Plenty of SF/F in Library of Congress “America Reads” Exhibition

The Library of Congress’ “America Reads” Exhibition, opened June 16, celebrates 65 books by American authors that have been chosen by the public as having “a profound effect on American life.”

Many volumes on display are from the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, and seldom on public view.

Part of the exhibition is a video featuring six Pulitzer Prize winners, including Jennifer Egan and Rita Dove, who discuss the books that they think shaped America.

Of the 65 books in “America Reads,” 40 were chosen directly by the public. An additional 25 titles were chosen by the public from a list created for the 2012 Library of Congress exhibition “Books That Shaped America.”

In 2016, the public selected science fiction and fantasy works by Kurt Vonnegut, Stephen King, Robert A. Heinlein, Madeleine L’Engle, Frank Herbert, and Thomas Pynchon. Ray Bradbury and L. Frank Baum appeared on the 2012 list.

The press release explains:

Once again, the volumes featured in the “America Reads” exhibition do not necessarily represent the best in American letters, nor do they speak to the diversity of our nation and the books it produces. In other words, the selections are not definitive or all-encompassing. But as with the 2012 exhibition, “America Reads” is intended to jump-start new conversations about the most influential books written in America and what they mean to people.

“America Reads”—The 40 New Titles Chosen by the Public

  • Ayn Rand, “The Fountainhead”
  • Kurt Vonnegut, “Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death”
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder, “Little House in the Big Woods”
  • Joseph Smith, “The Book of Mormon”
  • Willa Cather, “My Ántonia”
  • Alex Haley, “Roots: The Saga of an American Family”
  • Ayn Rand, “Anthem”
  • Alice Walker, “The Color Purple”
  • John Steinbeck, “Of Mice and Men”
  • John Steinbeck, “East of Eden”
  • Sylvia Plath, “The Bell Jar”
  • Tim O’Brien, “The Things They Carried”
  • Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, “All the President’s Men”
  • Arthur Miller, “Death of a Salesman”
  • Arthur Miller, “The Crucible”
  • Ernest Hemingway, “The Old Man and the Sea”
  • Ken Kesey, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”
  • Hunter S. Thompson, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream”
  • Ernest Hemingway, “The Sun Also Rises”
  • John F. Kennedy, “Profiles in Courage”
  • Stephen King, “The Stand”
  • Larry McMurtry, “Lonesome Dove”
  • Judy Blume, “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret”
  • Howard Zinn, “A People’s History of the United States”
  • James Fenimore Cooper, “The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757”
  • Robert A. Heinlein, “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress”
  • Wilson Rawls, “Where the Red Fern Grows”
  • Madeleine L’Engle, “A Wrinkle in Time”
  • Frank Herbert, “Dune”
  • Thomas Pynchon, “Gravity’s Rainbow”
  • Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle and Julia Child, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”
  • Kate Chopin, “The Awakening”
  • Shel Silverstein, “The Giving Tree”
  • Milton Friedman, “Capitalism and Freedom”
  • Milton Friedman and Rose Friedman, “Free to Choose: A Personal Statement”
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature”
  • Napoleon Hill, “Think and Grow Rich”
  • John Kennedy Toole, “A Confederacy of Dunces”
  • Robert Penn Warren, “All the King’s Men”
  • Robert M. Pirsig, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values”

“America Reads”—The Public’s Top 25 Choices from the Original 2012 List

  • Ayn Rand, “Atlas Shrugged”
  • Harper Lee, “To Kill a Mockingbird”
  • Mark Twain, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”
  • Thomas Paine, “Common Sense”
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly”
  • The Federalist: “A Collection of Essays, Written in Favour of the New Constitution”
  • Upton Sinclair, “The Jungle”
  • J. D. Salinger, “The Catcher in the Rye”
  • John Steinbeck, “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Alcoholics Anonymous: “The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism”
  • Ray Bradbury, “Fahrenheit 451”
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Great Gatsby”
  • Louisa May Alcott, “Little Women, or, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy”
  • Margaret Mitchell, “Gone With the Wind”
  • Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss), “The Cat in the Hat”
  • Rachel Carson, “Silent Spring”
  • Henry David Thoreau, “Walden; or, Life in the Woods”
  • Jack Kerouac, “On the Road”
  • Betty Friedan, “The Feminine Mystique”
  • L. Frank Baum, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”
  • Herman Melville, “Moby-Dick; or, the Whale”
  • Dale Carnegie, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”
  • Joseph Heller, “Catch-22”
  • Walt Whitman, “Leaves of Grass”
  • Benjamin Spock, “Baby and Child Care”

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh for the story.]

8 thoughts on “Plenty of SF/F in Library of Congress “America Reads” Exhibition

  1. Incredibly surprised by Ayn Rand standing: I’m not understanding her persistent popularity.

  2. Francesca: The books don’t have to be good, just have an impact on US society. All the right-wingers who worship Rand have certainly had that (for the worse, but that’s an impact).

  3. Francesca: Incredibly surprised by Ayn Rand standing: I’m not understanding her persistent popularity.

    Her works are validation for the “I’m self-made without any help from the government (never mind the roads, emergency services, public education, Internet, and other things created with government-funded research which helped me become successful) — screw you, I’m not going to help pay for your education or healthcare” crowd. 😐

  4. @jj

    Her works are validation for the “I’m self-made without any help from the government (never mind the roads, emergency services, public education, Internet, and other things created with government-funded research which helped me become successful) — screw you, I’m not going to help pay for your education or healthcare” crowd.

    A wonderful misrepresentation of the reason why people hold her works in high regard. It isn’t the useful/productive of government funding of roads and research that is in question. It is the use of government regulation to create positive results for favored organizations (companies/unions/others) at the expense of their competitors and other government actions that result in the direct transfer of wealth from one group to another.

    As my social media keeps reminding me, there are reasons why Venezuela and Chile have had such diverse economic results over the last few years. Fans of Ms. Rand wouldn’t need a lengthy explanation.


    Regards,
    Dann

  5. Dann: A wonderful misrepresentation of the reason why people hold her works in high regard.

    Actually, it’s not. Anytime I see someone online who says they’re a fan of Ayn Rand, they’re saying all those sorts of things, too.

    Ayn Rand is the poster child for selfishness, greed, and trampling whoever one needs to, in order to get to the top. When I read a couple of her works to see what all the fuss was about, I was horrified. They’re trash (IMO, of course). They are exemplars of the worst of humanity. 😐

  6. Hi JJ,

    Well we’re probably quickly approaching the agree-to-disagree zone. Fine by me. IMHO, had we distributed a sufficient number of Greek, Shona, and Spanish translation copies of Atlas Shrugged, we might have avoided some the poverty inducing debacles in Greece, Zimbabwe, and Chavistan Venezuela.

    However, I agree that I’m not all impressed with her use of language. I haven’t read a ton of Ms. Rand’s work as a result. A little Dagny Taggart goes a long, long way.


    Regards,
    Dann

  7. Ayn Randists in Sweden seem to be for a pure Night-watchman state where the only thing that isn’t privatized is the police, the military and the judicial system.

    Myself, I kind of liked “Anthem” when I read it.

    The problem for Greece was mainly that people avoided to pay tax, not that public spending was that high.

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