10 American classics to add to your to-read list

You think you’ve read all of the American classics? Or perhaps you hide from them because they seem a little too close to required reading? Take a look at the 10 listed here, and then at our complete 30-novel Seattle Picks: American Classics list hand-picked by our librarians. Sure, you’ll find Fitzgerald and Faulkner on our full-length list, but we bet there’s something here that might give you a new twist on whatever it is you think when you think “classics.”

  • A Death in the Family by James Agee: This deeply poignant yet unsentimental account of what happens to his wife and six-year-old son when Jay Follet fails to return from a late night drive, won the Pulitzer Prize upon its posthumous publication.
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison: During the 1950’s a young nameless Black man finds himself rendered invisible as he moves through levels of American intolerance.
  • So Big by Edna Ferber: The daughter of a Chicago gambler, Selina Peake DeJong struggles to make a living for herself and her only child, “sobig,” in this inspiring story of a journey through life.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey: Chief Broom, a deaf-mute Indian kept in an Oregon mental hospital, tells the story of Randle McMurphy’s battle of wills with the sadistic Big Nurse Ratched, a struggle between two varieties of madness.
  • Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis: In this bracing social satire of pre-Depression middle-class America, George Babbitt searches for success in the business world, while putting his little town of Zenith, Ohio – the Zip City – on the map.
  • White Fang by Jack London: In this adventure set in the Klondike Gold Rush, White Fang, a dog-wolf mix, has only experienced great cruelty from man and nature until he meets a master who shows him the great law of men and beasts.
  • Great Short Works of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe: Poe’s dark and twisted tales have quickened the pulse and provoked nightmares for more than a century. Thrill and chill to macabre classics like “The Raven,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.”
  • The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington: The declining fortunes of the lordly Ambersons are personified in their spoiled and haughty heir Georgie, who squanders away the family fortune while the new lords of industry ascend the social ladder.
  • Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut: While on exhibit on the planet of Tralfamadore, Billy Pilgrim, American soldier and witness to the bombing of Dresden, revisits his memories of the past and the horrors of war.
  • Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West: In this brilliant short novel, an advice-to-the lovelorn columnist tragically descends into madness as he empathizes with his readers’ suffering.


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