Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Well-Stocked Bookcase: BOMC's List of 60 Favorite American Novels

In celebration of its 60th anniversary, The Book of the Month Club compiled a list of 60 American novels, published between 1926 and 1986, whose "impact still endures — novels that have changed how we Americans talk, think, write, feel and see ourselves." The club published its recommendations in a book called The Well-Stocked Bookcase.

(They have since updated the list with a new edition, expanded to 72 books through 1998.  I've stuck with the original.)

The list is in chronological order. Trilogies are listed as one book, by the date of the first volume. Two of the trilogies are available in one-volume editions and are linked as such.

Those I have read are in red. So far, I have read 44 of the 60 – or 50 of the 66, if you count the separate volumes of the two trilogies, U.S.A. and Studs Lonigan. Those currently on my TBR shelf are in blue, although I intend to get to them all some day, mostly as they double up with other lists.

As always, if anyone has adopted this as a "Must Read" list, and would like me to link their progress post, I would be happy to do so. Just leave your link in a comment and I will add it.

Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (reviewed here)

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

U.S.A. by John Dos Passos

Light in August by William Faulkner

Studs Lonigan by James T. Farrell (reviewed here)

Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James Mallahan Cain

Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara

Vein of Iron by Ellen Glasgow

Heaven's My Destination by Thornton Wilder

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

The Late George Apley by John P. Marquand

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson Mccullers

Trees by Conrad Richter

What Makes Sammy Run? by Budd Schulberg

Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty

All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren

The Mountain Lion by Jean Stafford

Guard of Honor by James Gould Cozzens

The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer (reviewed here)

Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote

The Man with the Golden Arm by Nelson Algren

The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles

The Wall by John Hersey

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

From Here to Eternity by James Jones

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Lie Down in Darkness by William Styron

The Recognitions by William Gaddis

The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore

The Last Hurrah by Edwin O'Connor

Seize the Day by Saul Bellow

The Assistant by Bernard Malamud (reviewed here)

The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Rabbit, Run by John Updike

The Magic Christian by Terry Southern

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

The Moviegoer by Walker Percy

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Little Big Man by Thomas Berger

A Fan's Notes by Frederick Exley

Them by Joyce Carol Oates

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (reviewed here)

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

Burr by Gore Vidal

Nickel Mountain by John Gardner

Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

The World According to Garp by John Irving

The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard

A Flag for Sunrise by Robert Stone

The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler


Last updated on December 28, 2022.

(If you would like to be listed here, please leave a comment with links to your progress reports or reviews and I will add them here.)


  1. Ooooo! I starred this post. I need to take a closer look at this list. . . :-)


  2. This is a good list, because the books strike me as being good, but also popular -- or at least they were popular at some point. There is a lot of entertainment value as well as literary value here.

  3. Cool list. I like the "impact" focus of the criteria. And there are a handful I've never heard of before, which is a good thing. I'm always on the lookout for new material.

  4. J.G. -- I agree about the impact idea. And when I look back on the books I have read from this list, I think they made thoughtful choices.

    There are some books on this list that do not show up on every Must Read list and I like that. For instance, Gone With the Wind didn't win any prizes or show up on the fancy pants lists, but it is a terrific book and just think about the impact of that story on the American psyche. More for the movie, of course, but there wouldn't have been the movie without the book.

    Also, The Assistant is my favorite book plucked from a Must Read list. I had never heard of it until I saw it on this list and the Anthony Burgess list. It is beautiful. I think it should be required reading for every high school student -- time to retire A Separate Peace!

  5. This list strikes a cord with me. I was a BOTMC member for many years. I didn't always get their choice for the month but I would pick something. Now that I look back on the list I see so many I wish I had read. Oh well, it's not too late. I'm going to copy your list. I will let you know if I decide to pursue this one so you can link to me. Thanks for finding and sharing this one.


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