As you may have already figured out, the ambition of this list far outweighs our means. It is truly impossible to create a comprehensive list of all the books we’re thankful for, but we can list ten books that we feel have helped shaped contemporary literature. These are just some of the books that made so strong a mark on our culture that they continue to be vital and immensely entertaining.
Be sure and let us know which books you’re thankful for in the comments section below. And have a Happy Thanksgiving!
When one thinks of a limitlessly rich and rewarding reading experience, one often thinks of Moby Dick. The tale of Captain Ahab and his crazed obsession with the whale is deeply engrained in our culture today. Almost as engrained is the story of Melville himself, whose masterpiece was a commercial failure, and whose career when he was alive was, to say the least, no indication of the heaps of acclaim he would be awarded posthumously.
Pride and Prejudice achieved a fandom even before fandom was what it is today. This Regency-Era story not only defines its time period, but it continues to be a relatable and beloved novel today, spawning so many spin-offs and adaptations it has done what few other books have: created its own genre.
The Great Gatsby is a widely believed contender, if not hands down favorite, for The Great American Novel. Fitzgerald’s prose is impeccable and the beauty of the language doesn’t conceal or overshadow other elements of the novel, like plot and character and symbolism.
Angelou’s first book in a seven volume series is a coming of age memoir that highlights, among other things, how her love for literature helped her rise above racism and other societal pressures and prejudices.
Holden Caulfield is one of the most seductive characters in all of literature. Salinger accomplishes this almost exclusively through voice. Caulfield’s voice is one that adolescents of every generation have come to identify with and relate to. For those who have read it, try using the word “phony” without thinking of this book.
Based on a series of lectures, Woolf’s extended essay examines the role of women in both belonging to and creating literature. It is widely considered a seminal feminist text and argues that women should have more space in the culture, more space for themselves.
For many who read The Giving Tree as a young child, this story of a boy and the tree that loves him may be the first experience of the deeply emotional power books can have. No spoiler alerts here, but the ending is the sort of tear-jerker you can’t help but return to again and again.
Go Set a Watchman may have received mixed reviews, but the verdict on To Kill a Mockingbird remains the same: it’s one of the most inspirational novels in American Literature. The story of the Finch family gives the reader both the inexpressible joys of childhood and the inexpressible confusion when faced with the tensions and absurdities of the adult world.
Didion has become one of the most trusted authorities on American life in the sixties, and this is in large part thanks to the essays in Slouching Towards Bethlehem. She has also become the template for those attempting to write the type of nonfiction that delves beyond what we see, to the essential mood and spirit of the culture—the center, as she might call it.
A testament to family and the imagination, Maurice Sendak’s book has inspired generations of kids to discover, understand, and indulge their inner monsters.
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