Top Eight American Novels to Take on Holiday


Part Five in a Series

With the recent release of yet another movie version of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, The Great Gatsby, interest in the book – and other great American novels – is high. This is the fifth in a series on The Great Gatsby.

As an English Major at the Master’s degree level at San Francisco State University, I was required to choose an emphasis. I decided on Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language because I wanted to live overseas.

In addition to core courses in linguistics and teaching methodology, I was also required to take 12 units of English and/or American literature. I had hated literature classes up until this point.

But the atmosphere in graduate school was different. I was older – and more mature. I spent time in the library and did research. I thrived on the readings – and the lively class discussions.

Ever since then I’ve thought that education is wasted on the young.

For more on how I became the unlikeliest of English majors, please click on the following link: Great Gatsby: Biobliophobe to English Major – the Making of a Writer.

One of my favourite literature classes was called the American Novel. We spent one semester reading eight novels by eight authors. Some of them were household names, and a couple of them were titles that only an English major would recognize.

I think they would make a great introduction to American literature. They would also constitute an excellent reading list to take on holiday.

Top Eight American Novels

These eight novels were chosen by the professor – mostly because they were the most representative of a certain genre, not necessarily because they were the best books ever written.

 I’ve listed them in the approximate order of my own personal preference.   

1. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

2. Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

3. Moby Dick by Herman Melville

4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

5. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinback

6. Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

7. The Great Gatsby by J. Scott Fitzgerald

8. Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

If I could edit the list, I would make three changes. For Theodore Dreiser, I would favour an American Tragedy over Sister Carrie. For Mark Twain, I would substitute Tom Sawyer for Huckleberry Finn.

And I would drop William Falkner altogether. I’m not a big fan of stream of consciousness. This is the only book in the lot that I cannot remember one single thing about.

Except that I didn’t enjoy plowing my way through it.

To Be Continued

This is the fifth in a series on the Great Gatsby


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