My Must Read/Must Teach List of Early American Works

As I begin to teach more classes in early American literature, I find myself in a bit of dilemma. On the one hand, I want to teach novels I know pretty well because after all, I’m the professor and shouldn’t I know more than my students? On the other hand, I like the idea of reading books for the first time with my students. So I’m compiling a list of books that I haven’t yet read and/or taught–many of them don’t seem to be taught much at all. Any suggestions? I’m especially interested in books published before 1930 that were popular in their day but which critics have since deemed “lesser” and which have been largely forgotten.

Alcott, Louisa May. Behind a Mask and Other Stories

—. Little Women (1869).

Alger, Horatio, Jr. Ragged Dick (1868).

Appleton, Victor. Tom Swift (1910-1941).

Arthur, T. S. Ten Nights in a Bar-Room and What I Saw There (1854).

Bellamy, Edward. Looking Backward: 2000-1887 (1888).

—. Dr. Heidenhoff’s Process (1880).

Bird, Robert Montgomery. Nick of the Woods (1837).

—. Sheppard Lee: Written By Himself (1836).

Bly, Nellie. Around the World in Seventy-Two Days (1890).

Brown, William Hill. The Power of Sympathy (1789).

—. Clotel; or, The President’s Daughter (1853).

Burroughs, Edgar Rice. A Princess of Mars (1912).

Child, Lydia Maria. Hobomok (1824).

Crane, Stephen. The Monster (1898).

Cummins, Maria Susanna. The Lamplighter (1854).

DeForest, John William. Miss Ravenel’s Conversion from Secession to Loyalty (1867).

Dreiser, Theodore. An American Tragedy (1925).

—. The “Genius” (1915)

—. Jennie Gerhardt (1911).

Finley, Martha. Elsie Dinsmore (1867-1905).

Fisher, Dorothy Canfield. The Home-Maker (1924).

Frederic, Harold. The Damnation of Theron Ware (1896)

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. Herland (1915).

Green, Anna Katharine. The Leavenworth Case (1878)

Grey, Zane. Riders of the Purple Sage (1912).

Griffith, Mary. Three Hundred Years Hence (1836).

Harper, Frances. Iola Leroy (1892).

Hentz, Caroline Lee. The Planter’s Northern Bride (1854).

Holmes, Oliver Wendell, Jr. Elsie Venner (1861).

Howells, William Dean. A Hazard of New Fortunes (1890).

—. A Modern Instance (1882).

Jackson, Helen Hunt. Ramona (1884).

James, Henry. What Maisie Knew (1897)

Lewis, Sinclair. Babbitt (1922).

—. Main Street (1920).

Lippard, George. The Quaker City; or, The Monks of Monk Hall (1844)

McClane, Mary. I Await the Devil’s Coming (1902).

Melville, Herman. Omoo (1847).

—. Pierre (1852)

—. Typee (1846).

Metalious, Grace. Peyton Place (1956).

Neal, John. Rachel Dyer (1828).

Norris, Frank. The Octopus: A Story of California (1901)

O’Brien, Fitz-James. Selected stories (1850s

O’Hara, John. Butterfield 8 (1935).

Phelps, Elizabeth Stuart. Gypsy Breyton (1866).

Poe, Edgar Allan. The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838).

Ridge, John Rollin (Yellow Bird). The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta (1854).

Rinehart, Mary Roberts. The Circular Staircase (1908).

Ruiz de Barton, Maria. Who Would Have Thought It? (1872).

Rush, Caroline. The North and the South (1852).

Rush, Rebecca. Kelroy (1812).

Sedgwick, Catherine. A New England Tale (1822).

—. Hope Leslie (1827).

Simms, William Gilmore. Martin Faber: The Story of a Criminal (1833).

—. The Yemassee: A Story of Carolina (1835).

Siringo, Charles A. A Texas Cowboy: or, Fifteen Years on the Hurricane Deck of a Spanish Pony (1885).

Smith, Francis Hopkinson. Tom Grogan (1896).

Southworth, E. D. E. N. The Hidden Hand; or Capitola the Madcap (1859).

Stockton, Frank R. The Adventures of Captain Horn (1895).

Stoddard, Elizabeth. The Morgensons (1862).

Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp (1856).

—. The Minister’s Wooing (1859).

Tarkington, Booth. Penrod (1914).

Tenney, Tabitha Gilman. Female Quixotism (1801).

Twain, Mark. Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894).

Warner, Susan. The Wide Wide World (1850).

Webb, Frank J. The Garies and Their Friends (1857)

.Webster, Jean. Daddy Long Legs (1912).

—. Dear Enemy (1915).

Wharton, Edith. The Custom of the Country (1913).

Wiggin, Kate Douglas. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1903).

Wilson, Harriet. Our Nig (1859).

Wister, Owen. The Virginian (1902).

Woolsey, Sarah Chauncy. What Katy Did (1872).


One thought on “My Must Read/Must Teach List of Early American Works

  1. You’re definitely entering some uncharted territories. Experiencing the novel as a first time reader/teacher is a great idea, and the fact that most of these are neglected means that there’s no lodestone of critical essays and reputation to these stories.

    I’ve only read a handful of these, mostly by the better known authors (Melville, Norris, Twain, Wharton), but clicking through links I discovered Daddy Long Legs! I remember an aunt reading that to me when I was younger. And Nellie Bly’s story is great, would be interesting to read her memoir.

    As for narrowing down the list, good luck. Avoid anything that seems to be obviously crap and/or impossible to find a print copy of. Also, avoid the GREAT temptation to just pick the picturesque titles.

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