88 books that shaped America, at the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress has selected 88 books that shaped America, all by American authors. The first was published in 1751, and the most recent in 2002. Each author is represented only once, with one exception: Benjamin Franklin, who landed three books on the list. Apparently the listmakers at the Library of Congress think quite a lot of the founding father.
“This list of ‘Books That Shaped America’ is a starting point. It is not a register of the ‘best’ American books — although many of them fit that description. Rather, the list is intended to spark a national conversation on books written by Americans that have influenced our lives, whether they appear on this initial list or not,” Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said in a release. “We hope people will view the list and then nominate other titles. Finally, we hope people will choose to read and discuss some of the books on this list, reflecting our nation’s unique and extraordinary literary heritage, which the Library of Congress makes available to the world.”
The list includes poetry, novels, nonfiction, plays, a polemic, books of science and grammar, cookbooks and children’s books. The list includes 26 books published since 1950, 35 published from 1900 to 1950, 15 published from 1850 to 1900, six published from 1800 to 1850 and nine published before 1800.
For those who can get to Washington, the Library of Congress has the books on exhibit through Sept. 29. Those who can’t get there to see the books in person are welcome to take the Library of Congress’online survey, which asks readers which of the big list of books they think are most significant.
After the jump, the 88 books that shaped America from the Library of Congress.