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Contenders for the Great American Novel

Back in 1868, novelist John William DeForest coined the now inescapable term "the great American novel" in the title of an essay in The Nation. Now, don't forget that in 1868, just a few years after the end of the Civil War, "America" was still an uncertain concept for many—though actually, in 2017 we might assert the same thing, which should give you a hint as to why the term "great American novel" is so problematic.
In the nearly 150 years since the essay was written, the argument over the Great American Novel—what it is, what it should be, do we have one, do we need one, why so many white men—has gone on and on.
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1
The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
2
Moby Dick (Herman Melville)
Moby Dick (Herman Melville)
3
To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain)
5
Mason and Dixon
Mason and Dixon
6
American Psycho (Bret Easton Ellis)
American Psycho (Bret Easton Ellis)
7
The Grapes of Wrath
The Grapes of Wrath
8
Lolita
Lolita
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9
Underworld
Underworld
10
U.S.A. (John Dos Passos)
U.S.A. (John Dos Passos)
11
Invisible Man
Invisible Man
12
Blood Meridian
Blood Meridian
13
Light in August
Light in August
14
Absalom, Absalom!
Absalom, Absalom!
15
The Adventures of Augie March
The Adventures of Augie March
16
Infinite Jest
Infinite Jest
17
Rabbit, Run (John Updike)
Rabbit, Run (John Updike)
18
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
19
Beloved (Toni Morrison)
Beloved (Toni Morrison)
20
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (Michael Chabon)
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (Michael Chabon)
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21
Freedom
Freedom
22
Go Tell It on the Mountain (James Baldwin)
Go Tell It on the Mountain (James Baldwin)
23
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
24
The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner
The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner
25
Native Son
Native Son
26
These Dreams of You (Steve Erickson)
These Dreams of You (Steve Erickson)
27
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Their Eyes Were Watching God
28
A Little Life (Hanya Yanagihara)
A Little Life (Hanya Yanagihara)
29
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
30
The House on Mango Street (Sandra Cisneros)
The House on Mango Street (Sandra Cisneros)
31
A Visit From the Goon Squad
A Visit From the Goon Squad
32
Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
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33
10:04 (Ben Lerner)
10:04 (Ben Lerner)
34
The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)
The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)
35
Geek Love (Katherine Dunn)
Geek Love (Katherine Dunn)
36
Love Medicine
Love Medicine
37
The Maltese Falcon
The Maltese Falcon
38
To Have and to Have Not
To Have and to Have Not
39
The Shining (Stephen King)
The Shining (Stephen King)
40
The Moviegoer
The Moviegoer
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