Top 100 American Novels

Last update: September 2014

This list reflects a combination of my sense of what books are important to American literature in general and what books are important to me personally. Therefore, this list is fairly idiosyncratic and reveals my strengths and interests as well as my weaknesses or the gaps in my reading history. I decided that only books that I have actually read (and completed) should be eligible for the list, so there are books I feel like should probably be here that aren’t. I also limited myself to one book per author.

  1. Edgar Allan Poe, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1837)
  2. Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (1850)
  3. Herman Melville, Moby Dick; or, The Whale (1851)
  4. Louisa May Alcott, Little Women (1868)
  5. Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
  6. Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward: 2000-1887 (1888)
  7. Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage (1895)
  8. Henry James, The Turn of the Screw (1898)
  9. Kate Chopin, The Awakening (1899)
  10. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
  11. Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (1905)
  12. Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (1905)
  13. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland (1915)
  14. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)
  15. Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (1926)
  16. Agnes Smedley, Daughter of Earth (1929)
  17. William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (1930)
  18. Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon (1930)
  19. Nathanael West, Miss Lonelyhearts (1933)
  20. Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie (1935)
  21. John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath (1936)
  22. Djuna Barnes, Nightwood (1936)
  23. Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
  24. Wallace Stegner, Remembering Laughter (1937)
  25. Dalton Trumbo, Johnny Got His Gun (1939)
  26. Richard Wright, Native Son (1940)
  27. Ann Petry, The Street (1946)
  28. Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)
  29. Clifford Simak, City (1952)
  30. Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1953)
  31. Theodore Sturgeon, More Than Human (1953)
  32. James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953)
  33. Fred Gipson, Old Yeller (1956)
  34. Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House (1959)
  35. Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon (1959)
  36. Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)
  37. Wilson Rawls, Where the Red Fern Grows (1961)
  38. Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962)
  39. Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar (1963)
  40. Thomas Disch, The Genocides (1965)
  41. Frank Herbert, Dune (1965)
  42. Samuel R. Delany, Babel-17 (1966)
  43. John A. Williams, The Man Who Cried I Am (1967)
  44. Charles Portis, True Grit (1968)
  45. N. Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn (1968)
  46. Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)
  47. Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed (1974)
  48. Kate Wilhelm, Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang (1974)
  49. Joanna Russ, The Female Man (1975)
  50. Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior (1975)
  51. Gayl Jones, Corregidora (1975)
  52. Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time (1976)
  53. James Tiptree, Jr., Houston, Houston, Do You Read? (1976)
  54. Ishmael Reed, Flight to Canada (1976)
  55. Stephen King, The Shining (1977)
  56. Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly (1977)
  57. Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony (1977)
  58. Kathy Acker, Blood and Guts in High School (1978)
  59. Joan D. Vinge, The Snow Queen (1980)
  60. Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping (1981)
  61. Alice Walker, The Color Purple (1982)
  62. Louise Erdrich, Love Medicine (1984)
  63. William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984)
  64. Joan Slonczewski, A Door Into Ocean (1986)
  65. Octavia Butler, Dawn (1987)
  66. Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)
  67. D’Arcy McNickle, Wind from an Enemy Sky (1988)
  68. Carol Emshwiller, Carmen Dog (1988)
  69. Katherine Dunn, Geek Love (1989)
  70. Dan Simmons, Hyperion (1989)
  71. Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried (1990)
  72. Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress (1990)
  73. Richard Powers, The Gold Bug Variations (1991)
  74. Gish Jen, Typical American (1991)
  75. Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho (1991)
  76. Donna Tartt, The Secret History (1992)
  77. Nicola Griffith, Ammonite (1992)
  78. Joyce Carol Oates, Black Water (1992)
  79. Leslie Feinberg, Stone Butch Blues (1993)
  80. Ana Castillo, So Far from God (1993)
  81. Edwidge Danticat, Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994)
  82. Linda Hogan, Solar Storms (1994)
  83. Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club (1996)
  84. Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible (1998)
  85. Jonathan Lethem, Motherless Brooklyn (1999)
  86. Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves (2000)
  87. Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000)
  88. Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated (2001)
  89. Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (2002)
  90. Joe Meno, The Boy Detective Fails (2006)
  91. Cormac McCarthy, The Road (2006)
  92. Daniel Woodrell, Winter’s Bone (2006)
  93. Neal Stephenson, Anathem (2008)
  94. Marlon James, The Book of Night Women (2009)
  95. Adam Levin, The Instructions (2010)
  96. Alden Bell, Reapers Are the Angels (2010)
  97. Adam Johnson, The Orphan Master’s Son (2012)
  98. Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins (2012)
  99. Siri Hustvedt, The Blazing World (2014)
  100. Roxane Gay, An Untamed State (2014)

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