PLEDGE NOW
Books That Changed America

Rebroadcast

From Huck Finn to The Feminine Mystique. Author and critic Jay Parini on the books that changed America.

The basement of the Newark Public Library. (AP)

The basement of the Newark Public Library. (AP)

In the age of video games, cell phone texting, and the instant message, the idea that books shape a nation may seem like a stretch.

But look back across American history, and at nearly every key moment of definition, of transition, there stands a book that nails the change.

Novelist, critic, and poet Jay Parini has sifted out of his list a baker’s dozen of books that shaped the nation’s very understanding of itself. “Huck Finn” is in there. So is “Walden.” Lewis and Clark’s journals. “The Souls of Black Folk.” “The Feminine Mystique.” “On the Road.”

This hour in an archive edition of On Point: Thirteen books that changed America.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guest

Jay Parini, poet, novelist, critic, and biographer. He’s a professor of English and creative writing at Middlebury College in Vermont and has written biographies of Frost, Faulkner, and Steinbeck. His new book is “Promised Land: Thirteen Books That Changed America.”

More

Read excerpts from “Promised Land,” including the chapter on William Bradford’s “Of Plymouth Plantation,” at RandomHouse.com.

Here are the thirteen books that made Parini’s list:

– Of Plymouth Plantation (1620-47), by William Bradford
– The Federalist Papers (1787-88)
– The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1793)
– The Journals of Lewis and Clark (1803-06)
– Walden (1854), by Henry David Thoreau
– Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), by Harriet Beecher Stowe
– Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), by Mark Twain
– The Souls of Black Folk (1903), by W.E.B. DuBois
– The Promised Land (1912), by Mary Antin
– How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936), by Dale Carnegie
– The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care (1946), by Benjamin Spock
– On the Road (1957), by Jack Kerouac
– The Feminine Mystique (1963), by Betty Friedan

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
May 26, 2016
This Jan. 26, 2016 file photo shows a "For Sale" sign hanging in front of an existing home in Atlanta.  Short of savings and burdened by debt, America's millennials are struggling to afford their first homes in the face of sharply higher prices in many of the most desirable cities. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

No more ’empty nest’. A third of millennials now live at home with their parents. We’ll look at what’s still pushing that trend.

May 26, 2016
This March 16, 2015 photo shows portraits of now-retired U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Marshall Powell, right, and his wife, Arasi, at their home in Crescent, Okla. Powell suffers from a psychological wound called "moral injury" after serving as an Army nurse in Iraq and Afghanistan. Arasi, also a soldier who served in Iraq, had received treatment for PTSD. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

In advance of Memorial Day, we’ll talk with Sebastian Junger about vets coming home and missing their “Tribe.” Plus, a WWII veteran remembers life on and off and the battlefield.

RECENT
SHOWS
May 25, 2016
Police gather in a cordoned off area where a possible murder suspect fired shots at officers surrounding a South Side home where he is barricaded Thursday, May 12, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Predictive policing. With violence on the rise, Chicago has turned to big data to predict gun and gang violence.

 
May 25, 2016
This April 29, 2014, file photo, shows an Exxon sign at a Exxon gas station in Carnegie, Pa. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

How will the oil giants do business in the climate change future? Shareholders at Exxon, Chevron and more want to hear their plans. So do we.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
WWII Vet Larry Kirby Reflects On American Values
Thursday, May 26, 2016

Looking ahead to Memorial Day, a World War II veteran looks back at the experiences that mattered to him, both in and out of war.

More »
Comment
 
Gloria Steinem Explains Her ‘Bernie Boys’ Comment
Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Feminist activist Gloria Steinem explains why her apparent diss of female supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders was anything but.

More »
Comment
 
‘Best Of’ 2016 Commencement Speeches
Monday, May 16, 2016

Excerpts from a few of the best commencement speeches delivered to the graduating class of 2016.

More »
Comment