In connection with an exhibition of rare editions that opened June 25, the Library of Congress has compiled a list of the “Books That Shaped America.” As Librarian of Congress James H. Billington notes, these are not necessarily the best books but rather titles that speak to the American experience in all of its diversity.
You’ll find many familiar works on the list—Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense,” for instance, and Toni Morrison’s
“Beloved”—and works that are far less known but equally influential. Amelia Simmons’ “American Cookery” comes to mind here, the first truly American cookbook published in the United States, as does Christopher Colles’ “A Survey of the Roads of
the United States of America,” considered to be the first guidebook to the United States.
“Books That Shaped America” is a fascinating conversation-starter and a wonderful invitation to catch-up on your reading this Fourth of July. The full list can be read here, and nominations for additions to it can be submitted here.