Shaping America's View

The Library of Congress has a pretty cool exhibition right now called Books That Shaped America.

Curators throughout the LoC compiled a list of books that have had a profound effect on American life. An emphasis was placed on influence, not how awesome a book may be. I think everyone will agree that lists like these will never reflect an absolute consensus.

The books on the list are divided into 50 years block beginning at 1750. I was surprised by the number of books I have actually read written between 1750 and 1900. Do I think I'm better than the next American because of that?--heck no! It just means I did A LOT of reading for my history and political science courses, as an undergrad.

Some of the books on the list are no-brainers, especially between the years 1900 and 2000, but I'll admit, I've never even heard of a great deal of them. Blame it on my age and a little ignorance. However, now I'm interested to read many of these and see for myself how these may have shaped America.

More than anything, this exhibition reminds me of how young the United States is...and how far it has come and has yet to go.

For obvious reasons there isn't a 2000 to 2050 block, but I'm curious to know, what are some books you think can already be considered for this time block? Remember--influential, not necessarily the best...I'll have no mention of Twilight or Hunger Games--haha..but I'm sort of serious. International people, feel free to comment as well. These books have not only shaped American views, but may have shaped the outside view of America.

I'll start. I think The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot could be thrown into the mix. An American story, a tragedy turned into something of a miracle. It exposes an immoral dimension of American medical practices, as well as social/cultural/racial disparity of the era. It's about an American family history, spanning through the past, present and future. To me, it's perfect for this type of list.


  1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a good choice I don't know how much influence it has on people but I think the story of Henrietta is important. I also think this book is important because it gives a basic history of how far medicine and science has evolved in the such a short time.

    My personal vote would be for The Warmth of Other Sun for historical context and the story of how racism shape the American landscape.

    1. I googled The Warmth of Other Suns and it sounds like a fascinating read. I will definitely have to check it out.

      I actually can't think of many other books for this list...but it's only 2012, so there's time to discover more.