Booklist-American Classics

A death in the family. James Agee.  
A novel told through the perspectives of the wife, six year old son, and brother of Jay Follet, who has unexpectedly died in a car accident. 

How the Garcia girls lost their accents. Julia Alvarez.
When their family moves from the Dominican Republic to the Bronx in the 1960s, four sisters are thrown into life in the big city. 

All God’s children need traveling shoes. Maya Angelou. 
An autobiographical work describing Maya Angelou’s experiences in Ghana during the 1960’s.  The book captures the spirit of Africa during that time while comparing and contrasting the situation of African- Americans with black Africans. 

I know why the caged bird sings. Maya Angelou. 
The first installment of Angelou's autobiography, which traces her life from early youth in Arkansas through an unwanted pregnancy in California. 

Caves of steel
. Isaac Asimov. 
Elijah Bailey, a detective in the future, is sent to the Outer Worlds to crack a murder case involving a "Spacer" who hails from another planet. 

Giovanni's room. James Baldwin. 
David is an American ex-patriot in Paris during the 1950's. Although engaged to his middle-class sweetheart back in America he finds himself in a passionate affair with Giovanni, a poor Italian. 

Herzog. Saul Bellow. 
As his marriage disintegrates and his life crumbles around him, Moses E. Herzog fixes upon writing letters to a host of people. 

Dandelion wine. Ray Bradbury. 
In this calm, soothing look back at childhood, Douglas Spaulding is twelve years old growing up in the Midwest in 1928. 

Farenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. 
Guy Montag is a fireman in the future -- a future where firemen burn books.  He loves his job until he meets a young woman who tells him about a time when people read books instead of destroying them. Suddenly, he's intent on saving books, but
that's a dangerous job! 

The mists of Avalon. Marion Zimmer Bradley. 
What really happened in Camelot?  The women of King Arthur’s court tell their version of the story. 

Bury my heart at Wounded Knee. Dee Alexander Brown. 
The history of westward expansion is told from the perspective of Native Americans.  This narrative begins with the Long Walk and culminates with the massacre at Wounded Knee. 

The good earth. Pearl S. Buck. 
Wang Lung’s journey from peasant to wealthy land owner is presented in this look at life in China in the 1920’s. 

Tarzan of the apes. Edgar Rice Burroughs. 
Tarzan, a young boy rescued from life among the apes, attempts to adjust to mainstream human culture. 

Naked lunch. William S. Burroughs. 
The convoluted chronicle of a junky named Bill Lee who travels from New York to Tangiers and ultimately to a hallucination induced land called Interzone. Burrough's writing style, characterized by non-linear jumps in locale and concepts, made him a preeminent figure of the beat generation. 

In cold blood: a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences. Truman Capote. 
Capote uses his skills as an investigative reporter to reconstruct the chilling murder of a family. A harrowing account of an actual murder and a peek into the mind of a killer. 

Other voices, other rooms. Truman Capote. 
After his mother dies, Joel is sent to live with his father's family. Joel soon learns that things are not always as they seem and that things don't always turn out the way we hope. 

My Antonia. Willa Cather. 
A young orphan, Jim Burden, tells the story of Antonia, the strong and independent daughter of immigrant parents who have settled in Nebraska. The story is filled with rich images of the land and settlers. 

The Awakening. Kate Chopin. 
Edna Pontellier isn't happy with being a wife and a mother. She's looking to be herself. She sends her children to live in the country and moves out of her husband's house. But can she really throw off all of the restrictions of society? 

The Last of the Mohicans. James Fennimore Cooper. 
Set during the French and Indian War, this tale is filled with adventure and battles that revolve around Cora, the daughter of a general, and Hawkeye, one of the last members of the Mohican tribe. 

The Red Badge of Courage. Stephen Crane. 
Fight or flight is the question a young Union soldier in the Civil War must answer as he faces his first battles.  A look at an individual’s struggle with bravery and cowardice. 

I heard the owl call my name. Margaret Craven. 
Mark, a young vicar, goes to live in British Columbia with the Kwakiutl Indians.  Mark learns the ways of the Kwakiutl and becomes engrossed in their culture and ideas. 

Waterlily. Ella Cara Deloria. 
The story of Waterlily, a Sioux woman, follows her from her own birth through the birth of her first child. 

Deliverance. James Dickey. 
Four suburbanites find themselves pitted against dangerous locals when they canoe down a river in rural Georgia.  How do the civilized respond when their lives are threatened? 

The sound and the fury. William Faulkner. 
The story of the Compson family is told through the juxtaposition of three brothers’ voices.  The once wealthy Southern family’s decline is marked by lost fortune, madness, illegitimacy, and perseverance. 

The great Gatsby. F. Scott Fitzgerald. 
Gatsby embarks on a road to wealth and power in an attempt to win back the love of Daisy Buchanan, a former lover. Framed against the backdrop of the roaring twenties, the decadence of an era and the impossibility of the American dream are major themes in this work. 

Tender is the night. F. Scott. Fitzgerald. 
While resting on the French Rivera in the 1920s, Rosemary Hoyt, a young actress, becomes enamored with Dick Driver, a wealthy psychiatrist.  Dick, who is already married to another woman, finds himself torn between his obligations to his wife and his interest in Rosemary. 

Cheaper by the dozen. Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth. 
The zany antics of the Gilbreth family (which has twelve children) are revealed in this novel about a family growing up together. 

Belles on their toes. Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth. 
In this sequel to Cheaper by the dozen, life is different for the Gilbreth family after Papa’s death.  But the family’s sense of humor and love for life helps them to move forward. 

Ordinary people. Judith Guest. 
A family struggles to regain normalcy after the accidental boating death of a son and brother, Buck.  Relationships between mother, Judith and father, Cal are especially strained after their other son, Conrad, attempts to commit suicide. 

Death be not proud. John Gunther. 
Johnny was just seventeen years old when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Johnny’s father wrote this moving book that chronicles Johnny's struggle to survive cancer. 

Snow falling on cedars. David Guterson. 
When Kabuo Miyamoto is accused of murder, Ishmael Chambers is sent into the courtroom as a reporter.  Chambers, who once dated Kabuo's wife, Hatsue, reflects back on the relationship.  Set in Washington state in the 1950's, following the internment of Japanese Americans by the US government. 

The house of seven gables. Nathaniel Hawthorne. 
A curse on their mansion has plagued the Pyncheon family for generations.  A suspenseful, dark tale that calls guilt and redemption into question. 

The scarlet letter. Nathaniel Hawthorne. 
In Puritan Boston, Hester Prynne must wear a scarlet "A" to mark her as an adulteress. 

Catch-22. Joseph Heller. 
Like many soldiers, Yossarian finds himself unable to get out of the war and always attempting to break free of the circular logic that forces him to keep fighting even though he’d much rather be back at home.  An alternately hilarious and devastating look at war. 

The old man and the sea. Ernest Hemingway. 
Santiago is an old fisherman in a small boat who hooks an enormous marlin off the coast of Cuba.  But once you hook it, how do you get it into the boat and back to shore? 

Their eyes were watching God. Zora Neal Hurston. 
Janie Crawford, who has been married three times and has been accused of the murder of one of her husbands, experiences the watchful eyes of the residents of Eaton, Florida. 

World according to Garp. John Irving. 
Garp, a middle-aged novelist, tells the story of his life, with its unusual but believable cast of characters. 

The cider house rules. John Irving. 
Homer Wells was raised at an orphanage in Maine and taken under the wing of the orphanage's resident doctor.  Wally and Candy, a young and wealthy, couple, bring the nearly grown Homer to their house, where his life takes some unexpected twists. 

A separate peace. John Knowles. 
When Gene Forester returns to the boarding school he attended after twenty years, he looks back at his relationship with his best friend and roommate, Phineas, and the accident that forever changed Phineas’ life. 

To kill a mockingbird. Harper Lee. 
Eight year old Scout Finch narrates the events of three years' time, including the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of the rape of a white woman. 

Babbitt. Sinclair Lewis. 
George Follansbee Babbitt is a middle-of-the-road, middle-class man living in middle America who is average in every way but thinks he is a unique, important individual.  He has a fascination with moving forward, climbing upward, and reaching for new things--but is lucky just to get by. 

The call of the wild. Jack London. 
Buck, a dog, is stolen from his home and sold to work as a sled dog in Alaska during the Gold Rush.  Struggling for survival brings out Buck’s more wild instincts. 

On the road. Jack Kerouac. 
Dean Moriarty, recently released from prison, meets Sal Paradiso, a writer, and the two embark on a series of trips that bring them across America’s many regions and in touch with some interesting characters. 

The natural. Bernard Malamud. 
Roy Hobbs wishes to be the best baseball player and his wish is granted.  With his trusty bat Wonderboy, Roy thinks he can do anything.  But Roy is human and pride, greed, and other vices stand in his way. 

Angela's ashes. Frank McCourt. 
McCourt's mem
oirs of his childhood in Ireland and in New York City looks at his difficult, poverty stricken upbringing with humor and grace. 

Moby Dick. Herman Melville. 
Captain Ahab’s hunt for Moby Dick, the greatest of the great white whales is on one level an exciting adventure story and on another level a discussion of the nature of humanity. 

Beloved. Toni Morrison. 
Through a series of fragmented pieces that revolve around a ghost, the story of Sethe and her daughters evolves.  Set during and after the Civil War. 

Foxfire: confessions of a girl gang. Joyce Carol Oates. 
Five teenage girls band together against a world of sexism and conformity. 

A good man is hard to find. Flannery O'Connor. 
A collection of short stories set in the rural south that exposes some of the recurrent themes in southern life. 

The bell jar. Sylivia Plath. 
Esther is a talented young woman with dreams of becoming a writer.  When she embarks on in an internship in New York City, she grows disheartened due to society’s boundaries. 

The chosen. Chiam Potok. 
Reuven Malther and Danny Saunders, two Jewish boys with different religious backgrounds, are brought together by chance in the 1940’s in New York.  This presentation of the friendship of the two boys examines spirituality and relationships between friends, fathers and sons. 

The catcher in the rye. J. D. Salinger. 
Holden Caulfield, who has just been thrown out of his prep school, decides to go to New York City, where he continues to be struck with the knowledge that the world is filled with phonies and fakes. 

Franny and Zooey. J. D. Salinger. 
Franny Glass is an intelligent teen who has a nervous breakdown.  Her older brother Zooey tries to help her with her problems and ends up dealing with some of his own.

The killer angels. Michael Shaara. 
A revealing look at the Battle of Gettysburg filled with intricate detail and riveting action. 

The jungle. Upton Sinclair. 
When immigrant Jurgis Rudkus and his family first move to Chicago they’re excited. But when Jurgis gets a job in the meat industry, the whole family suffers from the terrible conditions and wages. This book launched investigations and eventual change in labor laws and in food production. 

A tree grows in Brooklyn. Betty Smith. 
Francie Nolan experiences poverty and hope while growing up with her dreamer father, realist mother, and spoiled brother in turn of the century Brooklyn. 

Cannery Row. John Steinbeck. 
A look at the down-and-out inhabitants of a small coastal town in California. 

Of mice and men. John Steinbeck. 
Lennie and George are farmhands in California who can't seem to get a break.  Lennie's extraordinary strength coupled with limited intelligence result in some problems for the pair. 

The pearl. John Steinbeck. 
After Kino finds a giant pearl, he and his wife envision a better life for their son.  But the pearl seems to have an awful effect on everyone near it. 

Uncle Tom's cabin. Harriet Beecher Stowe. 
Set before the Civil War, this book looks at the treatment of slaves in the United States.  A propaganda piece written by an abolitionist, the book presents the radical notion that blacks are people with feelings and deserve to be free. 

The joy luck club. Amy Tan. 
Four women who have recently moved from China in the 1940’s meet and share their pasts and their dreams with one another over dim sum in San Francisco.  The kitchen God’s wife is the sequel to this book. 

The bonesetter’s daughter. Amy Tan. 
Ruth Young, a Chinese-American woman, is surprised to find two lists written by her mother, LuLing, who suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease.  The lists, titled Things I know are true andThings I must not forget, chronicle LuLing’s life in China, which she never shared with Ruth. 

The mosquito coast. Paul Theroux. 
The Fox family, led by their father, moves from the United States to the jungles of Honduras in order to get away from the negative aspects of American society.  As told from the perspective of Charlie Fox, one of the children, the family soon realizes that their father’s ideas for a new society may not be as perfect as they had once thought--but can their dad be stopped? 

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's court. Mark Twain. 
Hank Morgan, a 19th century New Englander, is transported through time and space to England in 526, where he tries to introduce modern inventions like telephones and trains. Hijinks ensue. 

Tom Sawyer. Mark Twain. 
Tom is a young orphan growing up on the Mississippi in the 1840’s.  His adventures are filled with humorous anecdotes and glimpses of American life. 

The centaur. Updike, John. 
George and Peter Caldwell, father and son, are trapped in their house for three days during a blizzard, giving them much time for introspection.  Through parallels between Greek mythology, the relationship between the father and son are explored. 

Slaughter-house five. Kurt Vonnegut. 
Billy Pilgrim is held captive in a museum-type diorama on the planet Tralfamadore.  As he sits on the distant planet, he recalls fragments of his life, including being a P.O.W. during the second world war. 

The color purple. Alice Walker. 
Celie struggles to survive her abusive relationship and the hardships of being a black in America in the early 1900’s. 

Jubilee. Margaret Walker. 
As Vryr, the daughter or a plantation owner and a slave, grows into adulthood, the political landscape of the South changes dramatically.  Vryr experiences life as a slave, then the Civil War and Reconstruction period. Throughout, she is remarkably strong. 

Ethan Frome. Edith Wharton. 
Ethan is a poor farmer who is unhappy in his marriage. Mattie Silver, his wife's cousin, comes to live with the Fromes and Ethan and Mattie fall in love.

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