The Greatest American Novels of the Past 100 Years

According to an article in The Atlantic magazine, the concept of the “great American novel” was dreamed up in 1868 by a little known writer named John William DeForest. The United States had just emerged from the Civil War, and DeForest recognized that the end of the war had ushered in a fundamentally different nation than had existed just a few years earlier.

DeForest defined “the great American novel” as a work of fiction that undertook the “task of painting the American soul.” When he came up with the idea, he confessed that such a novel had not yet been written.

The Atlantic recently put together a list of the greatest American novels of the past century. The list is not ranked, but is instead listed chronologically.

Of the 136 novels on the list, 45 were debut novels. 9 went on to win the Pulitzer Prize, and 3 are intended for children. Twelve were published before the advent of the mass market paperback, and 25 were published after the introduction of the Kindle. At least 60 of the book on the list have been banned by schools or libraries at one time or another. Several authors have 2 books on the list, but only one, Toni Morrison, has 3.

Here is the list compiled by The Atlantic of the greatest American novels of the past 100 years (books I’ve read are bolded):


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *