13 Books That Changed America

For his latest book titled Promised Land: Thirteen Books that Changed America, poet, novelist and literary critic Jay Parini seems to have given himself an impossible task. Like any list maker, Parini opens himself to criticism, especially when he decided to limit his list to a baker's dozen. Here are the books that made the cut.


Of Plymouth Plantation (1620-1647) by William Bradford

The Federalist Papers (1787-1788) by Hamilton, Madison and Jay

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1793)

The Journals of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark (1801-06)

Walden (1854) by Henry David Thoreau

Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) by Harriet Beecher Stowe

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) by Mark Twain

The Souls of Black Folks (1903) by W.E.B. Du Bois

The Promised Land (1912) by Mary Antin

How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936) by Dale Carnegie

The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care (1946) by Dr. Benjamin Spock

On the Road (1957) by Jack Kerouac

The Feminine Mystique (1963) by Betty Friedan


Bob had his disagreements with the list, and you probably do too, so it will cheer you to know that Parini also includes an appendix at the end of Promised Land called "One Hundred More Books that Changed America." Some of those titles are Joseph Smith Jr.'s The Book of Mormon (1830), The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (1906) and John Hersey's Hiroshima (1946). The "other 100" list also includes the 1902 Sears, Roebuck Catalog and Jane Fonda's Workout Book (1981) but leaves off The Great Gatsby. Feel free to comment here with your own list or a book that you think Parini should have included. Hopefully this list will get you thinking about books, and reading them.