Books that Shaped America

Celebration-of-the-BookLast year, as part of its Celebration of the Book, the Library of Congress released a list of books that “provoked thought, controversy and change.” The list started with 88 books but public discussion and suggestions has seen it grow to 100 titles.

Not all of them would be considered “the best books.” Nor are they the most popular. You might not even recognize some of the titles! And there are surely books that you feel should have been included but were not.

snowy daywherre the wild things areThere are political books, histories, westerns, schoolbooks, plays, poems, self-help and novels. Children’s books are represented by The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

The first book (the oldest one) is The Bay Psalm Book, a hymnal by Stephen Daye.  Dating back to 1640 it was the first book printed in what is now the United States.

our townYou probably have heard of, and perhaps even seen, Thornton Wilder’s play, Our Town which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1938 and continues to be performed.

american cookeryjoy of cookingTwo cookbooks published 135 years apart are on the list: Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery (1796) which was the first cookbook printed in the United States and Irma Rombauer’s Joy of Cooking (1931) which includes the author’s comments along with ingredient lists and directions.

How to Win Friends and Influence PeopleDale Carnegie’s self-help book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, also makes the list. Works by poets Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost are included.

You can see the entire, varied list on

the Library of Congress site.

Syosset Public Library owns many of the books on the list.  But  if you feel drawn to buy some of the books, Amazon has them available as a special collection on its website in both print format and (where digital rights are available) for the Kindle.

-posted by Brenda, Reference Services


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