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. 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 as of September 2020:


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

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