Just added to Sources: 100 Great American Novels You’ve (Probably) Never Read, by Karl Bridges

June 1st, 2009

100 Great American Novels You've Probably Never ReadPublished in 2007, 100 Great American Novels You’ve (Probably) Never Read is an attempt by Karl Bridges, librarian and associate professor at the University of Vermont’s Bailey/Howe Library, to provide a resource for readers of American fiction who’ve read their way through the standard canon of classics. “One goal of this book,” Bridges writes in his Introduction, “is to represent a wide time span–one equaling the length of American history”, and the novels listed cover a full 200 years: from Charles Brockden Brown’s Edgar Huntly, or, Memoirs of a Sleep-Walkerstyle=border:none (1797) to Charles T. Power’s In the Memory of the Foreststyle=border:none (1997).

For each listing, Bridges provides:

  • A paragraph or so extract from the work to give a sense of the writer’s style;
  • A synopsis of the story;
  • Bridges’ own critical commentary, informed by what he estimates as over 50,000 hours of reading;
  • A biographical sketch of the author;
  • A selected list of his/her other works;
  • References and other suggested sources about the author and the novel

In some cases, the information Bridges assembles represents more than anyone has ever collected on the author and novel. His choices also reveal a broad and eclectic taste, one that includes not only mainstream fiction but genres such as science fiction, serials, detective tales, and novels for young adults.

You can find the complete list of 100 titles under Sources to the left of this page: Karl Bridges.

6 Responses to “Just added to Sources: 100 Great American Novels You’ve (Probably) Never Read, by Karl Bridges”

  1. Paul Says:

    Food for thought here !

  2. Tim Walters Says:

    Hm. It’s a shame that, with so many great obscure science fiction writers to choose from (Thomas M. Disch, for example), we get third-tier Philip K. Dick, Callanbach’s bombastic, didactic Ecotopia, and George Zebrowski’s truly wretched Macrolife.

    The Big U is good, though.

  3. Robert Nedelkoff Says:

    I’m as much of a Fu Manchu fan as the next guy, but that Sax Rohmer book does not belong in a list of 100 American novels. Rohmer was Birmingham (UK) born, of Irish parents. He did live in New York, but did not move there until after WWII, long after this particular book was written. His entire career before then was based in London. It’s true that the “devil doctor” always had a bigger following in the US than the UK, but the same could maybe be said of Sherlock Holmes, and no one would classify Arthur Conan Doyle as an American writer.

  4. editor Says:

    I can’t disagree with Tim or Robert’s comments. The Dick novel is far from his best; the name Sax Rohmer and the phrase “great novels” don’t go together; and some of Bridges’ choices (e.g., the kid’s novel about a trip to Mars) don’t really deserve a place alongside the other serious and worthy books. But the book is published, so there are clearly others with different opinions and the money to reflect them in print.

  5. Kevin Michael Derby Says:

    A little odd to see “The Rise of Silas Lapham” on the list. It is probably the best known work by William Dean Howells (though that is not saying much, alas). As Howells wrote to Henry James, “I am comparatively a dead cult with my statues cut down and the grass growing over them in the moonlight.”

  6. editor Says:

    I agree. Lapham may be on the trailing edge of the canon of American literature, but it’s almost certain to appear on the reading list of any undergraduate course on 19th century American fiction or literature. Something like Howells’ 1902 novel, The Kentons, or his last novel, The Vacation of the Kelwyns, are more deserving of being listed as novels people have probably never read or heard of.

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