The 100 Greatest American Novels, 1893 – 1993 by Jeff O'Neal at Bookriot.com

The 100 greatest american novels picked by Jeff O’Neal, Editor-in-Chief & Co-founder of Bookriot.com

  1. Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane

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    First published in 1893, this realistic tale of a young girl in the slums of New York shocked readers. With five other stories, from the local color of small-town life to war stories full of irony ...

    - Google

  2. The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett

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    A writer comes one summer to Dunnet Landing, a Maine seacoast town, where she follows the lonely inhabitants of once-prosperous coastal towns. Here, lives are molded by the long Maine winters, rock...

    - Google

  3. The Awakening by Kate Chopin

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    First published in 1899, this novel shocked readers with its open sensuality and uninhibited treatment of marital infidelity. Poignant and lyrical, it tells the story of a New Orleans wife who atte...


  4. The Call of the Wild by Jack London

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    The plot concerns a previously domesticated and even somewhat pampered dog named Buck, whose primordial instincts return after a series of events finds him serving as a sled dog in the treacherous...


  5. The Golden Bowl by Henry James

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    Set in England, this complex, intense study of marriage and adultery completes what some critics have called the "major phase" of James' career. The Golden Bowl explores the tangle of interrelation...


  6. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

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    From the esteemed author of The Age of Innocence--a black comedy about vast wealth and a woman who can define herself only through the perceptions of others. Lily Bart's quest to find a husband who...


  7. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

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    1906 best-seller shockingly reveals intolerable labor practices and unsanitary working conditions in the Chicago stockyards as it tells the brutally grim story of a Slavic family that emigrates to ...


  8. Three Lives by Gertrude Stein

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    American writer Gertrude Stein was definitely decades ahead of her time. Injecting experimental and avant-garde elements into her work, she described her method as "literary cubism" -- an understan...

    - Google

  9. Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson

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    James Weldon Johnson's landmark novel is an emotionally gripping and poignant look into race relations. The protagonist, a half-white, half-black man of very light complexion, known only as an ex-c...

    - Google

  10. The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington

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    The novel and trilogy traces the growth of the United States through the declining fortunes of three generations of the aristocratic Amberson family in a fictional Midwestern town, between the end ...


  11. My Antonia by Willa Cather

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    In Willa Cather's own estimation, My Antonia, first published in 1918, was "the best thing I've ever done." An enduring paperback bestseller on Houghton Mifflin's literary list, this hauntingly elo...


  12. Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson

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    Before Raymond Carver, John Cheever, and Richard Ford, there was Sherwood Anderson, who, with Winesburg, Ohio, charted a new direction in American fiction — evoking with lyrical simplicity quiet mo...


  13. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis

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    In this classic satire of small-town America, beautiful young Carol Kennicott comes to Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, with dreams of transforming the provincial old town into a place of beauty and cult...


  14. Cane by Jean Toomer

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    Cane is a 1923 novel by noted Harlem Renaissance figure and author Jean Toomer. The novel is structured as a series of vignettes revolving around the origins and experiences of African Americans in...


  15. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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    The novel chronicles an era that Fitzgerald himself dubbed the "Jazz Age". Following the shock and chaos of World War I, American society enjoyed unprecedented levels of prosperity during the "roar...


  16. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

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    Clyde Griffiths is a young man with ambitions. He's in love with a rich girl, but it's a poor girl he has gotten pregnant, Roberta Alden, who works with him at his uncle's factory. One day he takes...

    - Time

  17. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

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    The novel explores the lives and values of the so-called "Lost Generation," chronicling the experiences of Jake Barnes and several acquaintances on their pilgrimage to Pamplona for the annual San F...


  18. The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

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    The Bridge of San Luis Rey is American author Thornton Wilder's second novel, first published in 1927 to worldwide acclaim. It tells the story of several interrelated people who die in the collapse...


  19. Home to Harlem by Claude McKay

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    With sensual, often brutal accuracy, Claude McKay traces the parallel paths of two very different young men struggling to find their way through the suspicion and prejudice of American society. At ...

    - Google

  20. Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe

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    It is Wolfe's first novel, and is considered a highly autobiographical American Bildungsroman. The character of Eugene Gant is generally believed to be a depiction of Wolfe himself. The novel cover...

    - 1929

  21. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

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    The Sound and the Fury is set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County. The novel centers on the Compson family, former Southern aristocrats who are struggling to deal with the dissolution of their fa...


  22. Flowering Judas and Other Stories by Katherine Anne Porter

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    the astonishing 1930 collection that introduced a major new voice in American literature. "If Katherine Anne Porter had written nothing but these short narratives," observed the New York Times, "sh...

    - Google

  23. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

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    A treasure worth killing for. Sam Spade, a slightly shopworn private eye with his own solitary code of ethics. A perfumed grafter named Joel Cairo, a fat man name Gutman, and Brigid O’Shaughnessy, ...


  24. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

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    The moving story of the honest farmer Wang Lung and his selfless wife O-lan, in which the author presents a graphic view of a China when the last emperor reigned and the vast political and social u...


  25. Call It Sleep by Henry Roth

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    Call It Sleep is the story of an Austrian-Jewish immigrant family in New York in the early part of the twentieth century. Six-year-old David Schearl has a close and loving relationship with his mot...


  26. Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara

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    Appointment in Samarra, published in 1934, is the first novel by John O'Hara. It concerns the self-destruction of Julian English, once a member of the social elite of Gibbsville (O'Hara's fictional...


  27. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

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    Set in France (primarily Paris) during the 1930s, it is the tale of Miller's life as a struggling writer. Combining fiction and autobiography, some chapters follow a strict narrative and refer to M...


  28. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

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    The main character, an African American woman in her early forties named Janie Crawford, tells the story of her life and journey via an extended flashback to her best friend, Pheoby, so that Pheoby...


  29. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

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    Gone With the Wind is set in Jonesboro and Atlanta, Georgia during the American Civil War and Reconstruction and follows the life of Scarlett O'Hara, the daughter of an Irish immigrant plantation o...


  30. U.S.A. Trilogy by John Dos Passos

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    The U.S.A. Trilogy is the major work of American writer John Dos Passos, comprising the novels The 42nd Parallel (1930), 1919, also known as Nineteen Nineteen (1932), and The Big Money (1936). The ...


  31. The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West

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    The Day of the Locust is a 1939 novel by American author Nathanael West, set in Hollywood, California during the Great Depression, depicting the alienation and desperation of a disparate group of i...


  32. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

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    The Big Sleep (1939) is a crime novel by Raymond Chandler, the first in his acclaimed series about hardboiled detective Philip Marlowe. The work has been adapted twice into film, once in 1946 and a...


  33. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

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    Set during the Great Depression, the novel focuses on a poor family of sharecroppers, the Joads, driven from their home by drought, economic hardship, and changes in the agriculture industry. In a ...


  34. The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

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    Written in Charlotte, North Carolina in a house on East Blvd, it is about a deaf man named John Singer and the people he encounters in a 1930s mill town in the U.S. state of Georgia.


  35. Native Son by Richard Wright

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    The novel tells the story of 20-year old Bigger Thomas, an African American living in utter poverty. Bigger lived in Chicago's South Side ghetto in the 1930s. Bigger was always getting into troubl...


  36. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

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    The American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the century. This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended ...

    - Google

  37. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

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    The Fountainhead's protagonist, Howard Roark, is an individualistic young architect who chooses to struggle in obscurity rather than compromise his artistic and personal vision. The book follows hi...


  38. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

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    The Catcher in the Rye is a 1945 novel by J. D. Salinger. Originally published for adults, the novel has become a common part of high school and college curricula throughout the English-speaking wo...


  39. All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren

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    All the King's Men portrays the dramatic political ascent and governorship of Willie Stark, a driven, cynical populist in the American South during the 1930s.


  40. Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener

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    Tales of the South Pacific is a Pulitzer Prize winning collection of sequentially related short stories about World War II, written by James A. Michener in 1946. The stories were based on observati...


  41. The Naked Dead by Norman Mailer

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    The Naked and the Dead is a 1948 novel by Norman Mailer. It was based on his experiences and exaggerations of that experience with the 112th Cavalry Regiment during the Philippines Campaign (1944–4...


  42. The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

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    The Lottery, one of the most terrifying stories written in this century, created a sensation when it was first published in The New Yorker. "Power and haunting," and "nights of unrest" were typical...

    - Google

  43. The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles

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    The story centers on Port and Kit Moresby, a married couple originally from New York who travel to the North African desert accompanied by their friend Tunner. The journey, initially an attempt by ...


  44. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

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    The novel addresses many of the social and intellectual issues facing African-Americans in the early twentieth century, including black nationalism, the relationship between black identity and Marx...


  45. The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow

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    The Adventures of Augie March (1953) is a novel by Saul Bellow. It centers on the eponymous character who grows up during the Great Depression. This picaresque novel is an example of bildungsroman,...


  46. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

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    The novel examines the role of the Christian Church in the lives of African-Americans, both as a source of repression and moral hypocrisy and as a source of inspiration and community. It also, more...


  47. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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    A totalitarian regime has ordered all books to be destroyed, but one of the book burners suddenly realizes their merit

    - Google

  48. Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor

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    Andersonville is a novel by MacKinlay Kantor concerning the Confederate prisoner of war camp, Andersonville prison, during the American Civil War (1861–1865). The novel was originally published in ...


  49. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

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    The book is internationally famous for its innovative style and infamous for its controversial subject: the protagonist and unreliable narrator, middle aged Humbert Humbert, becomes obsessed and se...


  50. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

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    On the Road is a largely autobiographical work that was based on the spontaneous road trips of Kerouac and his friends across mid-century America. It is often considered a defining work of the post...


  51. Gimpel the Fool by Isaac B Singer

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    "Gimpel the Fool" (1953) is a short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, translated into English by Saul Bellow in 1953. It tells the story of Gimpel, a simple bread maker who is the butt of many of his...


  52. The Magic Barrel by Bernard Malamud

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    The Magic Barrel is a collection of thirteen short stories written by Bernard Malamud and published in 1958. It won the 1959 National Book Award for fiction. The stories included are The First Sev...


  53. Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth

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    Goodbye, Columbus (1959) is the title of the first book published by the American novelist Philip Roth, a collection of six stories. In addition to its title novella, set in New Jersey, Goodbye,...


  54. Naked Lunch by William Burroughs

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    The book is structured as a series of loosely-connected vignettes. Burroughs himself stated that the chapters are intended to be read in any order. The reader follows the narration of junkie Willia...


  55. Brown Girl, Brownstones by Paule Marshall

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    "An unforgettable novel, written with pride and anger, with rebellion and tears."—Herald Tribune Book Review"Passionate, compelling . . . an impressive accomplishment."—Saturday Review"Remarkable f...

    - Google

  56. Little Disturbances by Grace Paley


  57. Rabbit, Run by John Updike

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    Rabbit, Run depicts five months in the life of a 26-year-old former high school basketball player named Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom, and his attempts to escape the constraints of his life.


  58. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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    As a Southern Gothic novel and a Bildungsroman, the primary themes of To Kill a Mockingbird involve racial injustice and the destruction of innocence. Scholars have noted that Lee also addresses is...


  59. The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth

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    The novel is set in the 1680s and 90s in London and on the eastern shore of the colony of Maryland. It tells the story of an English poet named Ebenezer Cooke who is given the title "Poet Laureate ...


  60. The Moviegoer by Walker Percy

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    The Moviegoer tells the story of Binx Bolling, a young stockbroker in post-war New Orleans. The decline of Southern traditions, the problems of his family and his traumatic experiences in the Korea...


  61. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

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    Catch-22 is a satirical, historical novel by the American author Joseph Heller, first published in 1961. The novel, set during the later stages of World War II from 1943 onwards, is frequently cite...


  62. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

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    Set in 1955, the novel focuses on the hopes and aspirations of Frank and April Wheeler, self-assured Connecticut suburbanites who see themselves as very different from their neighbors in the Revolu...


  63. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

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    Narrated by the gigantic but docile half-Indian "Chief" Bromden, who has pretended to be a deaf-mute for several years, the story focuses on the antics of the rebellious Randle Patrick McMurphy, a ...


  64. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

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    The Bell Jar is American writer and poet Sylvia Plath's only novel, which was originally published under the pseudonym "Victoria Lucas" in 1963. The novel is semi-autobiographical with the names of...


  65. A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter


  66. The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever

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    The Wapshot Chronicle is a 1957 novel by John Cheever about an eccentric family who live in a Massachusetts fishing village. The book won the National Book Award in 1958, and was later followed by ...


  67. The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron

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    The novel is based on an extant document, the "confession" of Turner to the white lawyer Thomas Gray. In the historical confessions, Turner claims to have been divinely inspired, charged with a mis...


  68. House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday

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    House Made of Dawn is a novel by N. Scott Momaday, widely credited as leading the way for the breakthrough of Native American literature into the mainstream. It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for F...


  69. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

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    Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a science fiction novel by Philip K. Dick first published in 1968. The main plot follows Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter of androids, while the secondary plot ...


  70. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

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    An anti-war science fiction novel by Kurt Vonnegut about World War II experiences and journeys through time of a soldier called Billy Pilgrim.


  71. Them by Joyce Carol Oates

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    Them explores the complex struggles of American life through three down-on-their-luck characters—Loretta, Maureen and Jules—who are attempting to reach normality and the American dream through marr...


  72. The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford by Jean Stafford

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    The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford is a short story collection by Jean Stafford. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1970.


  73. Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion

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    Didion's mordant lucidity is like L.A. sunlight, a thing so bright sometimes it hurts. She's a descendant of the old California, the great- great-granddaughter of pioneers. But she was also schoole...

    - Time

  74. The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor by Flannery O'Connor

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    The publication of this extraordinary volume firmly established Flannery O'Connor's monumental contribution to American fiction. There are thirty-one stories here in all, including twelve that do n...


  75. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

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    Angle of Repose tells the story of Lyman Ward, a retired professor of history and author of books about the Western frontier, who returns to his ancestral home of Grass Valley, California, in the S...


  76. Mumbo Jumbo by Ishmael Reed

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    Mumbo Jumbo is a 1972 novel by African-American author Ishmael Reed. Set in 1920s New York City, the novel takes its plot from the struggles of "The Wallflower Order," an international conspiracy d...


  77. Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

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    The narrative is set primarily in Europe at the end of World War II and centers on the design, production and dispatch of V-2 rockets by the German military, and, in particular, the quest undertake...


  78. Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow

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    Ragtime is a 1975 novel by E. L. Doctorow. This work of historical fiction is mostly set in New York City from about 1900 until the United States entry into World War I in 1917. A unique adaptation...


  79. JR by William Gaddis

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    A great masterpiece by William Gaddis, with a new introduction by Rick Moody. Winner of the 1976 National Book Award, J R is a biting satire about the many ways in which capitalism twists the Ameri...

    - Google

  80. Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

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    The great Native American Novel of a battered veteran returning home to heal his mind and spirit More than thirty-five years since its original publication, Ceremony remains one of the most profoun...

    - Google

  81. Roots by Alex Haley


  82. Airships by Barry Hannah

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    Now considered a contemporary classic, Airships was honored by Esquire magazine with the Arnold Gingrich Short Fiction Award. The twenty stories in this collection are a fresh, exuberant celebratio...

    - Google

  83. The World According to Garp by John Irving

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    The story deals with the life of T. S. Garp. His mother, Jenny Fields, is a strong-willed nurse who wants a child but not a husband. She encounters a dying ball turret gunner known only as Technica...


  84. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

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    Ruth narrates the story of how she and her younger sister Lucille are raised by a succession of relatives in the fictional town of Fingerbone, Idaho (some details are similar to Robinson's hometown...


  85. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

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    A Confederacy of Dunces is a picaresque novel written by John Kennedy Toole, published in 1980, 11 years after the author's suicide. The book was published through the efforts of writer Walker Perc...


  86. The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty by Eudora Welty

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    Stories are as good in themselves and as influential on the aspirations of others as any since Hemingway's. The breadth of Welty's offering is finally most visible not in the variety of types--farc...


  87. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

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    Taking place mostly in rural Georgia, the story focuses on female black life during the 1930s in the Southern United States, addressing the numerous issues including their exceedingly low position ...


  88. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

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    Love Medicine is Louise Erdrich’s first novel, published in 1984. Each chapter is narrated by a different character. These narratives are very conversational, as if the narrators were telling a st...


  89. Cathedral by Raymond Carver

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    Cathedral is a collection of short stories by American writer Raymond Carver published in 1984.


  90. Neuromancer by William Gibson

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    The novel tells the story of a washed-up computer hacker hired by a mysterious employer to work on the ultimate hack. Gibson explores artificial intelligence, virtual reality, genetic engineering, ...


  91. City of Glass by Paul Auster

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    The first story, City of Glass, features a detective-fiction writer become private investigator who descends into madness as he becomes embroiled in a case. It explores layers of identity and reali...


  92. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

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    Lonesome Dove, written by Larry McMurtry, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning western novel and the first published book of the Lonesome Dove series. The story focuses on the relationship of several retire...


  93. White Noise by Don DeLillo

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    Set at a bucolic midwestern college known only as The-College-on-the-Hill, White Noise follows a year in the life of Jack Gladney, a professor who has made his name by pioneering the field of Hitle...


  94. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

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    Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West is a 1985 Western novel by American author Cormac McCarthy. It was McCarthy's fifth book, and was published by Random House. The narrative foll...


  95. Beloved by Toni Morrison

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    Beloved (1987) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. The novel, her fifth, is loosely based on the life and legal case of the slave Margaret Garner, about whom Morrison...


  96. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

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    The Joy Luck Club (1989) is a best-selling novel written by Amy Tan. It focuses on the game and four Chinese American immigrant families who start a club known as "the Joy Luck Club," playing the C...


  97. The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick

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    The Shawl is considered a modern classic - a masterpiece in two acts. The horror and desolation evoked through piercing imagery - first through the abomination of a Holocaust concentration camp mur...

    - Google

  98. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

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    The Things They Carried is a collection of related stories by Tim O'Brien, about a platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam War, originally published in hardcover by Houghton Mifflin, 1990. Whil...


  99. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez

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    How the García Girls Lost Their Accents is a 1991 novel written by Dominican-American poet, novelist, and essayist Julia Alvarez. Told in reverse chronological order and narrated from shifting pers...


  100. Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

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    Bastard Out of Carolina was the first novel published by author Dorothy Allison. The book, which is semi-autobiographical in nature, is set in Allison's hometown of Greenville, South Carolina. Narr...