Listeners Respond: What books have shaped you as an American?

Monday, June 25, 2012 - 10:15 AM

books (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Today on the show we asked our listeners: "What books have shaped you as an American?" We got some great responses.

  • Ralph Ellison, The Invisible Man. I no longer had to try to figure out as a 16 year old why shyt wasn't like Ozzie and Harriet in my 'hood. —Herb Harris via Facebook
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Portrays the struggles of an Irish immigrant family trying to give their children a better life and become true Americans. —Billie Caldwell, via Facebook
  • Travels With Charly, by John Steinbeck. —David H. Baird, via Facebook
  • The Bible. Looking at the US before the Civil War, the book that shaped people's thinking was the Bible. Almost more so than in any other nation. —Ed from Larchmont, via
  • Democracy In America by Alexis DeToqueville. —David H. Baird, via Facebook
  • Critical Path by R. Buckminster Fuller. —Gustavo Matamoros from Miami, via
  • Silence by John Cage. To me — an immigrant from Venezuela — [it defined] the North American traditions of innovation and experimentation as a way of life and gave me courage to lead a life of inquiry through the arts. —Gustavo Matamoros from Miami, via
  • Habits of the Heart. —David H. Baird, via Facebook
  • Alice in Wonderland. —Nathan Miller Foster, via Facebook
  • Demian. —Nathan Miller Foster, via Facebook
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being. —Nathan Miller Foster, via Facebook
  • How to Win Friends and Manipulate People. I am happy to see the most influential book on the list... It is this book which together with the Bible is brought immediately to any new "market" in the world. The former Soviet Union, for example, was flooded immediately after changes with countless editions of this "tool." —Anna from New York, via
  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. —Nathan Miller Foster, via Facebook
  • "The Jungle" by Thornton Wilder. Certainly influenced the murky world of food safety. —Steven from NJ
  • Proust Was a Neuroscientist. —Nathan Miller Foster, via Facebook
  • The Pot Book. —Nathan Miller Foster, via Facebook
  • The Road Less Traveled, by Scott Peck. —David H. Baird, via Facebook
  • Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales. [It] defined the strong, silent, independent male character that plays out forever in the likes of John Wayne, Steve McQueen, Client Eastwood. —Edward from Maplewood
  • Self Reliance, by Ralph Waldo Emerson. —David H. Baird, via Facebook
  • Where the Red Fern Grows. —Robert Allison, via Facebook
  • Ol' Yellow. —Robert Allison, via Facebook
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins. —Robert Allison, via Facebook
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stow. Eleanor Scarcela from Ocean County, New Jersey, via
  • Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Eleanor Scarcela from Ocean County, New Jersey, via
  • The Feminist Mystic by Betty Friedan. —Eleanor Scarcela from Ocean County, New Jersey, via
  • The Homecoming. —Robert Allison, via Facebook
  • O'Henry's "Gift of the Magi". —Matis, via
  • O'Brien's The Things They Carried. —Matis, via
  • The Pentagon Papers. —Matis, via
  • John Dewey's The Public & Its Problems. —Matis, via
  • Bernard Malamud's "The Natural". —Matis, via
  • Philip Roth's novels. —Matis, via
  • "Our Town", by Thornton Wilder. Arthur from West Tisbury, MA, via
  • Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. —Matis, via
  • Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. —Matis, via
  • Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep. —Matis, via
  • 1984. —Robert Allison, via Facebook  
  • Madness Under the Royal Palm. The book that changed my view of America most recently was Madness Under the Royal Palms by @laurenceleamer. —Susanna King, via Twitter
  • A Brave New World. —Robert Allison, via Facebook
  • My Shadow Ran Fast, by Bill Sands. It speaks loudly about the value of the individual with regard to the others who inhabit one's world. —John Hage, via Facebook.
  • Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. The thoughts and lessons of Thoreau are thought provoking. Many great men, among them Martin Luther King Jr and Mohandas K. Gandhi, have been influenced by his timeless messages. —Mark Godsey, via Facebook.
  • Roots, by Alex Haley. It took the study of genealogy out of the ivory tower of academia and placed it in the homes of main street America. —Henry B. Crawford.
  • Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury. Still fighting. —Matthew Ashford, via Facebook.
  • Bernstein Bears. —Lauren Howie, via Twitter
  • Cosmos by Carl Sagan. It took the mystery out of science and particularly astronomy and made the theories, discoveries and history of science accessible to the American public at large. —Henry Crawford from Lubbock, Texas 
  • The American Girl books. These pretty much define my childhood. I couldn't imagine a world without them. —Lauren Howie, via Twitter


Tory Starr


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