10 Quintessentially American Novels

In case you missed all the cookouts and night-time explosions, yesterday was the fourth of July, and we hope you all spent it wearing red, white, and blue and eating hot dogs on a grassy lawn. We also hope you’re not too sick of American pride, however, because in honor of our country’s birthday, we’ve compiled a list of books that we think are quintessentially American to add to your reading list. Each of these books is wonderfully representative of some slice of the American experience, though of course no country can be the same for all people at all times. Click through to check out our ultra-patriotic reading list, and since a list of ten novels doesn’t even begin to cover it, let us know which books you’d add in the comments.

East of Eden, John Steinbeck

Steinbeck’s magnum opus relates the struggles, successes and evolution of a family in California’s Salinas Valley between the start of the 20th century and the end of WWI. His characters scramble to improve their futures, and in some cases, to forget their pasts. But as Lee tells Cal near the end of the novel, “We are all descended from the restless, the nervous, the criminals, the arguers and brawlers, but also the brave and independent and generous. If our ancestors had not been that, they would have stayed in their home plots in the other world and starved over the squeezed-out soil.” If that’s not the epitome of the American idea, we’d like to know what is.