88 books that helped shape America…

The Library of Congress has created a list of 88 books that they feel has shaped America.  

As Librarian of Congress James H. Billington stated on the Library of Congress website: “This list is a starting point. It is not a register of the ‘best’ American books – although many of them fit that description. Rather, the list is intended to spark a national conversation on books written by Americans that have influenced our lives, whether they appear on this initial list or not.” What is missing in your opinion?

For this list, I have added the following to the list to identify my own personal experience with the books on the list…in other words, I am slowing working on it.


  • * : Read
  • **: Reading
  • ***: Read in parts

****All the links in the title of the books should be active.

Title Author Date
Experiments and Observations on Electricity Benjamin Franklin 1751
Poor Richard Improved and The Way to Wealth Benjamin Franklin 1758
Common Sense  *** Thomas Paine 1776
A Grammatical Institute of the English Language Noah Webster 1783
The Federalist    ** anonymous 1787
A Curious Hieroglyphick Bible anonymous 1788
A Survey of the Roads of the United States of America Christopher Colles 1789
The Private Life of the Late Benjamin Franklin, LL.D. Benjamin Franklin 1793
American Cookery Amelia Simmons 1796
New England Primer anonymous 1803
History of the Expedition Under the Command of the Captains Lewis and Clark Meriwether Lewis 1814
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow  *** Washington Irving 1820
McGuffey’s Newly Revised Eclectic Primer William Holmes McGuffey 1836
Peter Parley’s Universal History Samuel Goodrich 1837
The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass *** Frederick Douglass 1845
The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne 1850
Moby-Dick; or The Whale Herman Melville 1851
Uncle Tom’s Cabin Harriet Beecher Stowe 1852
Walden; or Life in the Woods * Henry David Thoreau 1854
Leaves of Grass Walt Whitman 1855
Little Women, or Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy * Louisa May Alcott 1868
The American Woman’s Home Catharine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe 1869
Mark, the Match Boy Horatio Alger Jr. 1869
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain 1884
How the Other Half Lives Jacob Riis 1890
Poems Emily Dickinson 1890
The Red Badge of Courage Stephen Crane 1895
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz * L. Frank Baum 1900
Harriet, the Moses of Her People Sarah H. Bradford 1901
The Call of the Wild Jack London 1903
The Souls of Black Folk W.E.B. Du Bois 1903
The History of Standard Oil Ida Tarbell 1904
The Jungle Upton Sinclair 1906
The Education of Henry Adams Henry Adams 1907
Pragmatism William James 1907
Riders of the Purple Sage Zane Grey 1912
Family Limitation Margaret Sanger 1914
Tarzan of the Apes Edgar Rice Burroughs 1914
New Hampshire Robert Frost 1923
Spring and All William Carlos Williams 1923
The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald 1925
The Weary Blues Langston Hughes 1925
Red Harvest Dashiell Hammett 1929
The Sound and the Fury William Faulkner 1929
Joy of Cooking * Irma Rombauer 1931
Gone With the Wind Margaret Mitchell 1936
How to Win Friends and Influence People Dale Carnegie 1936
Idaho: A Guide in Word and Pictures Federal Writers’ Project 1937
Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston 1937
Our Town: A Play Thornton Wilder 1938
Alcoholics Anonymous *** anonymous 1939
The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck 1939
For Whom the Bell Tolls Ernest Hemingway 1940
Native Son Richard Wright 1940
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Betty Smith 1943
A Treasury of American Folklore Benjamin A. Botkin 1944
A Street in Bronzeville Gwendolyn Brooks 1945
The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care Benjamin Spock 1946
The Iceman Cometh Eugene O’Neill 1946
Goodnight Moon Margaret Wise Brown 1947
A Streetcar Named Desire Tennessee Williams 1947
Sexual Behavior in the Human Male Alfred C. Kinsey 1948
The Catcher in the Rye  * J.D. Salinger 1951
Charlotte’s Web  * E.B. White 1952
Invisible Man Ralph Ellison 1952
Fahrenheit 451  * Ray Bradbury 1953
Howl  * Allen Ginsberg 1956
Atlas Shrugged Ayn Rand 1957
The Cat in the Hat  * Dr. Seuss 1957
On the Road ** Jack Kerouac 1957
To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee 1960
Catch-22 * Joseph Heller 1961
Stranger in a Strange Land Robert E. Heinlein 1961
Silent Spring  *** Rachel Carson 1962
The Snowy Day Ezra Jack Keats 1962
The Feminine Mystique Betty Friedan 1963
The Fire Next Time James Baldwin 1963
Where the Wild Things Are   * Maurice Sendak 1963
The Autobiography of Malcolm X *** Malcolm X and Alex Haley 1965
Unsafe at Any Speed Ralph Nader 1965
In Cold Blood Truman Capote 1966
The Double Helix James D. Watson 1968
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee Dee Brown 1970
Our Bodies, Ourselves Boston Women’s Health Book Collective 1971
Cosmos Carl Sagan 1980
And the Band Played On Randy Shilts 1987
Beloved Toni Morrison 1987
The Words of Cesar Chavez Cesar Chavez  2002

I’ve already stated that I love to read but haven’t enough time to do it and that I have a poor record of reading the classics. Well, here is yet another list of books you should read and the Library of Congress is looking for your suggestions of what else to add to the list, which you can find more information about here.

Additionally, because it is high summer reading time: The Huffington Post and Stephen Prothero just shared the 10 Things You Need To Read Before the 2012 Election, the canon which Prothero calls “the American Bible”. He states that,  “these speeches, songs, and sayings are the holy writ of our public life, and the conversations and controversies they provoke are the rite of our republic.” There are a few duplicates!!

Published by livingtheamericandreamineurope

I live in Europe, I am from America.

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