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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

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  • http://outsourcing.yuku.com/ Frank the Underemployed Professional

    Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged, a provocative and challenging piece of philosophical fiction, deserves to be on the list because it has influenced many politicians, including presidents, businessmen, innovators, and members of the general public.

  • http://outsourcing.yuku.com/ Frank the Underemployed Professional

    Let me add that I’ve just found a show that Tom did on Ayn Rand back in 2005:

    http://www.onpointradio.org/shows/2005/02/life-and-legacy-of-ayn-rand/

  • Tom Mountjoy

    I have to cast a vote for The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. I’m not a historian, but I think this book had a profound influence on the government regulation in many areas we have today. Everything from food inspections to lending regulations. Trouble is sometimes we lose sight of the need for regulation!

  • Rick Evans

    Ditto on Ayn Rand. Thanks to her shaping of Alan Greenspan’s brain the effects of her thinking are multiplying through the economy in spades. Alan Shrugged and the financial fell from his shoulders crashing into a million little pieces.

  • http://stevequires.wordpress.com Steve Squires

    This is a great show – I’ve added it to my web site to start some discussion. One point though – I wonder what this list would look like if it was constructed by a female, African American, etc. No discounting the list – really good, just wondering what other’s list would look like :)

  • Robert

    I’m surprised that the work that made this nation a nation didn’t make it. Common Sense by Thomas Paine (though only technically a pamphlet, but hey the Federalist Papers were originally newspaper articles) convinced the American people to change the goals of the American Revolution from representation in Parliament to a complete break with Britain.

  • Rob Wells

    I didn’t hear a military book, I would suggest “Red Badge of Courage”. Isn’t the civil war the single most important influence in our nation’s history?

  • Rick Evans

    I meant to say “financial world”.

  • Posy Walton

    I’m glad to know that Parini has included The Souls of Black Folk in his list–but as he goes on his book tour, he needs to know the the author’s name is not spoken with the French pronunciation, “du bwah,” but is pronounced “du boyz.”

  • Karen

    Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood changed American literature. I believe it ushered in the stark realism in writing we take for granted today.

  • Martin Lowenthal

    Another Book that has been influential for millions of Americans and helped create an entire worldwide movement is Alcoholics Anonymous. It has set the tone not only for Alcoholics and addicts but also for the support group movement that has grown both within and outside therapeutic contexts.

  • Joanna Drzewieniecki

    In the last few years, I have spent a lot of time watching old movies and classics from the “golden age of television.” These productions as well as a series of books about pioneers and others, have made me realize that one of the basic, overarching facts about the background of the American “psyche” is that for a couple of centuries everyone who received and education, received a European classical education. Everyone who received an education basically all read the same books. It seems to me that to this day, these books are the basis of our worldview. The books suggested by the author are the second layer that make America America. I think it is important to remember both sources of what we are today. I don’t want to go on for too long but very briefly: I think that “European classical education” is an important factor to this day in limiting our understanding the rest of the world. Furthermore, these classics along with the books suggested by the author also make it almost impossible for America to come to terms with our foundational responsibilities in destroying Indians and their cultures.

  • catherine

    With the self-help books you include, why is Alcoholics Anonymous not included, as well?

  • Astrid afKlinteberg

    To Kill A Mockingbird. This book launched tens (perhaps hundreds) of thousands of legal careers. This book is the shining beacon for criminal defense attorneys (including yours truly). It is the touchstone for the profession.

    ps Please try to resist the jokes. Atticus Finch is the kind of lawyer all good attorneys asspire to be.

  • LM

    per the conversation on Leaves of Grass: how much does it matter how many people read a book? if the ideas and art of a book enter the intelligentsia and those people begin to work with it, its ideas enter the culture and so does it not attain influence in this way?

  • Joanna Drzewieniecki

    LM,I think that’s just how it works. Best, J.

  • http://jupick@hotmail.com Julie Pickett

    I would put Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck on your list. This book shaped my thinking in a profound way regarding social consciousness. Also Song of Solomon and/or Beloved by Toni Morrison — my first exposure to a female point of view on slavery and civil rights

  • Ellen Schorr

    I can’t imagine where we would be today without Rachael Carson’s Silent Spring.
    It shook to the foundations the myth that unfettered “progress” had no consequenses. I would think modern ecology starts there.

  • willvis

    These are among the best-selling books of all time:

    Robert Baden-Powell, Scouting for Boys: A Handbook for Instruction in Good Citizenship

    Joseph Smith, Jr., The Book of Mormon

    Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life

    JD Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

    Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich

    The Hite Report, Shere Hite

  • Anthony Green

    This list has some surprises, and I agree whole-heartedly with comments made about Alcoholics Anonymous (which could replace Dr. Spock’s Book) and Atlas Shrugged (which could replace the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin). Perhaps there could have been room for “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl,” but 13 is a rather small list considering the depth of this country.

    What disturbed me most, however, is when Parini was talking about the immigrant book and said that “everyone here who’s not Native American is an immigrant,” and failed to say, “some against their will,” and failed to mention slavery or blacks when he was talking about what immigrants observed when they arrived as opposed to what they imagined.

  • casey coburn

    This program had me running to get my copy of “The Promised Land” to re-read. Again.
    On another note, and some may find this picky, but the correct word for women who rallied for the vote is “suffragist” not “suffragette.” The latter is a perjorative that has crept into the language as acceptable. It’s a put-down akin to “the little woman” when referring to a wife.
    Otherwise, I loved the program. As usual.

  • ADH

    Where can the author’s list of his 100 books be found?

    Great show, as usual.

  • Chris Marris

    I am disappointed by Jay Parini’s list.

    He leaves out any book that captures the immigrant experience in America. He makes it seem as if the wasp culture set was the norm and only books that either express those cultural values or challenge them are important.

    I would suggest that books like Saul Bellow’s Augie March which for many ethnic American writers changed their perception of the country and their place in it. Writers as diverse as Jeffrey Eugenides and Philip Roth looked to that book as a liberating experience and not Kerouac or the beats.

    Mary Antin’s book btw doesn’t even come close to having have had the same influence as Bellow did.

  • http://darkcontintent.blogsphere.com e. frances white

    Please stress the point about the pronunciation of Du Bois’ name. He did not pronounce it as if it were French, but as Du Boyz, as suggested above.

    I’ve noticed two books that have influenced my college-age students from their high school reading, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and Toni Morrison’s Beloved. I think would would not have Obama as president if it weren’t for the impact of these books.

  • Kate Connell

    I enjoyed the program but was taken aback to hear Jay Parini state that Susan B. Anthony participated in the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention. He is incorrect. Susan B. Anthony was not at Seneca Falls. That historic meeting was organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Stanton wrote the Declaration of Sentiments for the occasion, which was the first time a woman publicly demanded the right to vote. Perhaps Parini misspoke, but in doing so he contributed to a common misconception about Susan Anthony. Although Anthony is justly famous for her decades of work for women’s suffrage, she was not present at the birth of the movement at Seneca Falls. That honor belongs to Stanton, the founding mother of the 19th century women’s rights movement.

  • Robbins

    “I’ve noticed two books that have influenced my college-age students from their high school reading, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and Toni Morrison’s Beloved. I think would would not have Obama as president if it weren’t for the impact of these books.”

    I read both books when I was in college many years ago. Loved Ellison’s novel hated Morrison’s Beloved.

    I voted for Obama but no because of these books. I also voted for Clinton and it wasn’t because I read Faulkner.

    Let’s get real here.

  • kate and leon

    Once again, Tom, thanks for a very special program. The conversation you had with Jay was filled with a sense of discovery, like two friends on a treasure hunt. We would like to add to that conversation.

    Like all colonial powers, we in this country do tend to have institutional amnesia. What about that part of the unfolding of the Americas that has come at the expense of indigenous peoples for whom this was truly a “promised land?” They were here, in true relationship with the bounty of this land, with a deep sense of gratitude for those gifts. It is too easy to reject or overlook the contributions of those who were here before us. They were here long before the peoples of Europe even knew that the earth was round, and they had well-developed systems of living with each other, the land, and their sense of the source of all life. What if we had been more willing to learn from them, rather than treat them as inferior?

    Until we acknowledge, and make amends for, what amounted to genocide, we have little hope of ever completely fulfilling the “promise” of this land.

    Here are some (of the many) books that we feel add to a balanced understanding of this “promised land.”

    The Spirit of Crazy Horse, by Peter Matthiessen
    Seven Arrows, by Hyemeyohsts Storm (a teaching story)
    Creek Mary’s Blood, by Dee Brown (novel)
    Touching the Fire, by Roger Welsch
    Touch the Earth: A Self-portrait of Indian Existence, compiled by T. C. McLuhan
    Dance Back the Buffalo, by Milton Lott (novel)

    P.S. We’d love to hear a program that would help restore the memory of those who would prefer to stay more comfortable and therefore less informed.

  • Robison

    I was glad to see the comments by Posy and e. frances white about the pronunciation of Dubois. Even after Tom Ashbrook subtly tried to insert the correct pronunciation (Doo-Boys), Parini then went on to insist on his French at least five more times. I am shocked that a professor from Middlebury could not have heard the correct pronunciation at some point during his research! Otherwise, I enjoyed hearing the list and the comments.

  • http://www.insideoutchina.com Xujun Eberlein

    I wrote a blog post (see http://www.insideoutchina.com) after listening to this show, and bought Jay’s book right away. Thank you!

  • Kate Connell

    Robison, I had a similar reaction to Parini’s statement about Susan B. Anthony and the Seneca Falls Convention. (See my comment.) I thought, how could a professor at Middlebury College get it so wrong? It’s just further proof, if we needed any, that everyone makes mistakes–even professors at elite colleges!

  • Delbert Frum

    The Whole Earth Catalog had a vast effect on a generation of Americans reconsidering their place in the received value system. It provided practical, life oriented guidance forward when the mythos of much economic, social, religious, and political dogmas were– at least temporarily– exposed as a bare cupboard. While that book was necessarily superceded by other informational avenues, it was an early beacon in the forest for disenchanted people not satisfied with either the tune-in-drop-out or the march-in-the-streets modalities. It helped move many of us back to where we could, if we looked hard enough, we could see our roots, until then receding beyond reclamation.

  • Rosemary Richards

    The Promised Land by Mary Antin was written by my Grandmother. She was complex and a seeker, speaker, and controversial woman. Thank you for understanding her contribution. Her book is still being used in colleges not only in the USA but in other countries. There was a documentary done by people from Germany a few years ago. They came to our home and Mary Antin was added to the list of Jewish women in history who influenced our world. She spoke for all people and she believed in and loved this country.
    Sincerely
    Rosemary Richards

  • NCSteve

    Am watching Parini on Book TV and am finding his comments very interesting. Great suggestions above to add to the list. I can’t help but hope that Thomas Friedman’s “Hot, Flat, and Crowded” will one day be added to the list. We’re at Code Green, my townspeople!

  • http://www.booksbynicolewilson.com Mendel Potok

    I’d have to put the Book of Mormon up there. That Book help shape (and eventually tame) the American west.

  • Lilya Lopekha

    Let’s have a “re-broadcast” about the birds and the bees.

    Political topics like “9/11 Truth Movement” is too hot for OnPoint to handle. 

    How about … Knitting and Massage Theraphy and Canning Fruits in October. 

    Tom Ashbrook:  Is this a Joke? 

    • David Ross

      Let’s not pollute other show threads with the 9/11 stuff, take it back to the original thread.

      • nj

        Agreed. Flag it as inappropriate.

    • Jasoturner

      How many moons on your planet?

    • Chris B

      Isn’t it fairly obvious that there doing reruns because they’re on vacation?

  • http://profiles.google.com/lloydrph Jonathan Lloyd

    What about the 1872 Montgomery Ward mail-order catalogue? Hey, it’s a book, and it influenced a lot of people (leading to the behemoth Sears catalogue) and created an entire culture of consumerism. I’d say that was pretty influential.

  • Jasoturner

    An interesting variant on this might be a show about the 100 books that have most affected the lives of individuals.  For instance, my appreciation of craftsmanship and creativity was influenced significantly by Robert Persig.  But his books would not merit mention in this show, I don’t think.

    • nj

      It’s an interesting point. What’s the dividing line between affecting individuals or even small groups and “changing America”?

      Most any “movement” or major social transformation one can think begins with the famous saying’s “small group of thoughtful, committed individuals.” Writings from people like Thoreau (on the guest’s list) were largely ignored when they were first published.

      Not a book, exactly, but The Whole Earth Catalog, its various updates and supplements, and the ongoing quarterly publications (first the Whole Earth Quarterly then Whole Earth Review) really helped form  the way i thought about a lot of things. I think i went into some kind of withdrawal when WER stopped publishing in 1999, and i’m not sure i’ve yet fully recovered.

      • nj

        Dang…paragraph 2: “…one can think of begins…”

      • Jasoturner

        It would be fun to get one’s hands on an original copy of the WEC and design a 2011 “reboot”.  Agree that that was a terrific, inspiring publication.  Imagine all the stuff you could do today regarding energy systems, information and communication technologies, games, climate, etc.  My memory of WEC is really fuzzy, but I know it was the cat’s ass in it’s heyday.

  • Jasoturner

    But let us not conflate popularity with influence.  This is a discussion of books that shaped America.

  • Jasoturner

    This is an excellent comment and exactly targets the show topic.  It also reminds me to re-read this classic.

  • Historian

    The professor who taught me United States history twenty-five years ago in NC was once on a hotel shuttle bus sitting next to Mrs. Dubois at a meeting of historians (long after her husband had died, of course). They were chatting, and, when he realized who she was, he said to her, “I think I know how to pronounce your name, but could you please confirm it?” She chuckled and said, “You may pronounce it any way you want, but my husband always pronounced it “Doo-boys.” It is, indeed, shocking that a professor at Middlebury wouldn’t know how to pronounce a name that gives most historians no trouble whatsoever. A sad commentary on that college’s academic integrity, albeit in a small way.

  • Charlie mc

        Any collection of photos from the Hubble Space Telescope should have changed everyone contemplating the cosmos, but I wonder at the nearsightedness we all tend to suffer from that focuses our attention onto the realities we desire for more proximate stimulation and profit.

  • Chris B

    Pretty much like Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

  • Paul Hickey

    Where is Plato’s ‘The Republic’??  The basic concept of justice and democratic principles were outlined in this ancient text. 

    • RMS

      Have you noticed that the list is composed of books by those immersed in the American Experience, writing from it and about it.

  • Evelyn

    It seems to me that the extermination of Native Peoples forms such a huge part of our history that that should be addressed in the original 13 books!

  • Jasoturner

    Indeed.  At least as a cautionary tale!

  • Scott Larson

    I think Mr. Parini has missed the boat on one very important book at least. Though the Bible has always enjoyed a place of prominence in the homes of America, the resurgence of bible reading in the early 19th century fostered such an explosion of religious furvor it forever changed the face of America then and inextricably shaped its future. Much of American life today is informed by generations of dedication to the ideals found in scripture.

  • Georgewalterborn

    I’d add “Moby Dick” -

  • Joyce

    I do believe the Native Americans need to be represented….Bury  My Heart at Wounded Knee.  Wolfie

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QME6C6XTBAYFEJP2GYDH3VQEMU Beat

    Chariots of the Gods changed America.

  • Michael Muehlbauer

    Regarding the great impact they had on the conservation movement, I would also consider any of John Muir’s writings.  Especially “A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf” and “My First Summer in the Sierra”.

  • Chkeefer

    Missed the show but also miss mention of American Indian writings or biographies, e.g., Geronimo, Last Standing Woman by Winona LaDuke.  The land on which this “Promised Land” was built is stitched through with broken promises but also suffused with a resilience and spirit that could only strengthen this nation if acknowledged.

  • Eva S. Moseley

    Please tell Jay Parini that Susan B. Anthony was not at the Seneca Falls convention.  It was Elizabeth Cady Stanton who proposed campaigning for suffrage; most of the other delegates thought this idea too radical.  Later Stanton and Anthony became a team. 
    In addition, the American women called themselves suffragists.  Here the term suffragette was considered disparaging, though it was the accepted term in Britain.
    (I was for 28 years curator of manuscripts at the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, at what was then Radcliffe College.)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QME6C6XTBAYFEJP2GYDH3VQEMU Beat

    “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus”. to tell you frankly the list of old books written above are not widely read by younger generations from 45 yrs old and below.

  • Cecelia Blair

    I found Jay Parini’s list excellent and him to be refreshing and not arrogant, as I had expected. When I was an adolescent girl in the 60′s, virtually all the books were about white boys and men. The entire description of reality and aspiration was defined by their experience alone. We young women got the point. One after another of my friends tried to commit suicide, because there was absolutely no place to “go” in this world. But when we started to read The Feminine Mystique, The Second Sex, Sisterhood Is Powerful, MS Magazine, etc., a world of understanding, commonality and possibilities opened up. Our lives were energized, inspired and changed. I applaud Parini for his thinking, his list, and the inclusion of Friedan’s book. Books and their perspectives on reality are very consequential.

    Now, in my view, “the quest” has moved on. My peers moved on into a psycho-spiritual realm through such writers as Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, and now a great many of us, men and women, are involved largely in a spiritual quest. A book which represents and fuels this movement is Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now–even promoted by Oprah for an entire year, if memory serves me correctly.

    The overall theme of The Promised Land still holds true, however, and the related themes of the journey and quest.

    Thank you for a really intelligent, inspiring show!

  • Cabmanjohnny

    Whole Earth Catalogue. Major influence on my young adulthood, as it said ” access to tools” in many forms which enabled me to develop a trade and productive life. 

  • Johnny Bear

    What happened to Babbit, Grapes Of Wrath, Sand County Almanac, Silent Spring?

    Glad your guest has a sense of humor and realizes what a silly project this sort of a list represents…

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for not including the Bible, the Book of Mormon, AA books, and crap by Ayn Rand on the list (and anticipating a future post, Dianetics).

    • Jeansmith1015

      hey, dianetics sucked, but I have to admit, I really enjoyed Hubbard’s Mission Earth

  • Rebekkah

    A book that I hope we will see helped shape America in the future is Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol which I had to read before Freshman orientation of college.  This book unrelentingly highlights the growing gap between the classes by exploring the country’s richest and poorest schools.  The descriptions practically beg for changes in the way America addresses education and educational funding. 

  • Bruce

    Silent Spring which jumpstarted the environmental movement and the creation of the EPA.

  • Stephanie

    Steinbeck!  Sinclair!  Class consciousness and role of government are fundamental themes of American life and debate that these authors explore. 

  • dorothy, not the one from oz

    He didn’t say THE 13 books…these are just some that he chose, yes?   My list would be totally different, I have to admit, but maybe I’ll now read a couple of these that I’ve missed. Isn’t this a great way to start a constructive and highly engaging conversation? And isn’t that kind of the point?

  • Mabirdie

    I would add Thunder Rolling in the Mountains, a story about Chief Joseph.

  • Jean Smith

    I am a bit disappointed that Silent Spring and A Sand County Almanac is not in the list.

  • Jeff Bonasia

    Great idea for a book. Thank you Jay (and Tom).

    After listening, I swiftly made my way to Amazon and can’t wait to wade though these pages, immersing myself in our history – the powerful thoughts and written words of true, honest Americans.

    Jeff B.
    Charlestown, MA

  • Joanhannah

    As an artist and poet I’m really quite astounded that Mr Parini, as a poet himself, did not include one book of poetry.  “Moby Dick” and “The Scarlet Letter”, as well as “Silent Spring”; “Walden” to my mind, did not change America, neither did “The Promised Land”, a rather obscure book to most people.
      As far as the journal of Gov. Bradford, as fascinating as it probably is, it, in as of itself, did not change anything; the fact of his being governor did. The “pilgrims” or Puritans, after all, were the ones who hung and burned the so-called witches of Salem. Massachusetts was the first “slave”state (really? it’s true!). The repression, ignorance and lack of joy
    in NewEngland was unbelievable due to Puritan preacher such as Cotton Mather and others.
      Sadly, this country was created in violence and is still violent. The wonderful ideals of the founders have been all but obliterated now. Ben Franklin was certainly precient in what he said; he knew human nature well.
     The inclusion of the Dale Carnegie was purely ridiculous!

    • bsb

      I agree. I was very surprised that Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was not on the list.   And no poetry?  Sad.

  • Chats72

    Jacob Riis’s  ‘How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements of New York. ‘ comes to mind. 

    Thank you Jay Parini

  • Chats72

    Where can we find the extended list – 100 books?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Amy-Braunstein/8823950 Amy Braunstein

    The writings of Hunter Thompson are very important to the second half of the 20th Century.  Beyond Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas he offered scathing critiques in his Fear and Loathing on the Campaign 72 Campaign trail.  Hell’s Angels looked at the culture which gave rise to these bikers. Gonzo journalism (and Gonzo the Muppet) came out of Thompson’s works.

  • Greg Boyd

    Mark Twain’s “Puddin’ Head Wilson” (sp?)

  • latenight20009

    And then plays — Death of a Salesman,  e.g.,?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brennan-Moriarty/100000655771831 Brennan Moriarty

    “The 9 Nations of North America” [1987?] this book has A MAP! that describes… America even beyond the borders, with geographic reality.
    This book was written by a media-head who dealt with reporters who had experienced first hand what attitudes and geo-realities exist.

    Now if you were a doctor who was diagnosing problems / ['doing a check up'], first thing you’d say is “let’s take a look” and show me where it hurts, with reference to [cultural] reactions and [geographic] areas and history.

    Ultimately we should be able uncover/SOLVE our muse and national identity without overthinking or burying a thorn-in-the-side that is predictable, but not worth talking/reading about;
     then… :) !

  • Listen2er

    I would suggest adding Dee Brown’s “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.”

    • Ted

      YES YES YES!!! As I listened to the broadcast I was thoroughly dismayed that it wasn’t on the list. Not to discount the historical plight of African-Americans in the United States, but Native American culture was effectively destroyed and the remaining population was moved to untenable ground in the west. It was disturbing to listen to the author comment on Uncle Tom’s Cabin and African-American history without the slightest hint or mention of what was, in my opinion, an equally if not worse destruction of a people and their culture.

  • Cecelia Blair

    I appreciated the ideas in a lot of the comments, but I think some people missed that Parini wasn’t including novels and poetry, and that he was trying to list books which either shaped or reflected the dominant trends in America’s idea of itself. Emphasis on dominant, rather than what maybe should have been more dominant in our self awareness as an evolvlng nation.

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