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6.2k voters

The Greatest American Novels

Updated November 22, 2020 72.8k votes 6.2k voters 145.9k views154 items

List RulesTop 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.
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  • 1
    Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

    First Published1884-12

    SubjectsPopular literature, Education, 19th century, Slavery, Mississippi River

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

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel by Mark Twain, first published in the United Kingdom... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 2
    To Kill a Mockingbird
    2,165
    806

    First Published1960-07-11

    SubjectsMonarch, Literary, Literature, Classics, Drama

    Genres (Book)Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel by Harper Lee published in 1960. It was immediately... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 3
    Of Mice and Men
    1,365
    413

    Of Mice and Men

    John Steinbeck

    First Published1937

    SubjectsCalifornia, Drama

    Genres (Book)Novella

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Of Mice and Men is a novella written by Nobel Prize–winning author John Steinbeck. Published... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 4
    The Grapes of Wrath
    1,463
    558

    The Grapes of Wrath

    John Steinbeck

    First Published1939

    SubjectsCalifornia, Great Depression in the United States, Dust Bowl, Oklahoma

    Genres (Book)Novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Grapes of Wrath is an American realist novel written by John Steinbeck and published in... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 5
    The Great Gatsby
    1,932
    782

    The Great Gatsby

    F. Scott Fitzgerald

    First Published1925-04-10

    SubjectsMusic, Literary, Education, Revenge, Jazz Age

    Genres (Book)Fiction, Novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Great Gatsby is a 1925 novel written by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald that follows a... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 6
    East of Eden
    800
    261

    East of Eden

    John Steinbeck

    First Published1952-09

    SubjectsCalifornia, Prostitution

    Genres (Book)Novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    East of Eden is a novel by Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck, published in September 1952.... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 7
    Slaughterhouse-Five
    842
    364

    Slaughterhouse-Five

    Kurt Vonnegut

    First Published1969

    SubjectsLiterary, American science fiction, Classics, Prisoner of war, World War II

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

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death is a satirical novel... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 8
    Moby-Dick; or, The Whale
    1,116
    526

    First Published1851-10-18

    SubjectsWhaling, Popular literature, Literary, Education, Literature

    Genres (Book)Fiction, Sea story, Adventure fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Moby-Dick; or, The Whale is a novel by Herman Melville considered an outstanding work of... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 9
    Little Women
    768
    334

    Little Women

    Louisa May Alcott

    First Published1868

    SubjectsLiterary, Adolescence, New England, Women, 19th century

    Genres (Book)Coming of age, Fiction, Novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Little Women is a novel by American author Louisa May Alcott, which was originally published... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

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  • 10
    Fahrenheit 451
    1,054
    507

    Fahrenheit 451

    Ray Bradbury

    First Published1953

    SubjectsBibliophilia, American science fiction, Literature, Book burning, Classics

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

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury published in 1953. It is regarded as one... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 11
    The Old Man and the Sea
    909
    430

    The Old Man and the Sea

    Ernest Hemingway

    First Published1952

    SubjectsOcean, Fishing, Friendship, Cuba

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

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Old Man and the Sea is a novel written by the American author Ernest Hemingway in 1951 in... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 12
    The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

    First Published1876

    SubjectsEducation, Linguistics, 19th century, Mississippi River, Men

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

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain is an 1876 novel about a young boy growing up along... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 13
    A Farewell to Arms
    624
    264

    A Farewell to Arms

    Ernest Hemingway

    First Published1929

    SubjectsLiterary, World War I, Literature, Classics, Italy

    Genres (Book)Fiction, Novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    A Farewell to Arms is a novel written by Ernest Hemingway set during the Italian campaign of... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 14
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

    SubjectsMedical, Literary, Literature, Classics, English Language

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

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a novel written by Ken Kesey. Set in an Oregon psychiatric... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 15
    For Whom the Bell Tolls
    653
    325

    For Whom the Bell Tolls

    Ernest Hemingway

    First Published1940-10-21

    SubjectsLiterature, Classics, Spanish Civil War, Military, Erotica

    Genres (Book)War novel, Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    For Whom the Bell Tolls is a novel by Ernest Hemingway published in 1940. It tells the story... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 16
    Catch-22
    799
    350

    Catch-22

    Joseph Heller

    First Published1961-11-11

    SubjectsDrama, World War II

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

    Original LanguageAmerican English, English Language

    Catch-22 is a satirical novel by the American author Joseph Heller. He began writing it in... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

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    Everything In The 'Catch-22' Book That The TV Adaptation Leaves Out#91 of 103 The Best Selling Books of All Time

  • 17
    White Fang
    458
    201

    White Fang

    Jack London

    First Published1906-05

    SubjectsLiterary, Education, Alaska, Adult, Libraries

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

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    White Fang is a novel by American author Jack London — and the name of the book's eponymous... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

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    #116 of 300 The Greatest Children's Books That Were Made Into Movies#77 of 99 The Best Books With White in the Title

  • 18
    The Catcher in the Rye
    1,218
    696

    First Published1951-07-16

    SubjectsPopular literature, Teenage rebellion, Literature, Human sexuality, Psychological identity

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

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Catcher in the Rye is a 1951 novel by J. D. Salinger. A controversial novel originally... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 19
    The Sun Also Rises
    653
    300

    The Sun Also Rises

    Ernest Hemingway

    First Published1926-10-22

    SubjectsLiterary, Education, Literature, France, Classics

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

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Hemingway´s book abot the San Fermin FestivalAmazon buy button
  • 20
    The Color Purple
    442
    225

    The Color Purple

    Alice Walker

    First Published1982

    SubjectsFeminism

    Genres (Book)Fiction, Epistolary novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Color Purple is a 1982 epistolary novel by American author Alice Walker which won the 1983... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 21
    Invisible Man
    528
    256

    Invisible Man

    Ralph Ellison

    First Published1952

    SubjectsLiterary, Literature, Classics, United States of America, Places

    Genres (Book)Bildungsroman, Children's literature, Fiction, Novel, Social commentary

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Invisible Man is a novel by Ralph Ellison, published by Random House in 1952. It addresses... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 22
    The Last of the Mohicans
    422
    217

    The Last of the Mohicans

    James Fenimore Cooper

    First Published1826-02

    SubjectsMusic, French and Indian War, United States of America, History

    Genres (Book)Historical novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757 is a historical novel by James Fenimore Cooper.... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 23
    The Sound and the Fury
    552
    312

    The Sound and the Fury

    William Faulkner

    First Published1929

    SubjectsLiterary, Mississippi, Literature, Classics, English Literature

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

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Sound and the Fury is a novel written by the American author William Faulkner. It employs... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 24
    Uncle Tom's Cabin
    463
    243

    Uncle Tom's Cabin

    Harriet Beecher Stowe

    First Published1852-03-20

    SubjectsSlavery, United States of America

    Genres (Book)Novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly, is an anti-slavery novel by American author... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

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  • 25
    The Call of the Wild
    860
    410

    First Published1903

    SubjectsNature, Animal welfare, Animal, Dog

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

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Call of the Wild is a novel by Jack London published in 1903. The story is set in the... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button