Popular American Novels

 

America has churned out many unforgettable novels that have appealed to generations and the generations that came after the novel was written. We have stories of dystopian societies, of love, loss, and war retold in a poignant way by so many talented authors from the States.

Sula

Traces the lives of two black heroines from their close-knit childhood in a small Ohio town, through their sharply divergent paths of womanhood, to their ultimate confrontation and reconciliation.

Read it For:
Rich and moving in its descriptions.
Don't Read it For:
There is no reason to recommend not reading this novel for any reason.
What makes this book stand out?:
An unforgettable portrait of what it means to be a black woman in America.

The Catcher in the Rye

A coming-of-age novel that traces the journey and the thought process of 17-year-old Holden Caulfield.

Read it For:
teenage dilemma about the way life works, feelings of alienation and the struggle against the artificial world, meticulous description of all of the above in The Catcher in the Rye. The profanities used in the book express his frustrated state of mind and no one is spared, from his parents to his fake teachers to his roommate who scores with girls.
Don't Read it For:
If you don’t like coming-of-age novels.
What makes this book stand out?:
The blunt, offensive language through with the protagonist expresses their confusion and moral state. Also, it is a controversial classic of adolescent angst that has inspired readers as diverse as President George HW Bush and John Lennon’s assassin Mark Chapman.

To Kill a Mockingbird

the story follows the lives of Scout and Jem Finch as they come of age and experience the discrimination that floods their society. They watch their father (a lawyer) struggle for the justice of a black man who is charged with the rape of a white girl. The mockingbird is a symbol of the real-life black man. His father is trying to prove his innocence to the people who are heavily steeped in race and class discriminations.

Read it For:
the exploration of the tragedy of racism in the 1930s and the dramatics of the 'Great Depression,' the true epitome of southern writing, a combination of genuine storyline, intricately woven characters, blunt truths and the warm humor.
Don't Read it For:
This novel is one of the classics that America has produced; it would be a shame to list reasons to not read it for.
What makes this book stand out?:
It focuses on several aspects of the racism that was rampant at the time of the story, the effects of 'The Great Depression' and its impact on the southern people. This book has been hailed as one of the classics and is one of the most popular American novels

The Great Gatsby

The story of the elusive Jay Gatsby, who is a self-made millionaire pursuing wealth, riches and his long lost love, Daisy. He even buys a mansion across from her house and throws lavish parties to try and entice her. When Gatsby is at last reunited with Daisy, they are torn apart by tragic events. The story is told through the eyes of his detached and omnipresent neighbor and friend, Nick Carraway.

Read it For:
Considered one of the greatest American works of fiction ever written. This best selling American novels will leave you asking for more.
Don't Read it For:
A little complex to understand.
What makes this book stand out?:
An ultimate social satire which brings together, the glory of the Jazz Age, this book will break your heart.
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The Scarlet Letter

In the seventeenth-century Puritan community of Boston, Hester Prynne in a loveless marriage and then into adultery. With the scarlet letter ‘A,’ signifying an adulteress, fixed on her bosom, Hester the mother, in spite of being publicly shamed by the crowd and repeatedly urged by a young priest, refuses to reveal the identity of her daughter’s father.

Read it For:
Exposes the moral rigidity and double standards of the society.
Don't Read it For:
If you don’t like period novels.
What makes this book stand out?:
Became an instant bestseller when it was published and is the author’s masterpiece.

Catch-22

This story is about the life of Captain John Yossarian, a U.S. Army Air Forces bombardier in 256th squadron who has been assigned to bomb enemy posts at eastern France and Italy.

Read it For:
A revolutionary satire published in 1961
Don't Read it For:
Can be complex and it can get difficult to understand the humor.
What makes this book stand out?:
Can be complex and it can get difficult to understand the humor.

Little Women

The life of the four March sisters as they wait for their father to come back from war and struggle with poverty and face it with resilience.

Read it For:
The delightful descriptions of the everyday life of the family as they play games, put on wild theatricals, make new friends, argue, grapple with their vices, learn from their mistakes, nurse each other through sickness and disappointments, etc.
Don't Read it For:
If you don’t like period novels.
What makes this book stand out?:
The warm and insightful portrayal of a family that fell on hard times and a fantastic debut, this book makes for an interesting read.

The Old Man and the Sea

A tale of an aged Cuban fisherman going head-to-head with a magnificent marlin that encapsulates Hemingway's favorite motifs of a physical and moral challenge

Read it For:
Brilliant symbolism and touted as one of the greatest works that America ever produced.
Don't Read it For:
Too descriptive and gets tedious if you don’t like long challenges.
What makes this book stand out?:
The Old Man and the Sea, best American novels, is credited with reviving Ernest Hemingway's career, which was crumbling under the weight of Across the River and into the Trees.

Gone with the Wind

Set against the backdrop of the civil war, Gone with the Wind is it is the story of beautiful, ruthless Scarlett O'Hara and the dashing soldier of fortune, Rhett Butler.

Read it For:
an unforgettable tale of love and loss, and a brilliant first novel.
Don't Read it For:
I would recommend you to read this book at least once in your lifetime.
What makes this book stand out?:
dramatic storytelling, insightful and flawed characters and vivid imagery. This is a must-read on the top 10 American novels list.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

The tale of Francie Nolan, a little girl living in the New York slums with her family, overcoming one adversity at a time.

Read it For:
The brilliant and warm style of writing through which Smith shows us the mind of a child.
Don't Read it For:
You must not read this book for no reason at all! This is a reader’s delight and a warm cup of cocoa on a winter’s night.
What makes this book stand out?:
The storytelling panache that the author shows, especially in the debut novel.

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