The Nottingham-born writer, whose novels marked him out as one of the Angry Young Men of British fiction who emerged in the 1950s, died at Charing Cross Hospital in London.
His son David said he hoped his father would be remembered for his contribution to literature.
Sillitoe is also survived by his wife, the poet Ruth Fainlight, and a daughter, Susan.
He left school at 14 and worked in a bicycle factory in his native Nottingham before serving in the RAF. His breakthrough came with the publication of the novel Saturday Night And Sunday Morning in 1958.
It was made into a film, starring Albert Finney, as was his next novel The Loneliness Of The Long-Distance Runner which featured Hull-born Tom Courteney in the lead role.
Both are regarded as classic examples of kitchen sink dramas reflecting the reality of life in Britain at the mid-point of the 20th century. Sillitoe also published several volumes of poetry, children's books and plays.
His work realistically portrayed the plight of working class "heroes" in post-war Britain and their disillusionment over the lack of employment opportunities for people returning from military service.
Sillitoe was born on March 4 1928 in Nottingham, the second son of an illiterate tannery labourer who was regularly out of work.
He was later to sum up his squalid, penny-pinching childhood in these words: "We lived in a room in Talbot Street whose four walls smelled of leaking gas, stale fat and layers of mouldering wallpaper."
His first semi-fictional tale, written when he was a child, about his wild cousins, was burned by his mother as being too revealing.
He served as a wireless operator in the Royal Air Force.
After returning from Malaya he contracted tuberculosis and spent 16 months in an RAF hospital before being pensioned off.
It was during this period that he started to write. In 1958 he produced Saturday Night And Sunday Morning, a story about working class life in Nottingham. This was followed in 1961 by a sequel, Key Of The Door.
Much of his early work concerned restless young men from the slum world who rebelled against the established order of things.
The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner, concerning the rebellion of a Borstal boy with a talent for running, won the Hawthornden Prize in 1959.
Altogether he wrote more than 50 books, poetry and plays as well as more than 400 essays.