The Greatest "Pennsylvania" Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 280 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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The Pennsylvania category of books encompasses literature that is set in or about the state of Pennsylvania. This includes works of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry that explore the history, culture, and people of Pennsylvania. These books may focus on the state's cities, such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, or its rural areas, and may cover a range of topics, from the state's industrial past to its natural beauty and unique regional cuisine. Overall, the Pennsylvania category offers readers a diverse and rich collection of literature that celebrates the unique character of this important state.

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

    The novel follows the story of a teenager named Holden Caulfield, who has just been expelled from his prep school. The narrative unfolds over the course of three days, during which Holden experiences various forms of alienation and his mental state continues to unravel. He criticizes the adult world as "phony" and struggles with his own transition into adulthood. The book is a profound exploration of teenage rebellion, alienation, and the loss of innocence.

  2. 2. Rabbit, Run by John Updike

    The novel follows the life of a 26-year-old former high school basketball star, who is dissatisfied with his current life. He impulsively leaves his wife and son and embarks on a journey in the hopes of finding a more meaningful existence. His decisions, however, lead to a series of tragic events that impact the lives of those around him. This mid-20th-century novel explores themes of freedom, responsibility, and the tragic consequences of impulsive decisions.

  3. 3. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

    The novel revolves around the lives of the Lambert family, an old-fashioned midwestern couple and their three adult children. The parents, Alfred and Enid, are dealing with Alfred's Parkinson's disease and their own marital problems, while their children are each facing their own personal and professional crises. The narrative explores the themes of family dynamics, societal expectations, and the struggles of modern life. The story climaxes with the family's last Christmas together at their childhood home.

  4. 4. Rabbit Redux by John Updike

    The novel is a sequel in a series following the life of Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, a middle-aged man living in a small Pennsylvania town. When his wife leaves him for another man, he finds himself alone and struggling to make sense of the rapidly changing world around him. In his loneliness, he takes in a young runaway and her racially divisive boyfriend, leading to a series of events that force Rabbit to confront his own prejudices and fears. The book is a vivid portrayal of the American social and political climate of the 1960s.

  5. 5. Rabbit Is Rich by John Updike

    The book follows the life of a former high school basketball star, who is now in his mid-forties and has inherited a Toyota dealership from his father-in-law. He is living a comfortable life with his wife and son in Brewer, Pennsylvania during the late 1970s. The story unfolds as he navigates through his midlife crisis, dealing with his rebellious son, his longing for his old mistress, and his own insecurities and dissatisfaction. The narrative provides a deep dive into the protagonist's thoughts and feelings, offering a detailed examination of middle-class American life during this era.

  6. 6. The Civil War by Shelby Foote

    This comprehensive three-volume series provides an in-depth and detailed narrative of the American Civil War. It encompasses the political, social, and military aspects of the war, offering a balanced view of both the Union and Confederate sides. The series also delves into the personal experiences of key figures, including generals and soldiers, as well as civilians affected by the war. This work is known for its meticulous research, vivid descriptions, and engaging storytelling style.

  7. 7. Common Sense by Thomas Paine

    This influential pamphlet, published in 1776, played a crucial role in persuading the colonists of the Thirteen Colonies to declare independence from Britain. It argues for the democratic system of government, criticizes monarchy and hereditary succession, and advocates for the inherent rights and freedoms of individuals. The text uses plain language to make complex political ideas accessible to the average citizen, promoting the idea that the colonies have a right to be an independent nation.

  8. 8. The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

    "The Killer Angels" is a historical novel that provides a detailed account of the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Told from the perspectives of several key figures, including Generals Robert E. Lee and James Longstreet on the Confederate side, and Colonel Joshua Chamberlain on the Union side, the book explores the motivations, thoughts, and struggles of these men as they navigate the brutal realities of war. The narrative vividly brings to life the events, decisions, and human drama that culminated in the pivotal battle, shedding light on the personal and political complexities of this critical period in American history.

  9. 9. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin

    This book is an autobiography of one of America's founding fathers, detailing his life from childhood to adulthood. The author shares his journey from humble beginnings as a printer's apprentice to becoming a successful inventor, writer, businessman, and statesman. The book provides an insight into his thoughts and philosophies on various subjects such as education, self-improvement, and public service, offering a unique look at the early American history through his eyes.

  10. 10. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

    A teenage girl is brutally murdered in her small town, and from her new home in heaven, she watches over her family and friends as they struggle to cope with her loss. She also keeps an eye on her killer, hoping that he will eventually be brought to justice. Through her observations, she explores the complexities of human relationships, the ripple effects of her death, and the concept of moving on while still holding onto memories.

  11. 11. Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara

    This novel explores the self-destruction of the main character, a successful and respected car dealer, over a three-day span during the Christmas season in 1930. After a series of impulsive and reckless actions, including alienating his friends and family, having an affair, and getting involved with organized crime, the protagonist spirals out of control, leading to his tragic demise. The book offers a critique of the vapid and hypocritical aspects of high society in a small Pennsylvania town during the Great Depression.

  12. 12. Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler

    This novel revolves around a middle-aged couple, Ira and Maggie Moran, and their journey to a funeral. The story delves into their relationship dynamics, their regrets, and their hopes for the future. The narrative explores the complexities of marriage, the disappointments of parenthood, and the general trials and tribulations of life. The couple's interactions with other characters they meet along the way further illuminate their struggles and their enduring love for each other.

  13. 13. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

    This book explores the political acumen of Abraham Lincoln, focusing on how he assembled his cabinet from political adversaries, many of whom initially dismissed him for his perceived lack of experience and ungainly appearance. The narrative delves into how Lincoln used his rivals' talents to navigate the tumultuous times of the Civil War, maintaining unity and leading the nation towards the abolition of slavery. It underscores Lincoln's extraordinary ability to turn rivals into allies, demonstrating his leadership and his profound impact on American history.

  14. 14. Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon

    "Mason & Dixon" is a postmodern historical novel which follows the story of the 18th-century British astronomers and surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, who are known for the Mason-Dixon line. The novel is written in a complex, digressive style, and it includes numerous sub-plots and a wide range of themes. It explores the scientific, philosophical, and sociopolitical issues of the Enlightenment era, as well as the personal lives and friendship of the two title characters.

  15. 15. The Chaneysville Incident by David Bradley

    This novel centers around John Washington, an African-American historian, who returns to his hometown in Pennsylvania to care for his dying stepfather. During his stay, he becomes obsessed with uncovering the truth about the mysterious death of 13 runaway slaves, including his own ancestor, in Chaneysville. His relentless search for answers becomes a journey of self-discovery as he grapples with the history of racism, his personal relationships, and his own identity.

  16. 16. Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews

    The novel focuses on four siblings who, after the tragic death of their father, are locked away in the attic of their cruel grandmother's mansion as their mother tries to inherit the family fortune. The children endure years of abuse and neglect, and as their mother's visits become less frequent, they must rely on each other for survival. Over time, they form a deeply complex and troubling relationship, leading to a shocking and devastating climax.

  17. 17. The History of the Standard Oil Company by Ida Tarbell

    This book provides an in-depth investigation into the rise of the Standard Oil Company, revealing its unethical and monopolistic business practices. It chronicles the company's growth from a small oil refinery into a dominant force in the American economy, led by a cunning and ruthless businessman. The narrative exposes the company's tactics of crushing competition, exploiting workers, and manipulating prices, which eventually led to public outcry and legal action. This groundbreaking work contributed significantly to the breakup of Standard Oil and the establishment of anti-trust laws in the United States.

  18. 18. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

    The graphic memoir revolves around the author's childhood and youth in rural Pennsylvania, United States, in the backdrop of a dysfunctional family. The story particularly focuses on her complex relationship with her closeted gay father, who was an English teacher, a funeral home director, and a historic home restorer. The narrative is non-linear, exploring themes of sexuality, gender roles, suicide, emotional abuse, and the role of literature in understanding oneself and one's family.

  19. 19. The Awakening Of Helena Ritchie by Margaret Deland

    This novel delves into the life of Helena Ritchie, a woman seeking redemption and a new beginning in the small town of Old Chester after a troubled past in Philadelphia. Set in the late 19th century, the story explores themes of societal expectations, personal transformation, and the quest for identity. Helena's journey is marked by her struggle to break free from her past mistakes and the rigid social norms of the time, seeking solace and purpose through her relationships and interactions with the townsfolk. As she navigates her new life, the narrative poignantly addresses the complexities of love, morality, and the possibility of rebirth through the lens of a woman's experience in a changing American society.

  20. 20. Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown

    This novel unfolds in the pre-Revolutionary American countryside, centering around the Wieland family, who become embroiled in a harrowing tale of religious fanaticism, mysterious voices, and a series of inexplicable events that lead to tragedy and horror. The story is narrated by Clara Wieland, who witnesses the devastating impact of these supernatural occurrences on her brother, Theodore Wieland, whose descent into madness culminates in a shocking act of violence. The novel explores themes of faith, reason, and the dark recesses of the human mind, making it a pioneering work in the American Gothic genre and a profound inquiry into the nature of belief and the psychological depths of terror.

  21. 21. The 9/11 Commission Report by 9/11 Commission

    This book is a comprehensive, detailed account of the events leading up to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the attacks themselves, and the immediate aftermath. It was compiled by a bipartisan commission and offers an in-depth analysis of the systemic failures that allowed these attacks to occur. The report also provides recommendations for preventing future terrorist attacks, emphasizing the need for improved intelligence and security measures.

  22. 22. A Midwife's Story by Penny Armstrong, Sheryl Feldman

    The book is a heartfelt memoir that chronicles the experiences of a midwife working in the Amish community of rural Pennsylvania. It provides an intimate look at the traditions, challenges, and joys of Amish childbirth and family life, juxtaposed with the midwife's own journey of personal and professional growth. Through a series of vivid stories and reflections, the narrative delves into the midwife's evolving relationship with the Amish people she serves, highlighting the cultural contrasts and shared humanity that define her practice. The book celebrates the power of natural childbirth and the strength of women, while also exploring broader themes of community, respect, and the art of listening.

  23. 23. Sweet Summer by Bebe Moore Campbell

    "Sweet Summer" is a poignant memoir that delves into the complexities of family relationships, racial identity, and the journey of self-discovery. Through a series of reflective essays, the author recounts her childhood summers spent in the South with her father and his family, contrasting them with the rest of the year living with her mother in the North. These seasonal shifts not only highlight the cultural differences between her two worlds but also shape her understanding of love, belonging, and the enduring bonds of kinship. The narrative weaves together personal anecdotes and historical context, offering a rich tapestry of African American life during a time of social change.

  24. 24. The life and letters of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin

    This book offers an in-depth look into the life and correspondence of one of America's founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin. It provides an intimate portrayal of Franklin's personal and political life, detailing his contributions to science, literature, and the formation of the United States. The letters included in the book offer valuable insights into his relationships with other prominent figures of his time and his thoughts on various important events and issues.

  25. 25. From The Terrace by John O'Hara

    The novel is a sweeping tale of ambition, love, and betrayal, following the life of Alfred Eaton, a man who emerges from the shadow of his wealthy and domineering father to carve out a successful career in the world of business. As he climbs the social and professional ladder, Alfred's personal life becomes increasingly complex and strained. He marries the beautiful but troubled Mary St. John, whose own issues and desires create further conflict. Set against the backdrop of mid-20th century America, the story delves into the intricacies of family dynamics, societal expectations, and the pursuit of success, all while questioning the true cost of the American Dream.

Reading Statistics

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If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.