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American Lit List

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). This list is idiosyncratic, since I’m not listing books I’d already read before immigrating, and it grows as I find out about more books (so I may never finish it).

The “Yale syllabus” I reference is for “The American Novel Since 1945” from Open Yale Courses. The Radcliffe 100 is a list of 100 great novels, and the others listed are award winners or books suggested by friends and respected writers.

Here is where the list stands now:


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


  1.     Anderson, Sherwood. Winesburg, Ohio.
  2.     Barth, John.Lost in the Funhouse (Yale Syllabus).
  3.     Baum, L. Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Radcliffe 100).
  4.     Bellamy, Edward. Looking Backward.
  5.     Burroughs, Edgar Rice. The Land That Time Forgot.
  6.     Cain, James M. The Postman Always Rings Twice.
  7.     Capote, Truman. Breakfast at Tiffany’s: A Short Novel and Three Stories.
  8.     Cather, Willa. O Pioneers!
  9.     Chabon, Michael. The Yiddish Policeman’s Union (Pulitzer).
  10.     Cheney Neville, Emily. It’s Like This, Cat.
  11.     Chopin, Kate. The Awakening.
  12.     Curwood, James Oliver. God’s Country – And the Woman.
  13.     Eggers, Dave. The Wild Things.
  14.     Eggers, Dave. What Is The What.
  15.     Estes, Eleanor. Ginger Pye (Newbery).
  16.     Fitzgerald, F. Scott. This Side of Paradise.
  17.     Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.
  18.     Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon (Radcliffe 100).
  19.     Hemingway, Ernest. The Short Stories.
  20.     Hemingway, Ernest. The Sun Also Rises.
  21.     Hosseini, Khaled. A Thousand Splendid Suns.
  22.     Jackson, Shirley. We Have Always Lived in the Castle.
  23.     Jackson, Shirley. The Haunting of Hill House.
  24.     James, Henry. Daisy Miller.
  25.     James, Henry. The Turn of the Screw.
  26.     Jewett, Sarah Orne. Country of the Pointed Firs.
  27.     Kerouac, Jack. On The Road (R,Y) (abandoned this at the three-quarter mark).
  28.     Kesey, Ken. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Radcliffe 100).
  29.     Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior (Yale Syllabus).
  30.     Konigsburg, E. L. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
  31.     Lawson, Robert. Rabbit Hill.
  32.     Leonard, Elmore. Pagan Babies.
  33.     Lethem, Jonathan. Chronic City.
  34.     Lofting, Hugh. The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle (Newbery).
  35.     London, Jack. The Call of the Wild.
  36.     Longstreet, Augustus Baldwin. Georgia Scenes.
  37.     MacLachlan, Patricia. edward’s eyes.
  38.     MacLachlan, Patricia. Sarah, Plain and Tall.
  39.     McCarthy, Cormac. No Country For Old Men (Pulitzer).
  40.     McCarthy, Cormac. Blood Meridian (Yale syllabus).
  41.     McCourt, Frank. Angela’s Ashes.
  42.     McCoy, Horace. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
  43.     Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye (Yale Syllabus).
  44.     Nabokov, Vladmir. Lolita (R,Y).
  45.     O’Brien, Robert C. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.
  46.     O’Connor, Flannery. The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor.
  47.     O’Connor, Flannery. Wise Blood (Yale Syllabus).
  48.     Paterson, Katherine. Bridge to Terebithia.
  49.     Paterson, Katherine. Jacob Have I Loved.
  50.     Proulx, E. Annie. Bad Dirt.
  51.     Pynchon, Thomas. The Crying of Lot 49 (Yale Syllabus).
  52.     Rand, Ayn. Anthem.
  53.     Robinson, Marilynne. Housekeeping (Yale Syllabus).
  54.     Roth, Philip. The Great American Novel.
  55.     Roth, Philip. The Plot Against America.
  56.     Russo, Richard. Empire Falls (Pulitzer).
  57.     Sachar, Louis. Holes.
  58.     Salinger, J. D. Franny and Zooey (Yale Syllabus).
  59.     Salinger, J. D. Nine Stories.
  60.     Sebold, Alice. The Lovely Bones.
  61.     Shields, Carol. Collected Stories.
  62.     Sontag, Susan. In America (Nat’l Book Award) (abandoned partway through as too boring).
  63.     Stein, Gertrude. Tender Buttons.
  64.     Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men.
  65.     Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath.
  66.     Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
  67.     Twain, Mark. The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.
  68.     Twain, Mark. The Innocents Abroad.
  69.     Twain, Mark. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
  70.     Updike, John. Terrorist.
  71.     Welty, Eudora. Collected Stories of Eudora Welty.
  72.     Wharton, Edith. Ethan Frome (Radcliffe 100).
  73.     Wright, Richard. Black Boy (Yale Syllabus).
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