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The Greatest American Novels 

Ranker Books
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Updated June 30, 2020 66.1k votes 5.7k voters 132.6k views 184 items

List Rules Top fiction books written by American authors

List of some of the best American novels from classic writers, like Nathaniel Hawthorne, to more modern names, like Stephen King, with room for the list to grow. There is an option to add your favorite American novels to the list if yours is not already on there.

The list asks the question, "What is the best American novel?" with novels from William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Philip Roth and Nathaniel Hawthorne, plus many more that have written great American novels since then. More modern American novels are included, such as The Road by Cormac McCarthy and The Stand by Stephen King, which may be more familiar.

American novels can represent the spirit of the age in the United States during the time it was written or the time it was set in. The American novel is written by those who are knowledgeable about the state, culture and even the perspective of those during that time.

Some of these best American novels may have also been on the reading curriculum in school, like Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien or To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Be sure to vote not just on your favorite authors, but on your favorite novel of all time, as some authors may be listed twice for other novels that are considered the best.
list ordered by
1
To Kill a Mockingbird is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest American Novels
Harper Lee

First Published: 1960-07-11

Subjects: Monarch, Literary, Literature, Classics, Drama, + more

Genres (Book): Fiction

Original Language: English Language

To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel by Harper Lee published in 1960. It was immediately successful, winning the Pulitzer Prize, and has become a classic of modern American literature. The plot and ...more

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#5 of 331 The Top Must-Read Books of All Time #1 of 171 35+ Books Everybody Lies About Having Readlisted on The Best Selling Books of All Time

2
Adventures of Huckleberr... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest American Novels
Mark Twain

First Published: 1884-12

Subjects: Popular literature, Education, 19th century, Slavery, Mississippi River, + more

Genres (Book): Humour, Satire, Children's literature, Fiction, Adventure fiction

Original Language: English Language

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel by Mark Twain, first published in the United Kingdom in December 1884 and in the United States in February 1885. Commonly named among the Great American ...more

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#9 of 331 The Top Must-Read Books of All Time #2 of 1,233 The Best Novels Ever Written #30 of 94 The Best Books for Teens

3
The Great Gatsby is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest American Novels
F. Scott Fitzgerald

First Published: 1925-04-10

Subjects: Music, Literary, Education, Revenge, Jazz Age, + more

Genres (Book): Fiction, Novel

Original Language: English Language

The Great Gatsby is a 1925 novel written by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald that follows a cast of characters living in the fictional town of West Egg on prosperous Long Island in the summer ...more

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#18 of 331 The Top Must-Read Books of All Time #6 of 171 35+ Books Everybody Lies About Having Read #23 of 1,233 The Best Novels Ever Written

4
The Grapes of Wrath is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest American Novels
John Steinbeck

First Published: 1939

Subjects: California, Great Depression in the United States, Dust Bowl, Oklahoma

Genres (Book): Novel

Original Language: English Language

The Grapes of Wrath is an American realist novel written by John Steinbeck and published in 1939. The book won the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and it was cited ...more

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#25 of 331 The Top Must-Read Books of All Time #10 of 169 Books You'll Never Finish Reading #27 of 1,233 The Best Novels Ever Written

5
Of Mice and Men is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest American Novels
John Steinbeck

First Published: 1937

Subjects: California, Drama

Genres (Book): Novella

Original Language: English Language

Of Mice and Men is a novella written by Nobel Prize–winning author John Steinbeck. Published in 1937, it tells the story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant ranch workers, ...more

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#4 of 331 The Top Must-Read Books of All Time #7 of 171 35+ Books Everybody Lies About Having Read #8 of 1,233 The Best Novels Ever Written

6
Fahrenheit 451 is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest American Novels
bjr24 added Ray Bradbury

First Published: 1953

Subjects: Bibliophilia, American science fiction, Literature, Book burning, Classics, + more

Genres (Book): Speculative fiction, Utopian and dystopian fiction, Children's literature, Dystopia, Fiction, + more

Original Language: English Language

Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury published in 1953. It is regarded as one of his best works. The novel presents a future American society where books are outlawed and ...more

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#14 of 331 The Top Must-Read Books of All Time #18 of 171 35+ Books Everybody Lies About Having Read #10 of 1,233 The Best Novels Ever Written

7
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest American Novels
JeremyEbbink added Herman Melville

First Published: 1851-10-18

Subjects: Whaling, Popular literature, Literary, Education, Literature, + more

Genres (Book): Fiction, Sea story, Adventure fiction

Original Language: English Language

Moby-Dick; or, The Whale is a novel by Herman Melville considered an outstanding work of Romanticism and the American Renaissance. Ishmael narrates the monomaniacal quest of Ahab, captain of the ...more

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#74 of 331 The Top Must-Read Books of All Time #2 of 169 Books You'll Never Finish Reading #29 of 171 35+ Books Everybody Lies About Having Read

8
The Adventures of Tom Sa... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest American Novels
Arthur Williams added Mark Twain

First Published: 1876

Subjects: Education, Linguistics, 19th century, Mississippi River, Men, + more

Genres (Book): Bildungsroman, Children's literature, Fiction, Reference

Original Language: English Language

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain is an 1876 novel about a young boy growing up along the Mississippi River. The story is set in the fictional town of St. Petersburg, inspired by ...more

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#7 of 331 The Top Must-Read Books of All Time #3 of 171 35+ Books Everybody Lies About Having Read #9 of 1,233 The Best Novels Ever Written

9
The Catcher in the Rye ... is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest American Novels
J. D. Salinger

First Published: 1951-07-16

Subjects: Popular literature, Teenage rebellion, Literature, Human sexuality, Psychological identity, + more

Genres (Book): First-person narrative, Sports, Bildungsroman, Fiction, Novel

Original Language: English Language

The Catcher in the Rye is a 1951 novel by J. D. Salinger. A controversial novel originally published for adults, it has since become popular with adolescent readers for its themes of teenage ...more

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#34 of 331 The Top Must-Read Books of All Time #11 of 171 35+ Books Everybody Lies About Having Readlisted on The Best Selling Books of All Time

10
East of Eden is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest American Novels
Arthur Williams added John Steinbeck

First Published: 1952-09

Subjects: California, Prostitution

Genres (Book): Novel

Original Language: English Language

East of Eden is a novel by Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck, published in September 1952. Often described as Steinbeck's most ambitious novel, East of Eden brings to life the intricate details ...more

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#172 of 331 The Top Must-Read Books of All Time #72 of 171 35+ Books Everybody Lies About Having Read #64 of 1,233 The Best Novels Ever Written

11
The Old Man and the Sea ... is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest American Novels
Ernest Hemingway

First Published: 1952

Subjects: Ocean, Fishing, Friendship, Cuba

Genres (Book): Children's literature, Fiction, Novella, Sea story

Original Language: English Language

The Old Man and the Sea is a novel written by the American author Ernest Hemingway in 1951 in Cuba, and published in 1952. It was the last major work of fiction to be produced by Hemingway and ...more

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#45 of 331 The Top Must-Read Books of All Time #30 of 171 35+ Books Everybody Lies About Having Readlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

12
Slaughterhouse-Five is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest American Novels
Kurt Vonnegut

First Published: 1969

Subjects: Literary, American science fiction, Classics, Prisoner of war, World War II

Genres (Book): Philosophy, Speculative fiction, War novel, Black comedy, Fiction, + more

Original Language: English Language

Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death is a satirical novel by Kurt Vonnegut about World War II experiences and journeys through time of a soldier named Billy ...more

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#109 of 331 The Top Must-Read Books of All Time #47 of 1,233 The Best Novels Ever Written #21 of 179 The Greatest Science Fiction Novels of All Time

13
Little Women is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest American Novels
Louisa May Alcott

First Published: 1868

Subjects: Literary, Adolescence, New England, Women, 19th century, + more

Genres (Book): Coming of age, Fiction, Novel

Original Language: English Language

Little Women is a novel by American author Louisa May Alcott, which was originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869. Alcott wrote the books rapidly over several months at the request of ...more

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How Louisa May Alcott's Real Life Inspired 'Little Women' How Greta Gerwig’s ‘Little Women’ Handled Important Moments Compared To The 1994 Film And The Novel #64 of 331 The Top Must-Read Books of All Time

14
For Whom the Bell Tolls ... is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest American Novels
Arthur Williams added Ernest Hemingway

First Published: 1940-10-21

Subjects: Literature, Classics, Spanish Civil War, Military, Erotica, + more

Genres (Book): War novel, Fiction

Original Language: English Language

For Whom the Bell Tolls is a novel by Ernest Hemingway published in 1940. It tells the story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to a republican guerrilla ...more

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#132 of 331 The Top Must-Read Books of All Time #62 of 1,233 The Best Novels Ever Written #127 of 704 Books That Changed Your Life

15
A Farewell to Arms is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest American Novels
Ernest Hemingway

First Published: 1929

Subjects: Literary, World War I, Literature, Classics, Italy, + more

Genres (Book): Fiction, Novel

Original Language: English Language

A Farewell to Arms is a novel written by Ernest Hemingway set during the Italian campaign of World War I. The book, published in 1929, is a first-person account of American Frederic Henry, ...more

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#160 of 331 The Top Must-Read Books of All Time #78 of 1,233 The Best Novels Ever Written #79 of 704 Books That Changed Your Life

16
The Sound and the Fury ... is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest American Novels
William Faulkner

First Published: 1929

Subjects: Literary, Mississippi, Literature, Classics, English Literature, + more

Genres (Book): Children's literature, Fiction, Gothic fiction

Original Language: English Language

The Sound and the Fury is a novel written by the American author William Faulkner. It employs a number of narrative styles, including the technique known as stream of consciousness, pioneered by ...more

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#230 of 331 The Top Must-Read Books of All Time #66 of 169 Books You'll Never Finish Reading #99 of 1,233 The Best Novels Ever Written

17
One Flew Over the Cuckoo... is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest American Novels
Ken Kesey

Subjects: Medical, Literary, Literature, Classics, English Language, + more

Genres (Book): Drama, Children's literature, Fiction, Novel

Original Language: English Language

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a novel written by Ken Kesey. Set in an Oregon psychiatric hospital, the narrative serves as a study of the institutional processes and the human mind as well ...more

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#83 of 331 The Top Must-Read Books of All Time #58 of 1,233 The Best Novels Ever Written #14 of 704 Books That Changed Your Life

18
The Color Purple is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest American Novels
Alice Walker

First Published: 1982

Subjects: Feminism

Genres (Book): Fiction, Epistolary novel

Original Language: English Language

The Color Purple is a 1982 epistolary novel by American author Alice Walker which won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction. It was later adapted into a ...more

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#102 of 331 The Top Must-Read Books of All Time #101 of 1,233 The Best Novels Ever Written #2 of 62 The Best Pulitzer Prize Winning Novels

19
The Call of the Wild is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest American Novels
Arthur Williams added Jack London

First Published: 1903

Subjects: Nature, Animal welfare, Animal, Dog

Genres (Book): Speculative fiction, Children's literature, Historical fiction, Fiction, Adventure film, + more

Original Language: English Language

The Call of the Wild is a novel by Jack London published in 1903. The story is set in the Yukon during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush—a period in which strong sled dogs were in high demand. The ...more
20
White Fang is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest American Novels
Jack London

First Published: 1906-05

Subjects: Literary, Education, Alaska, Adult, Libraries, + more

Genres (Book): Children's literature, Fiction, Adventure fiction

Original Language: English Language

White Fang is a novel by American author Jack London — and the name of the book's eponymous character, a wild wolfdog. First serialized in Outing magazine, it was published in 1906. The story ...more

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#80 of 1,233 The Best Novels Ever Written #82 of 300 The Greatest Children's Books That Were Made Into Movies #77 of 99 The Best Books With White in the Title

21
Uncle Tom's Cabin is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest American Novels
Harriet Beecher Stowe

First Published: 1852-03-20

Subjects: Slavery, United States of America

Genres (Book): Novel

Original Language: English Language

Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly, is an anti-slavery novel by American author Harriet Beecher Stowe. Published in 1852, the novel "helped lay the groundwork for the Civil ...more

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#116 of 331 The Top Must-Read Books of All Time #26 of 169 Books You'll Never Finish Reading #406 of 1,233 The Best Novels Ever Written

22
The Last of the Mohicans... is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest American Novels
looksharp added James Fenimore Cooper

First Published: 1826-02

Subjects: Music, French and Indian War, United States of America, History

Genres (Book): Historical novel

Original Language: English Language

The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757 is a historical novel by James Fenimore Cooper. It is the second book of the Leatherstocking Tales pentalogy and the best known to contemporary ...more
23
The Sun Also Rises is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest American Novels
Arthur Williams added Ernest Hemingway

First Published: 1926-10-22

Subjects: Literary, Education, Literature, France, Classics, + more

Genres (Book): Roman à clef, Children's literature, Fiction, Novel

Original Language: English Language

Hemingway´s book abot the San Fermin Festival

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#135 of 331 The Top Must-Read Books of All Time #29 of 169 Books You'll Never Finish Reading #70 of 1,233 The Best Novels Ever Written

24
Catch-22 is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest American Novels
Joseph Heller

First Published: 1961-11-11

Subjects: Drama, World War II

Genres (Book): War novel, Black comedy, Satire, Historical fiction, Absurdist fiction, + more

Original Language: American English, English Language

Catch-22 is a satirical novel by the American author Joseph Heller. He began writing it in 1953; the novel was first published in 1961. It is frequently cited as one of the greatest literary ...more

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Everything In The 'Catch-22' Book That The TV Adaptation Leaves Out #73 of 331 The Top Must-Read Books of All Timelisted on The Best Selling Books of All Time

25
The Outsiders is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest American Novels
but chickens double d added S. E. Hinton

Subjects: Literature, Young adult, Adolescence, Classics, Family

Genres (Book): Speculative fiction, Children's literature, Fiction, Young adult literature

Original Language: English Language

The Outsiders is a coming-of-age novel by S. E. Hinton, first published in 1967 by Viking Press. Hinton was 15 when she started writing the novel, but did most of the work when she was 16 and a ...more

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#72 of 331 The Top Must-Read Books of All Time #73 of 1,233 The Best Novels Ever Writtenlisted on The Best Selling Books of All Time