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Recommended Reading List – American Literature

Unit 1    Unit 2    Unit 3    Unit 4    Unit 5    Unit 6    Unit 7


Unit 1

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
by Benjamin Franklin
Franklin did not live to complete this autobiography, the great American leader tells us how he survived his impoverished childhood in Boston to become a successful printer, inventor, and writer.

The Account: Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca's Relación
translated by Martin A. Favata and José B. Fernández
This dramatic narrative, published in Spain in 1542, chronicles one of the first Spanish explorations of America. The story of the extreme hardships of the expedition is intertwined with vivid descriptions of the lush landscape and the cultures of native peoples.

The Works of Anne Bradstreet
edited by Jeannine Hensley
This book provides an opportunity to read more of the works of this skilled poet.

The First Americans
by Josepha Sherman
An excellent, intelligent, and richly-illustrated overview of Native American cultures, this book includes information about customs, beliefs, living conditions, and contacts with white settlers.

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Unit 2

The Scarlet Letter
by Nathaniel Hawthorne
In this tragic masterpiece of American literature, Hawthorne tells a story rooted in the Puritanism of colonial New England. Hester Prynne is a young woman who has violated Puritan standards of behavior. Hawthorne delves deeply into the mind and heart of Hester and of the two other main characters – Roger Chillingworth, Hester's obsessive and vengeful husband, and Arthur Dimmesdale, the town's guilt-ridden minister.

Words That Make America Great
edited by Jerome Agel
This book presents 200 documents that have helped define America's character and ideals from its earliest days to the present. Included are many documents of the years 1750–1850, from the Declaration of Independence to the earliest rules of baseball.

Rediscovering George Washington: Founding Father
by Richard Brookhiser
Some current historians see much of the story of George Washington as folk legend. Brookhiser disagrees, though, as he traces Washington's accomplishments as a statesman, soldier, and founder of our nation.

The Reshaping of Everyday Life: 1790–1840
by Jack Larkin
Larkin investigates the daily concerns and activities of everyday Americans in a time of great social and economic change. The author is chief historian at Old Sturbridge Village, an outdoor history museum in Massachusetts.

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Unit 3

The Red Badge of Courage
by Stephen Crane
A Civil War soldier's grand notions of glory abandon him as he faces the slaughter of battle. Crane had no experience of warfare when he wrote this novel, yet he successfully depicts the experiences, the terror, and the bravery of an ordinary soldier.

America Goes to War: The Civil War and Its Meaning in American Culture
by Bruce Catton
Catton offers many interesting and useful facts about and insights into the Civil War. The author also relates the Civil War to more current events in American and world history.

The Negro's Civil War: How American Blacks Felt and Acted During the War for the Union
by James M. McPherson
This book reads like a well-written diary with the addition of historical explanations. Numerous quotations reveal the ideas and feelings of African American Union soldiers in their own words. Photographs, songs, tables, and charts offer a variety of additional source materials.

Rebel Private: Front and Rear
by William A. Fletcher
In this memoir, a former Confederate soldier tells of the harsh realities of the Civil War. Fletcher describes many important battles, including the Battle of Gettysburg. The book provides an interesting perspective – that of an ordinary citizen and Confederate soldier.

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Unit 4

My Ántonia
by Willa Cather
Jim Burden recalls the Nebraska prairie and the people– most notably the Bohemian immigrant Ántonia– struggling to carve out a life there.

Edith Wharton Abroad: Selected Travel Writings, 1888-1920
edited by Sarah Bird Wright
This collection of excerpts presents three decades of Wharton's travel writing. The book demonstrates Wharton's great skill at seeing the often overlooked treasures of everyday life.

Manners and Customs
by Jim Barmeier
This book– from the series Life in America 100 Years Ago– chronicles details of everyday life at the beginning of the twentieth century. It shows how major forces such as immigration, technological advances, and the rise of the factory system brought great change to many spheres of life, including work, play, education, the family, and courtship.

Ellis Island: Land of Hope
by Joan Lowery
Nixon Rebekah Levinsky and her family, Russian Jews fleeing oppression, are the main characters in this story of the American immigrant experience of the early 1900s. The story tells of the Levinsky family's voyage to America and their struggle to survive on New York's Lower East Side.

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Unit 5

Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
In Hurston's famous novel of the 1930s, Janie Crawford, a strong and self-reliant African American woman, makes a journey back to her roots in search of her own identity.

The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The "roaring 1920s" come to life in this famous story of Jay Gatsby, a self-made man, and the woman he has loved for years.

Having Our Say: The Delaney Sisters' First 100 Years
by Sarah Delaney and A. Elizabeth Delaney
Two feisty women who lived to be more than a century old tell their life stories. They describe the social history of the twentieth century as they witnessed and enjoyed it.

Collected Poems
by Edna St. Vincent Millay; edited by Norma Millay
The definitive collection of Millay's poetry, this volume was compiled by Millay's sister after the poet's death. Published in 1957, the collection continues to appeal to today's readers. One reviewer of this book refers to the "grace and depth" and "stunning beauty" of Millay's poetry.

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Unit 6

A Separate Peace
by John Knowles
A young man visits his old boarding school and remembers his life and friends there during the early days of World War II. This novel depicts a friendship between two extremely different people as well as life in a U.S. school during the war.

I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World
by Martin Luther King Jr., edited by James Melvin Washington
A collection of King's most memorable speeches and writings, as well as a biography of King and a historical review of the Civil Rights movement.

Death of a Salesman
by Arthur Miller
In this classic Pulitzer Prize– winning drama, salesman Willy Loman faces his own empty, unhappy life as well as deep conflicts in his family.

The Glass Menagerie
by Tennessee Williams
An emotionally charged play about a southern family shows how the dream world influences everyday life. The title comes from a collection of glass animals that belongs to the daughter in the family.

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Unit 7

. . . And the Earth Did Not Devour Him
by Tomás Rivera
This classic of Chicano literature tells the unique story of a young boy trying to recall the events of a "lost year," a year that has clearly been a difficult one for him.

The Joy Luck Club
by Amy Tan
Spanning four decades, this novel traces the tragedies and joys of four Chinese women who immigrate to the United States and the complex lives of their American-born daughters.

The Piano Lesson
by August Wilson
Written by a Pulitzer Prize–winning author, this two-act play takes place in 1936, in the house of an African American family. Wilson tells the story of a brother and sister and their conflict over whether or not to sell a piano that has been in the family for three generations and is reminiscent of the family's painful history.

Eyes On the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954–1965
By Juan Williams
This important and inspiring book about personal activism records 11 years that changed America's history. It includes the story of the Montgomery bus boycott and numerous other Civil Rights struggles.

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McGraw-Hill / Glencoe