accolade? Is it by reviews or book sales or the number of awards an author receives? I personally don't believe it is possible to label just one American author as the best.

So, to curate a list of famous American writers who are also considered among the best American authors, I looked at a few things—current ratings for their works, their particular time periods in history, critical reception, their prevalence in the 21st century, and yes, the awards they won. Many of these authors are taught in school today, and hopefully, several more of them will be taught in school in the near future.


19th Century

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Awakening

The Complete Collection of Emily Dickinson's Poems

The Wings of the Dove


20th Century

Invisible Man

The Bell Jar


East of Eden

The Great Gatsby

The Fire Next Time

The Sound and the Fury

To Kill a Mockingbird

The Stand

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Raymond Chandler: The Long Goodbye (Dramatised)

Their Eyes Were Watching God

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty


The Age of Innocence

O, Pioneers!

Cat's Cradle

The Martian Chronicles

The House on Mango Street

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

The Left Hand of Darkness

True Grit

So Big

The Master Butcher's Singing Club

The Secret History

21st Century

The Good Lord Bird

The Underground Railroad (Television Tie-in)

Bad Feminist

The Known World

Salvage the Bones


Liberty Hardy is a Book Riot senior contributing editor and velocireader in the great state of Maine, where she reads 500-600 books a year and lives with her three cats, who hate to read.