I love lists. I especially love lists of books. The Library of Congress recently complied a list of the 88 books that shaped America. Note, that this isn’t a list of the best books, but a list of the most influential books, those that made us who we are. Everything from The Cat in the Hat to Pragmatism by William James, and of course everything in between.
Take a look at the list and see how many you can check off – that’s the fun of lists. Take a look and see how many more you need to read. That’s the even better part of lists. What’s still undone.
The online exhibit includes thumbnails of the books, as well as a short summary of each one. If you want to learn more about any of them, check out our online resources in American literature. Here, you’ll find the Encyclopedia of American Poetry, with articles on Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. And here you will find the Encyclopedia of the Novel, with articles on Their eyes were watching God and Beloved. Explore one of our newest databases, The Nineteenth Century Collections Online, and search primary sources for Frederick Douglass, Mark Twain, and Washington Irving.
You can even read many of these influential books online, as well as other works by their authors. Databases like Twentieth Century African American Poetry and Early American Fiction are full text. And Wright American Fiction 1851-1875 lets you read the books (so many obscure and interesting writers!) in image format, just as they appeared to 19th century readers.
Nonfiction figures heavily in the list too. And you’ll find many of the older works in our general and Special Collections: Survey of the Roads of the United States of America,(1789); Kinsey’s notorious Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948); W.E.B. Du Bois’ Souls of the Black Folk (1903).
See what a variety there is? No excuses not to find SOMETHING that will interest you. Let’s hear from you all – how many books on this list have YOU read? Comment below.