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August 20, 2021


#American Lit reading list

by N@ncy

Kaaterskill Falls, Thomas Cole, 1826

  1. After 8 weeks of reading only French books….
  2. it is time to shift gears!
  3. Here is my reading list for the coming months:
  4. American Literature 1820-1920


Read: 10/30  update 10 September 2021


  • James Fenimore Cooper, The Pioneers (1823) – FINISHED!
  • Review
  •   Can you read J.F. Cooper for pleasure, is it possible?
  • Update: Reading a book list I never had a chance to study in college.
  • I’m determined to read the books any
  • college kid is required for a course in American Literature.
  • Good news: I’ve read 7/30 already so a bit of a kick start.
  • Bad news: James Fennimore Cooper’s book “The Pioneers” (1823)
  • with Natty Bumppo is driving me to drink!
  • The first 25 chapters are so difficult to get through
  • …character descriptions in excruciating detail, history, religion.
  • But just when you want to toss the book….it gets better!
  • Romance blooms, intrigue, secrets, concealed identity
  • …so don’t give up on this book!

2) William Apess, A Son of the Forest (1829) – NOT AVAILABLE
Impossible to find this book, not widely in print.

3) Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature” and Selected Essays (1836) – FINISHED!


I know this is a classic…but goodness, gracious
this was a disappointment.
Written in another age…for a different reading public
…the book is hard to digest in 21st C.
I did learn: Does a Transcendentalist believe in God?
They believe in the idea of a personal knowledge of God,
…. no intermediary (church) was needed for spiritual insight.
So I guess my time was not completely wasted….
Not conforming with the general opinions about this book….
(…Emerson would be so proud of me…)
and giving it only 2 stars.


4) Edgar Allan Poe, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838)
5) Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave(1845)
6) Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (1850)
7) Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852)
8) Solomon Northup,12 Years a Slave (1853)
9) Herman Melville, Benito Cereno (1855)
10) Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1855)
11) Rebecca Harding Davis, “Life in the Iron Mills” (1861)
12) Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861)
13) Emily Dickinson, Selected Poems (1865)
14) Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
15) Maria Ruiz de Burton, The Squatter and the Don (1885)
16) William Dean Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885)
17) Henry James, The Bostonians (1886)
18) Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage (1895)
19) Charles Chesnutt, The Conjure Woman (1899)
20) Kate Chopin, The Awakening (1899)
21) Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (1900)
22) Pauline Hopkins, Contending Forces (1900)
23) Frank Norris, The Octopus: A Story of California (1901)
24) Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (1905)
25) Jack London, The Iron Heel (1908)
26) Gertrude Stein, Three Lives (1909)
27) Sui Sin Far, Mrs. Spring Fragrance (1912)
28) James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912)
29) Willa Cather, O Pioneers! (1913)
30) Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio (1919)

Read more from American Lit 1820-1920
5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Aug 22 2021

    Well, I’ve read six of those. What’s your timescale for reading all of them?


    • Aug 22 2021

      Not rushing this reading and I see there are a few complex/dense books on the list
      …so 6 months ought to be about right!


  2. Nancy, this is a great reading list! As an American I am always surprised at how much my education, especially literary, was mostly European. I am trying to make up for that right now and I might use your list as a foundation. Is that ok?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sep 4 2021

      ….be my guest! I’m surprised how many American literature classics I still need to read. William Apess’s book is impossible to find…but I did read about his life on Wikipedia. He accomplished so much even after a very tragic childhood and only reaching his 41st birthday. Thanks for you comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oct 2 2021

    I read a bit of Representative Men by Emerson last year and found his style quite heavy going. Although I did end up taking down quite a few quotes I found beautiful and inspiring. Somehow it was too dense though, like a too-rich chocolate fudge cake! I longed for some more plainness and less eloquence at times.

    Wishing you all the best with your American lit project. I’ll be interested to hear more as you go along.



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