Some of the world’s most celebrated writers call Kentucky home
From naturalist poet Wendell Berry to Appalachian novelist Harriet Simpson Arnow to hard-hitting journalist Hunter S. Thompson, the state of Kentucky has turned out some of the most incredible writers the world has ever seen. See who else you recognize from the list below, and acquaint yourself with their Kentucky-inspired works. Want to meet more famous people from the Bluegrass State? Visit our Famous Kentuckians page.
James Lane Allen (December 21, 1849-1925) - American novelist and short story writer his works included "The Choir Invisible," and "A Kentucky Cardinal." Born near Lexington, buried in the Lexington Cemetery.
Harriett Simpson Arnow (July 7, 1908-1986) - "The Dollmaker," "Hunter’s Horn," and “The Kentucky Trace” were some of her Appalachian works. Harriet Simpson Arnow was born in Wayne County and is buried at her farm in Keno, Pulaski County.
Wendell E. Berry (August 5, 1934-) - Poet/novelist/environmentalist. Prolific author of novels, short stories, poems, and essays. Born in Henry County.
William Wells Brown (November 6, 1816-1884) - America's first black novelist. He was a prominent abolitionist lecturer, novelist, playwright, and historian. Born into slavery near Lexington, died in Chelsea, Massachusetts.
Harry Caudill (May 3, 1922-1990) – Author, historian, lawyer, legislator, and environmentalist from Letcher County. Some of his works are "Night Comes to the Cumberlands,"and "The Mountain, the Miner” and the Lord". Born in Whitesburg, died at his home in Mayking.
Edgar Cayce (March 18, 1877-1945) - Psychic counselor/author. Born near Hopkinsville, died in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Thomas D. Clark* (July 14, 1903-2005) – Kentucky’s most notable historian. Historian Laureate of Kentucky. Best known work is “A History of Kentucky.” Born in Mississippi, died in Lexington, buried in the Lexington Cemetery.
Billy Curtis Clark (December 19, 1928-2009) – American author of 11 books, numerous poems, and short stories, heavily influenced by his childhood growing up in poverty in Kentucky. Born in Catlettsburg in Eastern Kentucky during the Great Depression, died in Farmville, Virginia, buried in Catlettsburg.
Nicholas Joseph "Nick" Clooney (January 13, 1934-) - Journalist, politician, anchorman, game show host. Born in Maysville. Father of actor and film director George Clooney, and brother of Rosemary Clooney.
Irvin S. Cobb (June 23, 1876-1944) - Journalist/humorist/short story writer, authored more than 60 books and 300 short stories. Born in Paducah, and died in New York City.
Joe Creason (June 10, 1918-1974) - Journalist, his popular column, “Joe Creason’s Kentucky” documented the lives of everyday Kentuckians. Born in Benton, died in Joe Creason Park in Louisville.
John Fox, Jr. (December 16, 1862-1919) - An American journalist, novelist, and short story writer. Two of his best known works are "The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come," and “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine.” Born in Stony Point, died in Big Stone Gap, Virginia and was buried in the family plot in Paris, Kentucky.
Janice Holt Giles* (March 28, 1909-1979) – A Kentucky author who lived near Knifley, in Adair County. Born in Altus, Arkansas, died in Knifley.
A.B. Guthrie, Jr.* ( January 13, 1901-1991) - Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist for fiction in 1950 for his “The Way West.” Worked 22 years as a news reporter and editor for the Old Lexington Leader in Kentucky. Born in Bedford, Indiana, died in Bismarck, North Dakota.
Duncan Hines (March 26, 1880-1959) - Restaurant-guide publisher best known today for the brand of food products that bears his name. Born in Bowling Green, buried in Fairview Cemetery in Bowling Green.
Annie Fellows Johnston (March 15, 1863-1931) – Born Annie Julia Fellowe. Best known for her 13 book series "The Little Colonel,” she authored over forty books. Born in Evansville, Indiana, died in Pewee Valley.
Barbara Kingsolver (April 81955-) – American writer of poems, short stories, and essays. Born in Annapolis, Maryland and grew up near Carlisle.
Bobbie Ann Mason (May 1, 1940-) - Novelist, Mason writes about the working-class people of Western Kentucky. Mason’s first novel was “In Country,” later made into a feature film starring Bruce Willis. Born in Mayfield.
Ed McClanahan (October 5, 1932-) An American novelist, essayist, and professor. Born in Brooksville.
Thomas Merton* (January 1, 1915-1968) - Essayist on spiritual and social issues. He wrote more than 70 books. Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky. Born in Prades, France, died in Bangkok, Thailand.
James Thomas Cotton Noe (May 2, 1869-1953) – Lawyer and poet, Kentucky's first poet laureate, 1926. Born in Washington County, died in Beverly Hills, California, buried in the Lexington, Cemetery.
Marsha Norman (September 21, 1947-) - Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, two of her famous screenplays are “The Secret Garden,” and “The Color Purple.” Born in Louisville.
Theodore O'Hara (February 11, 1820-1867) – Poet and an officer for the United States Army in the Mexican-American War, and a Confederate colonel in the Civil War. Best known for his poem "Bivouac of the Dead." Born in Danville, died in Guerrytown, Alabama.
John Ed Pearce (1917-2006) - A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has been called Kentucky’s best newspaper writer. Born in Norton, died in Louisville.
Alice Hegan Rice (January 11, 1870-1942) – Wrote over two dozen books, the most famous of which is "Mrs. Wiggins of the Cabbage Patch." Born in Shelbyville, died in Louisville.
Elizabeth Madox Roberts (October 30, 1881-1941) – Novelist and poet, primarily known for her novels and stories about the Kentucky mountain people including "The Time of Man," and "The Great Meadow." Born in Perryville, died in Orlando, Florida, buried in Springfield.
Diane Sawyer (December 22, 1945-) - TV journalist/commentator for ABC and co-anchor of its morning news show. Named one of the 30 most powerful women in America. Born in Glasgow.
Effie Waller Smith (February 2, 1879-1960) – An African-American poet her published output consisted of three volumes of poetry including "Rhymes from the Cumberland." Born in Chloe Creek in Pike County, buried in Neenah, Wisconsin.
James Still* (July 16, 1906-2001) – An Appalachian poet, novelist and folklorist. Better known for his work, "River of Earth," and "The Wolfpen Poems." Born in Alabama, lived most of his life in a log house along the Dead Mare Branch of Little Carr Creek, in Knott County, died in Knott County.
Jesse Stuart (August 8, 1907-1984) – Author/educator/poet laureate of Kentucky. Born and raised in Greenup County, buried in Plum Grove Cemetery in Greenup County.
Allen Tate (November 19, 1899-1979) – American poet, essayist, social commentator, and was a Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Born near Winchester, died in Nashville, Tennessee.
Hunter S. Thompson (July 18, 1937- 2005) – Journalist, author, noted for Gonzo journalism and the literary movement, New Journalism. Born in Louisville, died in Woody Creek, Colorado.
Helen Thomas (August 4, 1920-). – UPI White House Bureau Chief, she covered 10 presidents beginning with John F. Kennedy. American news service reporter, a Hearst Newspaper columnist. Born in Winchester.
Robert Penn Warren (April 24, 1905-1989) – American poet, novelist, and literary critic, Pulitzer Prize author of, “All the King’s Men,” and the Pulitzer prize for poetry, 1947. Born in Guthrie, died in Stratton, Vermont.