Who is the Greatest American Writer? (POLL)

Gabe Habash -- January 24th, 2013

Cool map by Geoff Sawers and Bridget Hannigan.

The other day, my friend asked me who I thought was the best American writer to ever live, and coming up with an answer was more difficult than I thought it would be. But after a moment I settled on an answer and asked my girlfriend, who not only came up with a different writer–she came up with a writer I never even would’ve considered.

Which leads to the poll below. Who is the greatest American writer? In order to make this as incendiary as possible, we’re limiting you to ONE pick. And for the pranksters who want to put Shakespeare we’ve even added an “Other” field to let you pencil your pick in if you don’t see him/her in the field–but let us know what writer you added in the comments!

Note: the map above is available to purchase here.

43 thoughts on “Who is the Greatest American Writer? (POLL)

  1. Ronnie

    I’ve forever loved American literature and the canon of the absolutely outstanding classic books in it. I admire and enjoy a majority of the authors on the list. A few I haven’t yet read, and sadly, a few glaring omissions seem unforgivable, not least the one and only late great Ray Bradbury (RIP). As anybody should expect, choosing ONE as the “Greatest” (a.k.a. favourite?) is a daunting prospect. I’m mainly torn between Faulkner, Poe, Updike, and Hawthorne. Forced to choose one, I’d vote for Faulkner.

  2. John LaCarna

    Edgar Allen Poe is my first choice. I notice Ayn Rand, my second choice was absent as was Thomas Wolfe and James Jones.
    “Greatest writer” to me means which do I enjoy the most, nothing else.

    John LaCarna

  3. Irene

    I instantly chose Mark Twin even before I saw the list. All the writers are brilliant but I think Twain also captures an essence of the American character that is still relevant today. The psychology of his characters, his settings and his style are pure American. America is undergoing many changes now and Twain may not hold up in another 100 years but when history looks back and wants to know how American was formed Twain will be the author to read.

  4. wurdnurd

    Wait…JD Salinger is on here, but not Ray Bradbury or John Steinbeck?
    And what about Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou or Henry David Hwang? This is a VERY white-washed list…

  5. Reme

    Please!!!, this is a trick question! I feel very happy cause I’ve enjoyed so much with almost all of them! Of course it’s a chance to honour and remember them and show them to the new generations! I am Spanish, from the South of Europe but I love American Literature, specially North American Literature since I was a child.

  6. looloolooweez

    Oh, my. It is just TOO difficult to choose. And the list is still incomplete — I’m loving reading all the suggestions from previous comments. What an interesting discussion you’ve started.

  7. johanna

    one of the problems is:- how do you define greatest?
    most famous?
    best known?
    best literature?
    most popular?
    won most prizes?
    definitely describes america?
    where is john steinbeck?, raymond chandler, eldrich cleaver, emma lazarus, alice walker, e.e. cummings, erica jong etc etc?
    what about genre fiction?
    btw i’m not even american!

  8. Sandy Didner

    Robert Frost won 4 Pulitzer prizes and he’s not on the list! What about Gabriel Garcia Marquez? Columbia is in South America, but why can’t South Americans be included if you list the confirmed anglophile T.S. Eliot?

  9. Colette Bennett

    Hard to choose when there is such a variety . Any chance to separate by genre? That would have helped some entries.
    I went with impact…Mark Twain. Time-tested and still relevant.
    I remember a NYTimes Book Review question:
    “Book Review’s editor, Sam Tanenhaus, sent out a short letter to a couple of hundred prominent writers, critics, editors and other literary sages, asking them to please identify “the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years.”
    The decision to use time does seem a little more fair.
    The result?
    Beloved -Toni Morrison
    Underworld-Don DeLillo
    Blood Meridian-Cormac McCarthy
    Rabbit Angstrom: The Four Novels-John Updike
    American Pastoral-Philip Roth


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