The Great American Novels

136 books that made America think.
A hand-drawn, slightly abstract image of a pink typewriter, using a QWERTY keyboard.

Page Against the Machine

Dan Sinykin’s history of corporate fiction.
Painting by Pablo Ventura called "War Souvenirs #9" depicting a soldier kissing a woman, another with a bicycle, and World War II propaganda posters.

Writing Under Fire

For a full understanding of any historical period, we must read the literature written while its events were still unfolding.
Display of banned books or censored books at Books Inc independent bookstore.

Book Bans Aren't the Only Threat to Literature in Classrooms

Literature is key to a healthy democracy, but schools are leaving books behind.
Black and white photograph of Lorraine Hansberry smoking a cigarette.

The Many Visions of Lorraine Hansberry

She’s been canonized as a hero of both mainstream literature and radical politics. Who was she really?
Still Life with Ham, 1625.

Thanksgiving and the Curse of Ham

19th-century African American writer Charles Chesnutt’s subversive literature.
Abstract composition by Valentijn Edgar Van Uytvanck, 1918

Still Farther South: Poe and Pym’s Suggestive Symmetries

In 1838, Edgar Allan Poe published a novel that masqueraded as a travelogue. John Tresch guides us along this strange trip southward.
Edgar Allan Poe.

Edgar Allan Poe’s Other Obsession

Known as a master of horror, he also understood the power—and the limits—of science.
An image of William Faulkner and author André Malroux.

Faulkner Couldn’t Overcome Racism, But He Never Ignored It

That’s why the privileged White novelist’s work is still worth reading, Michael Gorra argues.
A movie still featuring a close-up of two actors from The Age of Innocence

The Age of Innocence: How a US Classic Defined Its Era

Cameron Laux looks at how The Age of Innocence – published 100 years ago – marked a pivotal moment in US history.

Signs and Wonders

Reading the literature of past plagues and suddenly seeing our present reflected in a mirror.
James Baldwin.

The Vow James Baldwin Made to Young Civil Rights Activists

How James Baldwin confronted America's most exceptional lie.
A hospital filled with patients during the influenza pandemic of 1918

How Pandemics Seep into Literature

The literature that arose from the influenza pandemic speaks to our current moment in profound ways, offering connections in the exact realms where art excels.
Photographs of Lilian Smith and Frank Yerby.

Frank Yerby and Lillian Smith: Challenging the Myths of Whiteness

Both Southerners. Both all but forgotten. Both, in their own ways, questioned the social constructions of race and white supremacy in their writings.
Cover of "Cold Warriors" book.

Before Oprah’s Book Club, there was the CIA

‘Cold Warriors’ traces how the U.S. and Soviet government used writers like George Orwell and Boris Pasternak to wage ideological battles during the Cold War.

What Herman Melville Can Teach Us About the Trump Era

He would point out that what plagues us are America's sins coming home to roost.
John Harvard statue by Daniel Chester French.

Reading Puritans and the Bard

Without the bawdy world of Falstaff and Prince Hal and of Shakespeare’s jesters, there would have been nothing for those dissenting Puritans to dissent from.
Misery and Fortune of Women (1930).

The Lost Abortion Plot

Power and choice in the 1930s novel.
A line crew at work in the Manzanar camp.

A Portrait of Japanese America, in the Shadow of the Camps

An essential new volume collects accounts of Japanese incarceration by patriotic idealists, righteous firebrands, and downtrodden cynics alike.
Lucretia Howe Newman Coleman

Finding Lucretia Howe Newman Coleman

Once a powerful voice in the Black press, Coleman all but disappeared from the literary landscape of the American Midwest after her death in 1948.