American Literature

This collection is designed for teachers and professors creating or revising a comprehensive American Literature syllabus. We’ve gathered study guides on classic novels, plays, and poems by some of the most frequently taught American writers, such as Mark Twain, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Toni Morrison, and Louise Glück. If you’re looking for more contemporary texts, like Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam or The Color of Water by James McBride, you’ll find those here, too!

Publication year 2018Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Love, Identity: Mental Health, Values/Ideas: Truth & LiesTags Self Help, Inspirational, Psychology, Parenting, Sociology, American Literature

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (2018) is Jordan B. Peterson’s second book. Peterson’s self-help book seeks to provide practical and virtuous rules to live by for a wide audience and general readership. The book streamlines, simplifies, and reimagines some of the more traditionally academic topics of Peterson’s first book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief. Each non-fiction work aims to explain human history and human nature according to universal frameworks. 12... Read 12 Rules for Life Summary


Publication year 2020Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Life/Time: Mortality & DeathTags Historical Fiction, Romance, Food, Relationships, Politics / Government, Love / Sexuality, American Literature

Publication year 1995Genre Poem, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Equality, Values/Ideas: Order & Chaos, Values/Ideas: Beauty, Society: War, Relationships: Teams, Life/Time: The Future, Natural World: Space & The UniverseTags Free verse, Lyric Poem, Spoken Word Poetry, Politics / Government, History: World, Military / War, Grief / Death, American Literature

Publication year 1990Genre Novel, FictionThemes Life/Time: Coming of Age, Relationships: Fathers, Relationships: FamilyTags Realistic Fiction, Children's Literature, Class, Relationships, Parenting, Love / Sexuality, American Literature

Publication year 1914Genre Poem, FictionThemes Natural World: ObjectsTags Modernism, American Literature

Publication year 2002Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Identity: DisabilityTags Realistic Fiction, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Historical Fiction, Grief / Death, Depression / Suicide, Health / Medicine, Mental Illness, American Literature

Hattie Owen’s life changes the summer she turns 12 and meets the young uncle she never knew existed in Ann M. Martin’s middle-grade novel, A Corner of the Universe (2002). Uncle Adam has been kept a secret because of his mental problems. Adults have trouble handling his emotional extremes, but shy Hattie finds a true friend in her exuberant uncle. Adam teaches Hattie to explore life beyond the safety of her front porch. As Hattie... Read A Corner of the Universe Summary


Publication year 1991Genre Poem, FictionThemes Life/Time: Aging, Relationships: FathersTags Lyric Poem, Allegory / Fable / Parable, Parenting, American Literature

Among Peter Meinke’s most anthologized poems, “Advice to My Son” is best known for its humorous, ironic tone and contemporary interpretation of traditional rhyme structure. First published in 1964 in The Antioch Review, the poem was anthologized in the volume Liquid Paper: New and Selected Poems (1991), published by the Pittsburgh Press. According to Meinke, he had little idea that the poem would so deeply resonate with readers when he first wrote it as a... Read Advice to My Son Summary


Publication year 1929Genre Novel, FictionTags The Lost Generation, Modernism, American Literature

A Farewell to Arms, written by Ernest Hemingway and published in 1929, is the story of Frederic Henry, an officer with the Italian army in World War I, and his relationship with Catherine Barkley, a British nurse. Some have noted the similarities between the main character and Hemingway, who also served in the Italian army as an ambulance driver in 1918, and his nurse, Agnes Von Kurowsky, who cared for Hemingway after he was wounded.The... Read A Farewell to Arms Summary


Genre Poem, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Fame, Values/Ideas: Art, Emotions/Behavior: ConflictTags Lyric Poem, Auto/Biographical Fiction, American Literature

Publication year 1975Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Society: Colonialism, Values/Ideas: Justice & InjusticeTags American Literature, Satire

“Africa Kills Her Sun” is a satirical short story by Nigerian author Ken Saro-Wiwa. Published in 1989 in the anthology Adaku and Other Stories, “Africa Kills Her Sun” takes the form of a letter, written in first-person present tense by the main character, Bana. Bana recounts his adult life—his career change, crimes, and remaining moments before execution—to his childhood girlfriend, Zole, whom he has not seen or spoken to in 10 years.Bana begins the letter... Read Africa Kills Her Sun Summary


Publication year 1914Genre Poem, FictionTags Science / Nature, Modernism, American Literature

Publication year 1979Genre Novel, FictionThemes Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Values/Ideas: Good & EvilTags Horror / Thriller / Suspense Fiction, Mystery / Crime Fiction, Psychological Fiction, Military / War, Trauma / Abuse / Violence, American Literature

After the First Death (1979) by Robert Cormier is a juvenile suspense/horror that examines the fragility of life through a terrorist hijacking of a bus full of children. The book in conjunction with Cormier’s two most famous teen titles, The Chocolate War (1974) and I Am the Cheese (1977), won him the Margaret A. Edwards Award from the Young Adult Services Division of the American Library Association in 1991. Cormier was born in 1925 and... Read After The First Death Summary


Publication year 1906Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Relationships: Friendship, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & BetrayalTags Classic Fiction, American Literature

Note: Readers can access the source on Project Gutenberg here.With a complex relationship between two characters and an unexpected yet inevitable twist at the climax, “After Twenty Years,” published in the collection The Four Million (1906), is a typical example of O. Henry’s storytelling style. The story explores the themes of identity and change, perception and reality, and loyalty, and the twist ending means that each reading of the story is a new experience.The story... Read After Twenty Years Summary


Publication year 2020Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Emotions/Behavior: Nostalgia, Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / PerseveranceTags Lyric Poem, Grief / Death, American Literature

Publication year 1959Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Masculinity, Society: Community, Values/Ideas: Order & ChaosTags Science-Fiction / Dystopian Fiction, American Literature, Classic Fiction, Action / Adventure, Military / War, Relationships, History: U.S., Cold War

Alas, Babylon is a 1959 novel by Pat Frank. Written during the Cold War, it is one of the earliest post-apocalyptic novels to deal with the potential consequences of nuclear war. It examines themes of nationalism, natural selection, deterrent force, and resilience.Plot SummaryAs the novel begins, Mark Bragg sends a telegram to his brother, Randy. The telegram includes the words, “Alas, Babylon,” their code for the onset of a nuclear attack. Mark is an officer... Read Alas, Babylon Summary


Publication year 2015Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Friendship, Identity: Masculinity, Identity: DisabilityTags Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Drama / Tragedy, Relationships, LGBTQ, Trauma / Abuse / Violence, Depression / Suicide, American Literature

Publication year 1947Genre Play, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Relationships: Family, Society: War, Values/Ideas: Truth & LiesTags Play: Tragedy, Classic Fiction, American Literature, Military / War

All My Sons is a play by Arthur Miller, first performed in 1947. Based on a true story, All My Sons tells the story of a munitions factory owner who is accused of producing defective engines for aircraft. The play received many awards, ran for 328 shows on Broadway, and has been twice adapted as a film. This guide is based on the 2015 Penguin Classics edition of Miller’s Collected Plays. Plot SummaryJoe Keller is... Read All My Sons Summary


Publication year 2008Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Relationships: SiblingsTags Horror / Thriller / Suspense Fiction, Poverty, Trauma / Abuse / Violence, Relationships, Bullying, American Literature

All The Lovely Bad Ones is a 2008 middle-grade fiction book written by Mary Downing Hahn, a prolific children’s author who has authored several award-winning novels. The book’s title is taken from the poem “Little Orphant Annie” by James Whitcomb Riley, which the author inscribed to all children—including “all the lovely bad ones.” All The Lovely Bad Ones won an Oklahoma Sequoyah Award for Children and the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award.All The Lovely... Read All The Lovely Bad Ones Summary


Publication year 1975Genre Play, FictionThemes Relationships: FriendshipTags Play: Drama, American Literature, Mystery / Crime Fiction, Drama / Tragedy

American Buffalo is a 1975 off-Broadway play written by American playwright David Mamet. It first premiered in Chicago’s Goodman Theater in 1975, reaching Broadway in 1977. Along with two other plays, The Duck Variations (1971) and Sexual Perversity in Chicago (1974), American Buffalo established Mamet as a reputable writer. The play explores friendship and greed among the working classes. The 1976 publication from Grove Press (New York) serves as the basis for this guide.The play... Read American Buffalo Summary


Publication year 1993Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Society: Immigration, Society: Community, Identity: RaceTags Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Race / Racism, Class, History: U.S., American Literature

Publication year 1997Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Fathers, Relationships: Daughters & Sons, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: FateTags Historical Fiction, American Literature, Relationships

American Pastoral (1997) by Philip Roth examines in detail one man’s quest for the American dream and the fragility of the entire enterprise. Roth, one of the most critically acclaimed novelists of the 20th century, focuses his narrative microscope through the eyes of Nathan Zuckerman, his literary alter ego from whose perspective he has written 10 other novels, including Zuckerman Unbound (1981), The Anatomy Lesson (1983), and The Human Stain (2000). Roth has won virtually... Read American Pastoral Summary


Publication year 2018Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Identity: Race, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Values/Ideas: Justice & InjusticeTags Incarceration, Social Justice, Journalism, Race / Racism, American Literature, Post-War Era

Publication year 2009Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: Class, Society: Economics, Society: Education, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & PrideTags Mystery / Crime Fiction, American Literature, Class, Poverty

Following in the literary footsteps of John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy, Philipp Meyer’s American Rust (2010) explores the catastrophic effects of economic devastation on the lives of six characters in Pennsylvania’s Mon Valley, once home to a thriving steel and coal industry (and a solid-middle class) but now populated by broken lives and shuttered businesses. The novel was a winner of the Los Angeles Times/Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, a Washington Post Top Ten... Read American Rust Summary


Publication year 1893Genre Poem, FictionThemes Society: NationTags Lyric Poem, Inspirational, American Literature

Publication year 1964Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Literature, Relationships: FriendshipTags Travel Literature, American Literature

A Moveable Feast was written by Ernest Hemingway and published posthumously in 1964, three years after his death. The title, A Moveable Feast, is a play on the term used for holy days that do not consistently fall on the same date every year. The memoir’s structure mirrors this concept, featuring 20 separate yet related stories that make up Hemingway’s own collection of inconsistent holy days. The memoir blends fact with fiction as Hemingway recalls... Read A Moveable Feast Summary


Publication year 2017Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Identity: Mental Health, Society: Politics & GovernmentTags Lyric Poem, History: U.S., American Literature, Food

Joy Harjo is a seminal voice in the US poetry canon, and she has long been an advocate for Native American women in the literary world. Her work has merited tremendous acclaim, such as a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas, the Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the American... Read An American Sunrise Summary


Publication year 1925Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: Class, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Natural World: Appearance & Reality, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Relationships: MarriageTags Mystery / Crime Fiction, Historical Fiction, Drama / Tragedy, American Literature

Published in 1925, Theodore Dreiser’s realist novel An American Tragedy is one of the author’s most critically acclaimed works. Set in the 1920s in Kansas City, Chicago, and small-town New York state, the novel is the story of how Clyde Griffiths, the son of poor, itinerant preachers, kills Roberta Alden during a boat trip in the Adirondack Mountains.This guide is based on the Kindle edition published by Rosetta Books.Content Warning: This novel contains racist slurs... Read An American Tragedy Summary


Publication year 1884Genre Poem, FictionTags Narrative / Epic Poem, Gender / Feminism, American Literature

Publication year 2017Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Siblings, Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Society: Community, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Forgiveness, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: HopeTags Relationships, American Literature

Anything Is Possible is a 2017 novel by Elizabeth Strout in which each chapter features a character who is separate from but interconnects with the book’s other characters. Each chapter thus serves as both an autonomous short story and a piece of a larger, cohesive narrative and echoes or parallels other chapters.Strout, whose 2008 novel Olive Kitteridge won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, received the prestigious Story Prize for Anything Is Possible. The novel follows... Read Anything Is Possible Summary


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Publication year 1961Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Society: ClassTags Classic Fiction, American Literature, Humor, Class

“A&P” is one of John Updike’s most well-known and celebrated short stories, first published in The New Yorker on July 22, 1961, and later appearing in the author’s short story collection Pigeon Feathers. A Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Updike populates his realist fiction with small-town, middle-class Americans. Adaptations of “A&P” include a 1966 short film directed by Bruce Schwartz, starring Sean Hayes as Sammy and Amy Smart as Queenie.The protagonist, Sammy, is also the story’s first-person... Read A&P Summary


Publication year 1948Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Identity: Mental Health, Relationships: Marriage, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Life/Time: Childhood & Youth, Society: WarTags Classic Fiction, American Literature, Depression / Suicide, WWII / World War II

“A Perfect Day for Bananafish” is a short story by iconic American author J. D. Salinger. First published in The New Yorker in 1948 and later published in the collection Nine Stories (1953), it is considered one of Salinger’s breakthrough works, establishing the unique voice, flair for character, energetic dialogue, and inventive style that would become his trademarks. The story centers on a young New York City couple, Seymour and Muriel Glass, and the bizarre... Read A Perfect Day for Bananafish Summary


Publication year 2006Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: Class, Society: Community, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Natural World: PlaceTags Satire, Humor, Race / Racism, History: U.S., Business / Economics, American Literature, Reconstruction Era, African American Literature

Apex Hides the Hurt, a 2006 novel by American author Colson Whitehead, follows a nameless, emotionally muted nomenclature consultant, or an expert in creating brand names. The novel toggles between the protagonist’s memories of success at his company, and his current consulting assignment—renaming a town. The novel satirizes contemporary American consumer culture and features themes of race and identity. Whitehead uses humor and revelation as key narrative techniques in this story about a man who... Read Apex Hides the Hurt Summary


Publication year 1909Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Society: ClassTags Psychological Fiction, Modern Classic Fiction, Sports, Poverty, Psychology, Social Justice, American Literature

Jack London’s 1909 “A Piece of Steak” is a naturalist short story first published in The Saturday Evening Post. It took him between two and four weeks to write, and he was paid a very handsome (for the era) $500 for it. While London is best known for his novels about the Alaskan wilderness, including The Call of the Wild and White Fang, he was also interested in workers’ rights and advocated for socialism and... Read A Piece of Steak Summary


Publication year 1838Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / PerseveranceTags Lyric Poem, Grief / Death, American Literature

Publication year 1959Genre Play, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Music, Relationships: Fathers, Identity: GenderTags American Literature, African American Literature, Black Arts Movement

When Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun premiered in 1959, it was the first play by a black woman to open on Broadway, as well as the first play with a black director. The title comes from Langston Hughes’s poem “Harlem,” which asks, “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” The play tells the story of the Youngers, a family who lives together in a small... Read A Raisin in the Sun Summary


Publication year 1894Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Loyalty & Betrayal, Relationships: Marriage, Self DiscoveryTags Classic Fiction, Gender / Feminism, American Literature

Publication year 1903Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Love, Values/Ideas: FateTags Classic Fiction, American Literature

“A Retrieved Reformation,” by prolific American short story writer O. Henry, was first published as “A Retrieved Reform” in The Cosmopolitan in 1903. The story is an example of Realism, a literary movement popular in the US and Europe in the years between the end of the American Civil War and the early 20th century. Realism explores the everyday lives of ordinary people, using detailed descriptions and colloquial dialogue. Events in “A Retrieved Reformation” are... Read A Retrieved Reformation Summary


Publication year 2012Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Identity: Sexuality, Life/Time: Coming of AgeTags Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Realistic Fiction, LGBTQ, Relationships, Bullying, Parenting, American Literature

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz is a young adult fiction novel published in 2012. The novel won a Lambda Literary Award, a Pura Belpre Award, and a Stonewall Book Award. It was also named a Printz Honor Book. Told from a first-person point of view, the book is a work of realistic fiction set in El Paso, Texas, in the late 1980s.Plot SummaryAristotle “Ari” Mendoza is the... Read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Summary


Publication year 1959Genre Novel, FictionTags American Literature

Published in 1959, A Separate Peace, by John Knowles, depicts a teenager’s coming-of-age at a New England boy’s boarding school during the final years of World War II. The novel explores peace and conflict in a space that is both isolated from the war and beginning to feel the compromise as the war encroaches on the campus in both literal and figurative ways. A semi-autobiographical book based on Knowles’s boyhood tenure at Exeter in New... Read A Separate Peace Summary


Publication year 1930Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Relationships: MothersTags Southern Gothic, American Literature, Classic Fiction, Grief / Death, Parenting

As I Lay Dying is a Southern Gothic novel by William Cuthbert Faulkner, which he published in 1930. The story follows a poor, rural family’s journey across Mississippi to bury their dead matriarch and is marked by dark humor and stream-of-consciousness style narration.Faulkner (1897-1962) was a writer from Oxford, Mississippi. His novels and works of short fiction, including The Sound and the Fury (1929) and As I Lay Dying (1930), earned him the Nobel Prize... Read As I Lay Dying Summary


Publication year 2001Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: courage, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Life/Time: Childhood & Youth, Relationships: Family, Values/Ideas: Art, Values/Ideas: Beauty, Emotions/Behavior: FearTags Historical Fiction, Children's Literature, Asian Literature, Realistic Fiction, Arts / Culture, History: Asian, Poverty, American Literature

A Single Shard (2001) is an award-winning, middle-grade historical novel by Korean American author Linda Sue Park. Park has written multiple children’s books, picture books, and volumes of poetry. Some of her better-known titles include A Long Walk to Water (2010), The Thirty-Nine Clues series in nine volumes (2010), and Prairie Lotus (2020). Much of her historical fiction is based on Korean history. A Single Shard is intended for readers in grades 5 to 7... Read A Single Shard Summary


Publication year 1983Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Forgiveness, Society: Class, Identity: GenderTags Grief / Death, American Literature, Class, Drama / Tragedy, Gender / Feminism, Race / Racism

“A Small, Good Thing” is one of Raymond Carver’s most decorated short stories. It was first printed in heavily edited form as “The Bath” in a 1981 edition of Columbia. When Carver reworked the story for his 1983 collection Cathedral, he titled this more complete version “A Small, Good Thing.” In this form, the story won the coveted O. Henry award and appeared in the year’s Pushcart Prize Annual. A work of literary realism, “A... Read A Small Good Thing Summary


Publication year 1947Genre Play, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: MusicTags Southern Gothic, American Literature

A Streetcar Named Desire is one of Tennessee Williams's most famous plays. Published in 1947, it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and has garnered numerous Tony and Olivier awards since its first production. Blanche Dubois arrives at the French Quarter of New Orleans to stay with her sister, Stella Kowalski. The sisters grew up wealthy on Belle Reve, a plantation in Laurel, Mississippi, and Blanche is immediately critical of what she sees as Stella’s rough... Read A Streetcar Named Desire Summary


Publication year 1997Genre Essay Collection, NonfictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Apathy, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Self Discovery, Society: Community, Society: Education, Society: Nation, Values/Ideas: Art, Values/Ideas: Fate, Values/Ideas: Literature, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Values/Ideas: Truth & LiesTags Humor, Philosophy, Post Modernism, American Literature

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again is a 1997 essay collection by David Foster Wallace. The seven essays explore 1990s US social issues through subjects such as television, tennis, and (in the most famous essay) a Caribbean cruise. The essays have been referenced many times in popular culture, particularly the title essay, which recounts Wallace’s experiences on a cruise.This guide references the 1998 Abacus edition of the collection.SummaryIn the first essay, “Derivative Sport... Read A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again Summary


Publication year 1936Genre Novella, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Natural World: Space & The Universe, Values/Ideas: Order & ChaosTags Horror / Thriller / Suspense Fiction, Action / Adventure, Anthropology, Military / War, Science / Nature, American Literature

At the Mountains of Madness is a science-fiction novella written by H. P. Lovecraft in 1931 and published in Astounding Stories in 1936. Like much of Lovecraft’s work, it also helped establish the genre of cosmic horror, or what Lovecraft called “weird fiction”: horror that relies on existential anxieties about humanity’s place in the universe to achieve its effects. The story involves a research team discovering an ancient city buried beneath the Antarctic. At the... Read At the Mountains of Madness Summary


Publication year 2007Genre Play, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Life/Time: Mortality & DeathTags Play: Tragedy, Play: Comedy / Satire, American Literature

August: Osage County by American playwright Tracy Letts premiered at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre in June 2007 and debuted on Broadway in December of the same year. When Beverly, the Weston family patriarch, goes missing, a web of estranged family members travel home to gather around his vitriolic spouse, Violet. The play is semi-autobiographical, and Letts explores themes of addiction, suicide, and generational trauma from his own childhood in Oklahoma. In 2008, August: Osage County won... Read August: Osage County Summary


Publication year 2010Genre Short Story Collection, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: MusicTags Psychological Fiction, Music, American Literature

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan tracks the passage of time in the lives of individuals in the rock music industry. The chapters defy conventional temporal and narrative chronologies, and each one is a self-contained episode in an unfolding network of stories, spanning six decades from the 1970s to the 2020s. The novel employs various narrative formats, such as the short story, the magazine article, and the graphic slide presentation. The variety... Read A Visit from the Goon Squad Summary


Publication year 1941Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Life/Time: Childhood & Youth, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Life/Time: AgingTags Classic Fiction, Southern Literature, American Literature

“A Visit of Charity” is a short story written by Eudora Welty, the first living writer published in the Library of America series. “A Visit of Charity” is one of 17 short stories in Welty’s collection A Curtain of Green, published in 1941 by Doubleday. The text referenced in this guide is from Eudora Welty: Stories, Essays, and Memoir, published by the Library of America in 1998.The main character, Marian, a 14-year-old Campfire Girl, decides... Read A Visit of Charity Summary


Publication year 1886Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Natural World: Animals, Natural World: Environment, Life/Time: Childhood & YouthTags Science / Nature, Gender / Feminism, American Literature

“A White Heron” is the most popular short story by American author Sarah Orne Jewett. A work of American regionalism and romanticism, the tale emphasizes the setting, the human-animal connection, a celebration of nature, and individual experience. Jewett is a famous figure in literary regionalism, and her work often explores themes of the natural world. In “A White Heron,” Jewett uses literary techniques such as personification to make the environment and animals come alive as... Read A White Heron Summary


Publication year 1931Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Emotions/Behavior: Hope, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / PerseveranceTags Great Depression, Jazz Age, American Literature

“Babylon Revisited,” by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a short story that employs the techniques of Literary Modernism to tackle complex themes of The Quest for Personal Redemption, The Haunting Power of the Past, and The Fragility of Personal Reform. First published on February 21, 1931, in The Saturday Evening Post, the story is a reflective journey through the eyes of Charlie Wales, a remorseful man endeavoring to reclaim the pieces of a life... Read Babylon Revisited Summary


Publication year 1971Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Femininity, Values/Ideas: Equality, Society: Politics & GovernmentTags Gender / Feminism, Narrative / Epic Poem, American Literature

The American writer Marge Piercy wrote “Barbie Doll.” Originally published in Moving Out (1971), the poem also appears in her 1982 collection, Circles on the Water. A highly descriptive poem, “Barbie Doll” offers staunch diction and vivid, stereotypical imagery of a girl who grows up and dies by suicide as an adult. This free verse poem is an example of second-wave feminist thought, also known as the Women’s Liberation Movement, something Piercy explores here through... Read Barbie Doll Summary


Publication year 1939Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Relationships: Fathers, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & Betrayal, Values/Ideas: Justice & InjusticeTags Historical Fiction, American Literature

First published in Harper’s magazine in 1939, William Faulkner’s short story “Barn Burning” comments upon inheritance, loyalty, and the heavy bonds that link fathers and sons. Many of Faulkner’s writings, including his short stories and novels, are set in fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, which is based loosely upon Lafayette County. The Snopes family, who are the main characters in “Barn Burning,” appear in many of Faulkner’s other short stories and novels.The story opens in a... Read Barn Burning Summary


Publication year 1853Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Apathy, Emotions/Behavior: LonelinessTags American Literature, Classic Fiction

Herman Melville’s short story “Bartleby, the Scrivener” was published anonymously in 1853 to little recognition. Today it is considered a masterpiece. Some critics view “Bartleby” as a precursor to absurdist literature like Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis,” highlighting the incredibly modern nature of this mid-19th-century short story. Others read “Bartleby” as commentary on poverty and the harsh nature of menial work on Wall Street, or as an allegory for Melville’s own frustrations with writing. This guide... Read Bartleby, the Scrivener Summary


Publication year 2021Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Life/Time: Coming of Age, Society: Immigration, Identity: Language, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Relationships: Mothers, Relationships: Daughters & Sons, Identity: Race, Natural World: Food, Society: Education, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / PerseveranceTags Chinese Literature, Immigration / Refugee, Poverty, American Literature, Education

Publication year 2020Genre Novel/Book in Verse, FictionThemes Relationships: Fathers, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Relationships: FriendshipTags Realistic Fiction, Sports, Relationships, American Literature

Publication year 2002Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: FamilyTags American Literature

When Julia Alvarez’s Before We Were Free (2002) begins, the life of Anita de la Torre, an 11-year-old girl in the Dominican Republic, is about to change forever. The novel investigates themes of family, government corruption, superstition, and the power of the written word, all set against the backdrop of the months before and after the assassination of a brutal dictator, Rafael Trujillo. This study guide uses the 2007 Laurel Leaf Reprint Edition.Plot SummaryDuring the... Read Before We Were Free Summary


Publication year 1970Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: Politics & Government, Natural World: Appearance & RealityTags Satire, Humor, American Literature

Polish-born author Jerzy Kosiński (1933-1991) wrote Being There, published in 1970. The novella satirizes mid-20th-century politics and culture, focusing on the twin pillars of bureaucracy and the media as vehicles for the deterioration of modern thought. Kosiński grew up in Soviet-controlled Poland and came to the United States in 1957. In 1958, he was awarded a Ford Foundation fellowship. He studied at the New School and Columbia University in New York, where he received a... Read Being There Summary


Publication year 1987Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Relationships: Daughters & SonsTags Magical Realism, Race / Racism, American Literature, Existentialism, African American Literature

Toni Morrison’s Beloved was published in 1987. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Inspired by the real-life story of a runaway African American enslaved woman named Margaret Garner, who killed her own daughter to prevent her capture and enslavement, Beloved tells the story of Sethe, a runaway enslaved woman who takes her daughter’s life in the same manner. This study guide, which addresses physical... Read Beloved Summary


Publication year 1920Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Identity: Femininity, Emotions/Behavior: Apathy, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Self DiscoveryTags Classic Fiction, American Literature, The Lost Generation

“Bernice Bobs Her Hair” is a short story by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. The story demonstrates Fitzgerald’s interest in the shifting social trends of the 1920s American Jazz Age, in which he and his wife, Zelda, figured prominently. While drawing on Modernist concerns and the literary tradition of makeover stories, Fitzgerald particularly highlights themes of Shifting Feminine Identity in the Early 20th Century, Downfall Through the Temptation of Social Acceptance, and Detachment in Modern... Read Bernice Bobs Her Hair Summary


Publication year 2021Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Natural World: EnvironmentTags Science-Fiction / Dystopian Fiction, Allegory / Fable / Parable, Climate Change, Grief / Death, Mental Illness, Science / Nature, American Literature

Publication year 1920Genre Play, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Relationships: Siblings, Values/Ideas: FateTags American Literature, Play: Tragedy

Eugene O’Neill’s Beyond the Horizon is a play that centers on the disaster that befalls two brothers when they choose to fight against their own natures. Realizing that they both love the same woman, each brother ends up pursuing the dream of the other with dire consequences.Written in 1918, Beyond the Horizon was O’Neill’s first full-length work to be produced, although it wasn’t published and first performed until 1920, the same year that it won... Read Beyond the Horizon Summary


Publication year 1924Genre Novella, FictionThemes Relationships: Teams, Society: Community, Society: War, Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Values/Ideas: Justice & InjusticeTags American Literature, Classic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Action / Adventure

Billy Budd, Sailor is a 1924 novella by Herman Melville. The narrative is equal parts philosophical examination and Christian allegory. The story concerns the brief time and tragic death of the eponymous Billy on the British warship Bellipotent. In the story, Billy, happy and naïve, is framed for mutiny and hanged for treason despite his innocence. Melville uses Billy’s story to examine The Struggle Between Morality and Lawfulness, The Vulnerability of Innocence and Naivety, and... Read Billy Budd, Sailor Summary


Publication year 1915Genre Poem, FictionThemes Life/Time: Childhood & Youth, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Natural World: Appearance & RealityTags Lyric Poem, Science / Nature, American Literature, Modernism

Publication year 1985Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & Betrayal, Values/Ideas: Fate, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Order & Chaos, Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Values/Ideas: Win & Lose, Emotions/Behavior: Revenge, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & Anger, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: ConflictTags Western, Historical Fiction, American Literature

Blood Meridian, a 1985 novel by Cormac McCarthy, is one of the most celebrated works of modern American literature. The novel was inspired by people and events of the mid-19th century in the borderlands of the United States and Mexico. McCarthy’s works have won many honors including the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize. Blood Meridian is often considered his greatest novel. This guide uses an eBook version of the 1992 First Vintage International edition... Read Blood Meridian Summary


Publication year 1962Genre Poem, FictionTags Lyric Poem, Free verse, Social Justice, Civil Rights / Jim Crow, Cold War, American Literature

Publication year 1958Genre Novella, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Identity: Femininity, Values/Ideas: Truth & LiesTags Classic Fiction, American Literature

Breakfast at Tiffany's is a 1958 novella by Truman Capote. In the story, an unnamed narrator is introduced to a young woman named Holly Golightly and the unique New York world she inhabits. The novella is one of Capote’s most popular works and has been adapted as a musical, a play, and most famously as an Academy Award-winning film in 1961 starring Audrey Hepburn. This guide refers to the eBook version of the 2000 Penguin... Read Breakfast at Tiffany’s Summary


Publication year 2009Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Love, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Society: Immigration, Emotions/Behavior: Nostalgia, Relationships: FamilyTags Romance, Historical Fiction, Irish Literature, American Literature

Brooklyn is a 2009 historical fiction novel written by Colm Tóibín. The book follows Eilis Lacey as she emigrates from Ireland to Brooklyn in the 1950s, finding a job in a department store and falling in love with a young Italian man named Tony. Despite her new life in Brooklyn, Eilis makes a return to Enniscorthy, the same town Colm Tóibín was born and raised in, when her older sister Rose dies. While there, she... Read Brooklyn Summary


Publication year 1999Genre Poem, FictionTags Lyric Poem, Arts / Culture, Education, American Literature

Publication year 1995Genre Poem, FictionThemes Life/Time: The Future, Life/Time: The Past, Relationships: FriendshipTags Lyric Poem, Relationships, American Literature

Publication year 1940Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Society: CommunityTags Classic Fiction, Action / Adventure, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Fairy Tale / Folklore, Education, Animals, Relationships, Religion / Spirituality, American Literature

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Publication year 1923Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Sexuality, Society: CommunityTags Harlem Renaissance, American Literature, Modernism, Race / Racism, Trauma / Abuse / Violence, Science / Nature

Cane, Jean Toomer’s most famous book, was first published in 1923. The original publication of the novel was a foundational moment in the Harlem Renaissance literary movement. Cane’s reissue (after being out of print for many years) in 1967 came out during the Second Renaissance of African American literature. This guide cites the 2019 Penguin Books edition. This guide also briefly mentions lynching and other racial violence as they appear in the novel.Plot SummaryCane is... Read Cane Summary


Publication year 1977Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Indigenous, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Society: WarTags Western, American Literature, Historical Fiction

Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko is a 1977 historical novel that won the American Book Award in 1980; it was Silko’s first novel. Ceremony follows Tayo, a young Laguna Pueblo veteran who is now struggling to cope with Alienation and Isolation in Post-WWII America. Traditional Laguna Pueblo legends parallel Tayo’s journey and explore themes of The Power of Stories and Adapting Tradition to the Present. Ceremony is often cited as a major work in the... Read Ceremony Summary


Publication year 1948Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Natural World: Appearance & Reality, Relationships: FamilyTags Classic Fiction, American Literature, Humor, Post-War Era, Parenting

American author Shirley Jackson’s short story “Charles” (1948) was first published in Mademoiselle, then in Jackson’s 1949 collection as well as in her 1953 novel Life Among the Savages. Though “Charles” is not in the horror genre, Jackson is a renowned horror writer and has influenced modern writers like Neil Gaiman and Stephen King. The story does, however, have an element of mystery—another genre for which the author is famous. This study guide cites the... Read Charles Summary


Publication year 1791Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Loyalty & Betrayal, Emotions/Behavior: Forgiveness, Identity: Femininity, Values/Ideas: Good & EvilTags Classic Fiction, Historical Fiction, American Literature

Charlotte Temple: A Tale of Truth, written by Susanna Rowson (1762-1824) and published in 1791, is a cautionary Sentimentalist novel about Charlotte Temple, an upper-middle-class 15-year-old girl living in England. She leaves her family and home to follow a soldier, who promises to marry her, to the United States. However, Charlotte is betrayed by her companions, which leads to her untimely death. Although the novel did not perform well when originally published in England, the... Read Charlotte Temple: A Tale of Truth Summary


Publication year 1977Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Relationships: Marriage, Values/Ideas: Good & EvilTags Mystery / Crime Fiction, Horror / Thriller / Suspense Fiction, American Literature

Publication year 2021Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Identity: Race, Society: ImmigrationTags Historical Fiction, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Realistic Fiction, Race / Racism, Social Justice, Addiction / Substance Abuse, Black Lives Matter, American Literature

Publication year 2018Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: LoveTags Lyric Poem, Love / Sexuality, American Literature

Publication year 2017Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Equality, Values/Ideas: Win & Lose, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & Anger, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: ConflictTags Race / Racism, Trauma / Abuse / Violence, American Literature

Publication year 1949Genre Play, FictionThemes Relationships: Fathers, Identity: Masculinity, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & BetrayalTags Play: Tragedy, Play: Drama, Modern Classic Fiction, American Literature

Death of a Salesman is a play written by American playwright Arthur Miller and first performed on Broadway in 1949. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a Tony Award for Best Play, it is considered by critics to be one of the greatest plays of the 20th century. The cynical play follows the final hours of a mentally unstable salesman at the end of his career who fails to attain the American Dream... Read Death of a Salesman Summary


Publication year 2001Genre Poem, FictionThemes Life/Time: Coming of Age, Emotions/Behavior: ForgivenessTags Poetry: Dramatic Poem, American Literature

Genre Short Story, FictionTags Classic Fiction, American Literature, Naturalism, Realism

“Désirée’s Baby” is a short story by Kate Chopin, first published under the title “The Father of Désirée's Baby,” in Vogue on January 14, 1893. It later appeared in Chopin’s 1894 short story collection Bayou Folk. The story takes place in Louisiana in the antebellum, or pre-Civil War, period. Its characters are Creole—descendants of colonists who lived in Louisiana during its periods of French and Spanish rule, who typically spoke French and practiced Catholicism. Chopin... Read Desiree's Baby Summary


Publication year 2002Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Language, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Values/Ideas: LiteratureTags Lyric Poem, Humor, Romance, Arts / Culture, Class, American Literature, African American Literature

Harryette Mullen’s “Dim Lady” may remind some readers of 17th century English playwright and poet William Shakespeare’s well-known “Sonnet 130,” in which the speaker of the poem makes a mockery of his beloved’s physical appearance. During Shakespeare’s time, fashion encouraged poets to write flowery poetry that extolled the virtues and the beauty of their beloved. However, the speaker of this sonnet toys with poetic conventions of the time, describing the physical attributes of the speaker’s... Read Dim Lady Summary


Publication year 1930Genre Poem, FictionThemes Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Values/Ideas: Religion & SpiritualityTags Lyric Poem, Grief / Death, Religion / Spirituality, American Literature

Publication year 1968Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Revenge, Natural World: Space & The Universe, Values/Ideas: Science & TechnologyTags Science-Fiction / Dystopian Fiction, Fantasy, Action / Adventure, Relationships, Science / Nature, Technology, American Literature

Publication year 1837Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Life/Time: Aging, Emotions/Behavior: Regret, Values/Ideas: Good & EvilTags Classic Fiction, Fantasy, Gothic Literature, American Literature

“Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” is a short story about a doctor who invites four elderly friends to his study to participate in a curious experiment that temporarily restores their youth. The story explores themes of Youth and Old Age, Humans Versus Nature, and Good and Evil. It invites questions like: Does age affect an individual’s potential for happiness? If given a second opportunity to relive youthful years, would a person remediate their failures?“Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” was... Read Dr. Heidegger's Experiment Summary


Publication year 1962Genre Poem, FictionThemes Natural World: PlaceTags Lyric Poem, Science / Nature, American Literature

Publication year 1931Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Emotions/Behavior: Revenge, Identity: Femininity, Identity: RaceTags American Literature, Race / Racism

“Dry September,” by American author William Faulkner, is a short story that explores racial tension, violence, and moral decay in a small Southern town when a white woman’s accusation against a Black man leads to violence. The story, which unfolds in five parts, revolves around the rumors that Will Mayes, a Black man, assaulted or frightened a white woman, Miss Minnie Cooper. Without concrete evidence, the men of the town exact their revenge against Mayes... Read Dry September Summary


Publication year 1952Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Love, Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Relationships: FamilyTags American Literature, Classic Fiction, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Realistic Fiction, Drama / Tragedy, Relationships, Class, Religion / Spirituality

John Steinbeck’s East of Eden is an American classic. A work of contemporary fiction, the novel was a popular success upon its 1952 publication, quickly rising to the top of the fiction bestseller list. It has remained in print ever since and is still a widely read and well-respected book. Steinbeck published 33 books, including nonfiction, and received the Nobel Prize in 1962 for his contribution to American letters. His most famous works are the... Read East of Eden Summary


Publication year 1976Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Values/Ideas: Truth & LiesTags Historical Fiction, Action / Adventure, Fairy Tale / Folklore, Relationships, History: Middle Eastern, History: U.S., Post Modernism, American Literature

Eaters of the Dead is a 1976 historical novel by Michael Crichton. Crichton (1942-2008) is known for his best-selling novels, many of which have been adapted into movies, as well as TV and filmmaking. His books include Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain, The Lost World, Prey, and Disclosure. Crichton also worked in filmmaking and in the TV industry, most notably on Westworld (writer, director), ER (creator), and on the Jurassic Park franchise based on his... Read Eaters Of The Dead Summary


Publication year 2001Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Mothers, Relationships: Fathers, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Society: ClassTags American Literature, Humor, Relationships

In Empire Falls, published in 2001, award-winning author Richard Russo focuses his sharp observations on family, faith, and hope for the future in small-town America, where the factories have left, the populations are dwindling, and the prospects are shrinking. Miles Roby almost got out of Empire Falls, but his mother’s illness brought him back a semester shy of graduating college. Now he runs the Empire Grill, a landmark that still anchors the dying town, and... Read Empire Falls Summary


Publication year 1850Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Values/Ideas: Religion & SpiritualityTags Classic Fiction, American Literature

“Ethan Brand” by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a short story written in 1850 and published in his 1852 collection The Snow-Image and Other Twice-Told Tales. The author uses allegory, ambiguity, and the literary devices of Dark Romanticism to explore the themes of The Dangers of Amoral Intellectualism, Spiritual Damnation and Pride, and The Loneliness of Social Detachment and Rejection.Christian morality, spiritual anxiety, and the moral pitfalls of intellectualism and science appear throughout Hawthorne’s works. His most... Read Ethan Brand Summary


Publication year 1911Genre Novella, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Fate, Identity: Gender, Society: ClassTags American Literature, Classic Fiction, Historical Fiction

Ethan Frome, first published in 1911, is a novella by American writer Edith Wharton. Wharton’s work, which most often concerned the lives of America’s Gilded Age elite, is usually classified as social realism or even naturalism, a realist subgenre that depicted human life and society through a determinist lens. Although Ethan Frome’s focus on rural, working-class life was unusual for Wharton, its themes and tone reflect this naturalist influence. The novel has become a staple... Read Ethan Frome Summary


Publication year 2018Genre Play, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Values/Ideas: Order & Chaos, Values/Ideas: Good & EvilTags Play: Drama, Allegory / Fable / Parable, Grief / Death, Philosophy, Religion / Spirituality, American Literature

Everybody, a one-act play by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, premiered Off-Broadway in 2017 at the Signature Theatre and was first published in 2018. It is a modern retelling of Everyman, the most well-known and anthologized example of a medieval morality play, which was adapted from a Dutch play by an anonymous 15th century English writer. Morality plays first appeared in the 12th century, evolving from the Catholic Church’s cycle plays and liturgical dramas, which reenacted biblical scenes... Read Everybody Summary


Publication year 1965Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Society: Class, Values/Ideas: EqualityTags Race / Racism, Southern Gothic, American Literature

First published in New World Writing magazine in 1961, “Everything That Rises Must Converge” is the title story from Flannery O’Connor’s final collection of short stories. Hailed as one of the United States’ greatest writers, O’Connor is best known for her award-winning short fiction and her contributions to the genre of Southern Gothic literature. The collection Everything That Rises Must Converge was published posthumously in 1965. It contains nine stories, seven of which appeared previously... Read Everything That Rises Must Converge Summary


Publication year 1953Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: LiteratureTags Classic Fiction, American Literature, Science-Fiction / Dystopian Fiction

The publication of American novelist Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 in 1953 helped to transition the science fiction genre from the niche arena of pulp magazines and comic books to mainstream fiction. The futuristic novel takes place in a culture that has banned books. Time and place (probably Midwestern America) are unidentified, but the country is on the brink of war with an unnamed foe. “The Hearth and the Salamander,” “The Sieve and the Sand,” and... Read Fahrenheit 451 Summary


Publication year 2007Genre Novel, FictionThemes Natural World: Place, Values/Ideas: Fate, Values/Ideas: Safety & DangerTags Historical Fiction, American Literature, September 11 Attacks

Falling Man is a 2007 novel by American author Don DeLillo. The novel explores the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. This guide uses an eBook version of the 2011 Picador edition of Falling Man.Plot SummaryOn September 11, 2001, a group of 19 Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacks commercial passenger planes and attempt to crash them into American landmarks. In addition to one plane that crashed... Read Falling Man Summary


Publication year 1914Genre Poem, FictionTags Lyric Poem, Sociology, Arts / Culture, American Literature, Realism, Food

Publication year 1986Genre Poem, FictionThemes Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Relationships: FriendshipTags Narrative / Epic Poem, Sports, Grief / Death, American Literature

Publication year 1986Genre Play, FictionThemes Relationships: Fathers, Life/Time: AgingTags American Literature

August Wilson’s play Fences premiered in 1985 at the Yale Repertory Theatre and was published the following year. It opened on Broadway in 1987 with James Earl Jones in the role of Troy. It was the third play to premiere of Wilson’s Century Cycle, although it is the sixth play chronologically. The Century Cycle, also known as the Pittsburgh Cycle, consists of 10 plays, one set in each decade of the 20th century. Each play... Read Fences Summary


Publication year 2021Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Natural World: Appearance & Reality, Society: CommunityTags Mystery / Crime Fiction, Psychological Fiction, Trauma / Abuse / Violence, Addiction / Substance Abuse, Grief / Death, Race / Racism, American Literature

Publication year 1986Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Revenge, Identity: Gender, Identity: RaceTags Magical Realism, Trauma / Abuse / Violence, Gender / Feminism, American Literature

“Fleur” is a magical realist short story by Chippewa American author Louise Erdrich. It was first published in Esquire in 1986 and won an O. Henry Award, a prize for excellence in short story writing. Erdrich expanded on the story and characters in her novel Tracks, published in 1988. This guide, which discusses sexual abuse, uses the version of “Fleur” published in the 2009 collection The Red Convertible: Selected and New Stories 1978-2008. The narrator... Read Fleur Summary


Publication year 1930Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Loyalty & Betrayal, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Society: Politics & Government, Identity: Femininity, Emotions/Behavior: ApathyTags American Literature

“Flowering Judas” by Katherine Anne Porter was first published in 1930 in her debut collection of stories titled Flowering Judas and Other Stories. The anthology was later expanded in 1935 to include 10 works of short fiction. “Flowering Judas” is set in the Xochimilco borough of Mexico City in 1920, just after the Mexican Revolution, and follows Laura, a young American schoolteacher who travels to Mexico and joins the cause of the Socialists in the... Read Flowering Judas Summary


Publication year 1981Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Society: ColonialismTags Historical Fiction, Survival Fiction, Action / Adventure, Western, American Literature

Publication year 1990Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: DisabilityTags Lyric Poem, Mental Illness, American Literature

Publication year 1940Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: courage, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Identity: Gender, Identity: Masculinity, Relationships: Marriage, Society: War, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & BetrayalTags American Literature, Classic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Military / War

For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) is a novel by the Modernist American author Ernest Hemingway. The novel tells the story of Robert Jordan, an American volunteer working as a demolition specialist for the Republican army during the Spanish Civil War. Robert, sent to blow up a bridge to aid a Republican offensive, enlists the aid of a band of guerrilla fighters in the mountains. Robert falls in love with a woman in their care... Read For Whom the Bell Tolls Summary


Publication year 1961Genre Short Story Collection, FictionThemes Relationships: Siblings, Emotions/Behavior: Hope, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Values/Ideas: Religion & SpiritualityTags Classic Fiction, American Literature

Franny and Zooey is a 1961 book by J. D. Salinger. The book contains the 1955 short story Franny and the 1957 novella Zooey, both works that Salinger published separately in The New Yorker before he published them as a single book. J. D. Salinger is an American author most famous for his novel The Catcher in the Rye. The short story Franny follows Franny Glass as she visits her boyfriend Lane Coutell at school... Read Franny and Zooey Summary


Publication year 1986Genre Poem, FictionThemes Natural World: Environment, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Nostalgia, Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / PerseveranceTags Lyric Poem, American Literature, Food

Publication year 2017Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Identity: Sexuality, Identity: Indigenous, Natural World: Flora/plants, Relationships: FriendshipTags Free verse, American Literature, Love / Sexuality, Science / Nature, LGBTQ

Publication year 1989Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Values/Ideas: FateTags American Literature, Science-Fiction / Dystopian Fiction

Geek Love is a 1989 novel by Katherine Dunn. The novel is structured as a memoir written by Olympia “Oly” Binewski, an albino hunchback dwarf, as she chronicles the bizarre story of her family of carnival freaks. Her parents, Aloysius “Al” and Lillian “Lil, Lily, or Crystal Lil” Binewski, had sought to prop up their faltering traveling carnival by breeding their own children into freaks through the prenatal use of illicit drugs, poison, and radiation. The eldest living child, Arturo, nicknamed... Read Geek Love Summary


Publication year 1990Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Identity: Masculinity, Life/Time: Coming of AgeTags Action / Adventure, Historical Fiction, Immigration / Refugee, Race / Racism, American Literature

Publication year 1983Genre Play, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Identity: Masculinity, Society: Economics, Emotions/Behavior: ConflictTags Play: Drama, Play: Comedy / Satire, American Literature

The “coffee is for closers” line is considered one of the most iconic moments from playwright David Mamet’s entire oeuvre (Glengarry Glen Ross. Directed by James Foley, New Line Cinema, 1992). However, the line is actually nowhere to be found in the playscript for Glengarry Glenn Ross, which premiered at the National Theatre in London in 1983 and debuted on Broadway in 1984. Rather, it appears in the 1992 film adaptation, with a screenplay that... Read Glengarry Glen Ross Summary


Publication year 1978Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: War, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Emotions/Behavior: GuiltTags Military / War, American Literature

Going After Cacciato, by Tim O’Brien, is a novel about a young soldier’s experiences in the Vietnam War. However, as the New York Times noted in its initial review of the novel upon its publication in 1978, “call[ing] Going After Cacciato a novel about war is like calling Moby Dick a novel about whales.” The novel does not simply recount the events of the war; it dives into the inner life of its protagonist, Paul... Read Going After Cacciato Summary


Publication year 1993Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Identity: Indigenous, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Society: ColonialismTags Magical Realism, American Literature

Thomas King’s novel Green Grass, Running Water (1993) is set in a contemporary First Nations Blackfoot community in Alberta, Canada. The book gained critical acclaim due to its unique structure and King’s combination of oral and written history within a compelling narrative. The novel follows several plotlines, ranging from realist to mythical, and revolves around the broad theme of Indigenous identity in the 20th century. The novel is notable for its use of humor, satire... Read Green Grass, Running Water Summary


Publication year 1919Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Identity: Masculinity, Natural World: Appearance & RealityTags American Literature

Publication year 2006Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Hate & Anger, Relationships: Marriage, Emotions/Behavior: LoveTags Lyric Poem, Relationships, Love / Sexuality, Psychology, American Literature

Publication year 1927Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Hope, Emotions/Behavior: ApathyTags Relationships, American Literature, The Lost Generation

Ernest Hemingway’s 1927 short story “Hills Like White Elephants” was published first in the periodical transitions and then in his short story collection Men Without Women. One of his most well-known short stories, it utilizes many of the techniques that typify Hemingway’s writing, such as minimalism, direct dialogue, and indirect characterization. The story consists almost entirely of dialogue, with only sparse, sporadic narrative description. Please note that this story concerns discussions of abortion and may... Read Hills Like White Elephants Summary


Publication year 1981Genre Book, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Relationships: FathersTags Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Realistic Fiction, Sports, Race / Racism, Parenting, African American Literature, American Literature

Publication year 1980Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Values/Ideas: FateTags Modern Classic Fiction, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, American Literature

Housekeeping (1980) is a novel by Marilynne Robinson that follows the upbringing of two sisters, Ruthie and Lucille Stone, in Fingerbone, Idaho, in the 1950s. This is the first novel by Marilynne Robinson. It was awarded the PEN/Hemingway Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, an award the author later won for her novel Gilead (2004). Beyond Housekeeping, Robinson is most known for Gilead (2004) and Home (2008). Housekeeping, which has been named... Read Housekeeping Summary


Publication year 1968Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Emotions/Behavior: Apathy, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Natural World: Place, Natural World: Animals, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Values/Ideas: Equality, Values/Ideas: Fate, Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Values/Ideas: Order & Chaos, Society: Colonialism, Society: Community, Society: Nation, Society: Politics & Government, Society: War, Emotions/Behavior: MemoryTags Historical Fiction, Classic Fiction, American Literature, Addiction / Substance Abuse, Social Justice

The novel House Made of Dawn, by N. Scott Momaday, was first published in 1968. Heralded as a major landmark in the emergence of Indigenous American literature, the novel won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. House Made of Dawn blends fictional and nonfictional elements to depict life on an Indigenous American reservation like the one where Momaday grew up.This guide uses an eBook version of the 2018 First Harper Perennial Modern Classics (50th Anniversary)... Read House Made of Dawn Summary


Publication year 1956Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Mental Health, Identity: Sexuality, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Emotions/Behavior: ConflictTags The Beat Generation, Lyric Poem, Mental Illness, Addiction / Substance Abuse, Social Justice, American Literature

American Beat-era poet Allen Ginsberg began writing “Howl” as a private recollection for friends, though he later published the long poem in his 1956 book Howl and Other Poems. Also known as “Howl: For Carl Solomon,” the poem cemented Ginsberg’s status as a prophet-poet in the romantic literature vein of Walt Whitman and William Blake (two major influences). “Footnote for Howl,” written in 1955, is the final portion, though it’s not always included with the... Read Howl Summary


Publication year 2018Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Literature, Society: EducationTags Education, American Literature, Arts / Culture, Self Help, Inspirational

Publication year 1891Genre Poem, FictionThemes Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Emotions/Behavior: GriefTags Mental Illness, American Literature

Publication year 1974Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: MusicTags Classic Fiction, Black Arts Movement, Romance, Modern Classic Fiction, American Literature, Existentialism, African American Literature

If Beale Street Could Talk is a novel by James Baldwin (1924-1987), a critically acclaimed African American writer on matters of race and the African American experience. Originally published in 1974, the novel gained fresh attention with Barry Jenkins’ film adaptation in 2019. The novel is the love story of salesclerk Clementine “Tish” Rivers and budding sculptor Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt, African American natives of Harlem whose lives are derailed in the late 1960s to early... Read If Beale Street Could Talk Summary


Publication year 1896Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Mental Health, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Self Discovery, Natural World: Space & The Universe, Emotions/Behavior: LonelinessTags Lyric Poem, Grief / Death, Romanticism / Romantic Period, Transcendentalism, American Literature

Publication year 1860Genre Poem, FictionThemes Society: Nation, Society: Community, Relationships: Teams, Values/Ideas: Win & Lose, Emotions/Behavior: LoveTags Lyric Poem, Modernism, American Literature

Publication year 1977Genre Poem, FictionThemes Society: Politics & Government, Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / PerseveranceTags Narrative / Epic Poem, Immigration / Refugee, Social Justice, American Literature

Publication year 1891Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Values/Ideas: Fame, Natural World: AnimalsTags Lyric Poem, American Literature

Publication year 1965Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Good & EvilTags American Literature

In Cold Blood is a nonfiction true crime novel published in 1966 by the American author Truman Capote. First published a year earlier as a serial in The New Yorker, In Cold Blood tells a broadly true account of the 1959 murders of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. Scholars consider the book one of the earliest and most successful examples of the nonfiction novel, a genre that combines journalistic reportage with techniques typically associated... Read In Cold Blood Summary


Publication year 1995Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Daughters & Sons, Relationships: Fathers, Values/Ideas: Safety & DangerTags Relationships, American Literature

Publication year 1924Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Relationships: Fathers, Relationships: Daughters & Sons, Society: Colonialism, Identity: Masculinity, Life/Time: Mortality & DeathTags Classic Fiction, American Literature

One of his several short stories set in Northern Michigan, “Indian Camp” by Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) was first published in a 1924 issue of the Parisian literary magazine Transatlantic Review. The next year, “Indian Camp” was included in Hemingway’s first story collection, In Our Time. “Indian Camp” has since become one of Hemingway’s most heavily anthologized works. Based partly on Hemingway’s visits to Petoskey, Michigan, during childhood and young adulthood, “Indian Camp” follows young Nick... Read Indian Camp Summary


Publication year 2021Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Society: Immigration, Values/Ideas: Religion & SpiritualityTags Realistic Fiction, Mythology, Immigration / Refugee, Social Justice, Politics / Government, Relationships, American Literature, Latin American Literature

Publication year 1996Genre Novel, FictionTags Satire, Humor, Post Modernism, American Literature, Addiction / Substance Abuse, Sports

Infinite Jest is a fiction novel by David Foster Wallace. First published in 1996, the novel has an unconventional narrative structure with hundreds of extensive footnotes. Exploring themes of addiction, alienation, and the plight of modern existence, Infinite Jest is famous for its complexity and humor. The novel has been praised by critics and heralded as one of the most important literary works of the 20th century. This guide was written using the 2014 Abacus... Read Infinite Jest Summary


Publication year 2020Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Society: Nation, Values/Ideas: Justice & InjusticeTags Realistic Fiction, Allegory / Fable / Parable, Race / Racism, Arts / Culture, Diversity, History: U.S., Asian Literature, American Literature

Publication year 1965Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Society: CommunityTags Mystery / Crime Fiction, Horror / Thriller / Suspense Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Race / Racism, Civil Rights / Jim Crow, Diversity, Class, American Literature

Published in 1965, John Ball’s In the Heat of the Night is a crime novel set in Wells, South Carolina. The story focuses on the police department’s numerous struggles to solve a recent murder. Virgil Tibbs, a Black detective from Pasadena, California, lends a helping hand, but his interactions with the locals reveal the deep-seated racism of Wells. Through this murder mystery, the novel addresses issues of systemic racism and offers hope for a better... Read In the Heat of the Night Summary


Publication year 2017Genre Poem, FictionThemes Society: Nation, Values/Ideas: Win & Lose, Life/Time: The Future, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Literature, Society: Community, Society: Politics & Government, Society: Immigration, Identity: Race, Identity: Language, Natural World: Place, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: courage, Emotions/Behavior: HopeTags Lyric Poem, Diversity, Social Justice, History: U.S., Black Lives Matter, Immigration / Refugee, American Literature

Publication year 1996Genre Biography, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: MusicTags Action / Adventure, American Literature

Into the Wild is a nonfiction book written by Jon Krakauer. It was first published in 1996 and turned into a feature film directed by Sean Penn in 2007. It has been classified as outdoor writing, travel writing, and biography.In 1993 Krakauer published “Death of an Innocent” in Outside magazine, an article that detailed the death of Christopher McCandless. The article generated an enormous response from readers, and Krakauer spent a subsequent year tracing McCandless’s... Read Into The Wild Summary


Publication year 1988Genre Poem, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Art, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / PerseveranceTags Lyric Poem, Arts / Culture, American Literature

Publication year 1952Genre Novel, FictionTags Music, Modern Classic Fiction, Existentialism, American Literature, African American Literature

Invisible Man was published in 1952 and written by African American author Ralph Ellison. It won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1953, and Ellison was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1985 for his contributions to American literature. In addition to his fiction, he wrote essays and was a professor, teaching at several prestigious American universities including Yale University, Bard College, New York University, the University of Chicago, and Rutgers University. He... Read Invisible Man Summary


Publication year 1860Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: ConflictTags Lyric Poem, Social Justice, Grief / Death, Poverty, American Literature

Publication year 2017Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Values/Ideas: Equality, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Emotions/Behavior: GriefTags Grief / Death, Social Justice, Race / Racism, American Literature, African American Literature

Publication year 1992Genre Short Story Collection, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Apathy, Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: Forgiveness, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & Anger, Emotions/Behavior: Hope, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Emotions/Behavior: Regret, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Identity: Masculinity, Identity: Mental Health, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Life/Time: The Future, Life/Time: The Past, Relationships: Friendship, Self Discovery, Society: Community, Values/Ideas: Safety & DangerTags Addiction / Substance Abuse, American Literature

Jesus’ Son (1992) is a collection of short fiction by American writer Denis Johnson, published by Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux. It explores themes of The Slipperiness of Time, Substance Use Disorder, and Violence as Inevitability. In the form of a short story cycle, each of the 11 stories of Jesus’ Son is narrated by the same protagonist, who has a substance use disorder and is referred to in the narrative as “Fuckhead”. The book takes... Read Jesus' Son Summary


Publication year 1930Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: Immigration, Society: Class, Values/Ideas: Justice & InjusticeTags Auto/Biographical Fiction, Historical Fiction, Trauma / Abuse / Violence, Class, Poverty, Social Justice, American Literature

Jews Without Money is a semi-autobiographical 1930 novel by Itzok Isaac Granich, published under Granich’s pseudonym, Mike Gold. The book charts the impoverished conditions of the Lower East Side of New York City and the experiences of growing up in a community of predominantly Jewish immigrants in the early 20th century. Growing up in such a difficult environment informed the author’s socialist politics as an adult. Plot SummaryMike Gold is born and raised by a... Read Jews Without Money Summary


Publication year 2016Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Sexuality, Identity: Race, Life/Time: Coming of AgeTags Realistic Fiction, LGBTQ, Love / Sexuality, Relationships, American Literature

Publication year 1979Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Life/Time: The Past, Relationships: Family, Values/Ideas: FateTags Historical Fiction, African American Literature, Afrofuturism, American Literature, Science-Fiction / Dystopian Fiction

The 1979 novel Kindred was written by Octavia E. Butler, a Black author from California who wrote science fiction that challenged white hegemony. The novel tells the story of Edana “Dana” Franklin, a young Black woman in 1976 whose connection to a young white boy named Rufus Weylin allows her to time travel to 1800s Maryland. As she jumps between 1976 and the 1800s, she learns how she and Rufus are connected, and she must survive... Read Kindred Summary


Publication year 2004Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Identity: Race, Life/Time: Childhood & Youth, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Relationships: Siblings, Society: Class, Society: Economics, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Power & GreedTags Historical Fiction, Grief / Death, Asian Literature, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Realistic Fiction, Civil Rights / Jim Crow, History: U.S., Parenting, Race / Racism, American Literature

Cynthia Kadohata’s first novel, Kira-Kira (2004), is a historical coming-of-age novel for middle-grade readers. The novel tells the story of the Japanese American Takeshima family, who live in the Chesterfield, Georgia, in the 1950s. The protagonist and first-person narrator is the younger daughter, Katie. The narrative spans seven years, involving the family’s move from Iowa to the South, where Katie’s parents become workers in the poultry industry. The narrative follows Katie as she awakens to... Read Kira-Kira Summary


Publication year 2007Genre Novella, FictionThemes Society: Economics, Life/Time: Childhood & Youth, Relationships: TeamsTags Humor, Children's Literature, Realistic Fiction, Business / Economics, Class, American Literature

Lawn Boy, a novella by Gary Paulsen published in 2007, is a middle grade chapter book about a 12-year-old boy who receives an old lawn mower as a birthday gift from his grandmother. As underwhelming as the gift appears, this moment launches a sequence of events that ends with the boy owning $480,000 and being the sole investor of a heavyweight boxer. Full of quirky humor and digestible lessons in capitalism, Paulsen’s story leads the... Read Lawn Boy Summary


Publication year 2020Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Values/Ideas: Order & ChaosTags Horror / Thriller / Suspense Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Information Age, Race / Racism, Class, Black Lives Matter, American Literature

Rumaan Alam’s Leave the World Behind (2020) is a work of apocalyptic fiction that examines the relationship between race and class during an unspecified disaster that cuts off all communication, forcing two families together. The book uses omniscient narration and interpersonal conflict to heighten the fear of disconnection in the Information Age, treating the apocalypse as an event that happens on a human scale. Published to great acclaim, it has been longlisted for the National... Read Leave the World Behind Summary


Publication year 1979Genre Short Story Collection, FictionThemes Society: War, Identity: MasculinityTags Historical Fiction, Western, Relationships, WWII / World War II, American Literature

Legends of the Fall is a collection of three novellas by Jim Harrison, including “Revenge,” “The Man Who Gave Up His Name,” and the titular novella, “Legends of the Fall.” First published in 1979 by Collins, Legends of the Fall remains one of Harrison’s most highly regarded works. Harrison wrote across a range of genres such as fiction, poetry, essay, and film and was the recipient of several awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship. His work... Read Legends of the Fall Summary


Publication year 1883Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Relationships: TeamsTags Action / Adventure, History: U.S., American Civil War, American Literature

Life on the Mississippi is a powerful narrative concerning the past, present, and future of the Mississippi River, including its towns, peoples, and ways of life. The narrative is written by Mark Twain, whose real name is Samuel Langhorne Clemens. Twain explains in the narrative how he “stole” this nickname from an old steamboat captain who was also a writer. Mark Twain is a nautical term and a pilot’s phrase that means “two fathoms.” Two... Read Life on the Mississippi Summary


Publication year 1900Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Values/Ideas: Equality, Emotions/Behavior: Joy, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Values/Ideas: Trust & Doubt, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Society: Nation, Life/Time: The Past, Life/Time: The Future, Identity: Race, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / PerseveranceTags Lyric Poem, Inspirational, African American Literature, American Literature, Race / Racism, Religion / Spirituality, Civil Rights / Jim Crow, History: U.S.

Publication year 2017Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Society: Community, Emotions/Behavior: Forgiveness, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Society: War, Relationships: Fathers, Natural World: Appearance & RealityTags Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Magical Realism, Grief / Death, American Civil War, Religion / Spirituality, History: U.S., Race / Racism, American Literature

The novel Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, published by Random House in 2017, offers a portrait of an American legend in mourning, surrounded by a poignant but funny cast of 166 characters. It is Saunders’s debut novel, though he has been a notable author of short story collections for decades. The novel won the prestigious Man Booker Prize and was a New York Times best seller.Set in 1862, Lincoln in the Bardo is... Read Lincoln in the Bardo Summary


Publication year 2002Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Love, Values/Ideas: Literature, Natural World: Appearance & Reality, Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Natural World: Environment, Relationships: MarriageTags Free verse, Lyric Poem, Play: Comedy / Satire, American Literature, Love / Sexuality

Publication year 1868Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: FamilyTags Children's Literature, Classic Fiction, American Literature

Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, originally published in 1868, is set in New England and inspired by her own family and life events.The novel begins with John Bunyan’s Christian allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, which influences the March girls—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy—throughout their journey. They reference it heavily in the first part of the book, and it sets the stage until the end, as they grow into the women they are meant to become.Mr. March’s... Read Little Women Summary


Publication year 2004Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Identity: Race, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Relationships: Friendship, Values/Ideas: Equality, Society: Economics, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Society: Community, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Relationships: Fathers, Relationships: Daughters & Sons, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & AngerTags Historical Fiction, American Literature, Grief / Death, Race / Racism, Religion / Spirituality

Gary D. Schmidt’s Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (2004), an historical novel for young adults, received the Newbery Honor in 2005. It is based on actual events occurring on Malaga Island, Maine in 1912, when the government of Maine placed the residents of the island in a mental hospital and tore down their homes.Turner Buckminster is the son of a reverend living in Phippsburg, Maine in 1912. Turner has just relocated to Phippsburg from... Read Lizzie Bright And The Buckminster Boy Summary


Publication year 2021Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Identity: Gender, Relationships: TeamsTags Fantasy, Mythology, Action / Adventure, Trauma / Abuse / Violence, Gender / Feminism, Grief / Death, Love / Sexuality, American Literature

Publication year 2002Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Life/Time: Childhood & Youth, Life/Time: Coming of AgeTags Realistic Fiction, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Humor, Bullying, Parenting, Relationships, American Literature

Loser is a young adult novel published in 2002 by American author and Newbury Medal winner Jerry Spinelli. It tells the story of Donald Zinkoff, an eccentric goofball of a kid who stumbles enthusiastically through his elementary school years, largely without friends, before becoming an accidental hero in middle school. Written entirely in the present tense, Loser garnering several awards and nominations.Plot SummaryAt first, the other kids don’t notice little Donald Zinkoff, except to see... Read Loser Summary


Publication year 2016Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Society: Nation, Values/Ideas: Safety & DangerTags Fantasy, Horror / Thriller / Suspense Fiction, Science-Fiction / Dystopian Fiction, Action / Adventure, Race / Racism, Black Lives Matter, History: U.S., Social Justice, American Literature, African American Literature

Publication year 1999Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Love, Society: Politics & Government, Emotions/Behavior: ConflictTags Romance, Love / Sexuality, American Literature, Food

Publication year 2017Genre Novel, FictionThemes Life/Time: Coming of Age, Society: Immigration, Values/Ideas: BeautyTags Historical Fiction, Immigration / Refugee, Disability, Arts / Culture, American Literature

Lucky Broken Girl is a middle-grade historical novel by Ruth Behar. Main character Ruthie Mizrahi, an immigrant from Cuba, lives with her parents and brother in 1966 Queens. Together they try to quell their homesickness for Cuba while seeking new opportunities in America. When a car accident injures Ruthie, she becomes bedridden in a full body cast for over a year; during that time, challenges and fears she never anticipated give her a new perspective... Read Lucky Broken Girl Summary


Publication year 1988Genre Poem, FictionThemes Life/Time: Coming of Age, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Society: Politics & Government, Emotions/Behavior: ConflictTags Lyric Poem, Immigration / Refugee, Philosophy, American Literature

Publication year 2021Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Relationships: Siblings, Life/Time: Coming of AgeTags Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Relationships, Addiction / Substance Abuse, Grief / Death, Parenting, American Literature

Publication year 2020Genre Novel, FictionThemes Life/Time: Coming of Age, Values/Ideas: Literature, Emotions/Behavior: GriefTags Fantasy, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Arts / Culture, Grief / Death, Education, Relationships, American Literature

Publication year 1965Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Life/Time: Coming of AgeTags Auto/Biographical Fiction, Race / Racism, American Literature

Manchild in the Promised Land is a 1965 novel by American author Claude Brown. The story is a fictionalized version of Brown’s childhood, depicting his experiences in the world of Harlem street crime and juvenile correctional facilities from the age of six. Upon its publication, the novel proved controversial and was banned in several school districts for obscenity, but it is now celebrated for its realistic portrayal of racism, urban poverty, and working-class struggles in... Read Manchild in the Promised Land Summary


Publication year 1909Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: Class, Values/Ideas: Fate, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Society: Education, Self Discovery, Society: CommunityTags Historical Fiction, Auto/Biographical Fiction, American Literature, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Arts / Culture, Class, Depression / Suicide, Education, Finance / Money / Wealth, Philosophy, Politics / Government, Poverty, Relationships, History: U.S.

Martin Eden is a 1909 novel by American author Jack London. Known for his stories of adventure and use of naturalism and realism, London authored more than 50 books, including Call of the Wild and White Fang, before his untimely death at age 40. London wrote Martin Eden at the height of his literary career, inspired by his own disillusionment with fame and literary critics. Although the protagonist’s individualist principles are at odds with London’s... Read Martin Eden Summary