Books 101: Guide to Classic American Novels

What makes a great American novel, let alone one that we would consider to be a classic? There are many different “American” novels which allow someone to pick and choose which ones they would like to explore. Maybe they are labeled that way because they written by an American, true but not always the case. An American novel is based on the idea that the novel is shaped around American life in one way or another. Most of these works we have read at some point in our lives or maybe we have heard of them from book lists or friends; whether it was for a school assignment, a book club or just out of curiosity to tackle the great American novel we recognize these authors.

If you are like me in any way you would have read these during your school days, where you were forced to read books that helped shape American Literature. I do remember the majority of these books being horrible at the time when I was first reading them, but now that I have expanded my reading spectrum I gave the authors another chance to tickle my fancy and I have to say it worked. Being an American I am always interesting in the work of my country and how they saw the USA from their own eyes. Of course when I was first introduced to these great works I really wasn’t seeing how wonderful they truly were, I was more focused on other things, such as boys. Boys took up much more of my focus then the novels my teachers laid in front of me.  Now I am much more grown up, even though I do still think about boys on a great scale, I have learned to appreciate my literary heritage. Here is a list of some of the novels most people would categorize as a classic American Novel:

–        Gone with the Wind  by Margaret Mitchell

–        Uncle Tom’s Cabin  by Harriet Beecher Stowe

–        The Adventures of Tom Sawyer & The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn  by Mark Twain

–        As I Lady Dying  by William Faulkner

–        The Call of the Wind & White Fang  by John London

–        The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

–        Little Women  by Louisa M. Alcott

–        The Grapes of Wrath  by John Steinbeck

–        The Scarlet Letter  by Nathaniel Hawthorne

–          The Great Gatsby  by F. Scott Fitzgerald

–        Moby Dick  by Herman Melville

–        The Crucible by Arthur Miller

–        The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

–        The Catcher in the Rye  by Holden Caulfield  


Of course there are many other authors that I did not name like Henry James or Edgar Alan Poe but I did not want to stress you out too much and gave you a bit of selection for starting your adventure into Classic American Literature. My personal favorites from the list are Gone with the Wind, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Great Gatsby, and The Catcher in the Rye.   Of course all the books are good in their own way and each one tells a different story about life in America. I do hope this list helps you if you are interested in looking into Classic American Fiction.  On just a side notes, Ernest Hemingway is considered one of the best American authors of all time (to some) but none of his novels actually take place in America. The reason I put him on the list is due to the fact his works helped to shape American life during the years he was writing and it wouldn’t be a proper list without him on it.

What novels from American Fiction do you like and why?

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