Books that shaped a century. Hmmm.

that’s all exciting, and I thought, These are the books of my people! And then
I checked out the list, and I went: Oh.
Here are my
(If I’ve bolded the title, I’ve read the book.)

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884)
I’ve read it! I adore Huck Finn, I adore Mark Twain, and I adore this book. 

Alcoholics Anonymous by anonymous (1939)
Never read it. 

American Cookery by Amelia Simmons (1796)
Never even heard of it. (This would surprise few who have
dined at my table.)

The American Woman’s Home by Catharine E. Beecher and
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1869)

Never heard of it. Again, since this sounds home-ec-y, no
shock there. 

And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts (1987)
Yeah, this one belongs on the list. I haven’t read it, but I think
it definitely belongs here.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (1957)
Ditto on this one.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and
Alex Haley (1965)
Yeah, same thing here.
Beloved by Toni
Morrison (1987)

Damn, this is a
depressing book. But hella memorable.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
by Dee Brown (1970)
I tried to read this one. I tell you: his writing style:

The Call of the Wild by Jack London (1903)

I think
I read excerpts once, in school. It was enough for me.

The Cat
in the Hat by Dr. Seuss (1957)

I’ve read it, and read it, and read it. (Though: the Dr. Seuss book I heard over and over and over and over and over again [my sister would trap each of us in the bathroom while we were in the bathtub — she’d plunk down on the lid of the toilet, and read aloud (sometimes repeatedly during a single bathing session) to a truly captive audience] was Green Eggs and Ham. I do not like them, Sam I am.)

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
I tried to read this book once, in library school. I just
wasn’t captivated. And it didn’t make me laugh, as promised. I’m a hard case sometimes. 

Catcher in the Rye
by J.D. Salinger (1951)
I read
this sometime in my late teens or early twenties and thought: Holden, you’re
really not as cool as you think you are.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (1952)

I remember reading this one on Thanksgiving or Christmas of 1st or 2nd
grade at Grandpa and Grandma’s house. Cried. Also, cursed E.B. White’s name for years, for [Spoiler Alert!] killing

Common Sense by Thomas Paine (1776)
I know it’s important, but I’ve never read it.

The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care by
Benjamin Spock (1946)
Nope. Never touched it.

Cosmos by Carl Sagan (1980)
I think
this would put me to sleep.

A Curious Hieroglyphick Bible by anonymous

The Double Helix by James D. Watson (1968)
This book always shows up on these lists, and I gotta ask:
Has anyone actually ever read it?

The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams
Sounds like a snore.

Experiments and Observations on Electricity by
Benjamin Franklin (1751)
Yeah, how come he shows up here three times? Isn’t Poor
Richard enough?

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury  (1953)
Oh, the shame: I’ve never read this book.

Family Limitation by Margaret Sanger (1914)
Never read it.

The Federalist by anonymous/ thought to be
Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay (1787)
Man, have I read excerpts. Federalist 10 many times over.

Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (1963)
This book told me I wasn’t crazy to be ticked off.

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (1963)
Never heard of it. Why not Go Tell It on the Mountain

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (1940)
Never read it. (Shame.)

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell 
I’d say
I’d think about this tomorrow… but I’ve already read it. Twice.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (1947)

When I became an auntie, I finally read this book. Aloud. Over and over and
over again. (This is a terribly fond recollection.)

A Grammatical Institute of the English Language by Noah
Webster (1783)
Is this
really the title?

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)

When I read
this book, I got so depressed. And didn’t think I liked Steinbeck. Then I read
Travels with Charley and took him off the don’t-like list. I know this is
probably his most important American novel, but I still don’t love it.

The Great
Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

I read this in high school, then once after that. Probably should revisit it
Harriet, the Moses of Her People by Sarah H. Bradford (1901)
Never heard of it.

The History of Standard Oil by Ida Tarbell 
Oh, come on. Really?!

History of the Expedition Under the Command of
the Captains Lewis and Clark by Meriwether Lewis (1814)
significant. Never gonna read it, though.

How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis (1890)
Probably was earthshaking at the time, and I just wonder about the writing
How to Win
Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (1936)

I read it and
it sort of changed my life. (Introverts, we need this book.)
Howl by Allen Ginsberg (1956)
I find you so tiresome and pretentious.

The Iceman Cometh by  Eugene O’Neill (1946)
Never read it.
Idaho: A Guide in
Word and Pictures by Federal Writers’ Project (1937)
Oh, please. Idaho?
(Who wrote this? Someone famous? I know that happened with some of these FWP

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (1966)
only reason I read this (true crime = scary) was for a genre study. Creepy as
hell. I’m still a bit haunted.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1952)
I’ve read excerpts.

Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer (1931)
Again, not in my kitchen.

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (1906)
Are you kidding me? I’m squeamish enough as it is.

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (1855)
Selections only. (It’s sad, but get this: Every time I hear
this title, I think of the fact that Bill Clinton gave a copy to Hillary and to Monica.)

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington
Irving (1820)
Probably would freak me out.

Little Women, or Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy by Louisa
May Alcott (1868)
It took me a couple of tries, but I read this book as a
child. I remember thinking it was overrated.

Mark, the Match Boy by Horatio Alger Jr. (1869)
Oh, how dull.

McGuffey’s Newly Revised Eclectic Primer by
William Holmes McGuffey (1836)
Yeah, I’ve got a copy on my bookshelf here… 

Moby-Dick; or The Whale by Herman Melville
Dreadful thing. I’ve been force-read excerpts.

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
by Frederick Douglass (1845)
I’ve read excerpts.

Native Son by Richard Wright (1940)
Again, me with the excerpts.
New England Primer by anonymous (1803)
Never seen a copy.


Robert Frost (1923)

I’m sure I’ve read (maybe even memorized) poems from this collection,
but I haven’t read the entire thing.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1957)
I skimmed this book for book club. I don’t like Kerouac. (Aren’t
I curmudgeonly with this list? Yes. Yes, I am.)

Our Bodies, Ourselves by Boston Women’s Health Book Collective (1971)
Important? Yes. Have I read it? Not so much.

Our Town: A Play by Thornton Wilder (1938)
I actually love this play. And I own a copy.

Peter Parley’s Universal History by Samuel
Goodrich (1837)
What the heck is this?

Poems by Emily Dickinson (1890)
Emily Dickinson, I love not your poems.

Poor Richard Improved and The Way to Wealth by
Benjamin Franklin (1758)
This is
the Franklin
I’d choose for the list. I’ve seen excerpts.

Pragmatism by William James (1907)
Boring? I’m thinking so.

The Private Life of the Late Benjamin Franklin,
LL.D. by Benjamin Franklin (1793)
Seriously?! What’s with all the Benjamin Franklin?

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (1895)
I’ve read this at least twice, for school assignments. It
made an impression on me—the terrors of war.

Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett (1929)
Yeah, I know it’s pivotal, but I’ve not read it.

Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey (1912)
Have I read this, or do I only think I have? I’m thinking
not… Anyway, I say keep it on the list.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)
I read this way back in high school and found it rather slow.

Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Alfred C.
Kinsey (1948)
Like everyone else in America, I’ve read about this book.

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962)

Not read it, but I know it’s important. 

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (1962)
Not read it.

The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois (1903)
I’ve read excerpts.

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
read it. Not such a fan of Faulkner.

Spring and All by William Carlos Williams (1923)
Never read it.
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert E. Heinlein (1961)
I read this for a genre study. And despised it.
A Street in Bronzeville
by Gwendolyn Brooks (1945)
An Illinoisian!
Maybe I’ve read excerpts?

Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee
Williams (1947)
I was
so confused, and so naïve, when I read this in high school.

Survey of the Roads of the United
States of America by Christopher Colles
We had
roads back then?

Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
So thankful I never have to actually read this. Nobody can make me. 
Their Eyes Were
Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937)
I’ve read this book, and I recall so little of it. My brain,
it is a pitiful object.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)

Yeah, didn’t read this till college. What was wrong with me? Really should
re-read someday. In my ample spare time.

A Treasury of American Folklore by Benjamin A. Botkin (1944)
sounds dull.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
by Betty Smith (1943)
I saw
the movie…

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Yep. Important. Not gonna read it, though.

Unsafe at Any Speed by Ralph Nader (1965)
I get the importance, but is anyone really dashing out to
read this?

Walden; or Life in the Woods by Henry David
Thoreau (1854)
Excerpts. Again, with the excerpts.

The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes (1925)
Not read it.

Where the
Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1963)
I’ll confess it: this book creeps me out.

Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (1900)
This, too, creeps me out. And I ain’t readin’ it.  

The Words of Cesar Chavez by Cesar Chavez (2002)
I know he’s significant, but I’ve honestly never heard of this book.
here’s the tally: I’ve read* 22 of these puppies. Vaguely pathetic? Oh, yes…
only those I’ve read all the way through, not merely dabbled at

8 thoughts on “Books that shaped a century. Hmmm.

  1. Tracy

    Oh, my dear. Where to start??

    I have read ALL FIFTEEN of the Wizard of Oz books. They are ALL AWESOME. I can't make you read them, but you should. 🙂

    Truly offended that you didn't love Little Women. Who didn't want to grow up to be Jo???

    Malcolm X is an interesting read – worth your time.

    Let me know if you ever read Atlas Shrugged – maybe I'll read it with you.

    Totally agree about Holden Caulfield. What was *with* that kid?!

    Damn you E.B. White!! (even though I hate spiders)

    I have the Capote book… still haven't read it. It's on "the list."

    The Jungle – if you weren't already vegetarian, you would be!!

    Proud (?) to say I wrote three papers on Moby Dick in college – and never read past page 50.

    I heart Emily Dickinson.

    The Sound and the Fury has been on "the list" since junior year of high school. Still haven't found time to read it.

    I just read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn last year for the first time. A friend of mine named her baby after the main character (Francie). I thought it was all right, but do not want to name any babies after it.

    Uncle Tom's Cabin is worth the read.

    I'm glad we can still be friends 😉

  2. Trac, I'm often incorrigible. This is no surprise!

    Not gonna read Atlas Shrugged. Ever.

    Moby Dick — you are my hero. Truly.

    I'm glad we're still friends, too. Despite your adoration of the poetry of Dickinson. (Or is it: Despite my dislike of the same?)
    : )

  3. What a fun idea to go through the list with little comments! Too many things to reply to… but I do now want to read all fifteen Wizard of Oz books, after Tracy's enthusiasm!

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