Research Paper Book List
* = Available in the Library
18th Century “Rags to Riches” story of the famous Founding Father
Benjamin Franklin
The Autobiography *
Washington Irving
The Sketch Book* Various tales (like “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”) and observations of New
England/New England Life
All novels about a 18th-19th Century rugged
frontiersman, his Native American companion, and
their adventures on the Frontier.
James Fenimore Cooper
The Pioneers
The Last of the Mohicans
The Prairie
William Apess, a Pequot
A Son of the Forest, The Experiences of Five Christian Indians of the Pequot Tribe and Eulogy
on King Philip (All 3 combined) – Early Native American Stories/Reflections
Margaret Fuller
Woman in the Nineteenth Century – A mid 19th Century nonfictional feminist analysis of women’s
rights and place in society
Nathaniel Hawthorne
The House of the Seven Gables* - Story of a house haunted by the sins of the family
that inhabits it
The Blithedale Romance – The experiences of several people living an attempt at
utopia. Based on Hawthorne’s experiences on Brook Farm
Henry David Thoreau
Walden* - Thoreau’s autobiographical reflections about his attempts at independence
and living autonomously at Walden Pond. Full of irony, satire, humor and reflections
on Nature.
Herman Melville
Moby-Dick or The Whale* - Famous philosophical America epic of a vengeful captain and his
crew hunting the sperm whale that bit off his leg and has destroyed ships.
Lydia Maria Child
Hobomok And Other Writings on Indians – Stories of early Native American peoples
the important, but forgotten, Hobomok
Frederick Douglass
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave – Powerful and poignant
autobiographical reflections of the orator that escaped slavery.
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Uncle Tom’s Cabin* - Famous, controversial novel about slavery
Harriet A. Jacobs
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself* - Feminine autobiographical account
about slavery
Mark Twain
Roughing It – Twain’s humorous accounts of his experiences in the Nevada territory,
California, and Hawaii
The Innocence Abroad – Twain’s humorous observations about a journey to Europe and the
Holy Land
The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today – Twain (and Charles Dudley Warner) satirize the economic
production and greed of post Civil War America.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court – Story of New Englander mysteriously
Back in time to the Middle Ages and the mythical realm of Camelot.
Pudd’nhead Wilson – Story of two sons, one the son of wealthy white land owner, the other
the son of a female slave, whose places and identities are switched by the black mother to
protect her son from growing up in slavery.
Stephen Crane
Maggie: A Girl of the Streets – Naturalist story of the struggles of a young girl trying to
survive in New York
The Red Badge of Courage* - Naturalist story of a young boy fighting in the Civil War.
Frank Norris
McTeague* - Naturalist story of a bizarre San Francisco dentist and his strange life
The Octopus: A California Story* - Novel about the conflicts between the railroad industry
and the wheat Harvesting industry in early 20 th Century CA
Theodore Dreiser
Sister Carrie – Novel of a young girl moving from the farm to Chicago to achieve her dreams.
Charles Chesnutt
The Marrow of Tradition – Historical novel about a race riot, massacre and coup d’état in late
19th Century America
Upton Sinclair
The Jungle* - Novel about the hideous meatpacking industry in Chicago that lead to reform
and the creation of the Food and Drug Administration
Jack London
Martin Eden – Story of a struggling writer longing to win the love of his life
Edith Wharton
The House of Mirth – Novel of manners about a woman trying to secure a husband and a place
in wealthy society
The Age of Innocence – Novel of an East Coat upper class couple, their impeding wedding,
and a “disgraceful” woman who enters their relationship
Ernest Hemingway:
The Sun Also Rises * - Novel about the “Lost Generation” after WWI, drinking, fighting,
Fooling around and going to Bull Fights in Spain and France
A Farewell to Arms* - Novel about romance between an American soldier in WWI and a nurse
For Whom The Bell Tolls* - Novel about an American volunteering to fight in the Spanish
Civil War
Old Man and the Sea* - Novel about a Cuban fisherman trying to catch a huge marlin
F. Scott Fitzgerald:
This Side of Paradise* - Novel about young adults after WWI, their romances and being
caught up in aspirations of wealth and status
The Beautiful and the Damned – Novel about the complexities of marriage, alcoholism,
the Jazz Age, and Eastern socialites in 1920s America
Tender is the Night* - Novel about a young Psychiatrist, his wife who is also one of his
The Love of The Last Tycoon – Unfinished novel about a film executive in 1930s Hollywood
patients, alcoholism and power in a relationship
William Faulkner
The Sound and the Fury* - Stream of Consciousness novel about a Southern family told from
Several different perspectives
As I Lay Dying - Stream of Consciousness novel about a Southern family burying its matriarch
Light in August – Novel about racial and gender divide in the South
Absalom, Absalom! – A Southern Gothic novel about three families before, during and after
the Civil War
John Dos Passos
The 42nd Parallel
The Big Money
Three Soldiers
Collectively, all 3 of these novels comprise a trilogy about American
society in the first 3 decades of the 20th Century. They are told through
different mediums. Read one of the three, but you want to glance at
the other two for context
Epic, influential anti-war novel about WWI
Willa Cather:
O Pioneers! - Novel about an immigrant woman, her romances, fellow immigrants and their
lives on the Nebraska prairie.
My Antonia – Novel of several immigrant families living on the Nebraska prairie
A Lost Lady – The downfall of a woman on the prairie as it transforms from an agrarian
landscape to an industrialized region
Death Comes for the Archbishop – Novel about a priest coming to New Mexico to establish a
parish church
James Weldon Johnson
The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man – Novel about a young biracial man having to deal
with the complexities of being both Caucasian and African-American
Nella Larsen
Quicksand & Passing – Read both stories. Both deal with young biracial women who struggle
with the complexities of being both Caucasian and African-American
Djuna Barnes
Nightwood – One of the first lesbian novels to be published. About a young woman and her
struggles at love and relationships.
John Steinbeck
The Grapes of Wrath* - Novel about the Great Depression, the Dust Bowls, and the
hardships of a family moving to CA from Oklahoma to find work and survive
Cannery Row* - Novel about the lives of different men living on a small street lined with
sardine fisheries in Monterrey, CA during the Great Depression
Americo Paredez
George Washington Gomez - This first novel written in the 1930s by the dean of Mexican-American
folklore charts the coming of age of a young Mexican American on the Texas-Mexico border
against the background of guerrilla warfare, banditry, land grabs, abuses by the Texas Rangers
and the overpowering pressures to disappear into the American melting pot.
Richard Wright
Black Boy* - Wright’s autobiography about his struggles growing up as a black boy in the
South in the early 1900s and his move to the North. A text about race, communism,
and the power of literacy
Native Son – Novel about a young African-American man living in the slums of Chicago who
commits some horrible crimes that are connected to the racial inequalities he’s
Paul Bowles
The Sheltering Sky – Novel about a young married couple that travels to North Africa, in part
to resolve their marriage difficulties, but finds new dangers
Robert Penn Warren
All the King’s Men – A novel about a powerful political populist in the South in the 1930s.
The novel deals with politics, power, and sin amongst others.
Norman Mailer
The Naked and the Dead – Novel about WWII and the fighting against the Japanese in the
South Pacific.
Ralph Ellison
Invisible Man – Novel about many of the issues facing African-Americans in the first half of
The 20th Century including identity, Marxism, Black Nationalism, movement to the
North and individuality.
Flannery O’Connor
Wise Blood – A novel about the problems between agrarian conservativeness vs. big city
Marketing in the South, reality vs. absurdity, religious philosophy, and the grotesque
Jack Kerouac
On the Road – Novel that defines the Beat Generation, characterized by jazz music, drug
experimentation, and confessional poetry. Autobiographical text about Kerouac’s
journeys across America.
John Okada
No-No Boy – Japanese American novel about a Japanese internee during WWII who answered
no to two intense questions and the harsh experiences he faces after the war.
Joseph Heller
Catch-22 – Dark satire about a WWII bomber group and one of its members who faces
the unavoidable terrors and absurdities of war.
John Barth
The Floating Opera – According to Barnes, “an unsuccessful mass-murder/suicide attempt by
a middle-aged small-town bachelor lawyer with prostate trouble and a hair-trigger
hear condition
The End of the Road – About identity, philosophical twists and confusions and ultimately a
complicated love triangle that turns out bizarrely
Saul Bellow
Henderson the Rain King – About a discontent, wealthy, middle-aged man who goes to Africa
to try and find happiness and fulfillment.
Herzog – About a middle-aged Jewish writer divorcee who’s having a mid-life crisis.
J.D. Salinger
Franny & Zooey* - About the two youngest siblings of the Glass family in New York and
their introspections into the philosophies of life as the sagacious older brother
comforts his younger sister. Deals with Zen Buddhism and Hinduism.
Louis Chu
Eat a Bowl of Tea* - About bachelors in New York’s Chinatown after WWII that addresses
conflicts between modern American society and traditional Chinese ideals and
Richard Yates
Revolutionary Road – Poignant novel about the couple living in the midst of the Age of
Conformity in the 1950s and the tragedy it causes.
Truman Capote
In Cold Blood – Non-fiction novel about a mass-murder of a family in Kansas that has a lot of
psychological depth in it about the two killers and how they came to commit the crime
James Baldwin
Go Tell It on the Mountain* - Baldwin’s first novel examines the role of the Christian church
as both a suppressive and hypocritical institution as well as the center of inspiration
for the African-American community. It also looks at racism.
The Fire Next Time* - The genre here is essay as the book is composed of two essays by
Baldwin, one about race and the other about the relationship between race and religion
Sylvia Plath
The Bell Jar* - A semi-autobiographical text about a woman’s descent into emotional and
psychological unrest and neurosis.
N. Scott Momaday
House Made of Dawn – A Pulitzer prize winning account of a young man torn between the Native
American heritage of his family and the demands of the industrialized society he lives in. This
book paved the way for modern Native American literature.
Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse Five – Antiwar novel about the firebombing of the city of Dresden in WWII
that includes alien abduction and time travel
Joan Didion
Play It As It Lays – Feminist novel about the struggles, affairs and journeys of a woman with a
broken past and a complicated present.
Eudora Welty
The Optimist’s Daughter – A poignant Pulitzer Prize winning novel about a woman struggling
with the illness and death of her father, her shrewish step-mother and memories of her
Joyce Carol Oates
them – Novel about downtrodden working class figures struggling to acquire the American
E.L. Doctorow
Ragtime* - Historical fiction that takes place in the early 1900s during the musical era known
as Ragtime. The novel deals with 3 separate families and their interweaving stories.
Rudolfo Anaya
Bless Me, Ultima* - Story of a young Hispanic boy growing up in New Mexico and being
raised in part by his herbalist grandmother
Michael Herr
Dispatches – Absurdist antiwar New Journalistic account of the Vietnam War.
Tim O’Brien
Going After Cacciato – A novel that’s like Alice In Wonderland meets the Vietnam War. It’s
about a platoon that follows a member who has gone A.W.O.L and their journey takes
them across southern Asia all the way to Paris.
The Things They Carried – Post-modern novel about the absurdities, tragedies, and resolve of
the men who fought in the Vietnam War.
Toni Morrison
The Bluest Eye* - Novel about a Midwestern African-American family around the time of the
Great Depression that is told from five different family members’ perspectives. It is
particularly about a young black girl and the difficulties and abuses she endures.
Song of Solomon* - Story about the search for African-American identity in mid 20th Century
America. Many allusions to the Bible and a host of different characters, though the
main character is a young man named “Milkman”
Sula* - Novel about two African-American women, one very conservative and the other
unconventional, the town they live in, and how the return of one of these women as
an adult transforms the community
Alice Walker
The Color Purple* - Epistolary novel about the hardships that African American women faced
in the South in and around the 1930s including poverty, racism and marital abuse.
Paul Auster
The New York Trilogy: City of Glass, Ghosts & The Locked Room – A series of detective
stories that are very bizarre and mysterious and deal with the psychology of the
Jane Smiley
A Thousand Acres – Smiley’s King Lear allegory of a Iowa farmer, his three daughters, and their
troubled family.
Bharati Mukherjee
Jasmine – About an Indian American girl trying to survive in the U.S by going through
different identities.
Julia Alvarez
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents – About the lives of 4 Dominican sisters and their
journey to America. It is a novel about immigration, identity and growing up Latina.
Gus Lee
China Boy – Memoirs of Gus Lee’s upbringing in and around San Francisco; it addresses the
hardships of growing up as an ethnic minority.
Amy Tan
The Joy Luck Club* - Tan’s Chinese mother/daughter narrative spans seven different perspectives
through a web of interconnected vignettes that demonstrate the power of culture, storytelling
and of course the impact mothers have on their children
Alfredo Vea Jr.
La Maravilla – About a Chicano boy being raised by his grandparents, who have both retained
the customs and spiritual heritage of their ancestors, at the behest of his Mother. It takes place
in a town in 1950s Arizona that is very culturally diverse.
Chang-Rae Lee
Native Speaker – About Korean-American Henry Park trying to adapt to American life and
simultaneously deal with his Korean heritage and upbringing.
John Krakauer
Into Thin Air – Autobiographical adventure story about the disastrous experience Krakauer
and other adventurers had while trying to climb Mt. Everest
Into the Wild – Non-fictional work about Christopher McCandless who severed ties with his
family, abandoned his car, education and money and went off to live in the wilderness
Charles Baxter
Feast of Love – Contemporary novel about the different manifestations of love amongst
different couples
Karen-Tei Yamashita
Tropic of Orange – Story that occurs in and around the L.A. area, full of Magic
Realism, that concerns different characters whose lives intertwine in
creative and peculiar ways.
Anthony Swafford
Jarhead – Autobiography about Swafford’s experiences in the marines and the first Gulf War
Ana Menendez
Loving Che – Novel about Cuban-American identity that centers around one unnamed woman
and her journey to discover her heritage, which has connections to the mythic
revolutionary of the Cuban Communist Revolution – Che Guevara
Jeffrey Eugenides
Middlesex – A novel about Greek immigrants and awkward situations with sexuality that
make the search for identity difficult.
Lauren Weisberger
The Devil Wears Prada – A novel about the young, determined woman working for an
incredibly demanding boss within the fiercely competitive New York
business world of modern day fashion.
Edward P. Jones
The Known World – Post-modern historical novel about slavery and the hardships it creates
and the power of the individuals that rise above it.
Susan-Lori Parks
Getting Mother’s Body – Story about a down-and-out African-American family searching the
Texas panhandle in the 1960s for a “treasure” where the mother is buried.
Walter Mosley
The Man in My Basement – Post-modern detective fiction/mystery where a young out of work
and a down-on-his-luck African-American man suddenly experiences a strange
change of events when a man asks to rent out his basement and turn it into a prison.
Jonathan Safran Foer
Everything is Illuminated – A young American Jew and a young Ukrainian search for an important
connection to their past, in the context of the Holocaust, all told through an innovative style of
changing narrative perspectives.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close*- A precocious 9-year-old boy wonders the boroughs of New York
city looking for a lock that matches a key his father, who was killed in the 9-11 terrorist
attacks, had left behind. Along the way he meets an assortment of people, and it is novel of
humor, pain, and catharsis.
Don DeLillo
Falling Man – An account of a traumatized Keith Neudecker who escaped from the World Trade
Center on 9-11 and the aftermath that he and his estranged wife and son must bare.
Nicole Krauss
The History of Love – Story of an old Jewish man, who survived the Holocaust, going on a
quest in New York City to find his lost son who’d written the novel (within the novel)
called The History of Love, and the woman who’s named after a character in this book.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Story of a Dominican boy, obsessed with fantasy and science
fiction, growing up in New Jersey, whose story recalls the family’s dealings with a dictatorship
back home. This book has multiple, complex narrators.
Junot Diaz