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10 Best American Classics

Whether you love lounging on the beach with a good book in your hand or prefer having something to read before bed, you shouldn’t skip over the best American classics. These are the books that many people read or pretended they read in high school or college. As you age, you’ll find that you pick up on more of the themes in those books and about the issues that the characters face. No matter how old you are, there is never a wrong time to pick up a book. You might find that you enjoy any of the 10 best American classics.

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1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Harper Perennial Modern Classics) Paperback best American classics

Winner of multiple awards over the years, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith is also one of the best books by American authors. PBS named it one of the top 100 books that everyone should read. The story centers on a young girl named Francine growing up in Brooklyn who believes that there is more to life than what she sees. The novel’s descriptions of Brooklyn will make those who know the area smile. It might make you think of your childhood too.

2. East of Eden, John Steinbeck

East of Eden (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) best American classics

Though many know “East of Eden” from the classic film that starred James Dean, it’s also a book from James Steinbeck, one of the best American writers of all time. Steinbeck drew inspiration from the Bible and created an intriguing story that focuses on two rival families. The book tells the story of two men who are in love with the same woman and what happens when she finally makes a decision as well as the rivalry that exists between the families living in the heart of California.

3. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird Paperback – July 5, 2005 best American classics

Nearly every school in the country assigns “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee or recommends that students read it. It was the only book written and published by Lee until she finally released a sequel to the story several decades later. Lee tells the story of a young Scout as she watches her father defend a black man in her southern town. This story looks closely at the issue of racism in the United States and might make you question your own thoughts.

4. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe

Uncle Tom's Cabin: Centennial Edition (Illustrated) Paperback – March 27, 2019 Best American Classics

This centennial edition of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe features illustrations that pull you into the story and show you what happens. It ranks as one of the best American books ever written and is now available in a low-cost edition. Stowe used her experiences as a slave and the experiences of those she knew to create a story that told people what really happened to slaves. Not only did the book change the way people thought about slavery, but some believe it was one of the catalysts of the Civil War.

5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Paperback – June 1, 2015 best American classics

Revered American author, Mark Twain, spins this masterful tale about a wild boy named Huck, and his adventure on the Mississippi River. This gripping and moving tome follows Huck and his friend, Jim, a runaway slave, as they travel and encounter many challenges and dangers. Discover if Jim ever makes it to freedom and if Huck ever escapes his abusive father in this American classic.

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6. The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter Paperback – May 7, 2015 best American classics

One of the best works of American literature is “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. When you watch television or surf the web, you can’t escape the cheating scandals associated with athletes and other famous faces. Hawthorne created a compelling story of Hester, a woman in the midst of an adulterous relationship with a religious leader in her community. The way the people in her town treat her and the trials she goes through might change the way you think about adultery.

7. The Sound and The Fury, William Faulkner

The Sound and the Fury, best American classics

Available in both paperback and hardback, “The Sound and The Fury: The Corrected Text” by William Faulkner is a cheap and affordable read that you can get through in a few days. Called one of the best novels of all time, it weaves together stories from different members of the Compson family as they undergo a host of tragedies. Each of the characters is so different from the others that you’ll easily find someone you can identify with and root for in the book.

8. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby Paperback – September 30, 2004 best American classics

If you watched the film version of “The Great Gatsby” and found it interesting, you’ll find even more things to love about the book by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Set in the glitzy and glamorous world of the Roaring 20s, it tells the story of a young man caught up in that world and the relationship that exists between two of the elite members of the community. Though the films based on the book are fun, the novel includes even more elements, which is why it ranks as one of the best American reads.

9. Moby Dick, Herman Melville

Moby Dick best American classics

Lovers of English literature often joke that more people claim they read “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville than the number of people who actually read it. Though the first few chapters are a little boring, the action picks up later in the novel and creates an entertaining story that will keep you hooked. Ishmael is a sailor on the hunt for Ahab, the killer whale. He tells the story through his own point of view as he gets onto the water and hunts the elusive whale. The metaphors and themes make it hard to put the book down.

10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 Paperback best American classics

No list of the best books in American history is complete without “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. Known as one of the top sci-fi writers of all time, Bradbury set this book in a dystopian future where the world looks bleak and dark. It centers on Guy, a man who works as a firefighter and helps the government burn books. When he suffers a crisis, he discovers that the world isn’t always black and white. This book easily ranks as one of the best American classics.

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BCR Staff

May 2019