According to Ranker, these are the top fifteen greatest American novels ever written.
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) by Mark Twain
- To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) by Harper Lee
- Of Mice and Men (1937) by John Steinbeck
- The Grapes of Wrath (1939) by John Steinbeck
- The Great Gatsby (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Moby-Dick (1851) by Herman Melville
- East of Eden (1952) by John Steinbeck
- Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) by Kurt Vonnegut
- Little Women (1868) by Louisa May Alcott
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) by Mark Twain
- Fahrenheit 451 (1953) by Ray Bradbury
- White Fang (1906) by Jack London
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1963) by Ken Kesey
- A Farewell to Arms (1929) by Ernest Hemingway
- Catch-22 (1961) by Joseph Heller
Of course, anyone’s list of the greatest of anything depends on individual tastes, even when such a list is a compilation of many people’s choices. While I believe this list is excellent, it excludes some extraordinary novels written by American women and African-Americans. A more comprehensive list should include Beloved (1987) by Toni Morrison, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1925) by Anita Loos, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Gone with the Wind (1936) by Margaret Mitchell, The Bell Jar (1963) by Sylvia Plath, and The Color Purple (1982) by Alice Walker, a list which no doubt omits some works you believe should be included. For African-American authors, I would also include Invisible Man (1952) by Ralph Ellison, Native Son (1940) by Richard Wright, and Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad (2016), which, like Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, won the both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for fiction.
Greatest novels are more than good reads. They are transformative and have the power to change mass thinking about a subject. When Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe, for instance, at the start of the American Civil War, he remarked that she was the person who got the country into this war, meaning that her landmark novel lit a fire under the abolitionist movement and sparked a national debate that led to succession. Which landmark American novels do you think should be included in any list of the Greatest American Novels of All Time?