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American Lit List

I’ve really gotten away from reading from my American Lit List in the past year. I embarked on this ambitious reading project in December 2007, with the end goal of having read whatever American novels I probably would have read had I grown up here (with the caveat that I have an English degree, so this well-read Alternate Universe Joanne would presumably have one too). At the time, I set the goal of doing all the reading by November 2010 (Ahahahahahahaha!), which was when the first elections occurred after I became eligible for citizenship (which I haven’t gotten yet, for various reasons too complicated and off-topic to explain here).

The list itself is pretty idiosyncratic, since of course I didn’t bother listing books I’d already read, which is a few, so as a comprehensive list of classic and must-read American novels, it’s a tragic failure, but I figure it’ll be interesting for bibliophiles nonetheless.

I’ve found this Yale course on the American Novel Since 1945 which gives me some structure for continued reading, so I think I’m going to work my way through that now. I’ve already read Nabokov’s Lolita and most of Kerouac’s On the Road, but not the others, and I do better with audio books since I can listen to them on my commute (which is otherwise wasted time). So I’m going to buy the audiobooks I haven’t read and get started again, doing the reading then the lecture that applies to it. I figure if I have it set up as one continuous set of sound files in my ipod I may actually manage it.

Anyway, here is where the list stands now:

(PP) = Pulitzer / (NBA) = National Book Award / (R) = Radcliffe 100 / (Y) = Yale American Novel Syllabus


  1.     Adams, Henry. The Education of Henry Adams (PP).
  2.     Algren, Nelson. The Man with the Golden Arm (NBA).
  3.     Allison, Dorothy. Bastard Out of Carolina.
  4.     Anderson, Edward. Thieves Like Us.
  5.     Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
  6.     Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza.
  7.     Apple, Max. The Propheteers.
  8.     Baldwin, James. Go Tell It On The Mountain (R).
  9.     Ball, Edward. Slaves in the Family.
  10.     Barrett, Andrea. Ship Fever and Other Stories (NBA) or Voyage of the Narwhal.
  11.     Barth, John. Chimera (NBA) or Lost in the Funhouse (Y).
  12.     Barthelme, Donald. City Life.
  13.     Bellow, Saul. Herzog (NBA) or Humboldt’s Gift (PP) or Mr. Sammler’s Planet (NBA) or The Adventures of Augie March (NBA).
  14.     Bierce, Ambrose. The Devil’s Dictionary or The Parenticide Club.
  15.     Blos, Joan. A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl’s Journal (Newbery).
  16.     Brautigan, Richard. In Watermelon Sugar (this one recommended by DFW in interview).
  17.     Brooks, Geraldine. March (PP).
  18.     Burroughs, William. Naked Lunch.
  19.     Butler, Robert Olen. A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain (PP).
  20.     Caldwell, Erskine. Tobacco Road.
  21.     Calvert, Patricia. Sooner.
  22.     Cantor, Jay. Krazy Kat.
  23.     Capote, Truman. Other Voices, Other Rooms or In Cold Blood (R).
  24.     Carver, Raymond. Cathedral.
  25.     Casey, John. Spartina (NBA).
  26.     Chandler Harris, Joel. Uncle Remus.
  27.     Chandler, Raymond. The Big Sleep or Farewell, My Lovely or Playback or The High Window or The Lady in the Lake or The Little Sister or The Long Goodbye.
  28.     Cheever, John. The Stories of John Cheever (NBA/PP) or The Wapshot Chronicle (NBA).
  29.     Condon, Richard. Winter Kills or The Manchurian Candidate.
  30.     Coolidge, Susan. What Katy Did at School.
  31.     Coover, Robert. Briar Rose or Spanking the Maid.
  32.     Crane, Stephen. Maggie: A Girl of the Streets or The Red Badge of Courage.
  33.     Crews, Harry. Karate is a Thing of the Spirit.
  34.     Cullin, Mitch. Tideland.
  35.     Cunningham, Michael. The Hours (PP).
  36.     Daugherty, James. Daniel Boone (Newbery).
  37.     DeLillo, Don. White Noise (NBA/R).
  38.     Dexter, Pete. Paris Trout (NBA).
  39.     Dickey, James. Deliverance.
  40.     Didion, Joan. Slouching Towards Bethlehem or The Year of Magical Thinking or Play It As It Lays (rec’ed by DFW in interview).
  41.     Doctorow, E. L.. World’s Fair (NBA).
  42.     Dreiser, Theodore. An American Tragedy (R) or Sister Carrie.
  43.     D’Souza, Tony. The Konkans.
  44.     Earley, Tony. Somehow Form A Family: Stories That Are Mostly True or Here We Are In Paradise.
  45.     Elkin, Stanley. The Franchiser.
  46.     Ellis, Bret Easton. Less Than Zero.
  47.     Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man (NBA/R).
  48.     Eugenides, Jeffrey. Middlesex (PP).
  49.     Faulkner, William. The Wild Palms or The Reivers (PP) or Absalom, Absalom! (R) or The Sound and the Fury (R) or As I Lay Dying (R).
  50.     Faulkner, William. The Collected Stories of William Faulkner (NBA).
  51.     Fearing, Kenneth. The Big Clock.
  52.     Fenimore Cooper, James. Leatherstocking Tales or The Last of the Mohicans or The Spy.
  53.     Fleischman, Sid. The Whipping Boy (Newbery).
  54.     Ford, Richard. Independence Day (PP).
  55.     Franzen, Jonathan. The Corrections (NBA).
  56.     Frazier, Charles. Cold Mountain (NBA).
  57.     Gaddis, William. The Recognitions or A Frolic of His Own (NBA) or J R (NBA).
  58.     Gilchrist, Ellen. Victory Over Japan: A Book of Stories (NBA).
  59.     Gipson, Fred. Old Yeller.
  60.     Glass, Julia. Three Junes (NBA).
  61.     goldberg, d.g.k. Queen of the Country.
  62.     Grau, Shirley Ann. The Keepers of the House (PP).
  63.     Gresham, William Lindsay. Nightmare Alley.
  64.     Gurganus, Allan. Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All or White People.
  65.     Hannah, Barry. Geronimo Rex.
  66.     Harris, Thomas. The Silence of the Lambs (on DFW syllabus).
  67.     Harvey, Matthea. Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form (poetry; on DFW syllabus).
  68.     Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The House of the Seven Gables or The Marble Faun or The Blithedale Romance or Twice-Told Tales.
  69.     Hazzard, Shirley. The Great Fire (NBA).
  70.     Heinemann, Larry. Paco’s Story (NBA).
  71.     Heller, Joseph. Catch-22 (R).
  72.     Helprin, Mark. Winter’s Tale.
  73.     Hemingway, Ernest. The Short Stories.
  74.     Hijuelos, Oscar. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (PP).
  75.     Hoagland, Tony. What Narcissism Means to Me (poetry; on DFW syllabus).
  76.     hooks, bell. Ain’t I a Woman.
  77.     Irving, Washington. A History of New York, by Diedrich Knickerbocker or Salmagundi.
  78.     Jackson, Shirley. The Lottery and Other Stories.
  79.     Jin, Ha. Waiting (NBA).
  80.     Johnson, Charles. Middle Passage (NBA).
  81.     Johnson, Denis. Tree of Smoke (NBA).
  82.     Jones, Edward P. The Known World (PP, Y).
  83.     Jones, James. From Here to Eternity (NBA).
  84.     Jones, LeRoi (Amiri Baraka). Blues People.
  85.     Kennedy Toole, John. A Confederacy of Dunces (PP).
  86.     Kennedy, William. Ironweed (PP).
  87.     Kesey, Ken. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (R).
  88.     Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior (Y).
  89.     Knowles, John. A Separate Peace (R).
  90.     Kosinski, Jerzy. Steps (NBA) or The Painted Bird.
  91.     Lahiri, Jhumpa. Interpreter of Maladies (PP).
  92.     Leonard, Elmore. La Brava (Edgar).
  93.     Lethem, Jonathan. Motherless Brooklyn and Gun, with Occasional Music.
  94.     Lewis, Sinclair. Babbitt (R) or Main Street (R).
  95.     Lowry, Lois. Number the Stars (Newbery).
  96.     Lurie, Alison. Foreign Affairs (PP).
  97.     Mailer, Norman. The Deer Park or Armies of the Night or The Executioner’s Song (PP) or The Naked and the Dead (R).
  98.     Malamud, Bernard. The Fixer (NBA/PP) or The Magic Barrel (NBA).
  99.     Maxwell, William. So Long, See You Tomorrow (NBA).
  100.     McCarthy, Cormac. All the Pretty Horses (NBA) or Child of God or The Crossing or The Road (PP) or Blood Meridian (Y).
  101.     McCullers, Carson. Member of the Wedding or The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.
  102.     McDermott, Alice. Charming Billy (NBA/R).
  103.     McMurtry, Larry. Lonesome Dove (PP).
  104.     McPherson, James Alan. Elbow Room (PP).
  105.     McSweeney, Joyelle. Flet.
  106.     Melville, Herman. Billy Budd or Typee.
  107.     Michener, James A. Centennial or Tales of the South Pacific (PP).
  108.     Millar, Margaret. Beast in View (Edgar) or The Iron Gates.
  109.     Miller, Henry. Tropic of Cancer (R).
  110.     Millhauser, Steven. Martin Dressler (PP).
  111.     Momaday, N. Scott. House Made of Dawn (PP).
  112.     Monette, Paul. Borrowed Time.
  113.     Morris, Wright. Plains Song (NBA) or The Field of Vision (NBA).
  114.     Morrison, Toni. Beloved (R) or Song of Solomon (R) or The Bluest Eye (Y).
  115.     Oates, Joyce Carol. them (NBA).
  116.     O’Brien, Tim. Going After Cacciato (NBA).
  117.     O’Connor, Edwin. The Edge of Sadness (PP).
  118.     O’Connor, Flannery. Wise Blood (Y).
  119.     O’Hara, John. Appointment in Samara or Butterfield 8 or Ten North Frederick (NBA).
  120.     Ohle, David. The Pisstown Chaos.
  121.     Olson, Charles. Call Me Ishmael.
  122.     Olson, Tillie. Tell Me a Riddle.
  123.     Percy, Walker. The Moviegoer (NBA).
  124.     Porter, Eleanor H. Pollyanna.
  125.     Porter, Katherine Anne. Flowering Judas and Other Stories or The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter (NBA/PP).
  126.     Powers, J. F. Morte D’Urban (NBA).
  127.     Powers, Richard. The Echo Maker (NBA).
  128.     Pynchon, Thomas. Gravity’s Rainbow (NBA) or The Crying of Lot 49 (Y).
  129.     Randall, Alice. The Wind Done Gone or Pushkin and the Queen of Spades.
  130.     Raskin, Ellen. The Westing Game (Newbery).
  131.     Rawls, Wilson. Where the Red Fern Grows.
  132.     Rich, Adrienne. On Lies, Secrets and Silence.
  133.     Richter, Conrad. The Town (PP) or The Waters of Kronos (NBA).
  134.     Robinson, Marilynne. Gilead (PP) or Housekeeping (Y).
  135.     Roth, Philip. The Human Stain.
  136.     Rush, Norman. Mating (NBA).
  137.     Safran Foer, Jonathan. Everything is Illuminated (Y).
  138.     Salinger, J. D. Franny and Zooey (Y).
  139.     Seredy, Kate. The White Stag (Newbery).
  140.     Settle, Mary Lee. Blood Ties (NBA).
  141.     Shaara, Michael. The Killer Angels (PP).
  142.     Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle (R).
  143.     Singer, Isaac B. A Crown of Feathers and Other Stories (NBA) or The Collected Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer.
  144.     Smiley, Jane. A Thousand Acres (PP).
  145.     Smith, Lee. Fancy Strut or Black Mountain Breakdown.
  146.     Smith, Richard Penn. Colonel Crockett’s Exploits and Adventures in Texas.
  147.     Speare, Elizabeth George. The Witch of Blackbird Pond (Newbery).
  148.     Stafford, Jean. The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford (PP).
  149.     Stegner, Wallace. Angle of Repose (PP) or Crossing to Safety or The Spectator Bird (NBA).
  150.     Steinbeck, John. The Winter of Our Discontent.
  151.     Stone, Robert. Dog Soldiers (NBA).
  152.     Styron, William. Sophie’s Choice (NBA/R) or The Confessions of Nat Turner (PP).
  153.     Tartt, Donna. The Little Friend.
  154.     Taylor, Peter. A Summons to Memphis (PP).
  155.     Thurber, James. A Thurber Carnival.
  156.     Tuck, Lily. The News from Paraguay (NBA).
  157.     Tyler, Anne. Breathing Lessons (PP) or Accidental Tourist.
  158.     Uris, Leon. Exodus or Trinity.
  159.     Vidal, Gore. The United States: Essays 1952-1992.
  160.     Vollmann, William. Rainbow Stories or Europe Central (NBA).
  161.     Walker, Alice. The Color Purple (NBA).
  162.     Wallace, David Foster. Infinite Jest and Everything and More (set theory!).
  163.     Warren, Robert Penn. All the Kings Men (R).
  164.     West, Nathaniel. The Day of the Locust or Miss Lonelyhearts.
  165.     White, Edmund. A Boy’s Own Story.
  166.     Wilder, Thornton. The Eighth Day (NBA).
  167.     Willard, Nancy. A Visit to William Blake’s Inn (Newbery).
  168.     Williams, John Edward. Augustus (NBA).
  169.     Williams, Tennessee. Orpheus Descending.
  170.     Williams, Thomas. The Hair of Harold Roux (NBA).
  171.     Wolfe, Thomas. Look Homeward, Angel (R) or You Can’t Go Home Again.
  172.     Wolfe, Tom. Bonfire of the Vanities (R).
  173.     Woolrich, Cornell. Rear Window.
  174.     Wouk, Herman. The Caine Mutiny (PP) or The Winds of War or War and Remembrance.
  175.     Wright, Richard. Native Son (R) or Black Boy (Y).
  176.     X, Malcolm and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
  177.     Yates, Richard. Revolutionary Road.


  1.     Anderson, Sherwood. Winesburg, Ohio.
  2.     Baum, L. Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (R).
  3.     Bellamy, Edward. Looking Backward.
  4.     Burroughs, Edgar Rice. The Land That Time Forgot.
  5.     Cain, James M. The Postman Always Rings Twice.
  6.     Capote, Truman. Breakfast at Tiffany’s: A Short Novel and Three Stories.
  7.     Cather, Willa. O Pioneers!
  8.     Chabon, Michael. The Yiddish Policeman’s Union (PP).
  9.     Cheney Neville, Emily. It’s Like This, Cat.
  10.     Chopin, Kate. The Awakening.
  11.     Curwood, James Oliver. God’s Country – And the Woman.
  12.     Estes, Eleanor. Ginger Pye (Newbery).
  13.     Fitzgerald, F. Scott. This Side of Paradise.
  14.     Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.
  15.     Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon (R).
  16.     Hemingway, Ernest. The Sun Also Rises.
  17.     Hosseini, Khaled. A Thousand Splendid Suns.
  18.     Jackson, Shirley. We Have Always Lived in the Castle.
  19.     Jackson, Shirley. The Haunting of Hill House.
  20.     James, Henry. Daisy Miller.
  21.     James, Henry. The Turn of the Screw.
  22.     Jewett, Sarah Orne. Country of the Pointed Firs.
  23.     Kerouac, Jack. On The Road (R,Y) (abandoned this at the three-quarter mark).
  24.     Konigsburg, E. L. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
  25.     Lawson, Robert. Rabbit Hill.
  26.     Leonard, Elmore. Pagan Babies.
  27.     Lethem, Jonathan. Chronic City.
  28.     Lofting, Hugh. The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle (Newbery).
  29.     London, Jack. The Call of the Wild.
  30.     Longstreet, Augustus Baldwin. Georgia Scenes.
  31.     MacLachlan, Patricia. edward’s eyes.
  32.     MacLachlan, Patricia. Sarah, Plain and Tall.
  33.     McCourt, Frank. Angela’s Ashes.
  34.     McCoy, Horace. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
  35.     Nabokov, Vladmir. Lolita (R,Y).
  36.     O’Brien, Robert C. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.
  37.     O’Connor, Flannery. The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor.
  38.     Paterson, Katherine. Bridge to Terebithia.
  39.     Paterson, Katherine. Jacob Have I Loved.
  40.     Proulx, E. Annie. Bad Dirt.
  41.     Rand, Ayn. Anthem.
  42.     Roth, Philip. The Great American Novel.
  43.     Roth, Philip. The Plot Against America.
  44.     Russo, Richard. Empire Falls (PP).
  45.     Sachar, Louis. Holes.
  46.     Salinger, J. D. Nine Stories.
  47.     Sebold, Alice. The Lovely Bones.
  48.     Shields, Carol. Collected Stories.
  49.     Sontag, Susan. In America (NBA) (abandoned partway through as too boring).
  50.     Stein, Gertrude. Tender Buttons.
  51.     Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men.
  52.     Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath.
  53.     Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
  54.     Twain, Mark. The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.
  55.     Twain, Mark. The Innocents Abroad.
  56.     Twain, Mark. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
  57.     Updike, John. Terrorist.
  58.     Welty, Eudora. Collected Stories of Eudora Welty.
  59.     Wharton, Edith. Ethan Frome (R).
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