Checklist of Reading American Literature

I found an out-of-print e-book called American Literature 101. It only took a few minutes to read, but I got a survey of the different eras of American Literature movements. I remember these from high school, and I have also read many of the selections listed in the book, but I wanted to read them again.

Using the book, I made a list of items to read to cover American Literature. Of course, there are so many more that could be added, but I like to start with a foundation and build on it.

Here’s the “foundation”


  • John Smith, A Select Edition of His Writings
  • Ben Franklin, autobiography
  • Thomas Paine, Common Sense
  • Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence
  • Phyllis Wheatley, poetry

Romanticism and poetry

  • Edgar Allen Poe, poetry and stories
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Paul Revere’s Ride

Romanticism and prose

  • Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
  • Herman Melville, Moby Dick


  • Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, Self-reliance
  • Henry David Thoreau, Walden, Civil Disobedience
  • Emily Dickinson, poetry
  • Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass


  • Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn
  • Upton Sinclair, The Jungle
  • Ambrose Bierce, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

Modernist experimentation

  • Booker T Washington, Up From Slavery
  • Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
  • William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom
  • F Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and the Damned
  • Robert Frost, poetry

Postmodern literature

  • Jack Kerouac, On the Road
  • William Burroughs, Naked Lunch
  • Allen Ginsberg, poetry
  • Susan Sontag, The Way We Live Now
  • Gwendolyn Brooks, poetry
  • Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five, Breakfast of Champions

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