"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Monday, July 4, 2016

List: Literary Books That Have Shaped American Life

I came across this list of “The books that have shaped American life” by Tracy Mumford from Minnesota Public Radio.  It’s a list of the most influential books that have shaped American life as voted by their listeners.  But more importantly, they got the inspiration to compile such a list from The Library of Congress, which put together list of “Books that have Shaped America.”  Their website doesn’t say how they compiled and discriminated to form this list, but it’s a much better list than the listener generated from Minnesota Public Radio.

Well, that gave me an idea of me putting together such a list from my perspective, and what better day than the Fourth of July to celebrate American literature.  What I listed here is what I perceived as the 50 most influential literary works of American literature.  They may not be the best literary works, but I think they had the most impact on American literary culture.  I limited myself to one work per author, and in some cases I listed collections put together posthumously.  I know; there may be some glaring omissions but I either have not read them or I did not perceive them to have had a cultural impact yet.

So without further ado, here are what I think are the 50 most influential literary works in American literature, in no particular order.

1.      The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
2.      The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
3.      Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
4.      Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
5.      Walden; or, Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau
6.      On the Road by Jack Kerouac
7.      Moby-Dick; or, the Whale by Herman Melville
8.      Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
9.      Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
10.  Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly by Harriet Beecher Stowe
11.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
12.  Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
13.  All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren
14.  The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
15.  Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
16.  The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
17.  The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
18.  The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
19.  The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
20.  Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
21.  In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
22.  Poems by Emily Dickenson
23.  Long Day's Journey into Night by Eugene O'Neill
24.  The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
25.  The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
26.  The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
27.  The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams
28.  The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
29.  Harmonium by Wallace Stevens
30.  Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
31.  A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
32.  The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson by Ralph Waldo Emerson
33.  The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
34.  The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
35.  Tales by Edgar Allan Poe
36.  Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
37.  My Ántonia by Willa Cather
38.  Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
39.  Beloved by Toni Morrison
40.  The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor
41.  Native Son by Richard Wright
42.  The Collected Stories of O. Henry by O. Henry
43.  Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
44.  Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
45.  The Complete Tales of Washington Irving by Washington Irving
46.  The Poetry of Robert Frost by Robert Frost
47.  Collected Stories by Raymond Carver
48.  The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
49.  Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis
50.  Rabbit, Run by John Updike

So, out of curiosity, what would you take off this list and what would you add?

Happy Fourth of July!

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