Promised land Thirteen books that changed America

Jay Parini

Book - 2008

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New York : Doubleday c2008.
1st ed
Item Description
An analysis of the thirteen books that changed America.
Physical Description
385 p. : ill. ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references.
Main Author
Jay Parini (-)
  • Of Plymouth Plantation
  • The Federalist papers
  • The autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
  • The journals of Lewis and Clark
  • Walden
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • The souls of black folk
  • The promised land
  • How to win friends and influence people
  • The common sense book of baby and child care
  • On the road
  • The feminine mystique
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix: 100 more books that changed America.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* If books are the source of a nation s mythology and "intellectual and emotional contours," which books have "changed America in important ways"? Poet, novelist, and biographer Parini came up with 13 titles (one for each of the original colonies) that have clearly altered American consciousness. Not necessarily the "greatest" books, but rather those with the greatest impact, Parini s picks add up to a stimulating mix of the obvious and the unexpected. His 13 exemplary essays are 13 stepping stones across the torrent of ideas and dreams that have propelled American history, and it is a rare pleasure to sharpen one s mind against each passionate supporting argument. Standouts include Parini s vigorous engagement with The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, his electrifying appreciation for the sharply relevant wisdom in Thoreau s Walden, and his robust and resonant assessment of Huckleberry Finn, in which Twain "challenges us . . . to rethink what freedom means at every turn in the river." Add to that revelatory profiles of W. E. B. DuBois; Mary Antin, whose immigrant autobiography gives this book its title; Benjamin Spock; Dale Carnegie; and Betty Friedan. Parini concludes with an annotated list of 100 more pivotal works, creating a mind-expanding book of books guaranteed to provoke discussion and fuel reading groups. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

The Federalist Papers. Walden. On the Road. Just three of the 13 books that poet/novelist/biographer Parini says truly shaped this country. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Poet, novelist, critic, and biographer Parini (Benjamin's Crossing ; Why Poetry Matters ) here offers a chronologically organized array of meaty, semischolarly, but not stuffy essays about 13 American books that, in his mind, have done the most to change America, from Of Plymouth Plantation to Uncle Tom's Cabin to The Feminine Mystique . Every reader of American literature will doubtless object to one or more of Parini's omissions (e.g., The Great Gatsby ; An American Tragedy ; The Scarlet Letter ), to say nothing of his exclusion of plays and poems—the first because he doesn't consider them books, the second because, he writes, aside from Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, and Sylvia Plath, they "rarely have a discernible effect on the public." Parini does include an appendix titled "One Hundred More Books That Changed America." The essays about the 13 central books are roughly 25 pages each and contain four parts: Parini discusses briefly the book's importance to American culture, describes the writer, renders the book in detail, and, finally, explains its impact. Parini writes for a general audience and shows a warming enthusiasm for his subjects. Recommended for all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/08.]—Charles C. Nash, formerly with Cottey Coll., Nevada, MO [Page 71]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Poet, novelist and literary critic Parini (The Last Station ) examines the books he believes represent the soul of the American republic. Some of these books are masterpieces, others icons of a moment in American history. Throughout, Parini makes his case while wearing his learning lightly. All of these works, from William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation to Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique , had a profound impact on America's complex identity. The evolving American dynamic is noted in the way the subjects cluster: the American experiment (The Federalist Papers ); exploration of a continent (The Journals of Lewis and Clark ); a new connection with nature and self (Walden ); issues of race and urban ethnicity (Uncle Tom's Cabin and The Souls of Black Folk , among others); business and its opposite, the counterculture (How to Win Friends and Influence People and On the Road ). A terrific chapter explores Dr. Spock's The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care ("Spock said no to no"). A listing of 100 additional books with seismic impact rounds out this engaging discussion, which ought to be on the syllabus of American studies courses. (Nov. 4) [Page 45]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Looks at thirteen literary works that had a profound influence on American history, culture, and character, including "The Federalist Papers," "The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin," "Uncle Tom's Cabin," "Walden," "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," "The Souls of Black Folk," "The Feminine Mystique," and "On the Road."

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Offers a thought-provoking look at thirteen literary works that had a profound influence on American history, culture, and character, including The Federalist Papers, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Walden, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Souls of Black Folk, The Feminine Mystique, and On the Road. 25,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

“These thirteen books must be seen as representative, not definitive, works. They are nodal points, places where vast areas of thought and feeling gathered and dispersed, creating a nation as various and vibrant as the United States, which must be considered one of the most successful nation-states in modern history, and a republic built firmly on ideas, which are contained in its major texts. Where we have been must, of course, determine where we are going. My hope is that this book helps to show us where we have been and engenders a lively conversation about our destination, which seems perpetually in dispute.” —from Promised LandAmericans need periodic reminding that they are, to a great extent, people of the book—or, rather, books. In Promised Land, Jay Parini repossesses that vibrant, intellectual heritage by examining the life and times of thirteen "books that changed America." Each of the books has been a watershed, gathering intellectual currents already in motion and marking a turn in American life and thought. Their influence remains pervasive, however hidden, and in his essays Jay Parini demonstrates how these books entered American life and altered how we think and act in the world. The thirteen "books that changed America": Of Plymouth Plantation • The Federalist Papers • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin • The Journals of Lewis and Clark • Walden • Uncle Tom's Cabin • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn • The Souls of Black Folk • The Promised Land • How to Win Friends and Influence People • The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care • On the Road • The Feminine Mystique Promised Land offers a reading of the American psyche, allowing us to reflect on what our past means for who we are now. It is a rich and immensely readable work of cultural history that will appeal to all book lovers and students of the American character alike.