Classic American Writers to Add to Your Reading List

Classic American Writers to Add to Your Reading List

We all love making lists. What’s your favorite movie? What’s your favorite album? Who’s your favorite singer? We’re going to play along with this and list our favorite classic authors. You’ll probably like them, but one might cause you to give us the side-eye. You’ll know them when you see them. We still stand by our list. Here they are in no particular order:

Truman Capote

Here’s an author that was successful as both a fiction writer and a non-fiction writer. When people think of Truman Capote, they may think of ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ or ‘In Cold Blood.’ The second book was one of the ones that really set off the true crime genre. The story of four members of a family that were killed in a small farming community in Holcomb, Kansas gripped people like no other. He meticulously researched the book alongside the next author on this list, and he spent six years on it altogether. The book would give a criminal defense attorney nightmares.

More people might remember Capote’s other book more for the movie that was made from it. It starred Audrey Hepburn. It was a romantic comedy and mostly holds up, though Mickey Rooney’s portrayal as an Asian person wasn’t a proud moment. One bit of interesting trivia, though — he went to the same high school as the author of this post. His two works are still interesting to read to this day.

Harper Lee

There’s a saying, ‘Everyone has at least one book in them.’ For the longest time, people held Harper Lee as a shining example of that. It seemed like she was a comet streaking across the sky, illuminating it with her lone work of writing art: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ The story of Scout, Boo Radley, and Atticus Finch transfixed readers. There was also an incredible movie version of it that starred Gregory Peck. The book showed the unfairness of the trial of a black man during a time when Jim Crow ruled throughout out the country.

The book, which also showed the life of a criminal lawyer, seemed to be her only one, but then another one was supposedly found, titled ‘Go Set a Watchman,’ seemed to be more of a possible cash grab by her family before she passed away a year later. The book was set as a sequel to Mockingbird. Many people still see the first book as the only one. That’s up to the individual readers. It’s still a great success story for Lee, who was also known for helping Capote research ‘In Cold Blood.’ That’s right, you may be surprised to learn it, but Harper Lee and Capote were good friends!

Mark Twain

Mark Twain was the pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens and he lived a full life. Mostly known for his ‘Huckleberry Finn’ and ‘Tom Sawyer’ work, he was also the author of ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,’ and ‘Pudd’nhead Wilson.’ He was someone who was known for being able to interweave humor with scathing social commentary. While Twain’s books did have racial slurs in them, it was a product of his time. Overall, he was someone that embraced technological advances, and was for labor unions.

If you wanted to be able to open the head of someone from the time period of the mid-to-late-1800s, Twain would be the author to read. While you might not learn about boat repairs, you would still figure out the mindset of someone who knew he was in the middle of something bad but was trying to figure themselves out along the way. He was a smart man — it’s impossible to not see that in his work and his lectures — but he was also someone who could either be embraced by the liberals or the conservatives. Whichever side of the aisle you’re on, you can benefit from reading his works.

Ernest Hemingway

When people talk about the macho culture, Ernest Hemingway is one of the people that sit on that list. He was equally comfortable sitting on a fishing charter drinking all day as he was on a hunting expedition. That machismo also dripped into his writing. The style was terse and the sentences usually short. But he could write in a way that captivated people. He could take topics that might not grab people at first and make it riveting. How many people would be able to write a book about a fisherman holding on to a large catch for page after page. That was the theme of ”The Old Man and The Sea.’ Hemingway pulled that off. His short stories were equally as good, like ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro.’

Henry David Thoreau

If people want to go back to simpler times, then all they need to do is read some works of Henry David Thoreau. His works are about going outside and enjoying all that life has to offer. Really, if you’re going to talk about Thoreau, you should include Ralph Waldo Emerson. The two of them are practically intertwined. Thoreau, for all his musings about living the simple life among nature in books like ‘Walden’, was also someone who was constantly challenging the status quo of the times. He believed in civil disobedience and would preach it in his books. But he was also someone who was self-reliant, getting his own firewood instead of using firewood suppliers.

While Thoreau was a product of his time and environment — he lived more than 100 years before the times of things like cell phones and other distractions. He died at the age of 44 and didn’t even live to see the Civil War. It would have been interesting to read what he thought of that. But if you want to peer into the mind of a person who loved nature and travel, his books are must-reads.

Edgar Allen Poe

Edgar Allen Poe was one of the fathers of what would be the modern horror story. When he wrote such things as ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ and ‘The Raven,’ he was able to imbue a sense of palpable dread — like being walled off behind a fireplace and left to die an agonizing death. The same went for ‘Masque of the Red Death,’ and ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue.’ The story of Poe’s own death would make for a horror movie of its own, where even the actual cause is a mystery — there are 13 theories, ranging from rabies to brain tumor to syphilis. Even his face had a strange appearance with a slightly misshapen head and sad eyes which also made him a perfect horror writer. Peole got scared looking at him.

Ray Bradbury

It’s a bit eerie to have Ray Bradbury on this list. One of his most memorable books was ‘Farenheit 451,’ which was about book burning and censorship. Bradbury wrote the book in 1953, not that long after World War II and the Nazis doing book burnings and other forms of censoring people. There’s a group of people now who want to do that sort of thing. His work was prescient then as it is now — he died in 2012 and it would have been interesting to see what he would think about things like AI and the current state of social media. One of the themes that he talked about was runaway technology. Given all the book burnings that people want to do now, he’d also want to talk about fire damage restoration.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

When people read the work of some authors, they want to get the inside scoop on a certain group of people. F. Scott Fitzgerald did that in ‘The Great Gatsby,’ where he revealed the life behind the curtain for the idle rich during the Roaring 20s (1920s, not now). Many of the characters he showed us would have benefited from time in alcohol treatment centers. He did it in a way that could make the readers sympathetic to what the protagonists were going through. Although Fitzgerald only published four books in his short 44 years, just ‘The Great Gatsby’ alone puts him on the list of classic American writers to put on your list, if you didn’t already have to read it for school.

John Steinbeck

If F. Scott Fitzgerald showed us what the idle rich were like, John Steinbeck did the exact opposite, showing what life was like for those who had to claw and struggle their way through life. He was best known for ‘The Grapes of Wrath,’ which chronicled the Joad family, who were living in Oklahoma during the Great Depression. It was an eye-opener for many. Another book was ‘East of Eden,’ and ‘Of Mice and Men.’ Steinbeck was a master writer who could show scenes in a place like a wholesale produce market and make it something worth reading.

Stephen King

This is the one that people of a certain age might have a problem with. It’s just like being in a store and hearing an 80s song that you love and then hearing the DJ say ‘That’s a classic 1983 song from the group….’ and you want to say ‘1983 IS NOT CLASSIC’ and then you have to stop and realize that 1983 is 40 years ago. Then you go buy a box of tissues because you want to cry. OK, back to the point — many people are not going to see Stephen King as being a classic author. He’s still authoring books today, for crying out loud.

It is easy to see that there’s a generation of people that can view King as being a classic author, though. Case in point: As of this writing, it’s September 11, 2001. People who were born on that fateful day in American history are now 22 years old. They’re adults. King published his first book, ‘Carrie,’ in April 1974. That’s nearly 50 years ago now, but it was 27 years ago in 2001. Like many other things we enjoyed in the 1970’s, this book is now vintage.

But King belongs on this list. Over the years, he’s written books that have a wide variety of subject matter, ranging from killer clowns living in sewers to berserk cars (so much for auto repair) to a sweeping fantasy opus that began with the line ‘The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.’ He became much more than just someone who wrote novels that would make you want to only read the book during the day — he also wrote such things that became memorable movies like ‘Stand By Me’ and ‘The Shawshank Redemption.’ It’s fitting that we end this list with someone who is still among the living.

What makes creating a list like this so much fun is that there are a lot of different author styles, from those who want you to appreciate everything that nature offers to those who want to scare the daylights out of you. There’s something for everyone and even those various authors branch out into other kinds of subjects, so you won’t find yourself just reading one genre These are authors who are able to take you to a variety of places or times or even entirely new worlds where the laws of reality are extremely … malleable. They can make you forget your own troubles and they can make you fear the darkness both in people and just in the inky blackness of the night sky. Best of all, they make you think. When they do that, you are almost giddy with anticipation when you turn the page.

Just like any other list out there, people are bound to think that we left people off the list and some that are on there aren’t deserving. The have been many authors over the years that have produced astounding work. You’re welcome to create your own list and share them with others. The more reading that people do, the better. Now let’s all go crack open a book.

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