The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 iSteve BlogTeasers
88 Books That Shaped America
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments

I like lists, so here is the 2012 Library of Congress list of 88 Books that Shaped America. It’s not supposed to be the best books, but the most influential, with lots of non-literary works. Despite obvious biases like blacks being vastly better represented than in reality, it’s not a bad list.

A few comments:

- Benjamin Franklin wrote 3 of the 88 books. The only other author with more than one book on the list is Harriet Beecher Stowe with 1.5.

- You can see the role of identity politics taking over as the list gets closer to the present. The last book on the list, one I had never heard of existing before now, was no doubt thrown on in panic when the list-makers realized they hadn’t checked a certain demographically sizable (but culturally insignificant) box.

- One striking thing is the lack of influence of Catholic writers until fairly recently. I can’t identify any ethnically Catholic writers on the list before Margaret Sanger in 1914 for Family Limitation. F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby, 1925) is the first literary writer of Catholic background. Dashiell Hammett (the insanely violent Red Harvest, 1929) was from an old Maryland Catholic family on his mother’s side. Eugene O’Neill is on the list for The Iceman Cometh, 1946. (I’m not sure what the ethnic background was of Betty Smith, whose 1943 novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was a huge bestseller.)

This is in contrast to England, where Catholic writers, such as Alexander Pope, pop up even during eras of oppression. And America mostly lacks a literary tradition of converts to Catholicism, like Newman, Hopkins, Chesterton, Waugh, and Greene in England.

- Jewish writers were not major literary figures until roughly after WWII, although Jews did very well in more commercial writing before then. Could it be that the first Jewish writer on this list is folklorist Benjamin Botkin for his 1944 Treasury of American Folklore? Next would be the half-Jewish J.D. Salinger with Catcher in the Rye, 1951.

- Overall, the weight of Protestants on American culture is pretty overwhelming until the mid-20th Century. So, you can see why there is such a strong urge to retcon American history with heapings of Ellis Island Nation of Immigrants schmaltz to inflate the reputations of the ancestors of today’s top dogs.

Here’s the list with the author’s Intersectionality Pokemon Points added by me (with former points no longer in fashion crossed out):

Benjamin Franklin, “Experiments and Observations on Electricity” (1751) NONE

Benjamin Franklin, “Poor Richard Improved” (1758) and “The Way to Wealth” NONE

Thomas Paine, “Common Sense” (1776) FIRST WORLD IMMIGRANT NONE

Noah Webster, “A Grammatical Institute of the English Language” (1783) NONE

“The Federalist” (1787) Madison: NONE; Jay: NONE; Hamilton: ARE YOU KIDDING: NONE HONORARY NONWHITE, THIRD WORLD IMMIGRANT, PROBABLY SECRETLY JEWISH, REACTIONARY RAPPER

“A Curious Hieroglyphick Bible” (1788) NONE

Christopher Colles, “A Survey of the Roads of the United States of America” (1789) NONE

Benjamin Franklin, “The Private Life of the Late Benjamin Franklin, LL.D.” (1793) NONE

Amelia Simmons, “American Cookery” (1796) WOMAN

“New England Primer” (1803) NONE

Meriwether Lewis, “History of the Expedition Under the Command of the Captains Lewis and Clark” (1814) NONE

Washington Irving, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (1820) NONE

William Holmes McGuffey, “McGuffey’s Newly Revised Eclectic Primer” (1836) NONE

Samuel Goodrich, “Peter Parley’s Universal History” (1837) NONE

Frederick Douglass, “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” (1845) BLACK

Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Scarlet Letter” (1850) NONE

Herman Melville, “Moby-Dick”; or, “The Whale” (1851) SEXUAL AMBIGUITY?

Harriet Beecher Stowe, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (1852) WOMAN

Henry David Thoreau, “Walden;” or, “Life in the Woods” (1854) HIPPIE NONE

Walt Whitman, “Leaves of Grass” (1855) GAY

Horatio Alger Jr., “Mark, the Match Boy” (1869) NONE

Catharine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe, “The American Woman’s Home” (1869) WOMAN

Mark Twain, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (1884) FUNNY NONE

Emily Dickinson, “Poems” (1890) WOMAN

Jacob Riis, “How the Other Half Lives” (1890) FIRST WORLD IMMIGRANT NONE

Stephen Crane, “The Red Badge of Courage” (1895) DIED YOUNG NONE

L. Frank Baum, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” (1900) NONE

Sarah H. Bradford, “Harriet [Tubman], the Moses of Her People” (1901) WOMAN (character BLACK, though)

Jack London, “The Call of the Wild” (1903) WORKING CLASS NONE

W.E.B. Du Bois, “The Souls of Black Folk” (1903) BLACK

Ida Tarbell, “The History of Standard Oil” (1904) CRUSADER AGAINST MONOPOLY WOMAN

Upton Sinclair, “The Jungle” (1906) ANTI-CAPITALIST NONE

Henry Adams, “The Education of Henry Adams” (1907) NONE

William James, “Pragmatism” (1907) NONE

Zane Grey, “Riders of the Purple Sage” (1912) NONE

Edgar Rice Burroughs, “Tarzan of the Apes” (1914) NONE

Margaret Sanger, “Family Limitation” (1914) WOMAN

William Carlos Williams, “Spring and All” (1923) PUERTO RICAN

Robert Frost, “New Hampshire” (1923) NONE

F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Great Gatsby” (1925) NONE

Langston Hughes, “The Weary Blues” (1925) BLACK, GAY

William Faulkner, “The Sound and the Fury” (1929) SOUTHERN NONE

Dashiell Hammett, “Red Harvest” (1929) NONE

Irma Rombauer, “Joy of Cooking” (1931) WOMAN

Margaret Mitchell, “Gone With the Wind” (1936) SOUTHERN WOMAN

Dale Carnegie, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” (1936) NONE

Zora Neale Hurston, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” (1937) BLACK, WOMAN

Federal Writers’ Project, “Idaho: A Guide in Word and Pictures” (1937) NONE

Thornton Wilder, “Our Town: A Play” (1938) GAY?

“Alcoholics Anonymous” (1939) ON THE WAGON NONE

John Steinbeck, “The Grapes of Wrath” (1939) NONE

Ernest Hemingway, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (1940) NONE

Richard Wright, “Native Son” (1940) COMMUNIST BLACK

Betty Smith, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” (1943) WOMAN

Benjamin A. Botkin, “A Treasury of American Folklore” (1944) JEWISH NONE

Gwendolyn Brooks, “A Street in Bronzeville” (1945) BLACK, WOMAN

Eugene O’Neill, “The Iceman Cometh” (1946) NONE

Margaret Wise Brown, “Goodnight Moon” (1947) WOMAN

Tennessee Williams, “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1947) GAY

Alfred C. Kinsey, “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” (1948) BISEXUAL

J.D. Salinger, “The Catcher in the Rye” (1951) JEWISH VET NONE

Ralph Ellison, “Invisible Man” (1952) BLACK

E.B. White, “Charlotte’s Web” (1952) NONE

Ray Bradbury, “Fahrenheit 451” (1953) NONE

Allen Ginsberg, “Howl” (1956) JEWISH GAY

Ayn Rand, “Atlas Shrugged” (1957) JEWISH WOMAN

Dr. Seuss, “The Cat in the Hat” (1957) NONE

Jack Kerouac, “On the Road” (1957) SEXUALLY CONFUSED

Harper Lee, “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1960) WOMAN, LESBIAN?

Joseph Heller, “Catch-22” (1961) JEWISH NONE

Robert A. Heinlein, “Stranger in a Strange Land” (1961) NONE

Ezra Jack Keats, “The Snowy Day” (1962) NONE (character is BLACK, though)

Maurice Sendak, “Where the Wild Things Are” (1963) JEWISH GAY

James Baldwin, “The Fire Next Time” (1963) BLACK, GAY

Betty Friedan, “The Feminine Mystique” (1963) JEWISH WOMAN

Malcolm X and Alex Haley, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” (1965) BLACK

Ralph Nader, “Unsafe at Any Speed” (1965) NONE ARAB

Rachel Carson, “Silent Spring” (1962) WOMAN

Truman Capote, “In Cold Blood” (1966) GAY

James D. Watson, “The Double Helix” (1968) NONE!

Dee Brown, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” (1970) NONE (but his book was about NATIVE AMERICANS)

Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, “Our Bodies, Ourselves” (1971) WOMEN, LESBIANS?

Carl Sagan, “Cosmos” (1980) JEWISH NONE

Toni Morrison, “Beloved” (1987) BLACK, WOMAN

Randy Shilts, “And the Band Played On” (1987) GAY

César Chávez, “The Words of César Chávez” (2002) UNION LEADER LATINO

 
Commenters to Ignore...to FollowEndorsed Only
    []
  1. The Double Helix is essential reading, but did it really shape America?

    Where The Wild Things Are is redundant. Goodnight Moon is arguably more influential, and you really need only one early childhood book.

    I would have included Walker Evans and James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men from the Depression Era, though I suppose Grapes of Wrath is in there for the same reason.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anon
    "The Double Helix is essential reading, but did it really shape America?"

    Mismeasure of Man had a bigger impact... unfortunately
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
    AgreeDisagreeLOLTroll
    These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Troll, or LOL with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used once per hour.
    Sharing Comment via Twitter
    /isteve/88-books-that-shaped-america/#comment-1831451
    More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  2. Ed says:

    Interesting though the books authored by blacks have legit arguments for inclusion, although I personally wouldn’t include Beloved. The Cesar Chavez inclusion is absurd on its face.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Barnard
    What is the argument for Beloved? I can't see any way that it shaped America.
  3. Liberal says: • Website

    88? Wow.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Mr. Anon
    "88? Wow."

    Yeah, what's up with that? Has the Librarian of Congress seen Kyle?

    Why not "100 books that shaped America"?
    , @Kyle a
    Jesus. The Order just walked in the door.
    , @Olorin
    I think you meant

    just wow
     
    , @iffen
    88? Wow.

    Right, when I read the headline I thought, "I know Mein Kamph didn't have an effect, let me see which ones did."
  4. Hubbub says:

    Did these writings shape America or did they more likely fit the shape of America after the fact?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Saintonge235
    Some of those books DID shape America. E.g., UNCLE TOM'S CABIN helped crystalize Northern anti-slavery opinion, which in turn helped bring on the Civil War Between the States.

    But many are dubious, and some ridiculous, if "shaping America" is the standard.
  5. Not a bad list. There’s definitely some presentist bias even when you disregard the more obvious diversity picks: for instance, almost nothing on the list has anything to do with religion. You can’t tell me there weren’t religious titles that were more important in the larger culture than say, Walden.

    Read More
    • Replies: @David
    I agree. I thought maybe Ben Hur, a Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace should have been on this list. Best selling American book until Gone with the Wind.

    I also thought something by Jacob Abbot, best selling American children's author of the 19th cent.

    Before Ben Hur, Riley's Sufferings in Africa (1817) was close to if not the best selling American book. Supposedly it played a big role in priming Americans to oppose slavery, including Abe Lincoln.
    , @WGG
    Very true. At first I thought it was supposed to be American authors only, in which case it is understandable that Christian books are missing. However on closer inspection I see that is not the case. Where is The Pilgrim's Progress? Where is Mere Christianity?
    , @The Man From K Street

    almost nothing on the list has anything to do with religion. You can’t tell me there weren’t religious titles that were more important in the larger culture than say, Walden
     
    The Book of Mormon? I guess they had to leave it out because they didn't want to put "Joseph Smith" as the author, and they obviously couldn't put "God"--cf. Alcoholics Anonymous where they say "unknown" even though we've known Bill W.'s identity since forever. Ironically, most non-LDS scholars of Mormonism think that at some future point, maybe the end of the 21st or beginning of the 22nd centuries, the LDS Church will (quietly) start to put JS as the author on the title page.
    Dale Carnegie is a good pick, but what about The Man Nobody Knows by Bruce Fairchild Barton? For that matter, what about Babbitt?
    , @Jrmhjhnsn
    Someone commented further down this chain noting the missing KJV of the Bible; is there any book that has had more impact on formation of "American" culture? We've forgotten in this secular age, but religious education and practice informed all aspects of life for the majority of Americans throughout much of our history. The LoC librarians could certainty figure out which American printer of the Bible had the greatest number of copies in circulation . . .

    "Common Sense" is appropriate for its effect on revolutionary fervor; but what about printed sermons, and religious tracts and pamphlets, and their effect through the First, Second, and Third Great Awakenings? I don't have the answer, and I may be wrong about the influence of religious themed print in those eras, but if we're still studying Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" in academic circles, then I suspect there was enough of an influence to warrant recognition on this list . . .
  6. CK says:

    Nice to see Rand and Heinlein and Bradbury on the list.
    I could disagree with the Heinlein chosen; but that is what lists are for so I won’t.

    Read More
  7. Sunbeam says:

    Never got why Catcher is the Rye is supposed to be what it is.

    It’s not the writing or language. If you want that, read Jack Vance’s Dying Earth books. Or Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain books (Eilonwy is a pistol).

    Who exactly is supposed to resonate with? To me it was the story of a monumentally ineffectual kid who couldn’t commit to anything. He couldn’t be bad, he couldn’t be bothered to be good.

    Kind of the OG mumblecore work.

    Heck Silverlock blew the doors off that piece of tripe.

    “I have known both joy and grief, neat, and mixed together
    Cold and Heat I’ve known, and found both good drinking weather
    Light and Darkness I have known, seldom doubting whether
    Tammuz would return again, when he’d slipped his tether!

    I remember gaudy days when the Year was springing
    Tammuz, Gilgamesh and I, clinking Cups and singing
    Till Ininni sauntered by, skimpy garments clinging
    To her hips, and things like that: Tammuz left us, winging!

    So we welcomed Enkidu when he came to Erech
    He was rough as hickory bark, nothing of the Cleric!
    But his taste in Wine and Ale, THAT was Esoteric!
    And he used a drinking cup that would strain a derrick!

    Khumbaba then felt our strength ‘neath the magic Cedars
    And we wrestled Anu’s Bull, pride of Heaven’s Breeders!
    Thrice we struck, and once he fell, drawing wolves for feeders
    while we strode where drinking men called for expert leaders.

    Tammuz must have joined us there, but he’d just got wedded
    And Ininni (blast the Wench!) hacked him as they bedded
    Such a honeymoon as that, I have always dreaded….
    For a drinking man is…spoiled…once he’s been beheaded!

    So we waked him with a will, ale and teardrops pooling
    Then we drank to him for months, while the year was cooling.
    But he came back with the grass! Death was only fooling!
    Tammuz told us: “Fill my Cup! I’m both dry…and drooling!”

    Read More
    • Agree: Luke Lea
    • Replies: @Formerly CARealist
    Interesting. I'm reading the Catcher in the Rye right now as part of an effort to get through 20th c. books. It is truly awful. If it really did go on to affect American culture significantly then we can put JD Salinger up there with the worst of them. Degradation in full.

    And the earliest publication date in my copy of the book says 1945.
    , @Alfa158
    Great excerpt, thanks for posting it.
    Gene Wolfe did a variant of Vance's Dying Earth with his Book of the New Sun series. I thought the writing and language were reminiscent of Vance's, but if anything, even better. I occasionally re-read them and get more out of them each time.
    My opinion of Catcher in the Rye was expressed by the teenager in a short story I once read. His teacher gave the class an assignment to read the book and write a review. The kid turned in the perfect one sentence book review: " If I ran into Holden Caulfield in an alley, I would hit him over the head with a big rock." The kid got sent to the principal.
    , @SFG
    It's sf. English majors didn't read sf. They do now, but sadly they have been taken over by PC and Vance and Wolfe will never get the reception they deserve.
    , @SFG
    Re Catcher in the Rye: the guy's messed up because he lost his brother in WW2, and there was this whole pre-existentialist bit to it for the Silents. After that it became teen-alienation-before-teen-alienation for the Baby Boomers, and Gen X could still relate to it sort of.

    I doubt it'll last much longer in the canon, honestly. He's too pale and male.
    , @anon
    It's interesting what seems shocking in the book. Initially there was pushback to the profanity. The last time I looked at it, his teenage smoking seemed to cross the line. It shows up in the list of books assigned in high school, but doesn't seem to get much traction --- they tend to hate it.

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is still attractive to some teenagers. I read it a few years ago and like it.

    They were poor and hungry. Now our poor are fat. Not that I'm in favor of hunger, but it focuses the mind.
    , @Thea
    Catcher in the Rye had quite the following in the Soviet Union where it was viewed as quite subversive.

    Since all American high schoolers need to read it & To Kill a Mockingbird I guess it influences people. A Seperate Peace is better.

    , @RonaldB
    First of all, I have no idea what Heck Silverlock or the excerpt you posted meant, and in particular what it had to do with the Catcher in the Rye.

    Holden Caulfield reflected a archetype teenager, awkward, ineffective, out of place, constantly being criticized for not living up to his potential, completely at sea in a world where he was too old to be cute and too young to be useful. I can attest the teenagers at the time, or a good number of them, resonated to it. Many of them later became hippies and leftists. Some of them became conservatives and even America Firsters. If you were at Woodstock (I wasn't) or the Chicago 1968 convention protests (I was) or were a Vietnam-era draftee (I was) there was a good chance the book spoke to you directly.

    Again, the question is, did the book influence, or did it reflect, a significant part of the America of its time?
    , @anon
    Jack Vance was so influential, he even wrote a book about how influential guys like him were to the caste of fantasy-obsessed, incel losers. Bad Ronald, which was made into a truly unforgettable movie back in the seventies.

    Maybe Catcher was on the "influential" list because the guys who shot Lennon and Reagan were both really into it?

    The Aurora shooter and a couple of other mass shooters were really into The Phantom Tollbooth, as I recall. Maybe that should have gone on there.

    Probably, though, Catcher In The Rye was just there because it inspired a whole generation of high schoolers to be snotty know-it-alls, though. Or at least it made them decide that that was a respectable thing to do, since they probably would have been like that anyway.

  8. Hmmm, the list is missing the books Garry Wills called the best non-fiction written in the U.S. during the 19th Century: Henry Adams’s great histories of the Jefferson and Madison Administrations. Was it influential? If you have taken U.S. history in high school or college, you have basically read a digested version of Adams’s history of this period.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Rex May
    I agree. Actually, Jack Vance should be on all lists.
  9. I’m surprised that there aren’t more ’60 & ’70s feminists – Gloria Steinem etc. Also, no Dr Spock.

    I guess they had to keep the White count down.

    Hence, no Henry James, Edgar Allan Poe, RH Dana, Sinclair Lewis, HL Mencken, Dorothy Parker.

    Maybe John Dos Pasos would have made it if he had been Mexican instead of Portuguese.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anon
    An awful lot of normal Americans have read Poe and Mencken. Leaving them out was ridiculous. Poe's influence on literature was tremendous, and Mencken's influence on cultural thought was also very great.
    , @Malcolm X-Lax
    Dos Passos became a right-wing Joe McCarthy fan later in life. The Dos Passos whom Jean-Paul Sartre once regarded as the greatest novelist in the world was long gone by the time the Cold Ware was in full swing. And Mencken made some unkind observations about jews and blacks in his private writings. Unforgivable. I am surprised lefty-negrophile Dorothy Parker didn't get a spot. Not that she deserved one.

    I was kind of hoping to see Day of the Locust by (jewish writer) Nathanial West, maybe it's my So Cal bias.
    , @Daniel H
    Spock is on the list. Click the link. For some reason Steve didn't manage to copy the entire list.
  10. I’m mostly just laughing at the number 88. But – no non-fiction books about sports? Then again maybe sports has influenced the American competitive and winning-oriented mentality mostly by means other than books.

    Read More
  11. Rachel Carson’s book, “The Silent Spring”, led to the banning of DDT, the most effective pesticide in the fight to eradicate malaria. Millions died that probably would have lived but we probably would have been where we are now but sooner. It was some of the earliest junk science.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Saintonge235
    If the criterion is influence on American culture, then Silent Spring was hugely influential and belongs on the list.
  12. I might have included Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth, a novel about rural China as having shaped America. More than any single book, it it axiomatic in the minds of our educated classes that China is an important, central nation and civilization, an impression that even survived the long isolation under Mao during the 1950s and 1960s.

    That impression certainly led to the opening under Nixon while China was still dirt poor. Without it, we would likely have regarded China as being akin to sub-Saharan Africa well into the ’90s, and our foreign policy and the American economy could well have been quite different today.

    Read More
    • Replies: @snorlax
    IMO, a lot more of the credit for China's economic development belongs to Deng Xiaoping than Nixon.

    I think it may have been inevitable in any case. The Chinese are utterly sure they're the greatest nation and people under heaven. Eventually they simply wouldn't have accepted a continuation of Stalinist policies that left them weak and impoverished compared to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and, still worse, the barbarian backwaters of Japan and Korea.

    (It's worth noting that several hundred years of being slapped around by Europeans didn't bring down the Qing — but humiliation at the hands of Japan did).
  13. {no edit button}

    Corrigendum:

    More than any single book, it helped make the notion axiomatic in the minds of our educated classes that China is an important, central, nation and civilization…

    Read More
  14. David says:
    @Patrick Harris
    Not a bad list. There's definitely some presentist bias even when you disregard the more obvious diversity picks: for instance, almost nothing on the list has anything to do with religion. You can't tell me there weren't religious titles that were more important in the larger culture than say, Walden.

    I agree. I thought maybe Ben Hur, a Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace should have been on this list. Best selling American book until Gone with the Wind.

    I also thought something by Jacob Abbot, best selling American children’s author of the 19th cent.

    Before Ben Hur, Riley’s Sufferings in Africa (1817) was close to if not the best selling American book. Supposedly it played a big role in priming Americans to oppose slavery, including Abe Lincoln.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Whoever
    It's also curious that the once wildly popular In His Steps is not on the list. It's where we get WWJD from, among other things.
  15. anon says: • Disclaimer

    Steve,
    I thought you were above listicles. Next…

    Boo: 13 Country Clubs that Didn’t Admit Jews. #4 Will Shock You!

    Read More
  16. The Z Blog says: • Website

    Even though they left off Mein Kampf, Adolph would still be happy. 88 books? Really.

    I counted to make sure this was not a gag. Nope, They have a list of 88 books. Maybe they should pick the 14 that really stand out.

    Read More
    • LOL: BenKenobi
    • Replies: @Buzz Mohawk
    The whole list comprises 666 books, but they won't publicize that. Among those there are 18 only a chosen few are allowed to study.
  17. snorlax says:
    @PiltdownMan
    I might have included Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth, a novel about rural China as having shaped America. More than any single book, it it axiomatic in the minds of our educated classes that China is an important, central nation and civilization, an impression that even survived the long isolation under Mao during the 1950s and 1960s.

    That impression certainly led to the opening under Nixon while China was still dirt poor. Without it, we would likely have regarded China as being akin to sub-Saharan Africa well into the '90s, and our foreign policy and the American economy could well have been quite different today.

    IMO, a lot more of the credit for China’s economic development belongs to Deng Xiaoping than Nixon.

    I think it may have been inevitable in any case. The Chinese are utterly sure they’re the greatest nation and people under heaven. Eventually they simply wouldn’t have accepted a continuation of Stalinist policies that left them weak and impoverished compared to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and, still worse, the barbarian backwaters of Japan and Korea.

    (It’s worth noting that several hundred years of being slapped around by Europeans didn’t bring down the Qing — but humiliation at the hands of Japan did).

    Read More
    • Agree: Tom-in-VA
    • Replies: @PiltdownMan
    I wasn't suggesting that Nixon had any impact on China, but rather, how the book primed us to view China positively and as a great nation, long before they were economically significant.
  18. Anonym says:

    Have you read all of those books, Steve? I know of most of those books or the author. I have not read many of them. I wonder to what extent I would think differently if I did.

    Catcher in the Rye’s most useful gift was as the part it played in Conspiracy Theory.

    Read More
  19. america wasn’t shaped by books. it’s only been whittled down by books.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Buffalo Joe
    egre....post of the day
    , @Saintonge235
    By definition, "whittling down" is shaping.
  20. Either Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas should be on the list.

    Hunter S. Thompson saw the breakdown of US civil society well before anyone else. For better or worse he also saw the collapse of objectivity and the rise of subjective / participatory journalism. What else was the full throttle advocacy of HRC’s campaign last year than the ultimate conclusion of Gonzo Journalism?

    Bonfire of the Vanities also would have been a good inclusion…

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous Nephew
    But, as Steve says, did Thompson shape America or did he record it (albeit supersized)? I can only speak of the UK, but while a lot of 70s kids read Thompson, very few wanted to live a gonzo life, and those who did (biker types?) mostly hadn't read anything other than Hells Angels. On the other hand, On The Road, written in the 50s, was definitely influential in the UK 10-20 years later.

    Do you think the Hillary campaign was Hunteresque?

    Same with Slouching Towards Bethlehem, more of a record of an era than a pointer to the future.

    (IMHO we are living in a weird hybrid of 1984 and Brave New World. The telescreen doesn't watch or listen to us (unless it's a Samsung that the NSA have got at), but all our communications are monitored 24/7, the Two Minute Hate is becoming established on social media, Newspeak, crimestop and crimethink exist, and we've always been at war with Eurasia. At the same time every white person and their countries belongs to everybody else, pornographic feelies can't be far away, an Alpha-plus caste is separating itself, and the consumption of intoxicants is socially approved as long as they're safe. Pity they've not sorted ageing..)
  21. Luke Lea says:

    Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia, Emerson’s essays, Eliot’s poems, . . .

    Read More
    • Replies: @Whoever
    Certainly agree about Emerson -- they are dissing the whole Transcendentalist movement! Yeah, I know, who's ever heard of that?
    I also think they should have included Longfellow, whose poems every school child had to memorize and recite back in the day. He gave US Cavalry troopers their nickname for the Indian foe. From the oft-repeated phrase, "Lo, the noble Indian," in The Song of Hiawatha, they called him "Mr. Lo."
  22. Barnard says:
    @Ed
    Interesting though the books authored by blacks have legit arguments for inclusion, although I personally wouldn't include Beloved. The Cesar Chavez inclusion is absurd on its face.

    What is the argument for Beloved? I can’t see any way that it shaped America.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Ed
    The only thing I can think of is Oprah pushing it. The movie was awful. I was assigned to read it at college & found it underwhelming.
    , @AnotherGuessModel
    Beloved was very influential with its central theme that African-Americans are mentally and physically burdened by the legacy of slavery. It's an admirable novel plot-wise, literally using a ghost as an extended metaphor of being haunted by slavery. I'd rather read a symbolic fairytale on slavery, no matter how over-indulgent Morrison's writing can be, than the Coates' "omnipresent white violence on black bodies" writing that degenerates her idea of innate trauma.
  23. WGG says:

    Male homosexuals are over represented at 4/88 (Hughes, Capote, Ginsberg, Sendak). Are there more? Buffalo Joe is right about Silent Spring being missing. Also I would think Hunter S. Thompson would have a book on the list simply because quite a few of male Gen X or millennial journalists are following his style (think Matt Taibbi).

    Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard was pretty darn influential. Also, the USA is becoming more and more a conspiracy theorist nation, so it would be good to see that reflected. Maybe one of the JFK assassination books, though I don’t know which one is truly definitive.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anotheranon
    "Male homosexuals are over represented at 4/88 (Hughes, Capote, Ginsberg, Sendak). Are there more?"

    Whitman and Wilder, certainly. There are also a number of figures of unclear or eclectic sexuality (Melville, Kerouac).
    , @Laugh Track
    I'm surprised that one of Leon Uris's best-selling pot boilers, perhaps Exodus, was not on the list. His books were hugely influential in promoting Zionism and Holocaust 'awareness', at a time when the U.S. was still somewhat wary of what Israel was up to in the Levant.

    For conspiracy books, None Dare Call it Treason and None Dare Call it Conspiracy sold in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Mark Lane's Rush to Judgment was probably the most influential and pioneering JFK assassination critique.
  24. No Poe, no Lovecraft? They have both had more staying power and more lasting influence than Grey or Burroughs.

    And where is Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse 5″? He is no doubt a leftist and a facile writer, but he was quite influential in “shaping America”.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Sunbeam
    Not a western reader, but trust me I know the genre for both Lovecraft and ERB.

    Lovecraft was actually sort of obscure for a long time, like Robert H. Howard, till the 70's fantasy explosion brought on by Lord of the Rings becoming popular in the 60's in this country.

    The SF Fandom circles kept the flame burning for both of them (they actually corresponded together), but mainstream America really had no knowledge of works published in pulps in the 20's and 30's.

    Tarzan has been rocking the world of 13 year old boys since 1914 or whenever.

    And geez. The Lord of the Apes not culturally significant?

    John Carter has been immensely popular as well, though not as much as Tarzan (ERB named his California estate 'Tarzana' - he knew who paid the bills).

    Hah! From Wikipedia:

    "Tarzana /tɑːrˈzænə/ is an affluent neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley region of the city of Los Angeles, California. Tarzana is on the site of a former ranch owned by author Edgar Rice Burroughs. It is named after Burroughs' storybook jungle character hero, Tarzan.[1]"

    My guess is A Princess of Mars, Riders of the Purple Sage, and Tarzan will be read long after Lovecraft becomes as little known as James Branch Cabell (once a really big noise) is today.
    , @Steve Sailer
    Poe, among much else, invented the detective story. He was probably more influential in Europe than the writers of his time on the list.
  25. Rex May says: • Website
    @Henry Canaday
    Hmmm, the list is missing the books Garry Wills called the best non-fiction written in the U.S. during the 19th Century: Henry Adams's great histories of the Jefferson and Madison Administrations. Was it influential? If you have taken U.S. history in high school or college, you have basically read a digested version of Adams's history of this period.

    I agree. Actually, Jack Vance should be on all lists.

    Read More
  26. @snorlax
    IMO, a lot more of the credit for China's economic development belongs to Deng Xiaoping than Nixon.

    I think it may have been inevitable in any case. The Chinese are utterly sure they're the greatest nation and people under heaven. Eventually they simply wouldn't have accepted a continuation of Stalinist policies that left them weak and impoverished compared to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and, still worse, the barbarian backwaters of Japan and Korea.

    (It's worth noting that several hundred years of being slapped around by Europeans didn't bring down the Qing — but humiliation at the hands of Japan did).

    I wasn’t suggesting that Nixon had any impact on China, but rather, how the book primed us to view China positively and as a great nation, long before they were economically significant.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Whoever
    I agree with you about Pearl Buck's influence. I'd also throw in Nora Waln and Lin Yutang. This popular trio powerfully shaped American public opinion favorably towards China, certainly much more so than the scholarly Owen Lattimore, who most people prior to the McCarthy era had never heard of, let alone read.
  27. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    If limited to 88 I would’ve dropped a few i.e. “Tarzan.” “Huck Finn” is a no-brainer, but would have included “Life On The Mississippi”. Also might have included “Looking Backward” (Edward Bellamy), “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (Hunter S. Thompson) and “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” (Tom Wolfe).

    Cesar Chavez? Huh??

    Read More
    • Replies: @Josh
    The omission of Bellamy is absolutely inexplicable when you think about what this list is supposed to represent. Looking backward is a top five most influential book.
  28. DWright says:

    What about “Dreams from my Father”, Obama?
    Still by my bedside.

    Read More
  29. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is a fraud that has literally killed millions of people by getting DDT banned. For that matter, the Kinsey report was a load of crap, too.

    Read More
  30. ,

    re:

    Overall, the weight of Protestants on American culture is pretty overwhelming until the mid-20th Century. So, you can see why there is such a strong urge to retcon American history with heapings of Ellis Island Nation of Immigrants schmaltz to inflate the reputations of the ancestors of today’s top dogs.

    I would venture this has a fairly simple explanation: dependence on public school education.

    Protestants were enjoying classical educational styles, albeit with heavy Protestant Christian skewing, up until the 60s and 70s when the balance shifted the other way and the modernized improvements, ehem, became the dominant form.

    In Catholic and Jewish circles this was observed with horror and you saw alternative school systems and parents willing to impoverish themselves rather than subject their children to the horror of public education.

    Nowadays – not quite as much. While many adult Catholics should objectively credit their adult success to their early parochial educations, you will note their subjective decisions to send their kids to public schools – although likely with some sensitivity, i.e.: careful selection of geography or charter schools.

    You do see Protestants turning to charters and home schooling. There is ROI in this. Not much ROI in HBD.

    Parents: Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and other … pay attention to the prominence of Protestants before 1965, and the advance of Catholics and Jewish since 1965, and pay attention to where they went to school. Then: stop fighting the hopeless public school fights. They think, and will actively say, your advanced-track math class is a privilege you don’t deserve and they’ll put all your kids in dumb-math. They are already doing it.

    Stop fighting. Drain them. Drain, drain, drain.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Ivy
    One problem with all that ret-conning schmaltz (i.e., rendered chicken fat) is that it gets rancid. That is not a good fate for a culture.
    Since Asian-Americans were underrepresented, then future lists can ret-conn ghee.
  31. WGG says:
    @Patrick Harris
    Not a bad list. There's definitely some presentist bias even when you disregard the more obvious diversity picks: for instance, almost nothing on the list has anything to do with religion. You can't tell me there weren't religious titles that were more important in the larger culture than say, Walden.

    Very true. At first I thought it was supposed to be American authors only, in which case it is understandable that Christian books are missing. However on closer inspection I see that is not the case. Where is The Pilgrim’s Progress? Where is Mere Christianity?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Saintonge235
    If non-American authors are allowed, the King James Bible should be on that list.
  32. Rex May says: • Website

    Offhand, it seems like the list needs:
    James Thurber
    Frank Yerby
    Taylor Caldwell
    Jack Vance (see above)
    Isaac Asimov
    Updike
    Poe (as Peter said)
    Ezra Pound
    Sinclair Lewis
    Will & Ariel Durant
    Bill Nye (not the science guy)
    Laura Ingalls Wilder
    Philip Wylie
    Raymond Chandler
    And I haven’t even finished my coffee yet.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Intelligent Dasein

    Will & Ariel Durant
     
    Considering that the sole criterion of the list is influence, not necessarily literary merit or popularity, I find the total lack of professional philosophers to be an inexcusable omission. No Dewey, no Santayana, no Quine or Russell or Plantinga. No Leo Strauss. And where are the theologians? Where is Paul Tillich or Archbishop Fulton Sheen?

    And where the heck is John Maynard Keynes?

    I wouldn't necessarily give my approval to most of the names on this short list, but who can deny that they've been hugely, decisively influential?
    , @Steve Sailer
    I'm a huge Chandler and Cain fan, but Hammett's Red Harvest (1929) is there to represent the hard-boiled / noir genre as the first in its line. I would have gone with The Maltese Falcon over Red Harvest, but no real complaints.
    , @pyrrhus
    Edgar Allan Poe was a huge omission.
  33. Mr. Anon says:
    @Liberal
    88? Wow.

    “88? Wow.”

    Yeah, what’s up with that? Has the Librarian of Congress seen Kyle?

    Why not “100 books that shaped America”?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Stan Adams
    The committee probably met on a Friday afternoon ... it was almost five o'clock and everyone wanted to go home.
  34. Kyle a says:

    Alex Haley on this list is downright amusing. They should have used his 60′s Playboy interview with that pipe smoking nazi. No kidding. Playboy was once good reading.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Buffalo Joe
    Kyle a, Haley was accused of plagiarism and sure everyone bought Playboy for the articles. Who doesn't know that?
    , @Reg Cæsar

    Playboy was once good reading.
     
    Because they paid writers three times what other major magazines of the day did, and ten times what average periodicals did. Don't take my word for it; go to a big library and check out-- I mean peruse; you can't check out bound periodicals and reference works-- old copies of Writer's Market.

    That whiskey-and-sports-car-ad-money was put to use.

    Sheldon and Judith Wax wrote for Playboy. They could afford to fly to LA for a book event in pre-deregulation 1979, on American Airlines Flight 191. Apparently that's still America's deadliest plane crash. (Normal plane crash. "9/11" was something else.)

    Judith appeared to forecast her own death in her last novel-- on page 191.

    The Tablet celebrates Playboy's "Jewish decade":

    http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/books/26418/my-son-the-pornographer
    , @Saintonge235
     

    Alex Haley on this list is downright amusing.
     
    I disagree. The Autobiography of Malcolm X arguably was influential, and Haley wrote it, based on his interviews with Malcolm.
  35. Kyle a says:
    @Liberal
    88? Wow.

    Jesus. The Order just walked in the door.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar


    88? Wow.
     
    Jesus. The Order just walked in the door.
     
    Nah. They just like a Moon Pie with their RC:

    http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1988/08/09/page/6/article/towns-number-is-up-residents-rejoice
    http://www.ideal-living.com/a-rc-cola-and-a-moonpie-a-southern-tradition/
    http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=27680
    http://live-2-learn.tumblr.com/post/37756090798/royal-crown

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loamVbAOsPo
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7gOq_q0Jy0
  36. Sunbeam says:
    @Peter Akuleyev
    No Poe, no Lovecraft? They have both had more staying power and more lasting influence than Grey or Burroughs.

    And where is Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse 5"? He is no doubt a leftist and a facile writer, but he was quite influential in "shaping America".

    Not a western reader, but trust me I know the genre for both Lovecraft and ERB.

    Lovecraft was actually sort of obscure for a long time, like Robert H. Howard, till the 70′s fantasy explosion brought on by Lord of the Rings becoming popular in the 60′s in this country.

    The SF Fandom circles kept the flame burning for both of them (they actually corresponded together), but mainstream America really had no knowledge of works published in pulps in the 20′s and 30′s.

    Tarzan has been rocking the world of 13 year old boys since 1914 or whenever.

    And geez. The Lord of the Apes not culturally significant?

    John Carter has been immensely popular as well, though not as much as Tarzan (ERB named his California estate ‘Tarzana’ – he knew who paid the bills).

    Hah! From Wikipedia:

    “Tarzana /tɑːrˈzænə/ is an affluent neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley region of the city of Los Angeles, California. Tarzana is on the site of a former ranch owned by author Edgar Rice Burroughs. It is named after Burroughs’ storybook jungle character hero, Tarzan.[1]”

    My guess is A Princess of Mars, Riders of the Purple Sage, and Tarzan will be read long after Lovecraft becomes as little known as James Branch Cabell (once a really big noise) is today.

    Read More
    • Replies: @H Parnell
    ERB's influence has ALWAYS been underestimated, IMO, there would be NO "Campbellian" school of sci-fi (Heinlein, et al) without Edgar Rice Burroughs. Lovecraft is valuable ONLY for his existential cosmology, which has had an admittedly broad impact; but you cannot single out any particular HPL book that has had anywhere near the influence of ERB's. HPL's actual stories are poorly-written, in most instances; his IDEAS transcend them, to be sure, but the stories themselves are rather pitiful.

    Also glad to see Bob Heinlein on the list, though I would nominate "Starship Troopers" over "Stranger" as being most influential -- Heinlein's critique of democracy has yet to be fully understood OR addressed by all the "big thinkers" of our vaunted modern world. But Heinlein as well would have been LOST without Ed Burroughs; witness his "Glory Road," which is nothing but a tribute to ERB and John Carter of Mars.
  37. Kyle a says:

    What! No Ta-Nehisi Coates!!? He’s influenced me over the last five years more than any of these other stalwarts.

    Read More
  38. Mark Caplan says: • Website

    An honest list would have included:

    Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia (1795)

    The Clansman (1905)

    The Moynihan Report (1965)

    The Mismeasure of Man (1981)

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonym
    The Mismeasure of Man (1981)

    The Bell Curve (1994) is just as influential, methinks. In this day and age, more.
    , @celt darnell
    I think they regard Dixon's The Clansman as covered by Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind.

    Mitchell was undeniably influenced by that and Dixon's other novels and, frankly, they're sticking their necks out by including Mitchell (correctly, I hasten to add).
  39. Steve writes:

    Overall, the weight of Protestants on American culture is pretty overwhelming until the mid-20th Century. So, you can see why there is such a strong urge to retcon American history

    Speaking of which, Harvard is having a contest to replace it’s alma mater’s last line “Till the stock of the Puritans die” (h/t Opinionator). Ron Unz, you’re eligible to vote! Anyone here have suggestions for new lyrics? Or a maybe a ‘current year’ replacement for the John Harvard statue?

    NYT: Harvard Seeks to Write ‘Puritans’ Out of Its Alma Mater

    The problem, said Stephen Burt, a professor of English at Harvard who will help judge the rewrite submissions, is that someone could read the final line as suggesting that “Harvard’s power and glory will last as long as but no longer” than the “bloodline of the descendants of the Puritans.”

    The alma mater actually extols “Truth,” “Light,” and “Love,” but cross-dressing professor (((Stephen Burt))) projects it to be about “power and glory.”

    Here’s Burt gloriously lounging al fresco on Mass. Ave. Here’s a fierce portrait.

    “That’s obviously not a message we want to send,” he said, specifying that the line could be interpreted as being “complicit with racism.”

    Like Steve has said, anti-gentilism isn’t really even a word.

    From Harvard’s Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging:

    There is also a second competition. In addition to replacing the final line, we also propose to expand Harvard’s symbolic repertoire by inviting submissions for a new musical variant or new performance mode for the alma mater. […]

    All genres and performance modes are welcome (choral, spoken word, electronic, hip-hop, etc.). The goal is to affirm what is valuable from the past while also re-inventing that past to meet and speak to the present moment. The inspiration is Hamilton.

    Love the passive-aggressive use of Inclusion and Belonging. I guess it’s more fun to zero-sum others out while including others in. “Everyone belongs! Except for that nasty Puritan stock. See this campus? They didn’t build that.”

    Read More
  40. Andrew says:

    I can’t see how the last four books belong on the list, and there sure are a ton of books from 1936 onwards as compared to earlier years.

    By limiting it to American writers, they avoid having to put “The Holy Bible (King James Version)” first on the list.

    For an influential Catholic book from the 19th century, curious omission to not include “The Baltimore Catechism.”

    List seems to be missing books like “Last of the Mohicans” or Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Evangeline” or “Hiawatha”.

    And how is Edgar Allen Poe missing from the list?

    Also missing “A History of the Life and Death, Virtues and Exploits of General George Washington” by Parson Weems.

    Read More
    • Replies: @James Kabala
    The Baltimore Catechism is a great outside-the-box selection. As important as the other educational books selected and with one-time great importance for a large religious group.
  41. Totally off topic…

    “Fly the friendly skies…”

    Man removed from United flight due to overbooking.

    Read More
    • Replies: @fitzGetty
    There are 12+ in fact - their correct representation within the group ...
    , @Anonymous
    An Asian-American doctor flying back to meet patients. The retard civilian-dressed one is a TSA Air Marshal. Good job UA and airport police and FAMs, you über-tards.
    , @Lugash
    It's bad enough that airlines get away with overbooking in the age of full planes, but the story is even worse than that.

    Link

    Passengers were told at the gate that the flight was overbooked and United, offering $400 and a hotel stay, was looking for one volunteer to take another flight to Louisville at 3 p.m. Monday. Passengers were allowed to board the flight, Bridges said, and once the flight was filled those on the plane were told that four people needed to give up their seats to stand-by United employees that needed to be in Louisville on Monday for a flight. Passengers were told that the flight would not take off until the United crew had seats, Bridges said, and the offer was increased to $800, but no one volunteered.

    Some standby passengers are more equal than others.

    I love late stage managerial capitalism.
    , @bored identity



    Then, she said, a manager came aboard the plane and said a computer would select four people to be taken off the flight.

     

    (...and then, the chosen four will be taken to helicopter ride)

    The Flyocide &l Power of Hidden Binary Numbers


    BTW, Trump can't make not even the airplanes run on time...
  42. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Jack London wrote Call of the Wild shortly after having read Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and Paradise Lost By John Milton.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous
    Jack London wrote "Call of the Wild" shortly after having read Darwin’s "On the Origin of Species" and "Paradise Lost" By John Milton.

    The Call of the Wild deals with some iSteve themes.
  43. @WGG
    Male homosexuals are over represented at 4/88 (Hughes, Capote, Ginsberg, Sendak). Are there more? Buffalo Joe is right about Silent Spring being missing. Also I would think Hunter S. Thompson would have a book on the list simply because quite a few of male Gen X or millennial journalists are following his style (think Matt Taibbi).

    Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard was pretty darn influential. Also, the USA is becoming more and more a conspiracy theorist nation, so it would be good to see that reflected. Maybe one of the JFK assassination books, though I don't know which one is truly definitive.

    “Male homosexuals are over represented at 4/88 (Hughes, Capote, Ginsberg, Sendak). Are there more?”

    Whitman and Wilder, certainly. There are also a number of figures of unclear or eclectic sexuality (Melville, Kerouac).

    Read More
    • Replies: @WGG
    Tennessee Williams was a homosexual, too ( can't believe I missed that one ) and Alfred Kinsey falls into the pervert/ part time sodomist category.
    , @SFG
    Honestly, that's accurate. They've always been prominent in the arts since at least Michelangelo--they have a woman's emotional nature and a man's lack of family obligations. It works when you want to evoke feelings, which art generally is supposed to.
  44. The Book of Mormon?

    Read More
    • Replies: @MC
    Thought that was a strange omission too. Are there 6 million Americans, 6 U.S. Senators and a recent major-party candidate who belong to a religion oriented around "The Cat in the Hat"?
  45. res says:

    I wonder how thoroughly The Words of Cesar Chavez covers his immigration writings. Let’s check.
    Ctrl-F immigration (this appears to pick up immigration, immigrant, and immigrants; Google Books appears not to support partial word searches)

    A whole seven hits. I wonder how that relates to immigration’s importance in his work? The excerpts I see look rather anodyne.

    P.S. Nice noticing on this book, Steve. It is doubly funny given that the book shows up last on both title and date orderings. This book is 743,099 on Amazon’s best sellers list. I wonder how that compares to the other books in the list?

    P.P.S. LOL at 88. Is someone trolling?

    Read More
  46. Anon says: • Disclaimer
    @jimmyriddle
    I'm surprised that there aren't more '60 & '70s feminists - Gloria Steinem etc. Also, no Dr Spock.

    I guess they had to keep the White count down.

    Hence, no Henry James, Edgar Allan Poe, RH Dana, Sinclair Lewis, HL Mencken, Dorothy Parker.

    Maybe John Dos Pasos would have made it if he had been Mexican instead of Portuguese.

    An awful lot of normal Americans have read Poe and Mencken. Leaving them out was ridiculous. Poe’s influence on literature was tremendous, and Mencken’s influence on cultural thought was also very great.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Laugh Track

    An awful lot of normal Americans have read Poe and Mencken. Leaving them out was ridiculous. Poe’s influence on literature was tremendous, and Mencken’s influence on cultural thought was also very great.
     
    Wasn't Poe best appreciated for his short stories, and Mencken for his essays? As much as I champion both writers for their virtues, I also mostly associate them with essays and short stories, and I think that was where their greatest cultural impact took place.

    Slightly different task than choosing 88 books. I think there are a lot of writers who had a wide impact but not necessarily via a book. IMHO opinion, a good number of the commenters here have a cultural impact, but its not within a book and not in a context or venue that receives much recognition (yet).
  47. Jack London’s The Iron Heel should be on this list in addition to the other book. Starship Troopers was more important than Stranger.
    Need more war stories. I would also include Currarre by Donald Birkett; Company Comander by Charles McDonald, Longest day by I forgot who. Men against Fire by SLA Marchall is more important that most of the books there.
    BTW Joseph Heller is Jewish.

    Read More
  48. Ed says:
    @Barnard
    What is the argument for Beloved? I can't see any way that it shaped America.

    The only thing I can think of is Oprah pushing it. The movie was awful. I was assigned to read it at college & found it underwhelming.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Barnard
    I was also assigned to read it in college and thought it was awful. I don't think they it had any cultural impact though. It probably would have been more accurate to include the first Harry Potter book in the list. It helped spawn a number of lousy teenage book series that are also widely read by adults and end up getting turned into movies. It is a negative impact, but an obvious one.
  49. @Sunbeam
    Never got why Catcher is the Rye is supposed to be what it is.

    It's not the writing or language. If you want that, read Jack Vance's Dying Earth books. Or Lloyd Alexander's Prydain books (Eilonwy is a pistol).

    Who exactly is supposed to resonate with? To me it was the story of a monumentally ineffectual kid who couldn't commit to anything. He couldn't be bad, he couldn't be bothered to be good.

    Kind of the OG mumblecore work.

    Heck Silverlock blew the doors off that piece of tripe.

    "I have known both joy and grief, neat, and mixed together
    Cold and Heat I've known, and found both good drinking weather
    Light and Darkness I have known, seldom doubting whether
    Tammuz would return again, when he'd slipped his tether!

    I remember gaudy days when the Year was springing
    Tammuz, Gilgamesh and I, clinking Cups and singing
    Till Ininni sauntered by, skimpy garments clinging
    To her hips, and things like that: Tammuz left us, winging!

    So we welcomed Enkidu when he came to Erech
    He was rough as hickory bark, nothing of the Cleric!
    But his taste in Wine and Ale, THAT was Esoteric!
    And he used a drinking cup that would strain a derrick!

    Khumbaba then felt our strength 'neath the magic Cedars
    And we wrestled Anu's Bull, pride of Heaven's Breeders!
    Thrice we struck, and once he fell, drawing wolves for feeders
    while we strode where drinking men called for expert leaders.

    Tammuz must have joined us there, but he'd just got wedded
    And Ininni (blast the Wench!) hacked him as they bedded
    Such a honeymoon as that, I have always dreaded....
    For a drinking man is...spoiled...once he's been beheaded!

    So we waked him with a will, ale and teardrops pooling
    Then we drank to him for months, while the year was cooling.
    But he came back with the grass! Death was only fooling!
    Tammuz told us: "Fill my Cup! I'm both dry...and drooling!"

    Interesting. I’m reading the Catcher in the Rye right now as part of an effort to get through 20th c. books. It is truly awful. If it really did go on to affect American culture significantly then we can put JD Salinger up there with the worst of them. Degradation in full.

    And the earliest publication date in my copy of the book says 1945.

    Read More
    • Replies: @celt darnell
    My view on Catcher in the Rye is that it's an adolescent's book. Everyone I know who loves it, read it before the age of 18 and usually hasn't re-read it since turning, say, 21.

    I read it for the first time in my mid-twenties and thought it drivel.
  50. Tiny Duck says:

    How does it feel? Knowing that your daughters will be bearing Children of Color?

    Read More
    • Replies: @fish

    How does it feel? Knowing that your daughters will be bearing Children of Color?
     
    How does it feel constantly being in re-runs?

    Jeez Tiny you fill an important niche here at unz.com. Try to bring the A game a little more often!
  51. dearieme says:

    I suspect that quite a few people who could reasonably be viewed as cultivated members of Western Civilisation might have read few of those books. Though I think that not to have read the Twain and the Watson would be a pity.

    If such a cultivated chap decided to launch himself at the Melville and the Hemingway what might he conclude? Perhaps that Americans have a considerable appetite for earnest verbosity and for vivid inauthenticity. Would he be right?

    Read More
  52. Alfa158 says:
    @Sunbeam
    Never got why Catcher is the Rye is supposed to be what it is.

    It's not the writing or language. If you want that, read Jack Vance's Dying Earth books. Or Lloyd Alexander's Prydain books (Eilonwy is a pistol).

    Who exactly is supposed to resonate with? To me it was the story of a monumentally ineffectual kid who couldn't commit to anything. He couldn't be bad, he couldn't be bothered to be good.

    Kind of the OG mumblecore work.

    Heck Silverlock blew the doors off that piece of tripe.

    "I have known both joy and grief, neat, and mixed together
    Cold and Heat I've known, and found both good drinking weather
    Light and Darkness I have known, seldom doubting whether
    Tammuz would return again, when he'd slipped his tether!

    I remember gaudy days when the Year was springing
    Tammuz, Gilgamesh and I, clinking Cups and singing
    Till Ininni sauntered by, skimpy garments clinging
    To her hips, and things like that: Tammuz left us, winging!

    So we welcomed Enkidu when he came to Erech
    He was rough as hickory bark, nothing of the Cleric!
    But his taste in Wine and Ale, THAT was Esoteric!
    And he used a drinking cup that would strain a derrick!

    Khumbaba then felt our strength 'neath the magic Cedars
    And we wrestled Anu's Bull, pride of Heaven's Breeders!
    Thrice we struck, and once he fell, drawing wolves for feeders
    while we strode where drinking men called for expert leaders.

    Tammuz must have joined us there, but he'd just got wedded
    And Ininni (blast the Wench!) hacked him as they bedded
    Such a honeymoon as that, I have always dreaded....
    For a drinking man is...spoiled...once he's been beheaded!

    So we waked him with a will, ale and teardrops pooling
    Then we drank to him for months, while the year was cooling.
    But he came back with the grass! Death was only fooling!
    Tammuz told us: "Fill my Cup! I'm both dry...and drooling!"

    Great excerpt, thanks for posting it.
    Gene Wolfe did a variant of Vance’s Dying Earth with his Book of the New Sun series. I thought the writing and language were reminiscent of Vance’s, but if anything, even better. I occasionally re-read them and get more out of them each time.
    My opinion of Catcher in the Rye was expressed by the teenager in a short story I once read. His teacher gave the class an assignment to read the book and write a review. The kid turned in the perfect one sentence book review: ” If I ran into Holden Caulfield in an alley, I would hit him over the head with a big rock.” The kid got sent to the principal.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Rex May
    Thanks for the info on Gene Wolfe. Never read him, but now I will ASAP.
    , @Sunbeam
    Gene Wolfe has the vocabulary from hell. He must have sold his soul to become an unabridged dictionary.

    He is an awesome writer. Maybe the bulk of his work is greater than Vance's, hard to say. He has definitely produced some interesting books (my favorite of his is the one about the antique Greek soldier who eternally forgot everything from the day before each morning, and who actually talked with the gods).

    But Jack Vance's greatest work(s), The Dying Earth... Cugel the Clever has the best lines I have ever read. Obviously I cannot have read every book ever written, but I've read lots.

    And Cugel has the best dialogue of any character I have read, ever.
  53. Shouldn’t the list be titled “88 Books by Americans That Shaped America”?

    If we’re just talking about “books that shaped America,” period, the list should include a lot of books by English writers, plus some Scottish, French, and Latin stuff.

    Read More
  54. Ray P says:

    No Democracy in America by Tocqueville? No biography of Lincoln? Ulysses Grant’s best-selling memoirs? John Calhoun? Although by an Englishman, Darwin’s Origin should appear because of its deep controversy to this day. The Fundamentals? Eleanor Roosevelt? William Shirer’s Rise and fall of the Third Reich? Behind the flying saucers by Frank Scully? John F. Kennedy’s Portraits in courage? The Two Oswalds by Richard Pipkin? On the trail of the assassins by Jim Garrison. Portnoy’s complaint by Philip Roth.

    Read More
    • Replies: @oddsbodkins
    I think you mean "Profiles in Courage", by Ted Sorensen
  55. Margaret Mitchell (1936) was Irish Catholic, or at least her mother’s side of the family was.

    People forget that the deep South historically had a few Catholics here & there. Scarlett is written as Catholic.

    Also, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos most influential?

    You would think Last of the Mohicans would pop up, if Tarzan, Call of the Wild & Sleepy Hollow made the list.

    Read More
  56. Anon says: • Disclaimer
    @PiltdownMan
    The Double Helix is essential reading, but did it really shape America?

    Where The Wild Things Are is redundant. Goodnight Moon is arguably more influential, and you really need only one early childhood book.

    I would have included Walker Evans and James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men from the Depression Era, though I suppose Grapes of Wrath is in there for the same reason.

    “The Double Helix is essential reading, but did it really shape America?”

    Mismeasure of Man had a bigger impact… unfortunately

    Read More
  57. WGG says:
    @Anotheranon
    "Male homosexuals are over represented at 4/88 (Hughes, Capote, Ginsberg, Sendak). Are there more?"

    Whitman and Wilder, certainly. There are also a number of figures of unclear or eclectic sexuality (Melville, Kerouac).

    Tennessee Williams was a homosexual, too ( can’t believe I missed that one ) and Alfred Kinsey falls into the pervert/ part time sodomist category.

    Read More
  58. Rex May says: • Website
    @Alfa158
    Great excerpt, thanks for posting it.
    Gene Wolfe did a variant of Vance's Dying Earth with his Book of the New Sun series. I thought the writing and language were reminiscent of Vance's, but if anything, even better. I occasionally re-read them and get more out of them each time.
    My opinion of Catcher in the Rye was expressed by the teenager in a short story I once read. His teacher gave the class an assignment to read the book and write a review. The kid turned in the perfect one sentence book review: " If I ran into Holden Caulfield in an alley, I would hit him over the head with a big rock." The kid got sent to the principal.

    Thanks for the info on Gene Wolfe. Never read him, but now I will ASAP.

    Read More
    • Replies: @roo_ster
    Start with Wolfe's "Soldier" series, IMO.

    Soldier of the Mist
    Soldier of Arete
    Soldier of Sidon

    Somewhat easier entry into Gene Wolfe's work.
  59. One of the biggest selling books of all time – “Baby and Child Care” by Dr Benjamin Spock is conspicuous in its absence. Almost every Baby Boomer and Gen-Xer alive was influenced in their upbringing in some way shape or form by this book – for better and for worse (probably more for worse).

    Read More
    • Replies: @Saintonge235
    It's on there: The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care Benjamin Spock 1946
  60. gilgongo says:

    No Zinn. What book most influences the SJW mindset of the present U.S.A. ? And is it on this list?

    Read More
  61. Until 1884 there’s a complete absence of White Southerners. By ‘Protestants’ Steve should mean Northeastern Protestants.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous

    Until 1884 there’s a complete absence of White Southerners.
     
    Well, to be fair there wasn't much of a literary culture per se in the South prior to the Civil War.
  62. Barnard says:
    @Ed
    The only thing I can think of is Oprah pushing it. The movie was awful. I was assigned to read it at college & found it underwhelming.

    I was also assigned to read it in college and thought it was awful. I don’t think they it had any cultural impact though. It probably would have been more accurate to include the first Harry Potter book in the list. It helped spawn a number of lousy teenage book series that are also widely read by adults and end up getting turned into movies. It is a negative impact, but an obvious one.

    Read More
  63. Sunbeam says:
    @Alfa158
    Great excerpt, thanks for posting it.
    Gene Wolfe did a variant of Vance's Dying Earth with his Book of the New Sun series. I thought the writing and language were reminiscent of Vance's, but if anything, even better. I occasionally re-read them and get more out of them each time.
    My opinion of Catcher in the Rye was expressed by the teenager in a short story I once read. His teacher gave the class an assignment to read the book and write a review. The kid turned in the perfect one sentence book review: " If I ran into Holden Caulfield in an alley, I would hit him over the head with a big rock." The kid got sent to the principal.

    Gene Wolfe has the vocabulary from hell. He must have sold his soul to become an unabridged dictionary.

    He is an awesome writer. Maybe the bulk of his work is greater than Vance’s, hard to say. He has definitely produced some interesting books (my favorite of his is the one about the antique Greek soldier who eternally forgot everything from the day before each morning, and who actually talked with the gods).

    But Jack Vance’s greatest work(s), The Dying Earth… Cugel the Clever has the best lines I have ever read. Obviously I cannot have read every book ever written, but I’ve read lots.

    And Cugel has the best dialogue of any character I have read, ever.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Alfa158
    Cugel was a great anti-hero. I find myself sometimes using lines from Vance's books in real life. There was one line from when Cugel, only temporarily of course, found himself in what seemed like the perfect situation he always strove for, and he would look around in satisfaction, saying, "just so, precisely so".
    Wolfe, if anything used even more exotic words than Vance. His New Sun books had even more exotic story lines than the Soldier of Arête books. There were incredible little sub-stories embedded in the novels. What a great series of movies or operas they would have made if there was anyone living who had the talent to realize them.
    And the images he just casually tossed off. Severian, the apprentice torturer, sent by his Master to get a book for one of the high born "clients" of the Torturer's Guild to occupy her time until her sentence was carried out , comes across an ancient curator cleaning a mysterious picture of a man in a bulky suit with a shiny faceplated helmet standing on a dusty plain. An image from the immeasurably distant past before the Moon was green and living.
  64. fitzGetty says:
    @Another Canadian
    Totally off topic...

    "Fly the friendly skies..."

    https://youtu.be/kgdjQvdNThk

    Man removed from United flight due to overbooking.

    There are 12+ in fact – their correct representation within the group …

    Read More
  65. GregMan says:

    No Witness, of course, although it inspired a generation or more of American anti-communists in much the way Gulag Archipelago was to influence European intellectuals two decades later.

    Also I’d dump Chavez and insert Babbitt and Pilgrim’s Progress.

    Read More
  66. “Faith of our Fathers” by James Cardinal Gibbons should be on it.

    Also the Memoirs of General Grant.

    Read More
  67. No Lovecraft?

    Read More
    • Replies: @SFG
    Honestly, his prose isn't that good. There's no question his influence on American geek culture is huge, but that's another story. You'd have to put Gary Gygax and Douglas Adams (British) in there.
  68. @Mr. Anon
    "88? Wow."

    Yeah, what's up with that? Has the Librarian of Congress seen Kyle?

    Why not "100 books that shaped America"?

    The committee probably met on a Friday afternoon … it was almost five o’clock and everyone wanted to go home.

    Read More
  69. a reader says:

    Jewish writers were not major literary figures until roughly after WWII

    Overall, the weight of Protestants on American culture is pretty overwhelming until the mid-20th Century

    Isn’t the former correlated to the latter?

    (Isn’t roughly after WWII equal to the mid-20th Century?)

    Read More
  70. Jeff77450 says:

    I’ve read twelve. (Does it count if you saw the movie)? I’m surprised to see that _Tarzan of the Apes_ made the list. In my teens in the ’70s I read everything that ERB wrote, 69 books, except _Tarzan and the Tarzan Twins_ which I couldn’t find. It was a lot of fun.

    I genuinely feel sorry for today’s young people who don’t read because they succumbed to the siren-song of video/computer-games.

    Read More
  71. @NJ Transit Commuter
    Either Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas should be on the list.

    Hunter S. Thompson saw the breakdown of US civil society well before anyone else. For better or worse he also saw the collapse of objectivity and the rise of subjective / participatory journalism. What else was the full throttle advocacy of HRC's campaign last year than the ultimate conclusion of Gonzo Journalism?

    Bonfire of the Vanities also would have been a good inclusion...

    But, as Steve says, did Thompson shape America or did he record it (albeit supersized)? I can only speak of the UK, but while a lot of 70s kids read Thompson, very few wanted to live a gonzo life, and those who did (biker types?) mostly hadn’t read anything other than Hells Angels. On the other hand, On The Road, written in the 50s, was definitely influential in the UK 10-20 years later.

    Do you think the Hillary campaign was Hunteresque?

    Same with Slouching Towards Bethlehem, more of a record of an era than a pointer to the future.

    (IMHO we are living in a weird hybrid of 1984 and Brave New World. The telescreen doesn’t watch or listen to us (unless it’s a Samsung that the NSA have got at), but all our communications are monitored 24/7, the Two Minute Hate is becoming established on social media, Newspeak, crimestop and crimethink exist, and we’ve always been at war with Eurasia. At the same time every white person and their countries belongs to everybody else, pornographic feelies can’t be far away, an Alpha-plus caste is separating itself, and the consumption of intoxicants is socially approved as long as they’re safe. Pity they’ve not sorted ageing..)

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Capote's In Cold Blood is on the list to represent New Journalism (Thompson, Wolfe, Didion, etc.).

    It's real good.
  72. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer
    @Another Canadian
    Totally off topic...

    "Fly the friendly skies..."

    https://youtu.be/kgdjQvdNThk

    Man removed from United flight due to overbooking.

    An Asian-American doctor flying back to meet patients. The retard civilian-dressed one is a TSA Air Marshal. Good job UA and airport police and FAMs, you über-tards.

    Read More
  73. Lugash says:
    @Another Canadian
    Totally off topic...

    "Fly the friendly skies..."

    https://youtu.be/kgdjQvdNThk

    Man removed from United flight due to overbooking.

    It’s bad enough that airlines get away with overbooking in the age of full planes, but the story is even worse than that.

    Link

    Passengers were told at the gate that the flight was overbooked and United, offering $400 and a hotel stay, was looking for one volunteer to take another flight to Louisville at 3 p.m. Monday. Passengers were allowed to board the flight, Bridges said, and once the flight was filled those on the plane were told that four people needed to give up their seats to stand-by United employees that needed to be in Louisville on Monday for a flight. Passengers were told that the flight would not take off until the United crew had seats, Bridges said, and the offer was increased to $800, but no one volunteered.

    Some standby passengers are more equal than others.

    I love late stage managerial capitalism.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Dan Hayes
    Lugash:

    The only time I ever took United was on a flight some time ago to its Dulles hub where a frequent United flyer regaled me with tales of the line's awfulness.

    It looks things haven't changed in the interim.
    , @Barnard
    Were they offering $800 cash or $800 in United travel vouchers? It is a four and half hour drive from Louisville to Chicago and they didn't have to be there until Monday anyway. Why not just hire a limo to drive them to Chicago rather than shell out $3,200 plus hotel, plus bad PR with other passengers? What could that cost, $1.200-$1,500? Union rules probably wouldn't allow this though.

    Also, aren't a large percentage of the people flying on Sunday night business passengers who need to be somewhere on Monday morning? Who would think these passengers would be receptive to being bumped until the next day? What a horribly run industry.
    , @Jim Don Bob
    Looks like employees are more important than those pesky people called customers, who, you know, actually pay to ride on an airplane.
  74. the books authored by blacks have legit arguments for inclusion, although I personally wouldn’t include Beloved.

    I find “Beloved” to be a great novel personally. However, the rest of the Toni Morrison catalog is terribly mediocre. It really bothers me that they gave her the Nobel Prize which is supposed to be for a writer’s body of work.

    “Their Eyes Were Watching God” is objectively great.

    “Native Son” is incredibly overrated.

    Read More
  75. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    William Gibson’s stuff is missing!

    He laid out our modern unfolding online virtual reality back in 1984 and was/is hugely influential. It’s Gibson’s “cyberspace” and “matrix” etc. also he introduced the creepy dumbed down sexed up online celeb…

    Read More
  76. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer
    @anony-mouse
    Until 1884 there's a complete absence of White Southerners. By 'Protestants' Steve should mean Northeastern Protestants.

    Until 1884 there’s a complete absence of White Southerners.

    Well, to be fair there wasn’t much of a literary culture per se in the South prior to the Civil War.

    Read More
  77. Whitehall says:

    Surprised no Emerson. Thoreau is a poor stand-in.

    Where’s Philip Roth? I’ve seldom read a better understanding of male sexuality. Updike is pure depression to me.

    I agree with Flying Tiger that “Starship Troopers” made a much bigger and more lasting difference in MY life than “Stranger in a Strange Land.”

    Wilson’s “Sociobiology” made a HUGE difference in my world view.

    Read More
    • Replies: @SFG
    'Starship Troopers' *is* on the Marine Corps reading list. ;)
  78. @jimmyriddle
    I'm surprised that there aren't more '60 & '70s feminists - Gloria Steinem etc. Also, no Dr Spock.

    I guess they had to keep the White count down.

    Hence, no Henry James, Edgar Allan Poe, RH Dana, Sinclair Lewis, HL Mencken, Dorothy Parker.

    Maybe John Dos Pasos would have made it if he had been Mexican instead of Portuguese.

    Dos Passos became a right-wing Joe McCarthy fan later in life. The Dos Passos whom Jean-Paul Sartre once regarded as the greatest novelist in the world was long gone by the time the Cold Ware was in full swing. And Mencken made some unkind observations about jews and blacks in his private writings. Unforgivable. I am surprised lefty-negrophile Dorothy Parker didn’t get a spot. Not that she deserved one.

    I was kind of hoping to see Day of the Locust by (jewish writer) Nathanial West, maybe it’s my So Cal bias.

    Read More
  79. Dan Hayes says:
    @Lugash
    It's bad enough that airlines get away with overbooking in the age of full planes, but the story is even worse than that.

    Link

    Passengers were told at the gate that the flight was overbooked and United, offering $400 and a hotel stay, was looking for one volunteer to take another flight to Louisville at 3 p.m. Monday. Passengers were allowed to board the flight, Bridges said, and once the flight was filled those on the plane were told that four people needed to give up their seats to stand-by United employees that needed to be in Louisville on Monday for a flight. Passengers were told that the flight would not take off until the United crew had seats, Bridges said, and the offer was increased to $800, but no one volunteered.

    Some standby passengers are more equal than others.

    I love late stage managerial capitalism.

    Lugash:

    The only time I ever took United was on a flight some time ago to its Dulles hub where a frequent United flyer regaled me with tales of the line’s awfulness.

    It looks things haven’t changed in the interim.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous
    I found this United customer service training video...

    https://youtu.be/qvPugcb7QGE
  80. Whoever says:
    @David
    I agree. I thought maybe Ben Hur, a Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace should have been on this list. Best selling American book until Gone with the Wind.

    I also thought something by Jacob Abbot, best selling American children's author of the 19th cent.

    Before Ben Hur, Riley's Sufferings in Africa (1817) was close to if not the best selling American book. Supposedly it played a big role in priming Americans to oppose slavery, including Abe Lincoln.

    It’s also curious that the once wildly popular In His Steps is not on the list. It’s where we get WWJD from, among other things.

    Read More
  81. I was an English major in the 1980′s-early 90′s. There were certain books that American English majors were expected to read. Only three appear on this list. The Sound and the Fury, The Great Gatsby and the Grapes of Wrath.; the other two–The Sun Also Rises and Look Homeward, Angel–are not. The inclusion of For Whom the Bell Tolls is laughable. It’s not even close to Hemingway’s best or most influential writings. Ah well. P.S. “The Words of Cesar Chavez”? Oy vey!

    Read More
  82. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    I’d replace Sagan’s Cosmos with Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Buzz Mohawk

    I’d replace Sagan’s Cosmos with Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach.
     
    Hell, I'd replace Cosmos with Murray's The Bell Curve. It's making quite a stir.

    Sagan was a popularizer, and his Cosmos gave the wide public a gee-wiz introduction to things the educated already knew. As an amateur astronomer and space nerd, I enjoyed Sagan, but I wouldn't put him in any literary pantheon. If I did, I would at least pick something more thought provoking, like Broca's Brain.

    Look, this list is the Library of Congress's Academy Awards, nice but leaning heavily on popular recognition. I mean, come on, The Cat in the Hat ? The Catcher in the Rye ? On the Road ? I halfway expect The Whole Earth Catalog and R. Crumb's comic books to be on this list.
  83. Whoever says:
    @Luke Lea
    Jefferson's Notes on Virginia, Emerson's essays, Eliot's poems, . . .

    Certainly agree about Emerson — they are dissing the whole Transcendentalist movement! Yeah, I know, who’s ever heard of that?
    I also think they should have included Longfellow, whose poems every school child had to memorize and recite back in the day. He gave US Cavalry troopers their nickname for the Indian foe. From the oft-repeated phrase, “Lo, the noble Indian,” in The Song of Hiawatha, they called him “Mr. Lo.”

    Read More
  84. @Rex May
    Offhand, it seems like the list needs:
    James Thurber
    Frank Yerby
    Taylor Caldwell
    Jack Vance (see above)
    Isaac Asimov
    Updike
    Poe (as Peter said)
    Ezra Pound
    Sinclair Lewis
    Will & Ariel Durant
    Bill Nye (not the science guy)
    Laura Ingalls Wilder
    Philip Wylie
    Raymond Chandler
    And I haven't even finished my coffee yet.

    Will & Ariel Durant

    Considering that the sole criterion of the list is influence, not necessarily literary merit or popularity, I find the total lack of professional philosophers to be an inexcusable omission. No Dewey, no Santayana, no Quine or Russell or Plantinga. No Leo Strauss. And where are the theologians? Where is Paul Tillich or Archbishop Fulton Sheen?

    And where the heck is John Maynard Keynes?

    I wouldn’t necessarily give my approval to most of the names on this short list, but who can deny that they’ve been hugely, decisively influential?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anotheranon
    "total lack of professional philosophers"

    Doesn't William James count?
  85. LOL at Cesar –Quick find a Mexican who can string a couple of English words together!–Chavez being appended at the end.

    Read More
  86. Whoever says:
    @PiltdownMan
    I wasn't suggesting that Nixon had any impact on China, but rather, how the book primed us to view China positively and as a great nation, long before they were economically significant.

    I agree with you about Pearl Buck’s influence. I’d also throw in Nora Waln and Lin Yutang. This popular trio powerfully shaped American public opinion favorably towards China, certainly much more so than the scholarly Owen Lattimore, who most people prior to the McCarthy era had never heard of, let alone read.

    Read More
  87. @The Z Blog
    Even though they left off Mein Kampf, Adolph would still be happy. 88 books? Really.

    I counted to make sure this was not a gag. Nope, They have a list of 88 books. Maybe they should pick the 14 that really stand out.

    The whole list comprises 666 books, but they won’t publicize that. Among those there are 18 only a chosen few are allowed to study.

    Read More
  88. @Intelligent Dasein

    Will & Ariel Durant
     
    Considering that the sole criterion of the list is influence, not necessarily literary merit or popularity, I find the total lack of professional philosophers to be an inexcusable omission. No Dewey, no Santayana, no Quine or Russell or Plantinga. No Leo Strauss. And where are the theologians? Where is Paul Tillich or Archbishop Fulton Sheen?

    And where the heck is John Maynard Keynes?

    I wouldn't necessarily give my approval to most of the names on this short list, but who can deny that they've been hugely, decisively influential?

    “total lack of professional philosophers”

    Doesn’t William James count?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Intelligent Dasein
    Yes, he does. I must not have noticed him when I skimmed the list.
  89. @Patrick Harris
    Not a bad list. There's definitely some presentist bias even when you disregard the more obvious diversity picks: for instance, almost nothing on the list has anything to do with religion. You can't tell me there weren't religious titles that were more important in the larger culture than say, Walden.

    almost nothing on the list has anything to do with religion. You can’t tell me there weren’t religious titles that were more important in the larger culture than say, Walden

    The Book of Mormon? I guess they had to leave it out because they didn’t want to put “Joseph Smith” as the author, and they obviously couldn’t put “God”–cf. Alcoholics Anonymous where they say “unknown” even though we’ve known Bill W.’s identity since forever. Ironically, most non-LDS scholars of Mormonism think that at some future point, maybe the end of the 21st or beginning of the 22nd centuries, the LDS Church will (quietly) start to put JS as the author on the title page.
    Dale Carnegie is a good pick, but what about The Man Nobody Knows by Bruce Fairchild Barton? For that matter, what about Babbitt?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Clark Westwood

    Ironically, most non-LDS scholars of Mormonism think that at some future point, maybe the end of the 21st or beginning of the 22nd centuries, the LDS Church will (quietly) start to put JS as the author on the title page.
     
    Some LDS scholars of Mormonism have begun to voice the same opinion. See An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, by Grant Palmer.
  90. Barnard says:
    @Lugash
    It's bad enough that airlines get away with overbooking in the age of full planes, but the story is even worse than that.

    Link

    Passengers were told at the gate that the flight was overbooked and United, offering $400 and a hotel stay, was looking for one volunteer to take another flight to Louisville at 3 p.m. Monday. Passengers were allowed to board the flight, Bridges said, and once the flight was filled those on the plane were told that four people needed to give up their seats to stand-by United employees that needed to be in Louisville on Monday for a flight. Passengers were told that the flight would not take off until the United crew had seats, Bridges said, and the offer was increased to $800, but no one volunteered.

    Some standby passengers are more equal than others.

    I love late stage managerial capitalism.

    Were they offering $800 cash or $800 in United travel vouchers? It is a four and half hour drive from Louisville to Chicago and they didn’t have to be there until Monday anyway. Why not just hire a limo to drive them to Chicago rather than shell out $3,200 plus hotel, plus bad PR with other passengers? What could that cost, $1.200-$1,500? Union rules probably wouldn’t allow this though.

    Also, aren’t a large percentage of the people flying on Sunday night business passengers who need to be somewhere on Monday morning? Who would think these passengers would be receptive to being bumped until the next day? What a horribly run industry.

    Read More
  91. Anonym says:
    @Mark Caplan
    An honest list would have included:

    Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia (1795)

    The Clansman (1905)

    The Moynihan Report (1965)

    The Mismeasure of Man (1981)

    The Mismeasure of Man (1981)

    The Bell Curve (1994) is just as influential, methinks. In this day and age, more.

    Read More
  92. @Anonymous
    I'd replace Sagan's Cosmos with Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach.

    I’d replace Sagan’s Cosmos with Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach.

    Hell, I’d replace Cosmos with Murray’s The Bell Curve. It’s making quite a stir.

    Sagan was a popularizer, and his Cosmos gave the wide public a gee-wiz introduction to things the educated already knew. As an amateur astronomer and space nerd, I enjoyed Sagan, but I wouldn’t put him in any literary pantheon. If I did, I would at least pick something more thought provoking, like Broca’s Brain.

    Look, this list is the Library of Congress’s Academy Awards, nice but leaning heavily on popular recognition. I mean, come on, The Cat in the Hat ? The Catcher in the Rye ? On the Road ? I halfway expect The Whole Earth Catalog and R. Crumb’s comic books to be on this list.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Sagan was a popularizer

    But he was also a top notch scientist as well as a top notch popularizer -- I spent a day touring Yellowstone NP with a Caltech professor of astronomy who had been a student of Sagan and he worshipped Sagan.
    , @Steve Sailer
    Where's Jonathan Livingston Seagull?

    I bet Carlos Castandeda was on the list and got booted off at the last minute for being fake and replaced by that embarrassing Cesar Chavez choice to fill the Latino slot.
  93. Interesting list. But let’s look ahead and make Charles Murray’s book “The Bell Curve” the most important book in the USA and the West for our future and what needs to be done.

    Read More
  94. Veracitor says:

    The most outrageous omission from that list is Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson (1884), which has remained continuously in print to the present day.

    Even Wikipedia reports (citations omitted):

    In her book The Annotated Ramona, the historian Antoinette May argued that the popularity of the novel contributed to Congress passing the Dawes Act in 1887. This was the first American law to address Indian land rights.

    The novel contributed to the unique cultural identity of Southern California and the whole of the Southwest. The architecture of the missions had recently gained national exposure and local restoration projects were just beginning. Railroad lines to Southern California were just opening and, combined with the emotions stirred by the novel, the region suddenly gained national attention. The Mission Revival Style architecture became popular from about 1890 to 1915, with many examples standing throughout California and other southwest areas.

    The runaway popularity of the novel inspired jurisdictions to name schools (Ramona High School in Riverside), streets, freeways (the San Bernardino Freeway was originally named the Ramona Freeway) and towns (Ramona, California) after the novel’s heroine. The novel contributed to making southern California a tourist destination, as many people wanted to see the locations featured in the book. Its publication coincided with the opening of Southern Pacific Railroad’s Southern California rail lines and fed a tourism boom.

    As a result, locations all over Southern California tried to emphasize their Ramona connections. Jackson died without specifying the locations on which her story was based. Two places claimed to have inspired her work: Rancho Camulos, near Piru, and Rancho Guajome in Vista, as she had visited both before writing her novel.

    Camulos became the most accepted “Home of Ramona” due to several factors. Moreno Ranch is described in a way that is similar to the location of Camulos. Influential writers, such as George Wharton James and Charles Fletcher Lummis, avowed that it was so. When the Southern Pacific Railroad’s opened its main Ventura County line in 1887, it stopped at Camulos. With the company engaged in a rate war, it made the trip to Camulos relatively easy and affordable. Finally, the Del Valle family of Camulos welcomed tourists: they exploited the association in marketing their products, labeling their oranges and wine as “The Home of Ramona” brand.

    Other notable Ramona landmarks included “Ramona’s Birthplace”, a small adobe near Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, and the grave of Ramona Lubo on the Ramona Band of Cahuilla Indians reservation. Lubo called herself the “real Ramona.” Her life bore some resemblance to that of the fictional Ramona. Sixteen years after Lubo’s death, local people erected a “Ramona monument” at her gravesite in 1938. The Ramona Pageant, an outdoor staging of the novel, started in 1923 in Hemet and has been held annually since.

    Most historians believe that the fictional Moreno Ranch is an amalgamation of various locations and was not intended to represent a single place. As Carey McWilliams described in his book Southern California Country:

    Picture postcards, by the tens of thousands, were published showing “the schools attended by Ramona,” “the original of Ramona,” “the place where Ramona was married,” and various shots of the “Ramona Country.” [...] It was not long before the scenic postcards depicting the Ramona Country had come to embrace all of Southern California.

    Because of the novel’s extraordinary popularity, the public perception merged fact and fiction. California historian Walton Bean wrote:

    These legends became so ingrained in the culture of Southern California that they were often mistaken for realities. In later years many who visited “Ramona’s birthplace” in San Diego or the annual “Ramona Pageant” at Hemet (eighty miles north of San Diego) were surprised and disappointed if they chanced to learn that Ramona was a (fictional) novel rather than a biography.

    Jackson was raised in that especially-snooty Protestant sect, Unitarianism. She was highly intelligent. When she learnt of the mistreatment afforded American Indians in the West, including especially the Mission Indians of California, she agitated for government action to relieve it. When straight politicking proved insufficient, she tried to rouse popular indignation by writing Ramona.

    Today’s readers often find Ramona rather sad and tedious, but tragical novels were much more appreciated in the 19th Century. Jackson’s own life was sad by our standards: her first husband and both of her children died before she was 36.

    Read More
    • Agree: Whoever
    • Replies: @Grumpy
    Ramona had me longing to live in Spanish California. Helen Hunt Jackson portrayed early California as a paradise. That may not have been her main objective in writing the book, but it is probably why the book was so popular.
  95. whorefinder says: • Website

    (I’m not sure what the ethnic background was of Betty Smith, whose 1943 novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was a huge bestseller.)

    Joking, right? Since the entire novel was merely a thinly-disguised autobiography of a Catholic girl of Irish-German heritage, and makes a huuuge deal about her Irish-Catholic background and beloved drunk Irish father?

    Read More
  96. @Lugash
    It's bad enough that airlines get away with overbooking in the age of full planes, but the story is even worse than that.

    Link

    Passengers were told at the gate that the flight was overbooked and United, offering $400 and a hotel stay, was looking for one volunteer to take another flight to Louisville at 3 p.m. Monday. Passengers were allowed to board the flight, Bridges said, and once the flight was filled those on the plane were told that four people needed to give up their seats to stand-by United employees that needed to be in Louisville on Monday for a flight. Passengers were told that the flight would not take off until the United crew had seats, Bridges said, and the offer was increased to $800, but no one volunteered.

    Some standby passengers are more equal than others.

    I love late stage managerial capitalism.

    Looks like employees are more important than those pesky people called customers, who, you know, actually pay to ride on an airplane.

    Read More
  97. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer
    @Dan Hayes
    Lugash:

    The only time I ever took United was on a flight some time ago to its Dulles hub where a frequent United flyer regaled me with tales of the line's awfulness.

    It looks things haven't changed in the interim.

    I found this United customer service training video…

    Read More
    • Replies: @Dan Hayes
    Anonymous,

    The "training video" shows it all. Thanks - much appreciated!
  98. MC says:
    @al-Teksani
    The Book of Mormon?

    Thought that was a strange omission too. Are there 6 million Americans, 6 U.S. Senators and a recent major-party candidate who belong to a religion oriented around “The Cat in the Hat”?

    Read More
  99. donut says:

    “- Benjamin Franklin wrote 3 of the 88 books. The only other author with more than one book on the list is Harriet Beecher Stowe with 1.5.” What did I tell you about Harriet B, Stowe ? Her and her whole rotten family were the original SJW/do gooders . Like all of their kind more concerned with “improving” others than themselves .

    Read More
    • Replies: @Buzz Mohawk
    What did I tell you about Ben Franklin? Called by many The First American, called "perhaps the single most broadly successful man in history" by Steve Sailer, and author of a full 3.4% of the books on this list, all by himself.

    Even though this 88 is pointless entertainment for children (anything that includes The Cat in the Hat must be) Ben still rules.

    No wonder his image graces the highest denomination of the world's most powerful currency.
  100. Anon says: • Disclaimer

    There are surely books that had great impact at ONE TIME but were forgotten later but nevertheless continue to exert influence(indirectly) because their ideas inspired so much of what came later. So, even if we today don’t know the original authors and their books, their ideas could be all around us. It’s like Shakespeare. Even those who never read him(or even heard of him) are impact by Shakespeare because his works has so profound an influence on all of English(and world) drama, storytelling, and use of language.

    But there are also books that were big at one time but are forgotten/buried along with their ideas. Sometimes, the ideas were lost or rejected because they were truly discredited or came to be regarded as useless. Those works are truly forgotten.
    But sometimes, books are buried or suppressed — ‘forgottened’ than forgotten — because the ideas are still potent and pose a threat to the official narrative that, however predominant it may be at the moment, has feet of clay. In some cases, the books are just buried, and it’s well-understood among polite society that respectable people don’t read or discuss such books.
    But in other cases, the books have been too famous, too infamous, or too notorious to be ‘forgottened’ that way. So, there are rituals of two-minutes-of-hate, like with the anniversary of BELL CURVE(as Bell Curse) by Charles Murray. So, the book is remembered but only to be reviled, spat upon, stepped upon, and thrown into the PC pyre. The Condemned Books.

    Read More
  101. Anonym says:

    Also no Philip K Dick. Or Asimov. No Poe? List needs more work, or maybe expanding.

    Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill is a hugely influential and very American book. Though including Carnegie on the list is a shout out to the self-help money making genre, and was published in 1936, a year earlier.

    Read More
    • Replies: @SFG
    SF and genre fiction never gets the attention it deserves from English majors. As the techies get more influential that may change.
  102. Anonym says:

    OT: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4396224/Sweden-never-mass-immigration-PM-says.html

    If it takes Nixon to go to China, in Sweden it takes a Benedict Arnold to issue the Declaration of Independence.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonym
    Maybe this is Sweden's Virgin Spring moment? One can only hope.
  103. SFG says:
    @Sunbeam
    Never got why Catcher is the Rye is supposed to be what it is.

    It's not the writing or language. If you want that, read Jack Vance's Dying Earth books. Or Lloyd Alexander's Prydain books (Eilonwy is a pistol).

    Who exactly is supposed to resonate with? To me it was the story of a monumentally ineffectual kid who couldn't commit to anything. He couldn't be bad, he couldn't be bothered to be good.

    Kind of the OG mumblecore work.

    Heck Silverlock blew the doors off that piece of tripe.

    "I have known both joy and grief, neat, and mixed together
    Cold and Heat I've known, and found both good drinking weather
    Light and Darkness I have known, seldom doubting whether
    Tammuz would return again, when he'd slipped his tether!

    I remember gaudy days when the Year was springing
    Tammuz, Gilgamesh and I, clinking Cups and singing
    Till Ininni sauntered by, skimpy garments clinging
    To her hips, and things like that: Tammuz left us, winging!

    So we welcomed Enkidu when he came to Erech
    He was rough as hickory bark, nothing of the Cleric!
    But his taste in Wine and Ale, THAT was Esoteric!
    And he used a drinking cup that would strain a derrick!

    Khumbaba then felt our strength 'neath the magic Cedars
    And we wrestled Anu's Bull, pride of Heaven's Breeders!
    Thrice we struck, and once he fell, drawing wolves for feeders
    while we strode where drinking men called for expert leaders.

    Tammuz must have joined us there, but he'd just got wedded
    And Ininni (blast the Wench!) hacked him as they bedded
    Such a honeymoon as that, I have always dreaded....
    For a drinking man is...spoiled...once he's been beheaded!

    So we waked him with a will, ale and teardrops pooling
    Then we drank to him for months, while the year was cooling.
    But he came back with the grass! Death was only fooling!
    Tammuz told us: "Fill my Cup! I'm both dry...and drooling!"

    It’s sf. English majors didn’t read sf. They do now, but sadly they have been taken over by PC and Vance and Wolfe will never get the reception they deserve.

    Read More
  104. SFG says:
    @Sunbeam
    Never got why Catcher is the Rye is supposed to be what it is.

    It's not the writing or language. If you want that, read Jack Vance's Dying Earth books. Or Lloyd Alexander's Prydain books (Eilonwy is a pistol).

    Who exactly is supposed to resonate with? To me it was the story of a monumentally ineffectual kid who couldn't commit to anything. He couldn't be bad, he couldn't be bothered to be good.

    Kind of the OG mumblecore work.

    Heck Silverlock blew the doors off that piece of tripe.

    "I have known both joy and grief, neat, and mixed together
    Cold and Heat I've known, and found both good drinking weather
    Light and Darkness I have known, seldom doubting whether
    Tammuz would return again, when he'd slipped his tether!

    I remember gaudy days when the Year was springing
    Tammuz, Gilgamesh and I, clinking Cups and singing
    Till Ininni sauntered by, skimpy garments clinging
    To her hips, and things like that: Tammuz left us, winging!

    So we welcomed Enkidu when he came to Erech
    He was rough as hickory bark, nothing of the Cleric!
    But his taste in Wine and Ale, THAT was Esoteric!
    And he used a drinking cup that would strain a derrick!

    Khumbaba then felt our strength 'neath the magic Cedars
    And we wrestled Anu's Bull, pride of Heaven's Breeders!
    Thrice we struck, and once he fell, drawing wolves for feeders
    while we strode where drinking men called for expert leaders.

    Tammuz must have joined us there, but he'd just got wedded
    And Ininni (blast the Wench!) hacked him as they bedded
    Such a honeymoon as that, I have always dreaded....
    For a drinking man is...spoiled...once he's been beheaded!

    So we waked him with a will, ale and teardrops pooling
    Then we drank to him for months, while the year was cooling.
    But he came back with the grass! Death was only fooling!
    Tammuz told us: "Fill my Cup! I'm both dry...and drooling!"

    Re Catcher in the Rye: the guy’s messed up because he lost his brother in WW2, and there was this whole pre-existentialist bit to it for the Silents. After that it became teen-alienation-before-teen-alienation for the Baby Boomers, and Gen X could still relate to it sort of.

    I doubt it’ll last much longer in the canon, honestly. He’s too pale and male.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anon
    "Catcher in the Rye: the guy’s messed up because he lost his brother in WW2, and there was this whole pre-existentialist bit to it for the Silents. After that it became teen-alienation-before-teen-alienation for the Baby Boomers, and Gen X could still relate to it sort of. I doubt it’ll last much longer in the canon, honestly. He’s too pale and male."

    The success of Wes Anderson goes to show that Salingerism still has cachet. The problem is Caulfield was an oddball in a society pretending to be square and grown-up. And that was the appeal of the novel. It was a lonely rebellion against the world. But today, with a 100,000 pussy hat marches and institutional backing of 50 genders, there's no need for Caulfields of the world to mope and wander alone. They own many campuses.

    Another thing... cellphones and internet destroyed literary conventions though they also birthed new possibilities. You realize so many stories and plots in the past would not be possible if cellphones had been around? So much of storytelling depends on miscommunication and lack of communication. Consider JULES AND JIM where people communicate by letters. So, by the time the letter arrives, the emotions have changed, and there are so many missed signals and misunderstandings. But if all three characters had cellphones, things would have cleared up much faster, and there wouldn't have been much of a story.
    Maybe L'APPARTEMENT was the last great love story where things get mis-communicated because of lack of cellphones. If everyone had a cellphone in that movie, everything would have been cleared up and there wouldn't have been much of a story.

    Imagine CATCHER IN THE RYE TODAY. Caulfield would have cellphones, internet, and etc. If he felt down, he wouldn't need to wander around and try to think things out. He would just go on twitter and connect with others like him, and they would all have a therapy session. Or Caulfield will just set up a youtube account and blabber about his problems to the world.
    That ain't no premise for storytelling.
    , @Steve Sailer
    Salinger saw a low of combat in WWII and maybe never quite recovered from it.

    He landed on Utah Beach on D-Day in the second wave at 6:40 AM.

    http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2011/02/salinger-201102
  105. @Anotheranon
    "total lack of professional philosophers"

    Doesn't William James count?

    Yes, he does. I must not have noticed him when I skimmed the list.

    Read More
  106. @Another Canadian
    Totally off topic...

    "Fly the friendly skies..."

    https://youtu.be/kgdjQvdNThk

    Man removed from United flight due to overbooking.

    Then, she said, a manager came aboard the plane and said a computer would select four people to be taken off the flight.

    (…and then, the chosen four will be taken to helicopter ride)

    The Flyocide &l Power of Hidden Binary Numbers

    BTW, Trump can’t make not even the airplanes run on time…

    Read More
    • Replies: @Another Canadian
    According to the Globe and Mail, the Asian victim tried the appeal of racial solidarity with the United manager, who was black. Apparently it was all for naught.

    https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/security-officials-drag-passenger-off-overbooked-united-airlines-flight/article34651197/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&
  107. SFG says:
    @Anonym
    Also no Philip K Dick. Or Asimov. No Poe? List needs more work, or maybe expanding.

    Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill is a hugely influential and very American book. Though including Carnegie on the list is a shout out to the self-help money making genre, and was published in 1936, a year earlier.

    SF and genre fiction never gets the attention it deserves from English majors. As the techies get more influential that may change.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonym
    SF and genre fiction never gets the attention it deserves from English majors. As the techies get more influential that may change.

    Speaking of which, Puzo and King are missing. The Godfather, and I suppose, The Stand might be selected from any of King's works. They gave birth to the stories behind three of the greatest movies ever.
  108. SFG says:
    @Whitehall
    Surprised no Emerson. Thoreau is a poor stand-in.

    Where's Philip Roth? I've seldom read a better understanding of male sexuality. Updike is pure depression to me.

    I agree with Flying Tiger that "Starship Troopers" made a much bigger and more lasting difference in MY life than "Stranger in a Strange Land."

    Wilson's "Sociobiology" made a HUGE difference in my world view.

    ‘Starship Troopers’ *is* on the Marine Corps reading list. ;)

    Read More
  109. Anon says: • Disclaimer

    The books ought to be broken down as to WHY they became influential.

    1. Institutional backing. Some books continue to matter because they’ve become part of the official canon, and generation after generation is exposed to them in schools.

    2. Undying popularity. This would be Ayn Rand. I don’t think her books are read in any high school or even in college, but they’ve caught on. GONE WITH THE WIND and Margaret Mitchell would be another one. Oftentimes, books of this type become famous not only for the ideas but the larger-than-life personalities. Some people find Stephen King to be a fascinating personality, though I never read any of his books.

    3. Elite culture. Even though these books may not be part of high school or even college curriculum, they continue to matter among elites who control the institutions. Anything that influences the elites has trickle down effect on rest of society.

    4. Social problem. Some books address social/racial problems that just won’t go away. So, whether the book or good or bad, it is used to address the problems that we face generation after generation.

    5. Cultism. Some books have become cult objects among a certain subculture that has lasting power. Ayn Rand’s book have gained popularity and cultism. Heinlein also seems to have cult followers.

    6. Hipsterism. Hipsters generally tend to read more than others, and what they consider ‘cool’ have a certain cachet and become subjects of much gab. Like the novels of Kurt Vonnegut.

    7. Luckily, the book was made into a famous movie. Burgess insists A CLOCKWORK ORANGE is far from his being his best book, but it’s the most famous one because of Kubrick’s film. Maybe if Kubrick had adapted a different Burgess novel, it would have been different.
    THE GODFATHER was a hit novel, but if a sucky movie had been made of it, it might have been forgotten like so many other once popular pulp novels. In the case of LOVE STORY, the novel was written along with the making of the film,and the film made the novel. Same with 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.

    Read More
  110. SFG says:
    @Damn Crackers
    No Lovecraft?

    Honestly, his prose isn’t that good. There’s no question his influence on American geek culture is huge, but that’s another story. You’d have to put Gary Gygax and Douglas Adams (British) in there.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Sunbeam
    "Honestly, his prose isn’t that good. There’s no question his influence on American geek culture is huge, but that’s another story. "

    His prose is purple. It might be the most florid prose (Bulwer-Lytton has nothing on H.P.) by any author with appreciable sales ever.

    He also wrote an astounding, absolutely astounding number of words in his life. He feverishly corresponded with... lots and lots of people.

    Can't remember where I saw it, but either he or Asimov might be the humans who put the most words on paper.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxScTbIUvoA
  111. @Kyle a
    Alex Haley on this list is downright amusing. They should have used his 60's Playboy interview with that pipe smoking nazi. No kidding. Playboy was once good reading.

    Kyle a, Haley was accused of plagiarism and sure everyone bought Playboy for the articles. Who doesn’t know that?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Jim Don Bob
    Haley settled charges that he lifted entire passages of Roots from a book called The African. I remember all my friends gushing when Roots first aired on TV; I thought it was crap.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_Haley#Plagiarism_dispute_and_other_criticism
  112. Anonym says:
    @Anonym
    OT: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4396224/Sweden-never-mass-immigration-PM-says.html

    If it takes Nixon to go to China, in Sweden it takes a Benedict Arnold to issue the Declaration of Independence.

    Maybe this is Sweden’s Virgin Spring moment? One can only hope.

    Read More
  113. @donut
    "- Benjamin Franklin wrote 3 of the 88 books. The only other author with more than one book on the list is Harriet Beecher Stowe with 1.5." What did I tell you about Harriet B, Stowe ? Her and her whole rotten family were the original SJW/do gooders . Like all of their kind more concerned with "improving" others than themselves .

    What did I tell you about Ben Franklin? Called by many The First American, called “perhaps the single most broadly successful man in history” by Steve Sailer, and author of a full 3.4% of the books on this list, all by himself.

    Even though this 88 is pointless entertainment for children (anything that includes The Cat in the Hat must be) Ben still rules.

    No wonder his image graces the highest denomination of the world’s most powerful currency.

    Read More
    • Replies: @donut
    "No wonder his image graces the highest denomination of the world’s most powerful currency. Not for long I fear .
  114. SFG says:
    @Anotheranon
    "Male homosexuals are over represented at 4/88 (Hughes, Capote, Ginsberg, Sendak). Are there more?"

    Whitman and Wilder, certainly. There are also a number of figures of unclear or eclectic sexuality (Melville, Kerouac).

    Honestly, that’s accurate. They’ve always been prominent in the arts since at least Michelangelo–they have a woman’s emotional nature and a man’s lack of family obligations. It works when you want to evoke feelings, which art generally is supposed to.

    Read More
  115. Anonym says:
    @SFG
    SF and genre fiction never gets the attention it deserves from English majors. As the techies get more influential that may change.

    SF and genre fiction never gets the attention it deserves from English majors. As the techies get more influential that may change.

    Speaking of which, Puzo and King are missing. The Godfather, and I suppose, The Stand might be selected from any of King’s works. They gave birth to the stories behind three of the greatest movies ever.

    Read More
  116. H Parnell says:
    @Sunbeam
    Not a western reader, but trust me I know the genre for both Lovecraft and ERB.

    Lovecraft was actually sort of obscure for a long time, like Robert H. Howard, till the 70's fantasy explosion brought on by Lord of the Rings becoming popular in the 60's in this country.

    The SF Fandom circles kept the flame burning for both of them (they actually corresponded together), but mainstream America really had no knowledge of works published in pulps in the 20's and 30's.

    Tarzan has been rocking the world of 13 year old boys since 1914 or whenever.

    And geez. The Lord of the Apes not culturally significant?

    John Carter has been immensely popular as well, though not as much as Tarzan (ERB named his California estate 'Tarzana' - he knew who paid the bills).

    Hah! From Wikipedia:

    "Tarzana /tɑːrˈzænə/ is an affluent neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley region of the city of Los Angeles, California. Tarzana is on the site of a former ranch owned by author Edgar Rice Burroughs. It is named after Burroughs' storybook jungle character hero, Tarzan.[1]"

    My guess is A Princess of Mars, Riders of the Purple Sage, and Tarzan will be read long after Lovecraft becomes as little known as James Branch Cabell (once a really big noise) is today.

    ERB’s influence has ALWAYS been underestimated, IMO, there would be NO “Campbellian” school of sci-fi (Heinlein, et al) without Edgar Rice Burroughs. Lovecraft is valuable ONLY for his existential cosmology, which has had an admittedly broad impact; but you cannot single out any particular HPL book that has had anywhere near the influence of ERB’s. HPL’s actual stories are poorly-written, in most instances; his IDEAS transcend them, to be sure, but the stories themselves are rather pitiful.

    Also glad to see Bob Heinlein on the list, though I would nominate “Starship Troopers” over “Stranger” as being most influential — Heinlein’s critique of democracy has yet to be fully understood OR addressed by all the “big thinkers” of our vaunted modern world. But Heinlein as well would have been LOST without Ed Burroughs; witness his “Glory Road,” which is nothing but a tribute to ERB and John Carter of Mars.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    I live down the 101 freeway from Tarzana, CA.

    Edgar Rice Burroughs owned a big chunk of land there and was its most famous resident, so the place was named after his character by popular acclaim.

    Does Melville have a Bartlebyville? I don't think so.

  117. This is a strange list, because of these:

    Noah Webster, “A Grammatical Institute of the English Language” (1783)

    “New England Primer” (1803)

    The New England Primer was first published between 1687 and 1790 and was one of the books that Webster’s was written in reaction to:

    https://infogalactic.com/info/The_New_England_Primer

    In addition, Webster re-titled his book in 1787 to The American Spelling Book, the name that it is much better know under (unless you count The Blue-backed speller, its common name.)

    https://infogalactic.com/info/American_Spelling_Book

    Read More
  118. I think the most influential books on the list are those that became great movies and stage plays as in :”The Grapes of Wrath”, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “A Streetcar named Desire,” “Gone with the Wind,” etc. More people have probably seen the movies/plays than have read the books. And from my book shelf, no Carl Sandburg or Shelby Foote?

    Read More
  119. Anon says: • Disclaimer

    American Books that I read with interest or amusement

    ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST
    SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION
    SLATS GROBNIK AND FRIENDS (Royko)
    Pauline Kael collection
    Stanley Kauffmann collection
    REVERSE ANGLE/SOMETHING TO DECLARE (John Simon)
    ON MOVIES(Dwight MacDonald)
    CONFESSIONS OF A CULTIST/POLITICS AND CINEMA/PRIMAL SCREEN (Sarris)
    A SUSAN SONTAG READER and UNDER THE SIGN OF SATURN
    PAPER CHASE(probably because I love the movie)
    RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING
    James Baldwin Collected Essays
    SOUL ON ICE(Sheeeeiiiit)
    Essential Gore Vidal
    THE CALL (Hersey)
    LITTLE BIG MAN (Berger), funniest thing I ever read
    THE SICILIAN (Puzo)
    WHEN SHE WAS GOOD (Roth)
    VULGAR MODERNISM (Hoberman)
    WHEN MOVIES MATTERED (Kehr)
    LIFE OF HELEN ALONE(maybe not even a good novel but never left my mind)

    Read More
  120. US Grant’s Memoirs?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Whitehall
    I have to agree on Grant's Memoirs.

    He lived an exciting, full life.

    His writing style is an example of what's needed when the lives of thousands of men depend on clarity and precision.
  121. anon says: • Disclaimer
    @Sunbeam
    Never got why Catcher is the Rye is supposed to be what it is.

    It's not the writing or language. If you want that, read Jack Vance's Dying Earth books. Or Lloyd Alexander's Prydain books (Eilonwy is a pistol).

    Who exactly is supposed to resonate with? To me it was the story of a monumentally ineffectual kid who couldn't commit to anything. He couldn't be bad, he couldn't be bothered to be good.

    Kind of the OG mumblecore work.

    Heck Silverlock blew the doors off that piece of tripe.

    "I have known both joy and grief, neat, and mixed together
    Cold and Heat I've known, and found both good drinking weather
    Light and Darkness I have known, seldom doubting whether
    Tammuz would return again, when he'd slipped his tether!

    I remember gaudy days when the Year was springing
    Tammuz, Gilgamesh and I, clinking Cups and singing
    Till Ininni sauntered by, skimpy garments clinging
    To her hips, and things like that: Tammuz left us, winging!

    So we welcomed Enkidu when he came to Erech
    He was rough as hickory bark, nothing of the Cleric!
    But his taste in Wine and Ale, THAT was Esoteric!
    And he used a drinking cup that would strain a derrick!

    Khumbaba then felt our strength 'neath the magic Cedars
    And we wrestled Anu's Bull, pride of Heaven's Breeders!
    Thrice we struck, and once he fell, drawing wolves for feeders
    while we strode where drinking men called for expert leaders.

    Tammuz must have joined us there, but he'd just got wedded
    And Ininni (blast the Wench!) hacked him as they bedded
    Such a honeymoon as that, I have always dreaded....
    For a drinking man is...spoiled...once he's been beheaded!

    So we waked him with a will, ale and teardrops pooling
    Then we drank to him for months, while the year was cooling.
    But he came back with the grass! Death was only fooling!
    Tammuz told us: "Fill my Cup! I'm both dry...and drooling!"

    It’s interesting what seems shocking in the book. Initially there was pushback to the profanity. The last time I looked at it, his teenage smoking seemed to cross the line. It shows up in the list of books assigned in high school, but doesn’t seem to get much traction — they tend to hate it.

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is still attractive to some teenagers. I read it a few years ago and like it.

    They were poor and hungry. Now our poor are fat. Not that I’m in favor of hunger, but it focuses the mind.

    Read More
  122. Anon says: • Disclaimer
    @SFG
    Re Catcher in the Rye: the guy's messed up because he lost his brother in WW2, and there was this whole pre-existentialist bit to it for the Silents. After that it became teen-alienation-before-teen-alienation for the Baby Boomers, and Gen X could still relate to it sort of.

    I doubt it'll last much longer in the canon, honestly. He's too pale and male.

    “Catcher in the Rye: the guy’s messed up because he lost his brother in WW2, and there was this whole pre-existentialist bit to it for the Silents. After that it became teen-alienation-before-teen-alienation for the Baby Boomers, and Gen X could still relate to it sort of. I doubt it’ll last much longer in the canon, honestly. He’s too pale and male.”

    The success of Wes Anderson goes to show that Salingerism still has cachet. The problem is Caulfield was an oddball in a society pretending to be square and grown-up. And that was the appeal of the novel. It was a lonely rebellion against the world. But today, with a 100,000 pussy hat marches and institutional backing of 50 genders, there’s no need for Caulfields of the world to mope and wander alone. They own many campuses.

    Another thing… cellphones and internet destroyed literary conventions though they also birthed new possibilities. You realize so many stories and plots in the past would not be possible if cellphones had been around? So much of storytelling depends on miscommunication and lack of communication. Consider JULES AND JIM where people communicate by letters. So, by the time the letter arrives, the emotions have changed, and there are so many missed signals and misunderstandings. But if all three characters had cellphones, things would have cleared up much faster, and there wouldn’t have been much of a story.
    Maybe L’APPARTEMENT was the last great love story where things get mis-communicated because of lack of cellphones. If everyone had a cellphone in that movie, everything would have been cleared up and there wouldn’t have been much of a story.

    Imagine CATCHER IN THE RYE TODAY. Caulfield would have cellphones, internet, and etc. If he felt down, he wouldn’t need to wander around and try to think things out. He would just go on twitter and connect with others like him, and they would all have a therapy session. Or Caulfield will just set up a youtube account and blabber about his problems to the world.
    That ain’t no premise for storytelling.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous
    The success of Wes Anderson goes to show that Salingerism still has cachet. The problem is Caulfield was an oddball in a society pretending to be square and grown-up. And that was the appeal of the novel. It was a lonely rebellion against the world. But today, with a 100,000 pussy hat marches and institutional backing of 50 genders, there’s no need for Caulfields of the world to mope and wander alone. They own many campuses.

    I agree. It's also a novel that probably appeals to fairly young people more than adults. I read this novel when I was in high school, or maybe a freshman in college, and thought it was great. A few summers ago I picked up a copy of it at my mother's house and started reading it and could scarcely get part a few pages, and I wondered how I ever could have liked it.

  123. One other thing to note: about a half-dozen of these books had little or no immediate impact when they were published, but some years later became novels that a significant percentage of the population read when the US had its five year long National Sit Around For Hours/Weeks/Months With Nothing to Do But Read Festival…a/k/a the Second World War.

    Steve has already noted in several posts in the past few years that this was the case with The Great Gatsby, but cheap paperbacks circulated among bored GIs and sailors also turned A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Sound and the Fury into universal canon, which they had not been before (ditto also Riders of the Purple Sage). I’d bet the famous “Armed Services Editions” also brought back Huck Finn and Red Badge, among others, from the temporary eclipse that they had probably been in for most of the pre-war decades.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anon
    I've read accounts of Civil War officers who, while stuck in prison, read a lot of novels (loaned to them by some lady benefactor). This probably caused the first round of recognition in America for novels that we still consider classics today. American men were generally known for their lack of interest in reading before the Civil War (and for that matter anything that reeked of culture), except for newspapers and occasional pamphlets.
  124. @H Parnell
    ERB's influence has ALWAYS been underestimated, IMO, there would be NO "Campbellian" school of sci-fi (Heinlein, et al) without Edgar Rice Burroughs. Lovecraft is valuable ONLY for his existential cosmology, which has had an admittedly broad impact; but you cannot single out any particular HPL book that has had anywhere near the influence of ERB's. HPL's actual stories are poorly-written, in most instances; his IDEAS transcend them, to be sure, but the stories themselves are rather pitiful.

    Also glad to see Bob Heinlein on the list, though I would nominate "Starship Troopers" over "Stranger" as being most influential -- Heinlein's critique of democracy has yet to be fully understood OR addressed by all the "big thinkers" of our vaunted modern world. But Heinlein as well would have been LOST without Ed Burroughs; witness his "Glory Road," which is nothing but a tribute to ERB and John Carter of Mars.

    I live down the 101 freeway from Tarzana, CA.

    Edgar Rice Burroughs owned a big chunk of land there and was its most famous resident, so the place was named after his character by popular acclaim.

    Does Melville have a Bartlebyville? I don’t think so.

    Read More
    • Replies: @H Parnell
    Steve,

    15 years or so ago, I wrote a weekly column for a little ezine called "The Texas Mercury," now long gone, and one of my pieces was titled "The Rehabilitation of Edgar Rice Burroughs." I pointed out, among other things, that ERB was familiar with classical myth and that his stories were essentially "myths for the age of science," since "science fiction" as a distinct genre really didn't exist when he began writing. So that Barsoom was not only Percival Lowell's Mars, but a projection of our own Earth in the future, the "twilight of the day of science"; Tarzan was "an encapsulation of human evolution in a single individual, rising as he does from figurative ape to literal superman"; and the "Empire of Pellucidar" was an early attempt at a kind of libertarian utopia ("Just laws and few of them"). I also pointed out the influence that ERB had on the Campbellian school of sci-fi, which certain leftist sf critics bizarrely attribute to Rudyard Kipling's two delightful "airship future" stories ("With the Night Mail" and "As Easy as A.B.C.")!

    AND, it helps having a municipality named after one of your characters, surely.
    , @Mikey Darmody
    I grew up in Pittsfield, in Massachusetts, where Herman Melville lived. He was, apparently, not well liked by the town elders. So they named the road that his house Arrowhead overlooked after his friend Oliver Wendell Holmes. I heard it drove Melville bananas to look out his window and see Holmes Road, rather than Melville Road.
    , @Jim Don Bob
    Will Bartlesville, Oklahoma do?
  125. Rohirrim says:

    A highly influential book that’s been largely forgotten is “A Message to Garcia” by Elbert Hubbard. “Taking a message to Garcia” was an expression understood by all Americans from the early to mid-20th Century as meaning taking the initiative. I saw a film noir from the early 50s where the expression was used. BTW Garcia was pronounced “Garsha”.

    Read More
  126. @bored identity



    Then, she said, a manager came aboard the plane and said a computer would select four people to be taken off the flight.

     

    (...and then, the chosen four will be taken to helicopter ride)

    The Flyocide &l Power of Hidden Binary Numbers


    BTW, Trump can't make not even the airplanes run on time...

    According to the Globe and Mail, the Asian victim tried the appeal of racial solidarity with the United manager, who was black. Apparently it was all for naught.

    https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/security-officials-drag-passenger-off-overbooked-united-airlines-flight/article34651197/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&

    Read More
  127. Anon says: • Disclaimer

    Never read Erica Jong, but I have a feeling she had bigger impact than Betty Friedan.

    Read More
  128. @The Man From K Street

    almost nothing on the list has anything to do with religion. You can’t tell me there weren’t religious titles that were more important in the larger culture than say, Walden
     
    The Book of Mormon? I guess they had to leave it out because they didn't want to put "Joseph Smith" as the author, and they obviously couldn't put "God"--cf. Alcoholics Anonymous where they say "unknown" even though we've known Bill W.'s identity since forever. Ironically, most non-LDS scholars of Mormonism think that at some future point, maybe the end of the 21st or beginning of the 22nd centuries, the LDS Church will (quietly) start to put JS as the author on the title page.
    Dale Carnegie is a good pick, but what about The Man Nobody Knows by Bruce Fairchild Barton? For that matter, what about Babbitt?

    Ironically, most non-LDS scholars of Mormonism think that at some future point, maybe the end of the 21st or beginning of the 22nd centuries, the LDS Church will (quietly) start to put JS as the author on the title page.

    Some LDS scholars of Mormonism have begun to voice the same opinion. See An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, by Grant Palmer.

    Read More
  129. KD says:

    Indeed, this is a remarkably if predictably Yankee list, missing not just Poe and Jefferson, but Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men, Flannery O’Connor’s short stories, Mrs. Chesnut’s Diary and Joel Chandler Harris’s Br’er Rabbit stories. Those influential books (all still in print) include two women and the seminal stories of black folk culture, and they still didn’t make it past the committee.

    Read More
  130. roo_ster says:
    @Rex May
    Thanks for the info on Gene Wolfe. Never read him, but now I will ASAP.

    Start with Wolfe’s “Soldier” series, IMO.

    Soldier of the Mist
    Soldier of Arete
    Soldier of Sidon

    Somewhat easier entry into Gene Wolfe’s work.

    Read More
  131. donut says:
    @Buzz Mohawk
    What did I tell you about Ben Franklin? Called by many The First American, called "perhaps the single most broadly successful man in history" by Steve Sailer, and author of a full 3.4% of the books on this list, all by himself.

    Even though this 88 is pointless entertainment for children (anything that includes The Cat in the Hat must be) Ben still rules.

    No wonder his image graces the highest denomination of the world's most powerful currency.

    “No wonder his image graces the highest denomination of the world’s most powerful currency. Not for long I fear .

    Read More
  132. “You can’t tell me there weren’t religious titles that were more important in the larger culture than say, Walden.”

    I think Charles Murray has commented that the influence of religion on non-elite Americans is often massively underestimated by the elite folks.

    If we are scoring *INFLUENCE*, I think:
        *) Book of Mormon
        *) Pilgrim’s Progress
        *) Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (but it isn’t a book …)

    Maybe also something by Merton?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    My old Encyclopedia Britannica is full of bios of American Protestant churchmen who were once big deals.

    Some of the books on this list are by Protestant ministers, such as McGuffey's Reader.

    , @Wilkey
    The Book of Mormon doesn't even have all that much influence on Mormon theology, let alone the rest of America. It provided the justification for the LDS Church's founding but, doctrinally speaking, it could be removed entirely from the LDS canon and it would have almost minimal impact on how the Church is run, the policies it promotes, or the way Mormons live their day-to-day lives. Most of the basis for Mormon theology comes from the Doctrine & Covenants, a collection of "prophecies" mostly written by Joseph Smith after he had matured (slightly) and was running an active religion.

    But how about Norman Vincent Peale? He wrote some pretty popular works. Donald Trump was a congregant in Peale's church when he was growing up.
  133. ricpic says:

    Betty Smith, the author of A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, was Irish Catholic.

    As was James T. Farrell. His Studs Lonigan Trilogy was an influential “proletarian” best seller in the 1930′s but does not appear on the list.

    I wonder how influential Melville’s Moby Dick has been. I doubt it has ever had a wide readership. The excited interest in it has largely been confined to professors of American Literature. And a few teenage boys besotted with wanderjahr.

    The same holds for Whitman’s Leaves Of Grass. Narrow intense readership of academics and the minuscule number who read poetry for pleasure.

    Kerouac’s On The Road, almost unreadable trash in comparison to the above two, has had an immense and deleterious effect on the culture as one instance of the onslaught on “the bourgeoisie” that has led to our present sorry state.

    Read More
  134. Daniel H says:
    @jimmyriddle
    I'm surprised that there aren't more '60 & '70s feminists - Gloria Steinem etc. Also, no Dr Spock.

    I guess they had to keep the White count down.

    Hence, no Henry James, Edgar Allan Poe, RH Dana, Sinclair Lewis, HL Mencken, Dorothy Parker.

    Maybe John Dos Pasos would have made it if he had been Mexican instead of Portuguese.

    Spock is on the list. Click the link. For some reason Steve didn’t manage to copy the entire list.

    Read More
  135. @Kyle a
    Alex Haley on this list is downright amusing. They should have used his 60's Playboy interview with that pipe smoking nazi. No kidding. Playboy was once good reading.

    Playboy was once good reading.

    Because they paid writers three times what other major magazines of the day did, and ten times what average periodicals did. Don’t take my word for it; go to a big library and check out– I mean peruse; you can’t check out bound periodicals and reference works– old copies of Writer’s Market.

    That whiskey-and-sports-car-ad-money was put to use.

    Sheldon and Judith Wax wrote for Playboy. They could afford to fly to LA for a book event in pre-deregulation 1979, on American Airlines Flight 191. Apparently that’s still America’s deadliest plane crash. (Normal plane crash. “9/11″ was something else.)

    Judith appeared to forecast her own death in her last novel– on page 191.

    The Tablet celebrates Playboy‘s “Jewish decade”:

    http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/books/26418/my-son-the-pornographer

    Read More
  136. @Mark Roulo
    "You can’t tell me there weren’t religious titles that were more important in the larger culture than say, Walden."

    I think Charles Murray has commented that the influence of religion on non-elite Americans is often massively underestimated by the elite folks.

    If we are scoring *INFLUENCE*, I think:
        *) Book of Mormon
        *) Pilgrim's Progress
        *) Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (but it isn't a book ...)

    Maybe also something by Merton?

    My old Encyclopedia Britannica is full of bios of American Protestant churchmen who were once big deals.

    Some of the books on this list are by Protestant ministers, such as McGuffey’s Reader.

    Read More
  137. Yak-15 says:

    The Bible?

    The Decline and Fall of the Roman Republic?

    Or are these just American books that shaped America?

    Read More
  138. Did Michael Herr’s Dispatches make as big an impact Over There as it did here on Airstrip One?
    On a par with Catch-22 and The Naked and the Dead for impressionable young undergraduates back when I were a lad, and ranked with Hunter Thompson’s gonzo stuff. Helter Skelter (Bugliosi) was strangely popular too, for those foreigners struggling for a grip on the hallucinatory exoticism of American culture in those pre-internet days. Oh, and Carlos Castaneda’s nonsense.

    Read More
  139. One striking thing is the lack of influence of Catholic writers until fairly recently.

    Poor Orestes Brownson, a convert. He was too Catholic for Yankees, and too Yankee for Catholics.

    Today’s paleos love him, though. Too little, too late.

    Read More
    • Replies: @timothy
    jinx.
    , @Cortes
    I wonder how many offbeat Catholic or Jewish or nondescript writers were continually blanked like John Kennedy Toole by the confederacy of publishing dunces?
  140. timothy says:

    America mostly lacks a literary tradition of converts to Catholicism

    Orestes Brownson was an exception, though his influence seems to have melted away by the end of the 19th century. He was culturally important among the literati; occupied some real estate in Poe’s head, for example.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orestes_Brownson

    Read More
  141. timothy says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    One striking thing is the lack of influence of Catholic writers until fairly recently.
     
    Poor Orestes Brownson, a convert. He was too Catholic for Yankees, and too Yankee for Catholics.

    Today's paleos love him, though. Too little, too late.

    jinx.

    Read More
  142. lambdaphagy says: • Website

    England has always seemed more tolerant of popery than America, whose founding elites were in large part ultra-Puritan. Also, recusancy selects for human capital.

    Meanwhile, the CoE recognizes Chesterton and Newman– imagine being so open-minded that you canonize the two members of your church known principally for leaving it.

    Read More
  143. Gero says:
    @WGG
    Tennessee Williams was a homosexual, too ( can't believe I missed that one ) and Alfred Kinsey falls into the pervert/ part time sodomist category.

    James Balwin was openly gay, too.

    Read More
  144. Pat Casey says:

    Someone has probably mentioned this, but Hemingway was a convert to Catholicism. The standard biography gives zero details on this, which is to say Hemingway was naught to speak of his Catholicism to Americans. I don’t know.

    One thing ISteve has never to my knowledge pondered is whether Blacks or Catholics were Hated more at the turn of the century. My guess would be Catholics were hated more, and Blacks were disdained in the way IStevers today disdain Mexican immigrants—a nuisance they knew not but knew to disdain.

    There is an interesteing scene in Wonder Boys where the prickly women with a loud voice says “I mean what is it with you Catholics?” regarding a story we get to know nothing of save that it was written by a student who can write straightaway sterling novels. My theory is that the publishing history of Ulysses has a lot to do with the way things—these books—muddled out. That’s sort of like saying, What is with you Catholics?—in the 21st century.

    Read More
    • Replies: @anonymous coward

    Someone has probably mentioned this, but Hemingway was a convert to Catholicism.
     
    Another fun fact: so is Toni Morrison. (Although she voiced praise for Pope Francis, so I don't know how serious she is as a Catholic.)
  145. @Ray P
    No Democracy in America by Tocqueville? No biography of Lincoln? Ulysses Grant's best-selling memoirs? John Calhoun? Although by an Englishman, Darwin's Origin should appear because of its deep controversy to this day. The Fundamentals? Eleanor Roosevelt? William Shirer's Rise and fall of the Third Reich? Behind the flying saucers by Frank Scully? John F. Kennedy's Portraits in courage? The Two Oswalds by Richard Pipkin? On the trail of the assassins by Jim Garrison. Portnoy's complaint by Philip Roth.

    I think you mean “Profiles in Courage”, by Ted Sorensen

    Read More
  146. Thea says:
    @Sunbeam
    Never got why Catcher is the Rye is supposed to be what it is.

    It's not the writing or language. If you want that, read Jack Vance's Dying Earth books. Or Lloyd Alexander's Prydain books (Eilonwy is a pistol).

    Who exactly is supposed to resonate with? To me it was the story of a monumentally ineffectual kid who couldn't commit to anything. He couldn't be bad, he couldn't be bothered to be good.

    Kind of the OG mumblecore work.

    Heck Silverlock blew the doors off that piece of tripe.

    "I have known both joy and grief, neat, and mixed together
    Cold and Heat I've known, and found both good drinking weather
    Light and Darkness I have known, seldom doubting whether
    Tammuz would return again, when he'd slipped his tether!

    I remember gaudy days when the Year was springing
    Tammuz, Gilgamesh and I, clinking Cups and singing
    Till Ininni sauntered by, skimpy garments clinging
    To her hips, and things like that: Tammuz left us, winging!

    So we welcomed Enkidu when he came to Erech
    He was rough as hickory bark, nothing of the Cleric!
    But his taste in Wine and Ale, THAT was Esoteric!
    And he used a drinking cup that would strain a derrick!

    Khumbaba then felt our strength 'neath the magic Cedars
    And we wrestled Anu's Bull, pride of Heaven's Breeders!
    Thrice we struck, and once he fell, drawing wolves for feeders
    while we strode where drinking men called for expert leaders.

    Tammuz must have joined us there, but he'd just got wedded
    And Ininni (blast the Wench!) hacked him as they bedded
    Such a honeymoon as that, I have always dreaded....
    For a drinking man is...spoiled...once he's been beheaded!

    So we waked him with a will, ale and teardrops pooling
    Then we drank to him for months, while the year was cooling.
    But he came back with the grass! Death was only fooling!
    Tammuz told us: "Fill my Cup! I'm both dry...and drooling!"

    Catcher in the Rye had quite the following in the Soviet Union where it was viewed as quite subversive.

    Since all American high schoolers need to read it & To Kill a Mockingbird I guess it influences people. A Seperate Peace is better.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anon
    Being forced to read anything for school automatically kills whatever quality it has.
  147. H Parnell says:
    @Steve Sailer
    I live down the 101 freeway from Tarzana, CA.

    Edgar Rice Burroughs owned a big chunk of land there and was its most famous resident, so the place was named after his character by popular acclaim.

    Does Melville have a Bartlebyville? I don't think so.

    Steve,

    15 years or so ago, I wrote a weekly column for a little ezine called “The Texas Mercury,” now long gone, and one of my pieces was titled “The Rehabilitation of Edgar Rice Burroughs.” I pointed out, among other things, that ERB was familiar with classical myth and that his stories were essentially “myths for the age of science,” since “science fiction” as a distinct genre really didn’t exist when he began writing. So that Barsoom was not only Percival Lowell’s Mars, but a projection of our own Earth in the future, the “twilight of the day of science”; Tarzan was “an encapsulation of human evolution in a single individual, rising as he does from figurative ape to literal superman”; and the “Empire of Pellucidar” was an early attempt at a kind of libertarian utopia (“Just laws and few of them”). I also pointed out the influence that ERB had on the Campbellian school of sci-fi, which certain leftist sf critics bizarrely attribute to Rudyard Kipling’s two delightful “airship future” stories (“With the Night Mail” and “As Easy as A.B.C.”)!

    AND, it helps having a municipality named after one of your characters, surely.

    Read More
  148. Cortes says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    One striking thing is the lack of influence of Catholic writers until fairly recently.
     
    Poor Orestes Brownson, a convert. He was too Catholic for Yankees, and too Yankee for Catholics.

    Today's paleos love him, though. Too little, too late.

    I wonder how many offbeat Catholic or Jewish or nondescript writers were continually blanked like John Kennedy Toole by the confederacy of publishing dunces?

    Read More
  149. Sunbeam says:
    @SFG
    Honestly, his prose isn't that good. There's no question his influence on American geek culture is huge, but that's another story. You'd have to put Gary Gygax and Douglas Adams (British) in there.

    “Honestly, his prose isn’t that good. There’s no question his influence on American geek culture is huge, but that’s another story. ”

    His prose is purple. It might be the most florid prose (Bulwer-Lytton has nothing on H.P.) by any author with appreciable sales ever.

    He also wrote an astounding, absolutely astounding number of words in his life. He feverishly corresponded with… lots and lots of people.

    Can’t remember where I saw it, but either he or Asimov might be the humans who put the most words on paper.

    Read More
    • Replies: @flyingtiger
    Asimov has got to be the guy who wrote the most. Frederic Pohl is also a contender.
  150. Wilkey says:

    Interesting the complete lack of novels about any war since the Civil War. Nothing about WW1, WW2, Korea, or Vietnam. But a book about Cesar Chavez published years after his death (and only 15 years ago) makes the list. Was their really no influential literature to come out of those wars? Or were books from those wars excluded to make room for “diversity” and various other SJW causes?

    Read More
    • Replies: @The Man From K Street

    Was their really no influential literature to come out of those wars? Or were books from those wars excluded to make room for “diversity” and various other SJW causes?
     
    If you want great war literature, a) bring back the draft, and b) get rid of student deferments. How many WW2 vets studied English literature on the GI Bill after the war? Scads of them, and they "wrote what they knew". Probably an order of magnitude fewer Vietnam vets proportionately studied English Lit after their service.

    Now think of the all-volunteer Iraq/Afghanistan vets you know. The GI Bill is three--how many of them do you think will study *any* of the humanities, let alone Lit?
    , @Steve Sailer
    They could have gone with Hemingway's WWI novel A Farewell to Arms, which is really good, over his Spanish Civil War novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, which, I get the impression, without having read it, has been hurt by the rise in esteeem of Orwell's Homage to Catalonia.

    I read the first 100 pages of Mailer's Guadalcanal novel The Naked and the Dead recently and was impressed by how good a job such a young writer did in getting into the heads of different soldiers.
    , @flyingtiger
    Catch 22 is about American Fliers in Italy in WW II.
  151. Rapparee says:

    America mostly lacks a literary tradition of converts to Catholicism, like Newman, Hopkins, Chesterton, Waugh, and Greene in England.

    Orestes Brownson and Isaac Hecker come to mind, but not many others, and even their influence was limited. James McMaster remains fairly obscure. Rose Hawthorne wrote at least one book of poetry before her conversion, but rather than follow in the footsteps of her literary father, she entered the religious life and spent the rest of her days occupied with charity work.

    Catholics in America are in a very different position from English Catholics. England, in its formative early mediaeval years, was an overwhelmingly Catholic country, in communion with the Rome for the better part of a millennium prior to the Reformation. Patriotic modern English Catholics like Tolkien and Chesterton sincerely held their religion to be more authentically and traditionally English than John Bull’s roast beef. Evelyn Waugh’s biography of St. Edmund Campion lays very heavy emphasis on this native character of English Catholicism- a minority tradition, certainly, but not an alien or hostile one.

    In contrast, 12 out of 13 American colonies were founded by Protestants, many of them extreme radical Calvinists, and all uniquely-American institutions developed in this deeply Protestant milieu. Catholicism really is foreign here in a way that it is not in Europe. America was born and raised Protestant, whilst England was really a cradle Catholic who converted to Protestantism (after much waffling) in early adulthood.

    Read More
    • Replies: @celt darnell
    Well, firstly, it's disputable there was an England as such until after the Hundred Years' War 1337 to 1453 not long after which the Plantagenets were replaced by the Tudors (1485). It was one specific Tudor, Henry VIII, who broke with Rome.

    So I'd say the English identity is very definitely based in Protestantism. It owes, however, a lot less to Puritanism than the American identity.

    Also, Catholicism has traditionally has been seen as a foreign faith by the English -- Chesterton and Tolkien are 20th century writers. There'd have been far less tolerance for them in the 17th, 18th or 19th centuries.

    Catholic writers in English tend to be Irish -- but they're an altogether different kettle of fish.

    Catholicism is as foreign to the English as it is to the Americans (as is Europe).
  152. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer
    @Anon
    "Catcher in the Rye: the guy’s messed up because he lost his brother in WW2, and there was this whole pre-existentialist bit to it for the Silents. After that it became teen-alienation-before-teen-alienation for the Baby Boomers, and Gen X could still relate to it sort of. I doubt it’ll last much longer in the canon, honestly. He’s too pale and male."

    The success of Wes Anderson goes to show that Salingerism still has cachet. The problem is Caulfield was an oddball in a society pretending to be square and grown-up. And that was the appeal of the novel. It was a lonely rebellion against the world. But today, with a 100,000 pussy hat marches and institutional backing of 50 genders, there's no need for Caulfields of the world to mope and wander alone. They own many campuses.

    Another thing... cellphones and internet destroyed literary conventions though they also birthed new possibilities. You realize so many stories and plots in the past would not be possible if cellphones had been around? So much of storytelling depends on miscommunication and lack of communication. Consider JULES AND JIM where people communicate by letters. So, by the time the letter arrives, the emotions have changed, and there are so many missed signals and misunderstandings. But if all three characters had cellphones, things would have cleared up much faster, and there wouldn't have been much of a story.
    Maybe L'APPARTEMENT was the last great love story where things get mis-communicated because of lack of cellphones. If everyone had a cellphone in that movie, everything would have been cleared up and there wouldn't have been much of a story.

    Imagine CATCHER IN THE RYE TODAY. Caulfield would have cellphones, internet, and etc. If he felt down, he wouldn't need to wander around and try to think things out. He would just go on twitter and connect with others like him, and they would all have a therapy session. Or Caulfield will just set up a youtube account and blabber about his problems to the world.
    That ain't no premise for storytelling.

    The success of Wes Anderson goes to show that Salingerism still has cachet. The problem is Caulfield was an oddball in a society pretending to be square and grown-up. And that was the appeal of the novel. It was a lonely rebellion against the world. But today, with a 100,000 pussy hat marches and institutional backing of 50 genders, there’s no need for Caulfields of the world to mope and wander alone. They own many campuses.

    I agree. It’s also a novel that probably appeals to fairly young people more than adults. I read this novel when I was in high school, or maybe a freshman in college, and thought it was great. A few summers ago I picked up a copy of it at my mother’s house and started reading it and could scarcely get part a few pages, and I wondered how I ever could have liked it.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anon
    I read it on my own in sophomore year when I was suspended for a few days, so it had special resonance. I goaded some kid in biology class to eat a worm pickled in formaldehyde, and we both got suspended.

    I think it's timeless in a way because we will always have youths.

    Also, it does raise a question that can never be resolved, and in a way, that question came to define the 60s and all that came afterwards. It's about the corruption of adulthood and yet the impossibility of clinging to youthful innocence. In a way, Caulfield is right that grownups are all compromised and a bunch of hypocrites. But people can't be kids forever. Kids may be purer of heart and innocent, but they also means they are naive and clueless. And you can't have a society made up of naive and clueless people, like Adam and Eve before the fall. To grow up, the Fall is necessary. But it means the loss of Eden, the acceptance of the world as it is: corrupt and compromised.

    (There's some of this in DEATH OF A SALESMAN too. Biff realizes that he's been poisoned by fantasies of American Dream and wants to connect with something real and true, like working on the farm. That sort of worked with Jews on the kibbutz, but most Jews who took up honest prole labor, farm work, or crossing guard -- LOST IN AMERICA -- figured the world of business is more suited for their kind.)



    The 60s boomer generation that defined its identity as 'youth' was like an army of Caulfields. And Dylan, for awhile, seemed to be leader. He was young, he was idealistic, and he bitched and whined about everything wrong with the world(with poetic power). And Woodstock was about back to the Garden. But Dylan himself was too smart to actually believe in much of what he said, and the Woodstock showed what kids can do to a perfectly nice farm in 3 days. Turn it into a disaster area. What always kills me about watching the movie is how the farm actually looked Edenic when it was run by 'hayseeds' and'bumpkins' but ended up looking the anus of hell after the 'hippies' got through with it.

    Still, the themes of CATCHER IN THE RYE resonated in much of the culture that came later, maybe most amusingly in THE GRADUATE. 'Plastics'. James Dean phenom was also influential in defining youth culture, not least because he died young and became a icon of tragic youth.

    As annoying as Caulfield is, I think he is a seeker, and that makes his story moving in parts. And the part near the ending with his sister and merry-go-round is really beautiful and touching. I like GHOST WORLD for the same reason. The Scarlett Johansson character is actually more sensible and responsible. High school is over, and she knows she has to put away childish things and grow up. The other girl betrays everyone, even herself, but her confusion and chaos are a product of her search for some kind of meaning. She goes about it the wrong way, but it's hard not to be affected by the fact she wants something more from life than a job or nice things.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ub88RPZnHQM

    CATCHER is significant as the opening shot of what might be called 'Orimophobia', 'orimo' meaning 'mature' in Greek. The dread of growing up. Not everyone has this, but some do. Some kids can't wait to grow up and take charge of things. Some just don't wanna break out of the youthsphere. It could be the adult world seems purely materialistic and without themes. Even if education isn't fun, it's about something 'higher': knowledge and culture. But work in the adult world is just about profits and wages. 'Plastics'.
    Childhood is too restrictive, but adulthood is restrictive too since adults/parents have to worry about wages, bills, taxes, tuition for kids, and etc. The golden age of youth is teen yrs and college yrs when you're more than mere children and gaining adult freedoms for the first time... without taking on adult responsibilities. And some people want to stay in his blissful limbo forever. It's like in DAZED AND CONFUSED where the guys and girls are adult but adult enough to take on adult responsibilities. In earlier times, most people had to grow up fast. But as youth was stretched out with education and pop culture and etc, a lot of people wanna be 'youth' forever.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wknywxfcE5M

    Anyway, there is no solution for Caulfield, and I like the fact that CATCHER is not a therapeutic book. There's a sense of Catcher 22, a sense that he won't be able to overcome his contradictions and maybe go crazy. Uncertainty of THE GRADUATE's ending echoes this.
    Caulfieldism is partly there too in COOL HAND LUKE, which has a grownup but one who can't find traction in life. Maybe Paul Newman's best role. And the most CATCHER-ish movie ever, HAROLD AND MAUDE. (Truman Capote was another author who never really grew up. I never read Thomas Pynchon but his books seem to be big among those stuck in counterculture mentality. Never read David Foster Wallace either but his life story makes Caulfield seem downright sane. I did read THE MARRIAGE PLOT by Eugenides, and that is a fantastic novel about someone with mental issues.)

    But then, this sense of uncertainty was part of modernity. As Getrude Stein said of Hemingway's people: the lost generation. And if adults have lost what it means to be adult, how are youth supposed to climb to adulthood? I think part of the appeal of GREAT GATBSY too is a sense of lost-ness. Sure, Gatsby makes money and has a big mansion, but he's always someone having problems finding his way 'home'.

    And ONE FROM THE CUCKOO'S NEST is an ambiguous novel. Though the Indian apparently makes the escape at the end, there are intimations that maybe he's telling the tale from back inside the institution. The novel captures the contradiction within man for a desire for freedom and clinging to security.

    Whit Stillman seems to be channeling something from Caulfieldism, especially in DAMSELS IN DISTRESS, but his view of life balances this out: (1) He's far more forgiving of adults and (2) even his oddballs have this inborn conservatives sense of accountability and something like honor. Even the 'loon' has strict codes of conduct in LAST DAYS OF DISCO. Sobriety seems to be the best drug for oddballs. In METROPOLITAN, the weirdest guy is Charlie, but he is also the most committed to norms and codes, most straitlaced.
    That's what sets Stillman apart from Solondnz(Salinger gone totally grubby), Anderson(Salinger gone Pop Art), Baumbach(Salinger gone hipster), and etc. His characters are oddballs too, but there is a sense of honor and dignity that they must live up to or at least try.
  153. Ivy says:
    @SimplePseudonymicHandle
    @Steve Sailer,

    re:

    Overall, the weight of Protestants on American culture is pretty overwhelming until the mid-20th Century. So, you can see why there is such a strong urge to retcon American history with heapings of Ellis Island Nation of Immigrants schmaltz to inflate the reputations of the ancestors of today’s top dogs.
     
    I would venture this has a fairly simple explanation: dependence on public school education.

    Protestants were enjoying classical educational styles, albeit with heavy Protestant Christian skewing, up until the 60s and 70s when the balance shifted the other way and the modernized improvements, ehem, became the dominant form.

    In Catholic and Jewish circles this was observed with horror and you saw alternative school systems and parents willing to impoverish themselves rather than subject their children to the horror of public education.

    Nowadays - not quite as much. While many adult Catholics should objectively credit their adult success to their early parochial educations, you will note their subjective decisions to send their kids to public schools - although likely with some sensitivity, i.e.: careful selection of geography or charter schools.

    You do see Protestants turning to charters and home schooling. There is ROI in this. Not much ROI in HBD.

    Parents: Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and other ... pay attention to the prominence of Protestants before 1965, and the advance of Catholics and Jewish since 1965, and pay attention to where they went to school. Then: stop fighting the hopeless public school fights. They think, and will actively say, your advanced-track math class is a privilege you don't deserve and they'll put all your kids in dumb-math. They are already doing it.

    Stop fighting. Drain them. Drain, drain, drain.

    One problem with all that ret-conning schmaltz (i.e., rendered chicken fat) is that it gets rancid. That is not a good fate for a culture.
    Since Asian-Americans were underrepresented, then future lists can ret-conn ghee.

    Read More
  154. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer
    @Anonymous
    Jack London wrote Call of the Wild shortly after having read Darwin's On the Origin of Species and Paradise Lost By John Milton.

    Jack London wrote “Call of the Wild” shortly after having read Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” and “Paradise Lost” By John Milton.

    The Call of the Wild deals with some iSteve themes.

    Read More
  155. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Henry George’s Progress and Poverty is not on the list, despite being the best-selling book of the 19th century after The Bible.

    Read More
  156. Rex May says: • Website

    Taken as a whole, Vance’s Cadwal Chronicles arguably belong up there in the top however-many books of American literature. Most people don’t realize how profoundly conservative (in the best sense) Vance was. To react to others: Yes! Sociobiology was certainly one of the main influences on me. Replace Sagan with Asimov’s essay collections, if that’s kosher. ERB is vastly influential and definitely belongs there. Seems like Bret Harte deserves a mention. I’d stick in James Jones, probably, either From Here to Eternity or Some Came Running. And Dune by Herbert. And of course Vonnegut can’t be left out. And you can certainly consider Robert Benchley, H. Allen Smith, and Ring Lardner.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Is Dune the great American sci-fi novel?

    I haven't read it so I don't have an opinion. They picked Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land and Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 to represent sci-fi, which is pretty generous out of just 88 titles, but I'd probably pick some other sci-fi books, although I can see the arguments for those two.
  157. Mark B says:

    Well, he isn’t there, but I’d make a large bet that a Purpose Driven Life by Protestant Clergyman Rick Warren has had a bigger influence than any at the bottom of that list.

    Read More
  158. If shaped means influenced then this list gives a false impression of the books which dominated the imaginative landscape.

    The most influential writer of this period was Dickens. By far.

    Read More
  159. Just occurred to me. No Dreiser? No Howells? I guess the use of the term”shaped” gives the left much more leeway.

    Read More
  160. OT, but I am impressed with how well Trump’s cruise missile attack has worked politically so far. Of course, its continued success depends on things not escalating into something much larger.

    But it has shut most of the crazy mouths of the media about Russia and Trump. Now they look just a little bit deranged for having pushed the Russia thing all these many months. And — again, so far — Trump looks like he can handle the Commander in Chief role just fine. He’s been the recipient of much Strange New Respect.

    I think it’s going to be hard for the usual suspects to drum up the same level of abnormalizing of Trump as before. Take Russia away, what do they go to? More claims of pu$$y grabbing?

    I don’t think it’s why he did it, but it’s an interesting consequence.

    Read More
  161. @Anonymous
    Henry George's Progress and Poverty is not on the list, despite being the best-selling book of the 19th century after The Bible.

    Right.

    Read More
  162. Alfa158 says:
    @Sunbeam
    Gene Wolfe has the vocabulary from hell. He must have sold his soul to become an unabridged dictionary.

    He is an awesome writer. Maybe the bulk of his work is greater than Vance's, hard to say. He has definitely produced some interesting books (my favorite of his is the one about the antique Greek soldier who eternally forgot everything from the day before each morning, and who actually talked with the gods).

    But Jack Vance's greatest work(s), The Dying Earth... Cugel the Clever has the best lines I have ever read. Obviously I cannot have read every book ever written, but I've read lots.

    And Cugel has the best dialogue of any character I have read, ever.

    Cugel was a great anti-hero. I find myself sometimes using lines from Vance’s books in real life. There was one line from when Cugel, only temporarily of course, found himself in what seemed like the perfect situation he always strove for, and he would look around in satisfaction, saying, “just so, precisely so”.
    Wolfe, if anything used even more exotic words than Vance. His New Sun books had even more exotic story lines than the Soldier of Arête books. There were incredible little sub-stories embedded in the novels. What a great series of movies or operas they would have made if there was anyone living who had the talent to realize them.
    And the images he just casually tossed off. Severian, the apprentice torturer, sent by his Master to get a book for one of the high born “clients” of the Torturer’s Guild to occupy her time until her sentence was carried out , comes across an ancient curator cleaning a mysterious picture of a man in a bulky suit with a shiny faceplated helmet standing on a dusty plain. An image from the immeasurably distant past before the Moon was green and living.

    Read More
  163. I’d have included James Truslow Adams’ The Epic of America (1931) for coining and defining the term “The American Dream.” That was undeniably a major contribution to shaping America.

    I’d personally have included William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902) over Pragmatism. But at least he’s there.

    I’m glad they had the stones to include Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind. There’s been a serious effort for the past 30-odd years to flush that work down the memory hole (and even before that — the NAACP kicked up a ruckus about the film when it was being made).

    Sarah H. Bradford’s 1901 work Harriet, the Moses of Her People” (1901) doesn’t belong at all. That’s such an obvious concession to PC it’s embarrassing.

    A generation ago Carl Sandburg would have been included (as noted above), but so would have Reinhold Niebuhr. Basically, don’t take any ranking of a work less than 50 years old seriously.

    But Tocqueville’s absence is beyond bizarre.

    Read More
  164. Anon says: • Disclaimer
    @Anonymous
    The success of Wes Anderson goes to show that Salingerism still has cachet. The problem is Caulfield was an oddball in a society pretending to be square and grown-up. And that was the appeal of the novel. It was a lonely rebellion against the world. But today, with a 100,000 pussy hat marches and institutional backing of 50 genders, there’s no need for Caulfields of the world to mope and wander alone. They own many campuses.

    I agree. It's also a novel that probably appeals to fairly young people more than adults. I read this novel when I was in high school, or maybe a freshman in college, and thought it was great. A few summers ago I picked up a copy of it at my mother's house and started reading it and could scarcely get part a few pages, and I wondered how I ever could have liked it.

    I read it on my own in sophomore year when I was suspended for a few days, so it had special resonance. I goaded some kid in biology class to eat a worm pickled in formaldehyde, and we both got suspended.

    I think it’s timeless in a way because we will always have youths.

    Also, it does raise a question that can never be resolved, and in a way, that question came to define the 60s and all that came afterwards. It’s about the corruption of adulthood and yet the impossibility of clinging to youthful innocence. In a way, Caulfield is right that grownups are all compromised and a bunch of hypocrites. But people can’t be kids forever. Kids may be purer of heart and innocent, but they also means they are naive and clueless. And you can’t have a society made up of naive and clueless people, like Adam and Eve before the fall. To grow up, the Fall is necessary. But it means the loss of Eden, the acceptance of the world as it is: corrupt and compromised.

    (There’s some of this in DEATH OF A SALESMAN too. Biff realizes that he’s been poisoned by fantasies of American Dream and wants to connect with something real and true, like working on the farm. That sort of worked with Jews on the kibbutz, but most Jews who took up honest prole labor, farm work, or crossing guard — LOST IN AMERICA — figured the world of business is more suited for their kind.)

    [MORE]

    The 60s boomer generation that defined its identity as ‘youth’ was like an army of Caulfields. And Dylan, for awhile, seemed to be leader. He was young, he was idealistic, and he bitched and whined about everything wrong with the world(with poetic power). And Woodstock was about back to the Garden. But Dylan himself was too smart to actually believe in much of what he said, and the Woodstock showed what kids can do to a perfectly nice farm in 3 days. Turn it into a disaster area. What always kills me about watching the movie is how the farm actually looked Edenic when it was run by ‘hayseeds’ and’bumpkins’ but ended up looking the anus of hell after the ‘hippies’ got through with it.

    Still, the themes of CATCHER IN THE RYE resonated in much of the culture that came later, maybe most amusingly in THE GRADUATE. ‘Plastics’. James Dean phenom was also influential in defining youth culture, not least because he died young and became a icon of tragic youth.

    As annoying as Caulfield is, I think he is a seeker, and that makes his story moving in parts. And the part near the ending with his sister and merry-go-round is really beautiful and touching. I like GHOST WORLD for the same reason. The Scarlett Johansson character is actually more sensible and responsible. High school is over, and she knows she has to put away childish things and grow up. The other girl betrays everyone, even herself, but her confusion and chaos are a product of her search for some kind of meaning. She goes about it the wrong way, but it’s hard not to be affected by the fact she wants something more from life than a job or nice things.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ub88RPZnHQM

    CATCHER is significant as the opening shot of what might be called ‘Orimophobia’, ‘orimo’ meaning ‘mature’ in Greek. The dread of growing up. Not everyone has this, but some do. Some kids can’t wait to grow up and take charge of things. Some just don’t wanna break out of the youthsphere. It could be the adult world seems purely materialistic and without themes. Even if education isn’t fun, it’s about something ‘higher’: knowledge and culture. But work in the adult world is just about profits and wages. ‘Plastics’.
    Childhood is too restrictive, but adulthood is restrictive too since adults/parents have to worry about wages, bills, taxes, tuition for kids, and etc. The golden age of youth is teen yrs and college yrs when you’re more than mere children and gaining adult freedoms for the first time… without taking on adult responsibilities. And some people want to stay in his blissful limbo forever. It’s like in DAZED AND CONFUSED where the guys and girls are adult but adult enough to take on adult responsibilities. In earlier times, most people had to grow up fast. But as youth was stretched out with education and pop culture and etc, a lot of people wanna be ‘youth’ forever.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wknywxfcE5M

    Anyway, there is no solution for Caulfield, and I like the fact that CATCHER is not a therapeutic book. There’s a sense of Catcher 22, a sense that he won’t be able to overcome his contradictions and maybe go crazy. Uncertainty of THE GRADUATE’s ending echoes this.
    Caulfieldism is partly there too in COOL HAND LUKE, which has a grownup but one who can’t find traction in life. Maybe Paul Newman’s best role. And the most CATCHER-ish movie ever, HAROLD AND MAUDE. (Truman Capote was another author who never really grew up. I never read Thomas Pynchon but his books seem to be big among those stuck in counterculture mentality. Never read David Foster Wallace either but his life story makes Caulfield seem downright sane. I did read THE MARRIAGE PLOT by Eugenides, and that is a fantastic novel about someone with mental issues.)

    But then, this sense of uncertainty was part of modernity. As Getrude Stein said of Hemingway’s people: the lost generation. And if adults have lost what it means to be adult, how are youth supposed to climb to adulthood? I think part of the appeal of GREAT GATBSY too is a sense of lost-ness. Sure, Gatsby makes money and has a big mansion, but he’s always someone having problems finding his way ‘home’.

    And ONE FROM THE CUCKOO’S NEST is an ambiguous novel. Though the Indian apparently makes the escape at the end, there are intimations that maybe he’s telling the tale from back inside the institution. The novel captures the contradiction within man for a desire for freedom and clinging to security.

    Whit Stillman seems to be channeling something from Caulfieldism, especially in DAMSELS IN DISTRESS, but his view of life balances this out: (1) He’s far more forgiving of adults and (2) even his oddballs have this inborn conservatives sense of accountability and something like honor. Even the ‘loon’ has strict codes of conduct in LAST DAYS OF DISCO. Sobriety seems to be the best drug for oddballs. In METROPOLITAN, the weirdest guy is Charlie, but he is also the most committed to norms and codes, most straitlaced.
    That’s what sets Stillman apart from Solondnz(Salinger gone totally grubby), Anderson(Salinger gone Pop Art), Baumbach(Salinger gone hipster), and etc. His characters are oddballs too, but there is a sense of honor and dignity that they must live up to or at least try.

    Read More
  165. @celt darnell
    I'd have included James Truslow Adams' The Epic of America (1931) for coining and defining the term "The American Dream." That was undeniably a major contribution to shaping America.

    I'd personally have included William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902) over Pragmatism. But at least he's there.

    I'm glad they had the stones to include Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind. There's been a serious effort for the past 30-odd years to flush that work down the memory hole (and even before that -- the NAACP kicked up a ruckus about the film when it was being made).

    Sarah H. Bradford's 1901 work Harriet, the Moses of Her People” (1901) doesn't belong at all. That's such an obvious concession to PC it's embarrassing.

    A generation ago Carl Sandburg would have been included (as noted above), but so would have Reinhold Niebuhr. Basically, don't take any ranking of a work less than 50 years old seriously.

    But Tocqueville's absence is beyond bizarre.

    The list appears limited to American writers.

    Read More
  166. @Andrew
    I can't see how the last four books belong on the list, and there sure are a ton of books from 1936 onwards as compared to earlier years.

    By limiting it to American writers, they avoid having to put "The Holy Bible (King James Version)" first on the list.

    For an influential Catholic book from the 19th century, curious omission to not include "The Baltimore Catechism."

    List seems to be missing books like "Last of the Mohicans" or Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Evangeline" or "Hiawatha".

    And how is Edgar Allen Poe missing from the list?

    Also missing "A History of the Life and Death, Virtues and Exploits of General George Washington" by Parson Weems.

    The Baltimore Catechism is a great outside-the-box selection. As important as the other educational books selected and with one-time great importance for a large religious group.

    Read More
  167. @Wilkey
    Interesting the complete lack of novels about any war since the Civil War. Nothing about WW1, WW2, Korea, or Vietnam. But a book about Cesar Chavez published years after his death (and only 15 years ago) makes the list. Was their really no influential literature to come out of those wars? Or were books from those wars excluded to make room for "diversity" and various other SJW causes?

    Was their really no influential literature to come out of those wars? Or were books from those wars excluded to make room for “diversity” and various other SJW causes?

    If you want great war literature, a) bring back the draft, and b) get rid of student deferments. How many WW2 vets studied English literature on the GI Bill after the war? Scads of them, and they “wrote what they knew”. Probably an order of magnitude fewer Vietnam vets proportionately studied English Lit after their service.

    Now think of the all-volunteer Iraq/Afghanistan vets you know. The GI Bill is three–how many of them do you think will study *any* of the humanities, let alone Lit?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Whoever

    Now think of the all-volunteer Iraq/Afghanistan vets you know. The GI Bill is three–how many of them do you think will study *any* of the humanities, let alone Lit?
     
    I know quite a few who are studying English literature -- but not many at university. Why not? Does that really need to be explained?
    They're not going to be taught by Alvin Kernan, Randall Jarrell or Paul Fussell; they are going to be taught by scarcely literate, foreign-born TAs and discouraged adjuncts who probably haven't read the works they are teaching -- almost certainly not all of them. They will have to wade through a lot of 100th-rate worthless crap that fits some PC SJW mold while the classics of our civilization, if mentioned at all, will be ridiculed and disparaged.
    So with whom do they study literature? Since our universities seem to have no interest in carrying forward western Christian civilization, they study with each other, seeking out knowledgeable peers they know and trust. This weekend, I was with a group who were reading together John Dos Passos' Three Soldiers, Katherine Anne Porter's novella Pale Horse, Pale Rider and Carl Sandburg's short poem Grass as part of an effort to understand the impact of World War I on American society, and to get a feel for what it was like to be alive 100 years ago.
    Not one person was forced to attend. The teacher/group leader was not paid. There were no credits to be earned. Everyone wanted to be there because they wanted to know about these things, share and learn. The discussion was intense, lively, filled with passion, wonder...and anger -- even rage -- at what had happened then and what was happening now, nothing changed but the lies, lies foisted on us by the sorts of men who work, perhaps, on K Street, and hold these soldiers in contempt; after all, one does not use the best iron to make nails or the best men to make soldiers, right? Right? Let the fools be dismembered alive and die screaming for their mothers as we play out our own version of the Great Game. What does it matter?
    You won't be the corpsman fighting to stop the spray of arterial blood in the 120-second countdown from wound injury to bleed-out. You won't be the one policing up the severed arms and legs...and heads...of your friends. You won't be the one having to go out and do it again the next day and the next day, and in your mind every day for the rest of your life.
    Will, one day, one of these vets write the great American novel? Probably not, because scarcely anyone reads serious novels anymore, even if they are published. That era has passed. But you never know: If not a novel, perhaps one of them may write the script for a memorable cable series -- those are the great literature of our times.
    Since, I assume, that you live close to WRNMMC, and, caring about literature and the humanities as you do, I have no doubt that you have helped form and participate in a voluntary learning association such as I have described. If you haven't, it's not too late to start one.
  168. Anon says: • Disclaimer
    @The Man From K Street
    One other thing to note: about a half-dozen of these books had little or no immediate impact when they were published, but some years later became novels that a significant percentage of the population read when the US had its five year long National Sit Around For Hours/Weeks/Months With Nothing to Do But Read Festival...a/k/a the Second World War.

    Steve has already noted in several posts in the past few years that this was the case with The Great Gatsby, but cheap paperbacks circulated among bored GIs and sailors also turned A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Sound and the Fury into universal canon, which they had not been before (ditto also Riders of the Purple Sage). I'd bet the famous "Armed Services Editions" also brought back Huck Finn and Red Badge, among others, from the temporary eclipse that they had probably been in for most of the pre-war decades.

    I’ve read accounts of Civil War officers who, while stuck in prison, read a lot of novels (loaned to them by some lady benefactor). This probably caused the first round of recognition in America for novels that we still consider classics today. American men were generally known for their lack of interest in reading before the Civil War (and for that matter anything that reeked of culture), except for newspapers and occasional pamphlets.

    Read More
  169. Dan Hayes says:
    @Anonymous
    I found this United customer service training video...

    https://youtu.be/qvPugcb7QGE

    Anonymous,

    The “training video” shows it all. Thanks – much appreciated!

    Read More
  170. Anon says: • Disclaimer
    @Thea
    Catcher in the Rye had quite the following in the Soviet Union where it was viewed as quite subversive.

    Since all American high schoolers need to read it & To Kill a Mockingbird I guess it influences people. A Seperate Peace is better.

    Being forced to read anything for school automatically kills whatever quality it has.

    Read More
  171. @Rex May
    Taken as a whole, Vance's Cadwal Chronicles arguably belong up there in the top however-many books of American literature. Most people don't realize how profoundly conservative (in the best sense) Vance was. To react to others: Yes! Sociobiology was certainly one of the main influences on me. Replace Sagan with Asimov's essay collections, if that's kosher. ERB is vastly influential and definitely belongs there. Seems like Bret Harte deserves a mention. I'd stick in James Jones, probably, either From Here to Eternity or Some Came Running. And Dune by Herbert. And of course Vonnegut can't be left out. And you can certainly consider Robert Benchley, H. Allen Smith, and Ring Lardner.

    Is Dune the great American sci-fi novel?

    I haven’t read it so I don’t have an opinion. They picked Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land and Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 to represent sci-fi, which is pretty generous out of just 88 titles, but I’d probably pick some other sci-fi books, although I can see the arguments for those two.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Sunbeam
    My personal pick would be either Dune or Ringworld (Larry Niven).

    This genre is a little different than most. It is "The Big Idea," or escapism for the most part (or at least it used to be).

    Time has shown that Dune (let alone Ringworld) has a lot of holes in the science. But Dune was like for the first time you really got a feel for a very alien environment. The ecology may have had holes in it (Sandworms would have had to have their very own fusion reactors to burrow through the sand), but you kind of thought the Fremen were real.

    Ringworld is just a big idea. A really big idea.

    Lots of other candidates, but those are my two picks.
    , @Rex May
    I'd say no. Dune is a great book, though somewhat diminished by being followed by a lot of sequels, but my personal pick is Mote in God's Eye, which Heinlein himself said was the best SF novel ever. Second would be Vonnegut's Sirens of Titan.
    , @Formerly CARealist
    wow. I really liked Dune, and I'm not into sci-fi at all. It had me from the beginning to the very end.

    Additionally, I'm reading Graham Greene stories right now. The Confidential Agent kept me glued to the pages til I finished.

    I promise to eventually get through the Catcher in the Rye. Honest, I promise. (cough, cough.)
  172. Sunbeam says:
    @Steve Sailer
    Is Dune the great American sci-fi novel?

    I haven't read it so I don't have an opinion. They picked Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land and Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 to represent sci-fi, which is pretty generous out of just 88 titles, but I'd probably pick some other sci-fi books, although I can see the arguments for those two.

    My personal pick would be either Dune or Ringworld (Larry Niven).

    This genre is a little different than most. It is “The Big Idea,” or escapism for the most part (or at least it used to be).

    Time has shown that Dune (let alone Ringworld) has a lot of holes in the science. But Dune was like for the first time you really got a feel for a very alien environment. The ecology may have had holes in it (Sandworms would have had to have their very own fusion reactors to burrow through the sand), but you kind of thought the Fremen were real.

    Ringworld is just a big idea. A really big idea.

    Lots of other candidates, but those are my two picks.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Brutusale
    Herbert's Dune, Niven's Ringworld and Gibson's Neuromancer could all be part of any list that includes the two SF titles that made this cut.
  173. @Wilkey
    Interesting the complete lack of novels about any war since the Civil War. Nothing about WW1, WW2, Korea, or Vietnam. But a book about Cesar Chavez published years after his death (and only 15 years ago) makes the list. Was their really no influential literature to come out of those wars? Or were books from those wars excluded to make room for "diversity" and various other SJW causes?

    They could have gone with Hemingway’s WWI novel A Farewell to Arms, which is really good, over his Spanish Civil War novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, which, I get the impression, without having read it, has been hurt by the rise in esteeem of Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia.

    I read the first 100 pages of Mailer’s Guadalcanal novel The Naked and the Dead recently and was impressed by how good a job such a young writer did in getting into the heads of different soldiers.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Cortes
    The best spoof I've ever read is Hugh Hosch's "Felipe Marlo, Bullfight Shamus" set in the heyday of the Hemingway/Gardner love-in with the bullfighting mundillo in Spain under Franco in the late 1950s. A good knowledge of Spanish plus familiarity with Chandler and Hemingway would enhance enjoyment of the abundance of excellent jokes not a few of them targeted at "Papa " himself.
    Marlo is a half Mexican half American and the only PI licensed to investigate the Taurine sector and a creation of genius.
  174. Mark Caplan says: • Website

    Paul Samuelson’s Economics (1948) taught the pseudoscience to several generations of mountebanks.

    Read More
  175. Grumpy says:
    @Veracitor
    The most outrageous omission from that list is Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson (1884), which has remained continuously in print to the present day.

    Even Wikipedia reports (citations omitted):

    In her book The Annotated Ramona, the historian Antoinette May argued that the popularity of the novel contributed to Congress passing the Dawes Act in 1887. This was the first American law to address Indian land rights.
     

    The novel contributed to the unique cultural identity of Southern California and the whole of the Southwest. The architecture of the missions had recently gained national exposure and local restoration projects were just beginning. Railroad lines to Southern California were just opening and, combined with the emotions stirred by the novel, the region suddenly gained national attention. The Mission Revival Style architecture became popular from about 1890 to 1915, with many examples standing throughout California and other southwest areas.
     

    The runaway popularity of the novel inspired jurisdictions to name schools (Ramona High School in Riverside), streets, freeways (the San Bernardino Freeway was originally named the Ramona Freeway) and towns (Ramona, California) after the novel's heroine. The novel contributed to making southern California a tourist destination, as many people wanted to see the locations featured in the book. Its publication coincided with the opening of Southern Pacific Railroad's Southern California rail lines and fed a tourism boom.
     

    As a result, locations all over Southern California tried to emphasize their Ramona connections. Jackson died without specifying the locations on which her story was based. Two places claimed to have inspired her work: Rancho Camulos, near Piru, and Rancho Guajome in Vista, as she had visited both before writing her novel.

    Camulos became the most accepted "Home of Ramona" due to several factors. Moreno Ranch is described in a way that is similar to the location of Camulos. Influential writers, such as George Wharton James and Charles Fletcher Lummis, avowed that it was so. When the Southern Pacific Railroad's opened its main Ventura County line in 1887, it stopped at Camulos. With the company engaged in a rate war, it made the trip to Camulos relatively easy and affordable. Finally, the Del Valle family of Camulos welcomed tourists: they exploited the association in marketing their products, labeling their oranges and wine as "The Home of Ramona" brand.
     

    Other notable Ramona landmarks included "Ramona's Birthplace", a small adobe near Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, and the grave of Ramona Lubo on the Ramona Band of Cahuilla Indians reservation. Lubo called herself the "real Ramona." Her life bore some resemblance to that of the fictional Ramona. Sixteen years after Lubo's death, local people erected a "Ramona monument" at her gravesite in 1938. The Ramona Pageant, an outdoor staging of the novel, started in 1923 in Hemet and has been held annually since.

    Most historians believe that the fictional Moreno Ranch is an amalgamation of various locations and was not intended to represent a single place. As Carey McWilliams described in his book Southern California Country:

    Picture postcards, by the tens of thousands, were published showing "the schools attended by Ramona," "the original of Ramona," "the place where Ramona was married," and various shots of the "Ramona Country." [...] It was not long before the scenic postcards depicting the Ramona Country had come to embrace all of Southern California.

    Because of the novel's extraordinary popularity, the public perception merged fact and fiction. California historian Walton Bean wrote:

    These legends became so ingrained in the culture of Southern California that they were often mistaken for realities. In later years many who visited "Ramona's birthplace" in San Diego or the annual "Ramona Pageant" at Hemet (eighty miles north of San Diego) were surprised and disappointed if they chanced to learn that Ramona was a (fictional) novel rather than a biography.
     
    Jackson was raised in that especially-snooty Protestant sect, Unitarianism. She was highly intelligent. When she learnt of the mistreatment afforded American Indians in the West, including especially the Mission Indians of California, she agitated for government action to relieve it. When straight politicking proved insufficient, she tried to rouse popular indignation by writing Ramona.

    Today's readers often find Ramona rather sad and tedious, but tragical novels were much more appreciated in the 19th Century. Jackson's own life was sad by our standards: her first husband and both of her children died before she was 36.

    Ramona had me longing to live in Spanish California. Helen Hunt Jackson portrayed early California as a paradise. That may not have been her main objective in writing the book, but it is probably why the book was so popular.

    Read More
  176. @Barnard
    What is the argument for Beloved? I can't see any way that it shaped America.

    Beloved was very influential with its central theme that African-Americans are mentally and physically burdened by the legacy of slavery. It’s an admirable novel plot-wise, literally using a ghost as an extended metaphor of being haunted by slavery. I’d rather read a symbolic fairytale on slavery, no matter how over-indulgent Morrison’s writing can be, than the Coates’ “omnipresent white violence on black bodies” writing that degenerates her idea of innate trauma.

    Read More
  177. Oh — just to add to your identification chart.

    Margaret Wise Brown of “Good Night Moon” was bisexual — at least, she was according to Wikipedia.

    So she’s a twofer (literally).

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Her grandfather was the Democrats' vice-presidential nominee in 1872.
  178. @SFG
    Re Catcher in the Rye: the guy's messed up because he lost his brother in WW2, and there was this whole pre-existentialist bit to it for the Silents. After that it became teen-alienation-before-teen-alienation for the Baby Boomers, and Gen X could still relate to it sort of.

    I doubt it'll last much longer in the canon, honestly. He's too pale and male.

    Salinger saw a low of combat in WWII and maybe never quite recovered from it.

    He landed on Utah Beach on D-Day in the second wave at 6:40 AM.

    http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2011/02/salinger-201102

    Read More
    • Replies: @Captain Tripps
    Interesting; scanning the article, I see that Salinger was a member of the Counterintelligence Corps, attached to a unit of the 4th Infantry Division.

    Not exactly a grunt, CIC personnel were investigatory agents of the Intelligence Corps whose job was to comb an area secured and occupied by the friendly force and root out spies, saboteurs and other hostile parties remaining behind. He would have had a security detachment from the 4th ID (probably a squad or more of infantry) and an additional handful of agents working for/with him. A generic slang term would be "spycatcher". He would likely have been involved in interrogations (not necessarily conducting them, but synched with the interrogators to develop and follow leads). Of course, Salinger was committed by signature and oath not to discuss/divulge any classified information he obtained or had privy to during the war; and given his experience across the European theater, he would have seen a LOT.
  179. @Mark Caplan
    An honest list would have included:

    Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia (1795)

    The Clansman (1905)

    The Moynihan Report (1965)

    The Mismeasure of Man (1981)

    I think they regard Dixon’s The Clansman as covered by Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind.

    Mitchell was undeniably influenced by that and Dixon’s other novels and, frankly, they’re sticking their necks out by including Mitchell (correctly, I hasten to add).

    Read More
    • Replies: @Mark Caplan
    The Clansman (1905) was the inspiration for the socially and cinematically influential silent film Birth of a Nation (1915). I don't recall the Klan appearing in Gone with the Wind. The Klan came into being just after the war during Reconstruction, while Gone with the Wind was set during the war.
  180. @Buzz Mohawk

    I’d replace Sagan’s Cosmos with Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach.
     
    Hell, I'd replace Cosmos with Murray's The Bell Curve. It's making quite a stir.

    Sagan was a popularizer, and his Cosmos gave the wide public a gee-wiz introduction to things the educated already knew. As an amateur astronomer and space nerd, I enjoyed Sagan, but I wouldn't put him in any literary pantheon. If I did, I would at least pick something more thought provoking, like Broca's Brain.

    Look, this list is the Library of Congress's Academy Awards, nice but leaning heavily on popular recognition. I mean, come on, The Cat in the Hat ? The Catcher in the Rye ? On the Road ? I halfway expect The Whole Earth Catalog and R. Crumb's comic books to be on this list.

    Sagan was a popularizer

    But he was also a top notch scientist as well as a top notch popularizer — I spent a day touring Yellowstone NP with a Caltech professor of astronomy who had been a student of Sagan and he worshipped Sagan.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Buzz Mohawk
    That's interesting, and I have to agree. I have always admired him. Sagan was employed by NASA as part of our early exploration of the planets, after all.

    I can't beat your Caltech card. All I have is a professor of astronomy at Colorado, Boulder who was a grad student of Sagan. He hated Carl. The story he told me was this: When he handed in his thesis, Sagan glanced at it and said, "your data is all wrong," and handed it back.

    I guess the astronomer who ended up teaching a class I was in at Colorado wasn't up to Carl's standards. I'm not surprised. It's only a public Ivy, after all.

    , @The Man From K Street
    I think the reason "Cosmos" is in there is because of the television show it was based on. Which itself was based on Sagan's freshman course at Cornell, provided Sagan was "on" on the days of his lectures.

    Chances were good, though, that Sagan might be high off his ass on marijuana on any given day of the semester, according to a generation of Ithaca alums. "Cosmos" is like auditing his course, risk-free as to the Professor's state of mind.
  181. @Formerly CARealist
    Interesting. I'm reading the Catcher in the Rye right now as part of an effort to get through 20th c. books. It is truly awful. If it really did go on to affect American culture significantly then we can put JD Salinger up there with the worst of them. Degradation in full.

    And the earliest publication date in my copy of the book says 1945.

    My view on Catcher in the Rye is that it’s an adolescent’s book. Everyone I know who loves it, read it before the age of 18 and usually hasn’t re-read it since turning, say, 21.

    I read it for the first time in my mid-twenties and thought it drivel.

    Read More
  182. Veracitor says:

    Another glaring omission is The Ugly American by Bill Lederer and Eugene Burdick, which arguably caused the (American) Vietnam War, or at least greatly modulated how it came about. John F. Kennedy got most of his ideas about fighting Communism in Asia and his eagerness to send the CIA and the US Army Special Forces to Viet Nam from The Ugly American and Ian Fleming’s James Bond stories. The book caused the formation of the Peace Corps, and boosted the career of Edward Lansdale, who was given a fictional alter ego in its pages. Lansdale is generally credited with the coup against SVN President Diem (not that he didn’t deserve it).

    It is a very entertaining book (Lederer had written the humorous bestseller All the Ships At Sea) and very persuasive too– it really makes it seem as though the US ought to have been able to win hearts and minds in SE Asia. (The sequel, Sarkhan is readable but rather less stirring.)

    The title became a left-wing epithet to mock Americans even though the “ugly American” character in the book is just called that because he’s plain and hardworking rather than dapper and deceptive in the mode of diplomatic nincompoops with Ivy League backgrounds.

    I surmise that The Ugly American was left off the list to avoid stirring thoughts the Establishment would rather not be thunk, mainly how invading the world is a bad idea in practice even if it works in political novels, and partly what a doofus the sainted JFK of the Democratic Party was.

    Read More
  183. @Buzz Mohawk

    I’d replace Sagan’s Cosmos with Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach.
     
    Hell, I'd replace Cosmos with Murray's The Bell Curve. It's making quite a stir.

    Sagan was a popularizer, and his Cosmos gave the wide public a gee-wiz introduction to things the educated already knew. As an amateur astronomer and space nerd, I enjoyed Sagan, but I wouldn't put him in any literary pantheon. If I did, I would at least pick something more thought provoking, like Broca's Brain.

    Look, this list is the Library of Congress's Academy Awards, nice but leaning heavily on popular recognition. I mean, come on, The Cat in the Hat ? The Catcher in the Rye ? On the Road ? I halfway expect The Whole Earth Catalog and R. Crumb's comic books to be on this list.

    Where’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull?

    I bet Carlos Castandeda was on the list and got booted off at the last minute for being fake and replaced by that embarrassing Cesar Chavez choice to fill the Latino slot.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Buzz Mohawk
    I remember when reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull and writing a one-page book report about it qualified as TWO book reports in seventh grade. Our "language arts" teacher thought the book was deep...or high...or something.

    I naturally went for it and chalked up the easiest two credits I ever got.

    You see (and you know) things have been going wrong for a while now.

    Years later I learned that Richard Bach was a great pilot and an aficionado of fine aircraft. He wrote some things for Flying Magazine that I enjoyed. So I give him a pass. He made a fortune on that seagull, which allowed him to buy the aircraft he flew and wrote about.
    , @Broski
    Particularly stupid is its inclusion as a 15 year old book that shaped America. Sure, Cesar can have a street in every town, but his shaping of America was negligible.
  184. @Anonymous Nephew
    But, as Steve says, did Thompson shape America or did he record it (albeit supersized)? I can only speak of the UK, but while a lot of 70s kids read Thompson, very few wanted to live a gonzo life, and those who did (biker types?) mostly hadn't read anything other than Hells Angels. On the other hand, On The Road, written in the 50s, was definitely influential in the UK 10-20 years later.

    Do you think the Hillary campaign was Hunteresque?

    Same with Slouching Towards Bethlehem, more of a record of an era than a pointer to the future.

    (IMHO we are living in a weird hybrid of 1984 and Brave New World. The telescreen doesn't watch or listen to us (unless it's a Samsung that the NSA have got at), but all our communications are monitored 24/7, the Two Minute Hate is becoming established on social media, Newspeak, crimestop and crimethink exist, and we've always been at war with Eurasia. At the same time every white person and their countries belongs to everybody else, pornographic feelies can't be far away, an Alpha-plus caste is separating itself, and the consumption of intoxicants is socially approved as long as they're safe. Pity they've not sorted ageing..)

    Capote’s In Cold Blood is on the list to represent New Journalism (Thompson, Wolfe, Didion, etc.).

    It’s real good.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous Nephew
    Agree about In Cold Blood, a classic.

    Didion's Some Dreamers Of The Golden Dream reminds me of a mini-version, without the childhood background stuff which makes Perry a sort-of-sympathetic figure ("considering").

    http://www.carljay.com/whatsnew/nothing_left.htm

  185. Wilkey says:
    @Mark Roulo
    "You can’t tell me there weren’t religious titles that were more important in the larger culture than say, Walden."

    I think Charles Murray has commented that the influence of religion on non-elite Americans is often massively underestimated by the elite folks.

    If we are scoring *INFLUENCE*, I think:
        *) Book of Mormon
        *) Pilgrim's Progress
        *) Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (but it isn't a book ...)

    Maybe also something by Merton?

    The Book of Mormon doesn’t even have all that much influence on Mormon theology, let alone the rest of America. It provided the justification for the LDS Church’s founding but, doctrinally speaking, it could be removed entirely from the LDS canon and it would have almost minimal impact on how the Church is run, the policies it promotes, or the way Mormons live their day-to-day lives. Most of the basis for Mormon theology comes from the Doctrine & Covenants, a collection of “prophecies” mostly written by Joseph Smith after he had matured (slightly) and was running an active religion.

    But how about Norman Vincent Peale? He wrote some pretty popular works. Donald Trump was a congregant in Peale’s church when he was growing up.

    Read More
  186. @Rex May
    Offhand, it seems like the list needs:
    James Thurber
    Frank Yerby
    Taylor Caldwell
    Jack Vance (see above)
    Isaac Asimov
    Updike
    Poe (as Peter said)
    Ezra Pound
    Sinclair Lewis
    Will & Ariel Durant
    Bill Nye (not the science guy)
    Laura Ingalls Wilder
    Philip Wylie
    Raymond Chandler
    And I haven't even finished my coffee yet.

    I’m a huge Chandler and Cain fan, but Hammett’s Red Harvest (1929) is there to represent the hard-boiled / noir genre as the first in its line. I would have gone with The Maltese Falcon over Red Harvest, but no real complaints.

    Read More
  187. @Peter Akuleyev
    No Poe, no Lovecraft? They have both had more staying power and more lasting influence than Grey or Burroughs.

    And where is Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse 5"? He is no doubt a leftist and a facile writer, but he was quite influential in "shaping America".

    Poe, among much else, invented the detective story. He was probably more influential in Europe than the writers of his time on the list.

    Read More
  188. @WGG
    Male homosexuals are over represented at 4/88 (Hughes, Capote, Ginsberg, Sendak). Are there more? Buffalo Joe is right about Silent Spring being missing. Also I would think Hunter S. Thompson would have a book on the list simply because quite a few of male Gen X or millennial journalists are following his style (think Matt Taibbi).

    Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard was pretty darn influential. Also, the USA is becoming more and more a conspiracy theorist nation, so it would be good to see that reflected. Maybe one of the JFK assassination books, though I don't know which one is truly definitive.

    I’m surprised that one of Leon Uris’s best-selling pot boilers, perhaps Exodus, was not on the list. His books were hugely influential in promoting Zionism and Holocaust ‘awareness’, at a time when the U.S. was still somewhat wary of what Israel was up to in the Levant.

    For conspiracy books, None Dare Call it Treason and None Dare Call it Conspiracy sold in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Mark Lane’s Rush to Judgment was probably the most influential and pioneering JFK assassination critique.

    Read More
  189. @celt darnell
    Oh -- just to add to your identification chart.

    Margaret Wise Brown of "Good Night Moon" was bisexual -- at least, she was according to Wikipedia.

    So she's a twofer (literally).

    Her grandfather was the Democrats’ vice-presidential nominee in 1872.

    Read More
  190. @Rapparee

    America mostly lacks a literary tradition of converts to Catholicism, like Newman, Hopkins, Chesterton, Waugh, and Greene in England.
     
    Orestes Brownson and Isaac Hecker come to mind, but not many others, and even their influence was limited. James McMaster remains fairly obscure. Rose Hawthorne wrote at least one book of poetry before her conversion, but rather than follow in the footsteps of her literary father, she entered the religious life and spent the rest of her days occupied with charity work.

    Catholics in America are in a very different position from English Catholics. England, in its formative early mediaeval years, was an overwhelmingly Catholic country, in communion with the Rome for the better part of a millennium prior to the Reformation. Patriotic modern English Catholics like Tolkien and Chesterton sincerely held their religion to be more authentically and traditionally English than John Bull's roast beef. Evelyn Waugh's biography of St. Edmund Campion lays very heavy emphasis on this native character of English Catholicism- a minority tradition, certainly, but not an alien or hostile one.

    In contrast, 12 out of 13 American colonies were founded by Protestants, many of them extreme radical Calvinists, and all uniquely-American institutions developed in this deeply Protestant milieu. Catholicism really is foreign here in a way that it is not in Europe. America was born and raised Protestant, whilst England was really a cradle Catholic who converted to Protestantism (after much waffling) in early adulthood.

    Well, firstly, it’s disputable there was an England as such until after the Hundred Years’ War 1337 to 1453 not long after which the Plantagenets were replaced by the Tudors (1485). It was one specific Tudor, Henry VIII, who broke with Rome.

    So I’d say the English identity is very definitely based in Protestantism. It owes, however, a lot less to Puritanism than the American identity.

    Also, Catholicism has traditionally has been seen as a foreign faith by the English — Chesterton and Tolkien are 20th century writers. There’d have been far less tolerance for them in the 17th, 18th or 19th centuries.

    Catholic writers in English tend to be Irish — but they’re an altogether different kettle of fish.

    Catholicism is as foreign to the English as it is to the Americans (as is Europe).

    Read More
  191. @Steve Sailer
    Sagan was a popularizer

    But he was also a top notch scientist as well as a top notch popularizer -- I spent a day touring Yellowstone NP with a Caltech professor of astronomy who had been a student of Sagan and he worshipped Sagan.

    That’s interesting, and I have to agree. I have always admired him. Sagan was employed by NASA as part of our early exploration of the planets, after all.

    I can’t beat your Caltech card. All I have is a professor of astronomy at Colorado, Boulder who was a grad student of Sagan. He hated Carl. The story he told me was this: When he handed in his thesis, Sagan glanced at it and said, “your data is all wrong,” and handed it back.

    I guess the astronomer who ended up teaching a class I was in at Colorado wasn’t up to Carl’s standards. I’m not surprised. It’s only a public Ivy, after all.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Dan Hayes
    Buzz Mohawk:

    The best story about Carl Know It All Sagan was that he used a do-it-yourself divorce kit when he was low in academia. Of course he screwed it up. His divorced wife was able to financially hit him big time when he was later much more affluent! File it under Poetic Justice.

    A lawyer once told me that these kits were a veritable treasure trove for lawyers cleaning up the messes they caused.
  192. @Steve Sailer
    Where's Jonathan Livingston Seagull?

    I bet Carlos Castandeda was on the list and got booted off at the last minute for being fake and replaced by that embarrassing Cesar Chavez choice to fill the Latino slot.

    I remember when reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull and writing a one-page book report about it qualified as TWO book reports in seventh grade. Our “language arts” teacher thought the book was deep…or high…or something.

    I naturally went for it and chalked up the easiest two credits I ever got.

    You see (and you know) things have been going wrong for a while now.

    Years later I learned that Richard Bach was a great pilot and an aficionado of fine aircraft. He wrote some things for Flying Magazine that I enjoyed. So I give him a pass. He made a fortune on that seagull, which allowed him to buy the aircraft he flew and wrote about.

    Read More
  193. Veracitor says:

    Carl Sagan was willing to deceive the public about “nuclear winter” as part of his “better Red than dead” Soviet-backed campaign for unilateral nuclear disarmament.

    Read More
  194. Rex May says: • Website
    @Steve Sailer
    Is Dune the great American sci-fi novel?

    I haven't read it so I don't have an opinion. They picked Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land and Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 to represent sci-fi, which is pretty generous out of just 88 titles, but I'd probably pick some other sci-fi books, although I can see the arguments for those two.

    I’d say no. Dune is a great book, though somewhat diminished by being followed by a lot of sequels, but my personal pick is Mote in God’s Eye, which Heinlein himself said was the best SF novel ever. Second would be Vonnegut’s Sirens of Titan.

    Read More
  195. Anon 2 says:

    What? No Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer (1934)? The book was
    banned in the U.S. until 1961. Tropic of Cancer did more to reduce
    censorship in book publishing than any other book with the possible
    exception of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover (1928). Then
    in the 1970s the feminists went after Miller and made him a persona
    non grata on America’s campuses (partly because of his liberal use
    of the c word) while shamelessly promoting the truly obscene works
    by Anais Nin, Miller’s Parisian mistress and benefactor. Somehow European
    women are not particularly bothered by the c word. When I visited Gibert
    Joseph, a famous bookstore in the Latin Quarter of Paris, practically
    all of Miller’s books were on display

    Read More
  196. @Steve Sailer
    Is Dune the great American sci-fi novel?

    I haven't read it so I don't have an opinion. They picked Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land and Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 to represent sci-fi, which is pretty generous out of just 88 titles, but I'd probably pick some other sci-fi books, although I can see the arguments for those two.

    wow. I really liked Dune, and I’m not into sci-fi at all. It had me from the beginning to the very end.

    Additionally, I’m reading Graham Greene stories right now. The Confidential Agent kept me glued to the pages til I finished.

    I promise to eventually get through the Catcher in the Rye. Honest, I promise. (cough, cough.)

    Read More
  197. Whoever says:
    @The Man From K Street

    Was their really no influential literature to come out of those wars? Or were books from those wars excluded to make room for “diversity” and various other SJW causes?
     
    If you want great war literature, a) bring back the draft, and b) get rid of student deferments. How many WW2 vets studied English literature on the GI Bill after the war? Scads of them, and they "wrote what they knew". Probably an order of magnitude fewer Vietnam vets proportionately studied English Lit after their service.

    Now think of the all-volunteer Iraq/Afghanistan vets you know. The GI Bill is three--how many of them do you think will study *any* of the humanities, let alone Lit?

    Now think of the all-volunteer Iraq/Afghanistan vets you know. The GI Bill is three–how many of them do you think will study *any* of the humanities, let alone Lit?

    I know quite a few who are studying English literature — but not many at university. Why not? Does that really need to be explained?
    They’re not going to be taught by Alvin Kernan, Randall Jarrell or Paul Fussell; they are going to be taught by scarcely literate, foreign-born TAs and discouraged adjuncts who probably haven’t read the works they are teaching — almost certainly not all of them. They will have to wade through a lot of 100th-rate worthless crap that fits some PC SJW mold while the classics of our civilization, if mentioned at all, will be ridiculed and disparaged.
    So with whom do they study literature? Since our universities seem to have no interest in carrying forward western Christian civilization, they study with each other, seeking out knowledgeable peers they know and trust. This weekend, I was with a group who were reading together John Dos Passos’ Three Soldiers, Katherine Anne Porter’s novella Pale Horse, Pale Rider and Carl Sandburg’s short poem Grass as part of an effort to understand the impact of World War I on American society, and to get a feel for what it was like to be alive 100 years ago.
    Not one person was forced to attend. The teacher/group leader was not paid. There were no credits to be earned. Everyone wanted to be there because they wanted to know about these things, share and learn. The discussion was intense, lively, filled with passion, wonder…and anger — even rage — at what had happened then and what was happening now, nothing changed but the lies, lies foisted on us by the sorts of men who work, perhaps, on K Street, and hold these soldiers in contempt; after all, one does not use the best iron to make nails or the best men to make soldiers, right? Right? Let the fools be dismembered alive and die screaming for their mothers as we play out our own version of the Great Game. What does it matter?
    You won’t be the corpsman fighting to stop the spray of arterial blood in the 120-second countdown from wound injury to bleed-out. You won’t be the one policing up the severed arms and legs…and heads…of your friends. You won’t be the one having to go out and do it again the next day and the next day, and in your mind every day for the rest of your life.
    Will, one day, one of these vets write the great American novel? Probably not, because scarcely anyone reads serious novels anymore, even if they are published. That era has passed. But you never know: If not a novel, perhaps one of them may write the script for a memorable cable series — those are the great literature of our times.
    Since, I assume, that you live close to WRNMMC, and, caring about literature and the humanities as you do, I have no doubt that you have helped form and participate in a voluntary learning association such as I have described. If you haven’t, it’s not too late to start one.

    Read More
  198. @Steve Sailer
    Sagan was a popularizer

    But he was also a top notch scientist as well as a top notch popularizer -- I spent a day touring Yellowstone NP with a Caltech professor of astronomy who had been a student of Sagan and he worshipped Sagan.

    I think the reason “Cosmos” is in there is because of the television show it was based on. Which itself was based on Sagan’s freshman course at Cornell, provided Sagan was “on” on the days of his lectures.

    Chances were good, though, that Sagan might be high off his ass on marijuana on any given day of the semester, according to a generation of Ithaca alums. “Cosmos” is like auditing his course, risk-free as to the Professor’s state of mind.

    Read More
  199. @Steve Sailer
    I live down the 101 freeway from Tarzana, CA.

    Edgar Rice Burroughs owned a big chunk of land there and was its most famous resident, so the place was named after his character by popular acclaim.

    Does Melville have a Bartlebyville? I don't think so.

    I grew up in Pittsfield, in Massachusetts, where Herman Melville lived. He was, apparently, not well liked by the town elders. So they named the road that his house Arrowhead overlooked after his friend Oliver Wendell Holmes. I heard it drove Melville bananas to look out his window and see Holmes Road, rather than Melville Road.

    Read More
    • Replies: @EriK
    I grew up in Pittsfield too. Never heard that story before, but I believe it.
  200. Dan Hayes says:
    @Buzz Mohawk
    That's interesting, and I have to agree. I have always admired him. Sagan was employed by NASA as part of our early exploration of the planets, after all.

    I can't beat your Caltech card. All I have is a professor of astronomy at Colorado, Boulder who was a grad student of Sagan. He hated Carl. The story he told me was this: When he handed in his thesis, Sagan glanced at it and said, "your data is all wrong," and handed it back.

    I guess the astronomer who ended up teaching a class I was in at Colorado wasn't up to Carl's standards. I'm not surprised. It's only a public Ivy, after all.

    Buzz Mohawk:

    The best story about Carl Know It All Sagan was that he used a do-it-yourself divorce kit when he was low in academia. Of course he screwed it up. His divorced wife was able to financially hit him big time when he was later much more affluent! File it under Poetic Justice.

    A lawyer once told me that these kits were a veritable treasure trove for lawyers cleaning up the messes they caused.

    Read More
  201. Jim Given says:

    What about Peyton Place?

    No real surprise, if you read books about the evils of small town life, e.g., Our Town, Babbitt, etc. by Sinclair Lewis; Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters; or Winesburg, Ohio; but people actually READ Peyton Place because it was a dirty book!

    Are there any dirty books here, except for Portnoy’s Complaint? I think that in order to qualify for this list, a book of this type probably must serve to lower standards of accepted decency in literature.

    Also, what about The Lottery by Shirley Jackson?

    Or Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin?

    Jim Given

    Read More
    • Replies: @AnotherGuessModel
    Our Bodies, Ourselves was very sexually explicit. Ostensibly a health and wellness manual, some sections on sexual health read practically as (icky 60's-70's Earth Mother) erotica, complete with illustrated sex positions.

    Of the other books on the list that I've read or am familiar with, none are that dirty, if by that you mean the content is meant to be titillating. For example, Beloved has some graphic references to sex, including bestiality. It's not erotic.
  202. RonaldB says:
    @Sunbeam
    Never got why Catcher is the Rye is supposed to be what it is.

    It's not the writing or language. If you want that, read Jack Vance's Dying Earth books. Or Lloyd Alexander's Prydain books (Eilonwy is a pistol).

    Who exactly is supposed to resonate with? To me it was the story of a monumentally ineffectual kid who couldn't commit to anything. He couldn't be bad, he couldn't be bothered to be good.

    Kind of the OG mumblecore work.

    Heck Silverlock blew the doors off that piece of tripe.

    "I have known both joy and grief, neat, and mixed together
    Cold and Heat I've known, and found both good drinking weather
    Light and Darkness I have known, seldom doubting whether
    Tammuz would return again, when he'd slipped his tether!

    I remember gaudy days when the Year was springing
    Tammuz, Gilgamesh and I, clinking Cups and singing
    Till Ininni sauntered by, skimpy garments clinging
    To her hips, and things like that: Tammuz left us, winging!

    So we welcomed Enkidu when he came to Erech
    He was rough as hickory bark, nothing of the Cleric!
    But his taste in Wine and Ale, THAT was Esoteric!
    And he used a drinking cup that would strain a derrick!

    Khumbaba then felt our strength 'neath the magic Cedars
    And we wrestled Anu's Bull, pride of Heaven's Breeders!
    Thrice we struck, and once he fell, drawing wolves for feeders
    while we strode where drinking men called for expert leaders.

    Tammuz must have joined us there, but he'd just got wedded
    And Ininni (blast the Wench!) hacked him as they bedded
    Such a honeymoon as that, I have always dreaded....
    For a drinking man is...spoiled...once he's been beheaded!

    So we waked him with a will, ale and teardrops pooling
    Then we drank to him for months, while the year was cooling.
    But he came back with the grass! Death was only fooling!
    Tammuz told us: "Fill my Cup! I'm both dry...and drooling!"

    First of all, I have no idea what Heck Silverlock or the excerpt you posted meant, and in particular what it had to do with the Catcher in the Rye.

    Holden Caulfield reflected a archetype teenager, awkward, ineffective, out of place, constantly being criticized for not living up to his potential, completely at sea in a world where he was too old to be cute and too young to be useful. I can attest the teenagers at the time, or a good number of them, resonated to it. Many of them later became hippies and leftists. Some of them became conservatives and even America Firsters. If you were at Woodstock (I wasn’t) or the Chicago 1968 convention protests (I was) or were a Vietnam-era draftee (I was) there was a good chance the book spoke to you directly.

    Again, the question is, did the book influence, or did it reflect, a significant part of the America of its time?

    Read More
  203. Anon 2 says:

    How about The Seven Storey Mountain (1948) by
    Thomas Merton, a man who in his postwar disillusionment
    converted to Catholicism and became a Trappist monk in
    Kentucky. He was at least as influential as Alan Watts in
    getting people interested in spiritual practice rather than
    mere liturgy, which in the ’60s blossomed into an interest
    in meditation (e.g., TM). Merton until his untimely death
    was extremely prolific and corresponded with everybody

    Read More
  204. @Jim Given
    What about Peyton Place?

    No real surprise, if you read books about the evils of small town life, e.g., Our Town, Babbitt, etc. by Sinclair Lewis; Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters; or Winesburg, Ohio; but people actually READ Peyton Place because it was a dirty book!

    Are there any dirty books here, except for Portnoy's Complaint? I think that in order to qualify for this list, a book of this type probably must serve to lower standards of accepted decency in literature.

    Also, what about The Lottery by Shirley Jackson?

    Or Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin?

    Jim Given

    Our Bodies, Ourselves was very sexually explicit. Ostensibly a health and wellness manual, some sections on sexual health read practically as (icky 60′s-70′s Earth Mother) erotica, complete with illustrated sex positions.

    Of the other books on the list that I’ve read or am familiar with, none are that dirty, if by that you mean the content is meant to be titillating. For example, Beloved has some graphic references to sex, including bestiality. It’s not erotic.

    Read More
  205. @Sunbeam
    "Honestly, his prose isn’t that good. There’s no question his influence on American geek culture is huge, but that’s another story. "

    His prose is purple. It might be the most florid prose (Bulwer-Lytton has nothing on H.P.) by any author with appreciable sales ever.

    He also wrote an astounding, absolutely astounding number of words in his life. He feverishly corresponded with... lots and lots of people.

    Can't remember where I saw it, but either he or Asimov might be the humans who put the most words on paper.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxScTbIUvoA

    Asimov has got to be the guy who wrote the most. Frederic Pohl is also a contender.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Ivy
    Asimov's science books (e.g., On Chemistry, On Physics) were a joy to read in part because he had such clarity of expression. Readers may find a single book by an author that leads to many others.
  206. @Wilkey
    Interesting the complete lack of novels about any war since the Civil War. Nothing about WW1, WW2, Korea, or Vietnam. But a book about Cesar Chavez published years after his death (and only 15 years ago) makes the list. Was their really no influential literature to come out of those wars? Or were books from those wars excluded to make room for "diversity" and various other SJW causes?

    Catch 22 is about American Fliers in Italy in WW II.

    Read More
  207. anon says: • Disclaimer

    It was nice to see The Snowy Day on there. I never knew it was considered influential, but I remember being fascinated by all of Keats’s books as a child. My mother even remembers that, so it must have been a pretty big deal to me at the time.

    Read More
  208. This is a list of books that are important and that they inspired people. We must include the book that inspired Americans to go to space and to the moon.
    This book inspired Robert Goddard to invent the liquid fueled rocket. He also reread again several times in his adult life. This book had the first realistic space suits and EVAs. The first landings on an asteroid, the first moon bases, the first battles between star fleets, the first alien abductions and even aliens building the pyramids.
    I am talking about the classic Thomas Edison’s conquest of Mars by Garrett P. Serviss.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Buzz Mohawk
    Nice.

    If this weren't just an American list, I'd add Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, by Edwin Abbot Abbot, who was an Englishman and "A Square."

    It opened a lot of people's minds to new dimensions, and it predated Einstein's 4D universe by more than twenty years.

  209. anon says: • Disclaimer
    @Sunbeam
    Never got why Catcher is the Rye is supposed to be what it is.

    It's not the writing or language. If you want that, read Jack Vance's Dying Earth books. Or Lloyd Alexander's Prydain books (Eilonwy is a pistol).

    Who exactly is supposed to resonate with? To me it was the story of a monumentally ineffectual kid who couldn't commit to anything. He couldn't be bad, he couldn't be bothered to be good.

    Kind of the OG mumblecore work.

    Heck Silverlock blew the doors off that piece of tripe.

    "I have known both joy and grief, neat, and mixed together
    Cold and Heat I've known, and found both good drinking weather
    Light and Darkness I have known, seldom doubting whether
    Tammuz would return again, when he'd slipped his tether!

    I remember gaudy days when the Year was springing
    Tammuz, Gilgamesh and I, clinking Cups and singing
    Till Ininni sauntered by, skimpy garments clinging
    To her hips, and things like that: Tammuz left us, winging!

    So we welcomed Enkidu when he came to Erech
    He was rough as hickory bark, nothing of the Cleric!
    But his taste in Wine and Ale, THAT was Esoteric!
    And he used a drinking cup that would strain a derrick!

    Khumbaba then felt our strength 'neath the magic Cedars
    And we wrestled Anu's Bull, pride of Heaven's Breeders!
    Thrice we struck, and once he fell, drawing wolves for feeders
    while we strode where drinking men called for expert leaders.

    Tammuz must have joined us there, but he'd just got wedded
    And Ininni (blast the Wench!) hacked him as they bedded
    Such a honeymoon as that, I have always dreaded....
    For a drinking man is...spoiled...once he's been beheaded!

    So we waked him with a will, ale and teardrops pooling
    Then we drank to him for months, while the year was cooling.
    But he came back with the grass! Death was only fooling!
    Tammuz told us: "Fill my Cup! I'm both dry...and drooling!"

    Jack Vance was so influential, he even wrote a book about how influential guys like him were to the caste of fantasy-obsessed, incel losers. Bad Ronald, which was made into a truly unforgettable movie back in the seventies.

    Maybe Catcher was on the “influential” list because the guys who shot Lennon and Reagan were both really into it?

    The Aurora shooter and a couple of other mass shooters were really into The Phantom Tollbooth, as I recall. Maybe that should have gone on there.

    Probably, though, Catcher In The Rye was just there because it inspired a whole generation of high schoolers to be snotty know-it-alls, though. Or at least it made them decide that that was a respectable thing to do, since they probably would have been like that anyway.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    "Catcher in the Rye" is one of the most famous books in American history. It would probably make a Top Dozen list.
  210. @anon
    Jack Vance was so influential, he even wrote a book about how influential guys like him were to the caste of fantasy-obsessed, incel losers. Bad Ronald, which was made into a truly unforgettable movie back in the seventies.

    Maybe Catcher was on the "influential" list because the guys who shot Lennon and Reagan were both really into it?

    The Aurora shooter and a couple of other mass shooters were really into The Phantom Tollbooth, as I recall. Maybe that should have gone on there.

    Probably, though, Catcher In The Rye was just there because it inspired a whole generation of high schoolers to be snotty know-it-alls, though. Or at least it made them decide that that was a respectable thing to do, since they probably would have been like that anyway.

    “Catcher in the Rye” is one of the most famous books in American history. It would probably make a Top Dozen list.

    Read More
    • Replies: @anon
    I realize that. The assassination comment was sort of a joke, but I was mostly going along with Sunbeam's comment about why it was so famous in the first place.

    I wasn't around when it came out, so the impact it had on me was affected by how famous it already was, and how it was already a book everyone was supposed to read when they were a certain age. Generally, all of the people who told me how great it was were the snotty, know-it-all teenager types.

    I guess you could say it's sort of like pointing out that Lena Dunham is one of the most famous people in America today. Sure, it's true, but it doesn't really answer the question of why that's so in the first place.

  211. anon says: • Disclaimer
    @Steve Sailer
    "Catcher in the Rye" is one of the most famous books in American history. It would probably make a Top Dozen list.

    I realize that. The assassination comment was sort of a joke, but I was mostly going along with Sunbeam’s comment about why it was so famous in the first place.

    I wasn’t around when it came out, so the impact it had on me was affected by how famous it already was, and how it was already a book everyone was supposed to read when they were a certain age. Generally, all of the people who told me how great it was were the snotty, know-it-all teenager types.

    I guess you could say it’s sort of like pointing out that Lena Dunham is one of the most famous people in America today. Sure, it’s true, but it doesn’t really answer the question of why that’s so in the first place.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Formerly CARealist
    What am I missing? It's just awful. I'm on page 160 and nothing has happened. Nothing. The kid's booted from school and he's wandering around blowing his money. We see into his mind and discover there's really nothing there.

    The only thing I find moderately interesting is that he's read Shakespeare and the Bible and has something to say about them. Oh, and he mentions having read The Razor's Edge, which I finished just prior to starting Catcher. But those are only a few sentences. Most of the story is him cussing a blue streak and noticing disgusting things around him.

    Even though I'm an adult now, I can't imagine having liked this even as a rebellious 17 year old. If someone had handed it to me then and said, "here's an essential American classic", I would have felt cheated. All my education to read that?
  212. @flyingtiger
    This is a list of books that are important and that they inspired people. We must include the book that inspired Americans to go to space and to the moon.
    This book inspired Robert Goddard to invent the liquid fueled rocket. He also reread again several times in his adult life. This book had the first realistic space suits and EVAs. The first landings on an asteroid, the first moon bases, the first battles between star fleets, the first alien abductions and even aliens building the pyramids.
    I am talking about the classic Thomas Edison's conquest of Mars by Garrett P. Serviss.

    Nice.

    If this weren’t just an American list, I’d add Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, by Edwin Abbot Abbot, who was an Englishman and “A Square.”

    It opened a lot of people’s minds to new dimensions, and it predated Einstein’s 4D universe by more than twenty years.

    Read More
  213. @Anon
    An awful lot of normal Americans have read Poe and Mencken. Leaving them out was ridiculous. Poe's influence on literature was tremendous, and Mencken's influence on cultural thought was also very great.

    An awful lot of normal Americans have read Poe and Mencken. Leaving them out was ridiculous. Poe’s influence on literature was tremendous, and Mencken’s influence on cultural thought was also very great.

    Wasn’t Poe best appreciated for his short stories, and Mencken for his essays? As much as I champion both writers for their virtues, I also mostly associate them with essays and short stories, and I think that was where their greatest cultural impact took place.

    Slightly different task than choosing 88 books. I think there are a lot of writers who had a wide impact but not necessarily via a book. IMHO opinion, a good number of the commenters here have a cultural impact, but its not within a book and not in a context or venue that receives much recognition (yet).

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Franklin and Mencken were primarily journalists typically writing piecemeal. But Franklin gets credit for 3 books, even though only the Autobiography was conceived of as a book, while Poe and Mencken don't get any books.

    They also should have put in a closing date like, say, 1975

    If they'd gone all the way to 100 books, there would have been rumor for the main misses:

    - Poe
    - Emerson
    - Either Henry George or Edward Bellamy
    - Mary Baker Eddy?
    - Some Protestant minister
    - Jefferson's Notes on Virginia
    - Michael Harrington's The Other America?
    - Madison Grant?
    - Lolita
    - Henry Miller
    - Fear of Flying?
    - Maybe the Man in the High Castle instead of the Heinlein or the Bradbury?
    - Superman #1
    - Ben-Hur?
    - The Joy of Sex?
    - Farmer's Almanac

  214. @Laugh Track

    An awful lot of normal Americans have read Poe and Mencken. Leaving them out was ridiculous. Poe’s influence on literature was tremendous, and Mencken’s influence on cultural thought was also very great.
     
    Wasn't Poe best appreciated for his short stories, and Mencken for his essays? As much as I champion both writers for their virtues, I also mostly associate them with essays and short stories, and I think that was where their greatest cultural impact took place.

    Slightly different task than choosing 88 books. I think there are a lot of writers who had a wide impact but not necessarily via a book. IMHO opinion, a good number of the commenters here have a cultural impact, but its not within a book and not in a context or venue that receives much recognition (yet).

    Franklin and Mencken were primarily journalists typically writing piecemeal. But Franklin gets credit for 3 books, even though only the Autobiography was conceived of as a book, while Poe and Mencken don’t get any books.

    They also should have put in a closing date like, say, 1975

    If they’d gone all the way to 100 books, there would have been rumor for the main misses:

    - Poe
    - Emerson
    - Either Henry George or Edward Bellamy
    - Mary Baker Eddy?
    - Some Protestant minister
    - Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia
    - Michael Harrington’s The Other America?
    - Madison Grant?
    - Lolita
    - Henry Miller
    - Fear of Flying?
    - Maybe the Man in the High Castle instead of the Heinlein or the Bradbury?
    - Superman #1
    - Ben-Hur?
    - The Joy of Sex?
    - Farmer’s Almanac

    Read More
    • Replies: @Ray P
    High Castle never sold enough. John Lennon wanted to film Palmer Eldritch. Dune, by Frank Herbert, sold huge volumes and shouldbe here.
  215. Veracitor says:

    Sex books? Forget Our Bodies Our selves. The American sex book that had the most influence in recent times was The Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort. Before that you’re probably looking for something from the 19th Century about how masturbation causes blindness, prompting mothers to handcuff their sons’ wrists to the bedposts at night.

    One problem with listing influential political books is that the American Left (which is to say, practically everyone in the civil service) wants to (and does) memory-hole even massive best-sellers if they don’t fit the Narrative. Consider Whittaker Chambers’ Witness.

    Read More
  216. Ray P says:
    @Steve Sailer
    Franklin and Mencken were primarily journalists typically writing piecemeal. But Franklin gets credit for 3 books, even though only the Autobiography was conceived of as a book, while Poe and Mencken don't get any books.

    They also should have put in a closing date like, say, 1975

    If they'd gone all the way to 100 books, there would have been rumor for the main misses:

    - Poe
    - Emerson
    - Either Henry George or Edward Bellamy
    - Mary Baker Eddy?
    - Some Protestant minister
    - Jefferson's Notes on Virginia
    - Michael Harrington's The Other America?
    - Madison Grant?
    - Lolita
    - Henry Miller
    - Fear of Flying?
    - Maybe the Man in the High Castle instead of the Heinlein or the Bradbury?
    - Superman #1
    - Ben-Hur?
    - The Joy of Sex?
    - Farmer's Almanac

    High Castle never sold enough. John Lennon wanted to film Palmer Eldritch. Dune, by Frank Herbert, sold huge volumes and shouldbe here.

    Read More
  217. Ray P says:

    The Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs, should be on the list, mostly for influence on rock music, Steely Dan, heavy metal, Bowie, punk.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Seems reasonable.

    On the other hand, the judges clearly were working hard to cover a huge number of topics with one or two representatives each. So the Beats got "On the Road" and "Howl" which meant that "Naked Lunch" -- a more idiosyncratic and slightly less iconic work -- got left off, kind of like The Big Sleep, Mildred Pierce, and Maltese Falcon got left off in place of Hammett's Red Harvest as the original Hard Boiled Noir novel; or Dune got left off in favor of Heinlein representing hard sci-fi and Bradbury representing soft sci-fi.

    Do the Beats deserve three choices when Noir gets only one and sci-fi two?

    By the way, here's a once huge name in American literature that has been almost forgotten: Longfellow.

  218. On a par with Catch-22 and The Naked and the Dead for impressionable young undergraduates back when I were a lad, and ranked with Hunter Thompson’s gonzo stuff. Helter Skelter (Bugliosi) was strangely popular too, for those foreigners struggling for a grip on the hallucinatory exoticism of American culture in those pre-internet days. Oh, and Carlos Castaneda’s nonsense.

    I think Catch-22 is the representative for several later Sixties era books, all of which were influential.

    Tom Wolfe, Joan Didion, Hunter Thompson, as well as lesser efforts such as the Carlos Castaneda books, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Jonathan Livingston Seagull and other hippie era books were all “influential”, to a greater or lesser degree, even if their influence was only to prompt a certain affectation among younger Americans. Soul on Ice, for that matter. Or Fear of Flying, which came a bit later, in the Seventies. If I had to pick only one influential Sixties book that shaped America, I’d pick Aldous Huxley’s the Doors of Perception, but he was English.

    Read More
  219. @Ray P
    The Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs, should be on the list, mostly for influence on rock music, Steely Dan, heavy metal, Bowie, punk.

    Seems reasonable.

    On the other hand, the judges clearly were working hard to cover a huge number of topics with one or two representatives each. So the Beats got “On the Road” and “Howl” which meant that “Naked Lunch” — a more idiosyncratic and slightly less iconic work — got left off, kind of like The Big Sleep, Mildred Pierce, and Maltese Falcon got left off in place of Hammett’s Red Harvest as the original Hard Boiled Noir novel; or Dune got left off in favor of Heinlein representing hard sci-fi and Bradbury representing soft sci-fi.

    Do the Beats deserve three choices when Noir gets only one and sci-fi two?

    By the way, here’s a once huge name in American literature that has been almost forgotten: Longfellow.

    Read More
  220. Brutusale says:
    @Sunbeam
    My personal pick would be either Dune or Ringworld (Larry Niven).

    This genre is a little different than most. It is "The Big Idea," or escapism for the most part (or at least it used to be).

    Time has shown that Dune (let alone Ringworld) has a lot of holes in the science. But Dune was like for the first time you really got a feel for a very alien environment. The ecology may have had holes in it (Sandworms would have had to have their very own fusion reactors to burrow through the sand), but you kind of thought the Fremen were real.

    Ringworld is just a big idea. A really big idea.

    Lots of other candidates, but those are my two picks.

    Herbert’s Dune, Niven’s Ringworld and Gibson’s Neuromancer could all be part of any list that includes the two SF titles that made this cut.

    Read More
  221. Josh says:
    @Anonymous
    If limited to 88 I would've dropped a few i.e. "Tarzan." "Huck Finn" is a no-brainer, but would have included "Life On The Mississippi". Also might have included "Looking Backward" (Edward Bellamy), "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (Hunter S. Thompson) and "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" (Tom Wolfe).

    Cesar Chavez? Huh??

    The omission of Bellamy is absolutely inexplicable when you think about what this list is supposed to represent. Looking backward is a top five most influential book.

    Read More
  222. […] is a skill we expect our students to master.  Lists like this one aren’t helping.  Via Steve Sailer, via Vox Day, we have the Library of Congress’s 88 books that shaped America.  The LoC tells […]

    Read More
  223. EriK says:
    @Mikey Darmody
    I grew up in Pittsfield, in Massachusetts, where Herman Melville lived. He was, apparently, not well liked by the town elders. So they named the road that his house Arrowhead overlooked after his friend Oliver Wendell Holmes. I heard it drove Melville bananas to look out his window and see Holmes Road, rather than Melville Road.

    I grew up in Pittsfield too. Never heard that story before, but I believe it.

    Read More
  224. @Pat Casey
    Someone has probably mentioned this, but Hemingway was a convert to Catholicism. The standard biography gives zero details on this, which is to say Hemingway was naught to speak of his Catholicism to Americans. I don't know.

    One thing ISteve has never to my knowledge pondered is whether Blacks or Catholics were Hated more at the turn of the century. My guess would be Catholics were hated more, and Blacks were disdained in the way IStevers today disdain Mexican immigrants---a nuisance they knew not but knew to disdain.

    There is an interesteing scene in Wonder Boys where the prickly women with a loud voice says "I mean what is it with you Catholics?" regarding a story we get to know nothing of save that it was written by a student who can write straightaway sterling novels. My theory is that the publishing history of Ulysses has a lot to do with the way things---these books---muddled out. That's sort of like saying, What is with you Catholics?---in the 21st century.

    Someone has probably mentioned this, but Hemingway was a convert to Catholicism.

    Another fun fact: so is Toni Morrison. (Although she voiced praise for Pope Francis, so I don’t know how serious she is as a Catholic.)

    Read More
  225. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    “Where the Wild Things Are”

    This is a book that shaped America?

    Read More
  226. pyrrhus says:
    @Rex May
    Offhand, it seems like the list needs:
    James Thurber
    Frank Yerby
    Taylor Caldwell
    Jack Vance (see above)
    Isaac Asimov
    Updike
    Poe (as Peter said)
    Ezra Pound
    Sinclair Lewis
    Will & Ariel Durant
    Bill Nye (not the science guy)
    Laura Ingalls Wilder
    Philip Wylie
    Raymond Chandler
    And I haven't even finished my coffee yet.

    Edgar Allan Poe was a huge omission.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous Nephew
    They could have found a place for H.P. Lovecraft.

    Maybe, like Great Cthulhu, the time is yet to come when he shall rise again.
  227. Thea says:

    No Poe, Cheever, Jackson, or O’Conner? I guess that is right. Our popular culture does not seem interested indelving into the dark nightmare that hides in the American Dream.

    Read More
  228. Philip Roth is probably the most prolific American writer from, say, 1959 to today. Some excellent novels from a writer almost universally feted by the establishment. I’m shocked he was not included.

    How about Dreams from my Father?

    (Obama loves Roth btw).

    Read More
  229. @Steve Sailer
    Salinger saw a low of combat in WWII and maybe never quite recovered from it.

    He landed on Utah Beach on D-Day in the second wave at 6:40 AM.

    http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2011/02/salinger-201102

    Interesting; scanning the article, I see that Salinger was a member of the Counterintelligence Corps, attached to a unit of the 4th Infantry Division.

    Not exactly a grunt, CIC personnel were investigatory agents of the Intelligence Corps whose job was to comb an area secured and occupied by the friendly force and root out spies, saboteurs and other hostile parties remaining behind. He would have had a security detachment from the 4th ID (probably a squad or more of infantry) and an additional handful of agents working for/with him. A generic slang term would be “spycatcher”. He would likely have been involved in interrogations (not necessarily conducting them, but synched with the interrogators to develop and follow leads). Of course, Salinger was committed by signature and oath not to discuss/divulge any classified information he obtained or had privy to during the war; and given his experience across the European theater, he would have seen a LOT.

    Read More
  230. iffen says:
    @Liberal
    88? Wow.

    88? Wow.

    Right, when I read the headline I thought, “I know Mein Kamph didn’t have an effect, let me see which ones did.”

    Read More
  231. Jrmhjhnsn says:
    @Patrick Harris
    Not a bad list. There's definitely some presentist bias even when you disregard the more obvious diversity picks: for instance, almost nothing on the list has anything to do with religion. You can't tell me there weren't religious titles that were more important in the larger culture than say, Walden.

    Someone commented further down this chain noting the missing KJV of the Bible; is there any book that has had more impact on formation of “American” culture? We’ve forgotten in this secular age, but religious education and practice informed all aspects of life for the majority of Americans throughout much of our history. The LoC librarians could certainty figure out which American printer of the Bible had the greatest number of copies in circulation . . .

    “Common Sense” is appropriate for its effect on revolutionary fervor; but what about printed sermons, and religious tracts and pamphlets, and their effect through the First, Second, and Third Great Awakenings? I don’t have the answer, and I may be wrong about the influence of religious themed print in those eras, but if we’re still studying Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in academic circles, then I suspect there was enough of an influence to warrant recognition on this list . . .

    Read More
  232. fish says:
    @Tiny Duck
    How does it feel? Knowing that your daughters will be bearing Children of Color?

    How does it feel? Knowing that your daughters will be bearing Children of Color?

    How does it feel constantly being in re-runs?

    Jeez Tiny you fill an important niche here at unz.com. Try to bring the A game a little more often!

    Read More
    • Replies: @Unladen Swallow
    He never does, I myself admonished him about this lack of originality during the Super Bowl weekend. He just repeats his MSM talking points repeatedly.
  233. If I were making a list of five books that shaped America, I would certainly have to include Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations but it didn’t even make their eighty eight.
    I see that they included The Federalist but left out the Anti-Federalist, there would be no Bill of Rights without them.

    Read More
  234. @anon
    I realize that. The assassination comment was sort of a joke, but I was mostly going along with Sunbeam's comment about why it was so famous in the first place.

    I wasn't around when it came out, so the impact it had on me was affected by how famous it already was, and how it was already a book everyone was supposed to read when they were a certain age. Generally, all of the people who told me how great it was were the snotty, know-it-all teenager types.

    I guess you could say it's sort of like pointing out that Lena Dunham is one of the most famous people in America today. Sure, it's true, but it doesn't really answer the question of why that's so in the first place.

    What am I missing? It’s just awful. I’m on page 160 and nothing has happened. Nothing. The kid’s booted from school and he’s wandering around blowing his money. We see into his mind and discover there’s really nothing there.

    The only thing I find moderately interesting is that he’s read Shakespeare and the Bible and has something to say about them. Oh, and he mentions having read The Razor’s Edge, which I finished just prior to starting Catcher. But those are only a few sentences. Most of the story is him cussing a blue streak and noticing disgusting things around him.

    Even though I’m an adult now, I can’t imagine having liked this even as a rebellious 17 year old. If someone had handed it to me then and said, “here’s an essential American classic”, I would have felt cheated. All my education to read that?

    Read More
  235. @Steve Sailer
    Capote's In Cold Blood is on the list to represent New Journalism (Thompson, Wolfe, Didion, etc.).

    It's real good.

    Agree about In Cold Blood, a classic.

    Didion’s Some Dreamers Of The Golden Dream reminds me of a mini-version, without the childhood background stuff which makes Perry a sort-of-sympathetic figure (“considering”).

    http://www.carljay.com/whatsnew/nothing_left.htm

    Read More
  236. Whitehall says:
    @Milo Minderbinder
    US Grant's Memoirs?

    I have to agree on Grant’s Memoirs.

    He lived an exciting, full life.

    His writing style is an example of what’s needed when the lives of thousands of men depend on clarity and precision.

    Read More
  237. Sparky says:

    Notables that could replace a number of the “lesser works” by your Mutli-Culti Vibrant Authors:

    Profiles in Courage – Kennedy
    The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – Thurber
    Poor Richard’s Almanac – Franklin
    The Pentagon Papers – Ellsberg
    Last of the Mohicans – Cooper
    Death of a Salesman – Arthur Miller
    Tropic of Cancer – Henry Miller

    And, of course those classic 19th century authors mentioned above.

    Read More
  238. @pyrrhus
    Edgar Allan Poe was a huge omission.

    They could have found a place for H.P. Lovecraft.

    Maybe, like Great Cthulhu, the time is yet to come when he shall rise again.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Lovecraft is more famous today than when I was young. And that's without any really strong movies yet being made out of one of his books.

    Philip K. Dick, for example, has benefited from a lot of pretty good movies and now tv shows made from his rather sketchy stories. I guess Reanimator was the best Lovecraftian movie, but who knows, somebody could make a great movie from an old Lovecraft story tomorrow and really kick Lovecraft worship into high gear.

    There is a fair amount of randomness in how different kinds of literature will be treated by Hollywood. For example, the hardboiled noirs -- Hammett, Chandler, Cain -- have done very well by the movies indeed. The Golden Age sci-fi writers didn't do as well due to technical and budget limits, except for Arthur C. Clarke, who did very well indeed.

    I don't think the Beats have done well by Hollywood despite numerous attempts.

    There's a definite Matthew Effect: If somebody makes a good movie out of a Philip K. Dick story, then more people will get greenlighted to adapt other Dick stories.
  239. Veracitor says:

    Another big omission: Roots by Alex Haley (1976). It was a huge seller especially after it was made into an extremely successful 1977 TV miniseries. Popularity is not the same as influence, of course, but Roots and the tremendous barrage of sympathetic commentary it engendered convinced liberal white Americans at a critical time– just as the Bakke case reached the Supreme Court– that late-20th-Century black Americans deserved compensation, for harm inflicted on their telegenic ancestors, from their hereditary enemies white American neighbors. The Supreme Court legitimized racial “affirmative action” reverse-discrimination right after watching Roots on TV.

    Roots also made amateur geneaology much more popular (with non-Mormons), convinced millions of American blacks to claim descent from foreign nobility, and inspired Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father. The popularity and influence of Roots prompted the immediate production of a comparable paean to the suffering of American Jews’ ancestors, the 1978 NBC Holocaust miniseries.

    As The Los Angeles Times reported upon Haley’s death in 1992:

    “Roots” and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” inspired millions to trace their family origins, take pride in racial identity and broaden their grasp of history. And the success that “Roots” bestowed on Haley, who died of a heart attack Monday at age 70, was the kind of fame usually reserved for world leaders, saints and rock stars.

    Fellow writers and others familiar with Haley’s work agree that his legacy is enduring and diverse.

    “A friend once told me that (the impact of) ‘Roots’ was the equivalent of putting a man on the moon,” says novelist Charles Johnson, author of “Middle Passage,” a National Book Award-winning account of a 19th-Century voyage into slavery.

    Although Haley was not the first to cover the territory, his success in print and television with the story of his family’s African origin and enslavement breathed “dramatic life” into the American slave experience and made it “broadly acceptable” as a historical topic, Johnson says, adding: “In ‘Roots,’ he found a way to present history in a very popular, commercial format–not just to black people, but to everyone.”

    Published in 1976, “Roots: the Saga of an American Family” established a genre, “the novel of memory,” about black life in the United States, Johnson notes.

    By sparking pride in black American roots, Johnson believes, Haley played a role in the growing preference for the term African-American. “Clearly, Haley is in some sense responsible for that, because ‘Roots’ puts the hyphen there,” he explains.

    In person, Haley was impressive, he says, recalling a vivid memory of Haley lecturing to one of his college classes in the late 1960s: “It was one of the best classes I ever attended.”

    Considering all of that, why is Roots not on the list? Perhaps because Alex Haley, despite his personal charm, was a fabulist and plagiarist (and a hypocrite, too). Haley plagiarized much of Roots from a historical novel by Harold Courlander, The Africans (1967). Haley claimed loudly that Roots was the true story of his ancestors, but like Michael Bellesiles a quarter-century later, was discovered to be lying about his supposed research. Haley, however, was allowed to keep his Pulitzer Prize for Roots.

    The tainted origins of Roots and even the persistent mendacity of its author do not erase its influence. However, I would guess the list-compilers substituted Beloved for Roots not just to get a threefer (African-American, Woman, Nobelist) author onto the list, but to avert the discussion of Alex Haley which listing Roots would have provoked.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    They included Alex Haley's name as co-author of The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

    You can see that the organizers put some effort into making their list compact by going for selections that could do double duty.

    I presume they had an exhibit room in the Library of Congress and it had room for only about 88 books.
  240. @Buffalo Joe
    Kyle a, Haley was accused of plagiarism and sure everyone bought Playboy for the articles. Who doesn't know that?

    Haley settled charges that he lifted entire passages of Roots from a book called The African. I remember all my friends gushing when Roots first aired on TV; I thought it was crap.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_Haley#Plagiarism_dispute_and_other_criticism

    Read More
  241. @Steve Sailer
    I live down the 101 freeway from Tarzana, CA.

    Edgar Rice Burroughs owned a big chunk of land there and was its most famous resident, so the place was named after his character by popular acclaim.

    Does Melville have a Bartlebyville? I don't think so.

    Will Bartlesville, Oklahoma do?

    Read More
  242. Ivy says:
    @flyingtiger
    Asimov has got to be the guy who wrote the most. Frederic Pohl is also a contender.

    Asimov’s science books (e.g., On Chemistry, On Physics) were a joy to read in part because he had such clarity of expression. Readers may find a single book by an author that leads to many others.

    Read More
  243. Veracitor says:

    Hey, Steve,

    Why don’t you put out an iSteve Influential Book List?

    You have a high-powered commentariat here that you could easily tap for suggestions and feedback on your choices.

    You could indicate what sort of influence each book you list has or had: (1) real-world influence, meaning that ideas people pick(ed) up from (or in reaction to) the book affect(ed) political or cultural behavior beyond reading and talking about the book; (2) popular literary influence, meaning the book (or plays or movies based on it) garner(ed) a lot of attention and provoke(d) a lot of discussion; (3) memetic literary influence, meaning the book notably inspires(ed) writers of other books, plays, etc. even if the book wasn’t immensely popular.

    You could have fun deciding whether to put Wilson’s Sociobiology and Murray & Herrnstein’s The Bell Curve into the first or third category, along with various others you’ve discussed above.

    I have not read all of the works on the LoC’s list (and probably won’t try hard to chase down an edition of César Chávez’ immortal prose)– but I’d be willing to put some effort into reading through your list, if you publish it.

    Read More
  244. If Lucy Maud Montgomery weren’t Canadian, I’d have substituted Anne of Green Gables for Charlotte’s Web.

    I agree with the dozen or so of you who found the lack of Edgar Allen Poe to be a serious, glaring omission. Would anybody have cared if they’d made it 89 books? What’s so sacred about 88? (piano keys?)

    Dune (1965) vs The Sirens of Titan (1959) – tough call. Neither one is on the list, but with all due apologies to Jack Vance, I’d have substituted either one these for one of the more pandering choices (say, Shiltz or Chavez.) More broadly, I agree with Mr. Sailer that sci-fi deserves more than two spots when one considers that the Beats got three.

    Also, while it cannot be included because it was a speech, William Jennings Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” was easily as influential in its day as Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” was in the 1950s.

    Lovecraft didn’t sell well enough to be included on the list I’m guessing. That, plus he wrote short stories for the pulps, mostly, and only even novella-length work we have from him is The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1943.) But if one really wants to recognize “geek culture”, then maybe as good a choice as Lovecraft would be E. Gary Gygax’s The Dungeon Master’s Guide (1979.)

    Read More
  245. Dr. Doom says:

    Yes but always remember that blacks wouldn’t read any of them even if you made them into comic books with illustrated nudity. As the globalists keep trying to darken America, those books will begin to be turned more and more into rubbish and kindling and in the dark future they want only Time Travelers from the PAST and space aliens will ever read them ever again.

    Read More
  246. Veracitor says:

    SF suggestions? I cannot disparage the nominations of Herbert’s Dune, Heinlein’s Starship Troopers or Stranger in a Strange Land, and Niven and Pournelle’s The Mote in God’s Eye. However, at least Herbert’s and Heinlein’s works owe something to E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman series, and so do a lot of other SF works.

    L. Sprague deCamp was a true giant of SF, historical fiction, and history. Practically all SF written after the 1930′s is indebted to de Camp’s fiction or non-fiction– some well-known works are straightforward homage– but it is hard to choose just one of de Camp’s books to nominate. All things considered I would suggest Lest Darkness Fall (category 3 in the taxonomy I offered above) because it inspired so many other alternate-history and time travel stories. Of course, Lest Darkness Fall is partly a response to Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. . .

    Read More
    • Replies: @Olorin
    Sprague was part of my teacher's literary circles. Like Heinlein they were part of that cadre of SF writers who had worked at Philadelphia shipyards during WWII.

    They wrote sea yarns in space, though my teacher wrote mathematical fiction that was considered too dryly satirical for mass tastes.

    Asimov was one of the biggest jerks I ever met.

    Related to that, Doc should have won the 1966 Hugo, hands down.

    I found it odd that no writer of cookbooks/home economy made the list. Hand/rocks/cradle and all.

  247. @fish

    How does it feel? Knowing that your daughters will be bearing Children of Color?
     
    How does it feel constantly being in re-runs?

    Jeez Tiny you fill an important niche here at unz.com. Try to bring the A game a little more often!

    He never does, I myself admonished him about this lack of originality during the Super Bowl weekend. He just repeats his MSM talking points repeatedly.

    Read More
  248. @Veracitor
    Another big omission: Roots by Alex Haley (1976). It was a huge seller especially after it was made into an extremely successful 1977 TV miniseries. Popularity is not the same as influence, of course, but Roots and the tremendous barrage of sympathetic commentary it engendered convinced liberal white Americans at a critical time-- just as the Bakke case reached the Supreme Court-- that late-20th-Century black Americans deserved compensation, for harm inflicted on their telegenic ancestors, from their hereditary enemies white American neighbors. The Supreme Court legitimized racial "affirmative action" reverse-discrimination right after watching Roots on TV.

    Roots also made amateur geneaology much more popular (with non-Mormons), convinced millions of American blacks to claim descent from foreign nobility, and inspired Toni Morrison's Beloved and Barack Obama's Dreams From My Father. The popularity and influence of Roots prompted the immediate production of a comparable paean to the suffering of American Jews' ancestors, the 1978 NBC Holocaust miniseries.

    As The Los Angeles Times reported upon Haley's death in 1992:

    "Roots" and "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" inspired millions to trace their family origins, take pride in racial identity and broaden their grasp of history. And the success that "Roots" bestowed on Haley, who died of a heart attack Monday at age 70, was the kind of fame usually reserved for world leaders, saints and rock stars.

    Fellow writers and others familiar with Haley's work agree that his legacy is enduring and diverse.

    "A friend once told me that (the impact of) 'Roots' was the equivalent of putting a man on the moon," says novelist Charles Johnson, author of "Middle Passage," a National Book Award-winning account of a 19th-Century voyage into slavery.

    Although Haley was not the first to cover the territory, his success in print and television with the story of his family's African origin and enslavement breathed "dramatic life" into the American slave experience and made it "broadly acceptable" as a historical topic, Johnson says, adding: "In 'Roots,' he found a way to present history in a very popular, commercial format--not just to black people, but to everyone."

    Published in 1976, "Roots: the Saga of an American Family" established a genre, "the novel of memory," about black life in the United States, Johnson notes.

    By sparking pride in black American roots, Johnson believes, Haley played a role in the growing preference for the term African-American. "Clearly, Haley is in some sense responsible for that, because 'Roots' puts the hyphen there," he explains.

    In person, Haley was impressive, he says, recalling a vivid memory of Haley lecturing to one of his college classes in the late 1960s: "It was one of the best classes I ever attended."
     
    Considering all of that, why is Roots not on the list? Perhaps because Alex Haley, despite his personal charm, was a fabulist and plagiarist (and a hypocrite, too). Haley plagiarized much of Roots from a historical novel by Harold Courlander, The Africans (1967). Haley claimed loudly that Roots was the true story of his ancestors, but like Michael Bellesiles a quarter-century later, was discovered to be lying about his supposed research. Haley, however, was allowed to keep his Pulitzer Prize for Roots.

    The tainted origins of Roots and even the persistent mendacity of its author do not erase its influence. However, I would guess the list-compilers substituted Beloved for Roots not just to get a threefer (African-American, Woman, Nobelist) author onto the list, but to avert the discussion of Alex Haley which listing Roots would have provoked.

    They included Alex Haley’s name as co-author of The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

    You can see that the organizers put some effort into making their list compact by going for selections that could do double duty.

    I presume they had an exhibit room in the Library of Congress and it had room for only about 88 books.

    Read More
  249. @Anonymous Nephew
    They could have found a place for H.P. Lovecraft.

    Maybe, like Great Cthulhu, the time is yet to come when he shall rise again.

    Lovecraft is more famous today than when I was young. And that’s without any really strong movies yet being made out of one of his books.

    Philip K. Dick, for example, has benefited from a lot of pretty good movies and now tv shows made from his rather sketchy stories. I guess Reanimator was the best Lovecraftian movie, but who knows, somebody could make a great movie from an old Lovecraft story tomorrow and really kick Lovecraft worship into high gear.

    There is a fair amount of randomness in how different kinds of literature will be treated by Hollywood. For example, the hardboiled noirs — Hammett, Chandler, Cain — have done very well by the movies indeed. The Golden Age sci-fi writers didn’t do as well due to technical and budget limits, except for Arthur C. Clarke, who did very well indeed.

    I don’t think the Beats have done well by Hollywood despite numerous attempts.

    There’s a definite Matthew Effect: If somebody makes a good movie out of a Philip K. Dick story, then more people will get greenlighted to adapt other Dick stories.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous Nephew
    Someone made an animated movie of The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath. Budget of 5k!

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0384057/
  250. @Steve Sailer
    Lovecraft is more famous today than when I was young. And that's without any really strong movies yet being made out of one of his books.

    Philip K. Dick, for example, has benefited from a lot of pretty good movies and now tv shows made from his rather sketchy stories. I guess Reanimator was the best Lovecraftian movie, but who knows, somebody could make a great movie from an old Lovecraft story tomorrow and really kick Lovecraft worship into high gear.

    There is a fair amount of randomness in how different kinds of literature will be treated by Hollywood. For example, the hardboiled noirs -- Hammett, Chandler, Cain -- have done very well by the movies indeed. The Golden Age sci-fi writers didn't do as well due to technical and budget limits, except for Arthur C. Clarke, who did very well indeed.

    I don't think the Beats have done well by Hollywood despite numerous attempts.

    There's a definite Matthew Effect: If somebody makes a good movie out of a Philip K. Dick story, then more people will get greenlighted to adapt other Dick stories.

    Someone made an animated movie of The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath. Budget of 5k!

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0384057/

    Read More
  251. Diana says:

    “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. Written in 1868 it has been read by generations of young women.

    Read More
  252. Interesting. After all, you can’t satisfy everyone. Just one observation: similar lists for Germany, France or England would doubtlessly include, percentage-wise, more non-fiction books. No American equivalents -alright, only few – to Boyle, Newton, Darwin, Maxwell, Kant, Hegel, Freud, Marx, Rousseau, Laplace, …

    I would’ve included Poe, Joseph Smith, Ellen White, Dreiser, Henry James, J.W. Gibbs, L.R. Hubbard, T.S. Eliot, Santayana, A.T. Mahan, Skinner, Dewey, Allan Bloom, F. O’Connor, R.P. Feynman, ..
    And, of course, Hemingway was a Catholic convert.

    Read More
  253. Olorin says:
    @Veracitor
    SF suggestions? I cannot disparage the nominations of Herbert's Dune, Heinlein's Starship Troopers or Stranger in a Strange Land, and Niven and Pournelle's The Mote in God's Eye. However, at least Herbert's and Heinlein's works owe something to E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman series, and so do a lot of other SF works.

    L. Sprague deCamp was a true giant of SF, historical fiction, and history. Practically all SF written after the 1930's is indebted to de Camp's fiction or non-fiction-- some well-known works are straightforward homage-- but it is hard to choose just one of de Camp's books to nominate. All things considered I would suggest Lest Darkness Fall (category 3 in the taxonomy I offered above) because it inspired so many other alternate-history and time travel stories. Of course, Lest Darkness Fall is partly a response to Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. . .

    Sprague was part of my teacher’s literary circles. Like Heinlein they were part of that cadre of SF writers who had worked at Philadelphia shipyards during WWII.

    They wrote sea yarns in space, though my teacher wrote mathematical fiction that was considered too dryly satirical for mass tastes.

    Asimov was one of the biggest jerks I ever met.

    Related to that, Doc should have won the 1966 Hugo, hands down.

    I found it odd that no writer of cookbooks/home economy made the list. Hand/rocks/cradle and all.

    Read More
  254. @Hubbub
    Did these writings shape America or did they more likely fit the shape of America after the fact?

    Some of those books DID shape America. E.g., UNCLE TOM’S CABIN helped crystalize Northern anti-slavery opinion, which in turn helped bring on the Civil War Between the States.

    But many are dubious, and some ridiculous, if “shaping America” is the standard.

    Read More
  255. @Buffalo Joe
    Rachel Carson's book, "The Silent Spring", led to the banning of DDT, the most effective pesticide in the fight to eradicate malaria. Millions died that probably would have lived but we probably would have been where we are now but sooner. It was some of the earliest junk science.

    If the criterion is influence on American culture, then Silent Spring was hugely influential and belongs on the list.

    Read More
  256. @egregious philbin
    america wasn't shaped by books. it's only been whittled down by books.

    By definition, “whittling down” is shaping.

    Read More
  257. @WGG
    Very true. At first I thought it was supposed to be American authors only, in which case it is understandable that Christian books are missing. However on closer inspection I see that is not the case. Where is The Pilgrim's Progress? Where is Mere Christianity?

    If non-American authors are allowed, the King James Bible should be on that list.

    Read More
  258. @Hapalong Cassidy
    One of the biggest selling books of all time - "Baby and Child Care" by Dr Benjamin Spock is conspicuous in its absence. Almost every Baby Boomer and Gen-Xer alive was influenced in their upbringing in some way shape or form by this book - for better and for worse (probably more for worse).

    It’s on there: The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care Benjamin Spock 1946

    Read More
  259. @Kyle a
    Alex Haley on this list is downright amusing. They should have used his 60's Playboy interview with that pipe smoking nazi. No kidding. Playboy was once good reading.

     

    Alex Haley on this list is downright amusing.

    I disagree. The Autobiography of Malcolm X arguably was influential, and Haley wrote it, based on his interviews with Malcolm.

    Read More
  260. I’m a huge Chandler and Cain fan, but Hammett’s Red Harvest (1929) is there to represent the hard-boiled / noir genre as the first in its line.

        Which brings up the question, ‘What is this list about?’ Red Harvest may have had a profound effect on mystery writing, but the exhibit says:

    The titles featured here (by American authors) have had a profound effect on American life,

        I can’t see any way Hammett had a profound effect on life in the U.S.  I can’t see how The Cat in the Hat had any effect at all, except possibly in influencing the writing of children’s books.

            What were these people smoking thinking?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Hammett's hard-boiled detective fiction had an enormous influence on what Americans read, what movies Americans watched (noir), what jokes they laughed at (and still do), and how other people around the world thought of Americans.
  261. @Saintonge235

    I’m a huge Chandler and Cain fan, but Hammett’s Red Harvest (1929) is there to represent the hard-boiled / noir genre as the first in its line.
     
        Which brings up the question, ‘What is this list about?’ Red Harvest may have had a profound effect on mystery writing, but the exhibit says:

    The titles featured here (by American authors) have had a profound effect on American life,
     
        I can't see any way Hammett had a profound effect on life in the U.S.  I can't see how The Cat in the Hat had any effect at all, except possibly in influencing the writing of children’s books.

            What were these people smoking thinking?

    Hammett’s hard-boiled detective fiction had an enormous influence on what Americans read, what movies Americans watched (noir), what jokes they laughed at (and still do), and how other people around the world thought of Americans.

    Read More
  262. Horatio Alger was run out of the Unitarian church in Massachusetts for inappropriate relations with schoolboys — that’s got to count for something.

    Read More
  263. Broski says:
    @Steve Sailer
    Where's Jonathan Livingston Seagull?

    I bet Carlos Castandeda was on the list and got booted off at the last minute for being fake and replaced by that embarrassing Cesar Chavez choice to fill the Latino slot.

    Particularly stupid is its inclusion as a 15 year old book that shaped America. Sure, Cesar can have a street in every town, but his shaping of America was negligible.

    Read More
  264. Mark Caplan says: • Website
    @celt darnell
    I think they regard Dixon's The Clansman as covered by Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind.

    Mitchell was undeniably influenced by that and Dixon's other novels and, frankly, they're sticking their necks out by including Mitchell (correctly, I hasten to add).

    The Clansman (1905) was the inspiration for the socially and cinematically influential silent film Birth of a Nation (1915). I don’t recall the Klan appearing in Gone with the Wind. The Klan came into being just after the war during Reconstruction, while Gone with the Wind was set during the war.

    Read More
    • Replies: @celt darnell
    The Klan appears in the novel Gone With the Wind, it's only hinted at in the film (when the boys come back wounded during Reconstruction. Question: what were they doing to get wounded?).

    You're spot on with respect to the Clansman's serving as the inspiration for Birth of a Nation but that, too, is another cultural artifact that certain types would like to flush down the memory hole.
  265. @Mark Caplan
    The Clansman (1905) was the inspiration for the socially and cinematically influential silent film Birth of a Nation (1915). I don't recall the Klan appearing in Gone with the Wind. The Klan came into being just after the war during Reconstruction, while Gone with the Wind was set during the war.

    The Klan appears in the novel Gone With the Wind, it’s only hinted at in the film (when the boys come back wounded during Reconstruction. Question: what were they doing to get wounded?).

    You’re spot on with respect to the Clansman’s serving as the inspiration for Birth of a Nation but that, too, is another cultural artifact that certain types would like to flush down the memory hole.

    Read More
  266. Rex May says: • Website

    A lot of us here, including me, forget that this is about influential books, not good or worthwhile books. Having said that, I’d have to reverse myself and take Sirens of Titan off, and put Slaugherhouse-Five on. The former is a much better book, but the latter has been much more influential.

    And I think there ought to be an ISteve list, too. But make it most worthwhile reading or ought to be influential rather than influential.

    And I have to agree that E. E. Smith ought to be there, as the guy who influenced some of the most influential SF writers.

    And I always figured that Asimov would be a jerk. He maintained that benign jovial persona in his nonfiction so consistently, I imagine he made it up to mask his actual personality. But I also agree that he was one of the greats by any standard.

    And speaking of de Camp, yes, he’s very underrated. His (and Miller’s) Genus Homo did just about all that Planet of the Apes did, and was a lot funnier besides.

    And I just thought of Wouk, Irving Stone, and Michener.

    I’m reminded by all this of a “modern American literature” course I took once. The instructor called for the class to pick the books, and we had to have one by a woman, one by a Black, one by a Hispanic, one by an Amerindian, and so on. And this was like in the early 70′s, before that kind of crap thinking was popular. For the woman, I recommended Taylor Caldwell. That was turned down, so I named Ayn Rand. Needless to say, we ended up with a far more PC author.

    Read More
  267. Cortes says:
    @Steve Sailer
    They could have gone with Hemingway's WWI novel A Farewell to Arms, which is really good, over his Spanish Civil War novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, which, I get the impression, without having read it, has been hurt by the rise in esteeem of Orwell's Homage to Catalonia.

    I read the first 100 pages of Mailer's Guadalcanal novel The Naked and the Dead recently and was impressed by how good a job such a young writer did in getting into the heads of different soldiers.

    The best spoof I’ve ever read is Hugh Hosch’s “Felipe Marlo, Bullfight Shamus” set in the heyday of the Hemingway/Gardner love-in with the bullfighting mundillo in Spain under Franco in the late 1950s. A good knowledge of Spanish plus familiarity with Chandler and Hemingway would enhance enjoyment of the abundance of excellent jokes not a few of them targeted at “Papa ” himself.
    Marlo is a half Mexican half American and the only PI licensed to investigate the Taurine sector and a creation of genius.

    Read More

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to All Steve Sailer Comments via RSS
PastClassics
Are elite university admissions based on meritocracy and diversity as claimed?
A simple remedy for income stagnation
Confederate Flag Day, State Capitol, Raleigh, N.C. -- March 3, 2007
The major media overlooked Communist spies and Madoff’s fraud. What are they missing today?
The evidence is clear — but often ignored