The Atlantic’s List of The Great American Novels

The Atlantic just launched their list of the The Great American Novels. The list is the result of a project that looks at the most influential novels in America for the past 100 years (roughly from 1924-2023). The 136 novels on the list were chosen by The Atlantic’s editors, who were in conversation with scholars, critics, and novelists outside of the publication. Of the 136 on the list, 45 are debut novels, three are children’s books, nine won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and around 60 have been banned in libraries or schools.

In constructing the list, Atlantic editors framed the definition of the Great American novel around the one that writer John William DeForest established in 1868 — which described a new kind of literature that painted “the American soul” — but expanded on it, saying “In 2024, our definition of literary greatness is wider, deeper, and weirder than DeForest likely could have imagined.”

They continued, “At the same time, the novel is also under threat, as the forces of anti-intellectualism and authoritarianism seek to ban books and curtail freedom of expression. The American canon is more capacious, more fluid, and more fragile than perhaps ever before.”

Below are a few of The Atlantic’s Great American Novels:

cover of The Street by Ann Petry

Passing by Nella Larsen

The Street by Ann Petry

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Oreo by Fran Ross

Corregidora by Gayl Jones

Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg

cover of Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinbergcover of Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

There There by Tommy Orange

Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros

Erasure by Percival Everett

Dawn by Octavia E. Butler

For a the full list and more information on the endeavor, visit The Atlantic.

Find more news and stories of interest from the book world in Breaking in Books.

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