Happy Fourth of July! Over the years of my reading career, I’ve read a lot of books that leave me with a sense that I know a little more about the United States and why I should be happy to live here. Here are ten of those novels, for your summer reading pleasure.
1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Was anybody more honest about our country than Samuel Clemens? I get the feeling he really understood what was going on, at least in the Southern United States. I’ve always prefered Huck to Tom because of the lush, wild landscapes of the Mississippi River, and in particular the relationship that grows between Huck and Jim.
2. The Great Gatsby. An honest look at American excess. We’d all do well to remember the lessons this book can teach us.
3. Little Women. For all its faults, Little Women is still the book I’d choose as the foil to my other Civil War favorite…
4. Gone With the Wind. I love reading this story of the Southern Belle who grows up. Maybe I can relate to it. I’m a girl raised in the south. And yes, I’ve had to adjust my perspective on things as I grew up. I’m no Scarlett O’Hara, but I can see myself in her at times.
5. The Scarlet Letter. Hawthorne’s classic tale is surprisingly still appropriate to today’s world. Every time the media chooses a scapegoat or public opinion turns against someone, I think of this novel I was forced to read in high school and have found so fascinating ever since.
6. The Secret Garden. Kid book or not, this is a wonderful story about rediscovering the beauty in something old and overgrown. I hope one day we can find that in our own nation.
7. Look Homeward, Angel. This list would not be complete without a shout out to my fellow writer from the NC mountains, Thomas Wolfe. I always fear I’ll do the same thing he did when I write and alienate the hometown I still love.
8. Little House in the Big Woods. Although it was probably colored by nostalgia, this was my first introduction to life in an earlier day of history.
9. The Red Badge of Courage. Oh, how I hated this book when I was made to read it in high school. I wanted to believe the world was all light and love and war was all glorious patriotism. This was my first introduction to the reality of what war can do to the human spirit.
10. The Sound and the Fury. This story about the downfall of Southern royalty both fascinated and disgusted me when I read it in high school. I’ve often thought I should read it again.
Enjoy your summer and be happy to live in our great nation. It’s not every nation that would not only allow but also support the honesty of some of these authors.