Friday, August 03, 2012

Have I read books that shaped America? Yea, a few

I came across the Library of Congress's list of "Books that Shaped America." I came across the list at Bookshelves of Doom here.The list is part of an LOC exhibit, which you can view online too. My four readers know that I come across a list like this, and I just have to see how many I have read. Follow the link to see the full list. Out of their list, I have read the following:

  • Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776). I have found that, like other works of the U.S. Founders, many people think they know this book, or they think because they have seen a quote from it that they have read it. I actually read it, and I think a lot more people ought to read it.
  • Benjamin Franklin, The Private Life of the Late Benjamin Franklin, LL.D. (1793).This is what most of us know as the Autobiography.
  • Washington Irving, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (1820). 
  • Frederick Douglass, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845). I've read this a few times, graduate school being the latest. My daughter now has to read it for school this upcoming year. It is one of her summer readings. 
  • Herman Melville, Moby Dick, or The Whale (1851).
  • Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or Life in the Woods (1854).
  • Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1855).
  • Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). 
  • L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900). I remember reading this as a child, but I have not read it recently. It may be time to look at it again. 
  • Jack London, The Call of the Wild (1903). Another one I remember reading as a kid.
  • Zane Grey, Riders of the Purple Sage (1912). I read this for my Adult Readers' Advisory class in library school. It was my Western literature selection.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925). I read this in graduate school, and I remember hating it. In fact, it is one of those books that I honestly do not understand the infatuation so many people feel for it. The fact that a new film is coming out is not something that appeals to me i.e. I could not care less. 
  • Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). Read this for my African American Literature course in graduate school. 
  • Margaret Wise Brown, Goodnight Moon (1947). I read this to my daughter a few times when she was a baby.
  • Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire (1947). 
  • J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (1951). I believe I have expressed my hatred of this book before, so I will not say more on it.
  • Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952).
  • E.B. White, Charlotte's Web (1952).
  • Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1953). I had to teach it to high school freshman back in my days as a school teacher. 
  • Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (1957). Yes, for some reason I do not understand to this day, I inflicted this on myself. It is, to put it simply, the paean to selfish assholes everywhere who think they will never need anybody. 
  • Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat (1957).
  • Jack Kerouac, On the Road (1957). Another one I read on my own that I did not like. It is another case of an overrated book.
  • Joseph Heller, Catch-22 (1961). I remember finding this book interesting when I read it, and I did like it. Given current events, it is starting to seem relevant. It may be time to revisit it. 
  • Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are (1963).
  • Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987). 
  • Randy Shilts, And the Band Played On (1987). 
Out of the 88 books on their list, I have read 25. However, I will add some of the authors from the list that I have read some of their other works. I always feel like I have to make this observation because very often I have read some of these canonical or classic authors, but not the specific books listed on a list. For instance:

  • The Federalist (1787). I have read parts of this, but I have not read all of them. 
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne. I have read his short fiction, but I have not read The Scarlet Letter (1850). I have no intention to do so neither. I already know the basic plot, so I don't feel the need to inflict it on myself. 
  • Mark Twain. I have read a few of his other works in addition to Huck Finn. To be honest, I like his later, darker works. 
  • Emily Dickinson. I have read her poetry, just not a collected works book. 
  • W.E.B. Du Bois. I have parts of his work, but I never had to read the whole work. I may need to fix that gap. 
  • William James. I read The Varieties of Religious Experience instead.
  • William Carlos Williams. Have read some of his poetry, but not the whole book listed. 
  • Robert Frost. Same thing. 
  • Langston Hughes. Ditto. 
  • William Faulkner. I read As I Lay Dying instead. I hated it, and to this day, it has turned me off from ever reading Faulkner again. If I want to read some generational tale about some family, I prefer the Buendías. The Bundrens really are just a bunch of very messed up people Southern whites. 
  • Dashiell Hammett. I've read his short fiction. 
  • Eugene O'Neill.I read Long Day's Journey into Night. Oh, and I saw Desire Under the Elms performed.
  • Ray Bradbury. Yes, I did read the book listed. However, The Martian Chronicles is my favorite Bradbury work.
  • Ayn Rand. Yes. I have read more than one book by this woman. I also read The Fountainhead. If you must inflict this author on yourself, read The Fountainhead, which is somewhat more readable plus it is a lot shorter. 
  • Robert A. Heinlein. I have read a good amount of his short fiction. Novels of his I recall reading include Starship Troopers, Time Enough for Love, and Farnham's Freehold. I hated that last one. I did like the other two. I kind of have a love-hate relationship when it comes to Heinlein.
So, there you have it. I am sure they could have added other books. Compared to other lists out there, this one does seem to add a bit of diversity.