By O Henry
I must admit, there are just a handful of American writers that I can truly appreciate - Jhumpa Lahiri (if she counts), Ernest Hemingway, Ayn Rand and O Henry are the top ones that come to my mind. Having grown up in the Commonwealth, rarely did I have a chance to explore American writing. But when I saw the collected works of O Henry at CPL, I thought it would be appropriate to start with this.
Of course, William Sydney Portert is famous as the master of the irony, a maddeningly difficult literary tool to achieve, but one that can make all the difference. But even before his period short stories, Cabbages & Kings, his first work, gave us the wonderful term, 'banana republic.' In a lazy, company-run country that can be taken for a ride at the drop of a hat, we discover the twists and turns from Porter's imagination.
The book is not typical of his later collected works of short stories, in that it is a long story (though not a novel) that catches the final irony right in the end. To that extent, it is a precursor to his successful works. But on it's own too, it stands out as a fine piece of literature.
PS: I might also recommend Gift of the Magi.