Back to the future: America celebrates its rich history in books

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 25 2012 10:00 p.m. MDT

"About a third of the festival is devoted to children and things that interest children about reading and literacy," she said. "The Family Storytelling Stage is for the little kids — Target brought in authors and musical acts that are of interest to very young children who are just getting started reading."

Shaping America

In June the Library of Congress announced "Books That Shaped America," an 88-volume exhibition that continue through Sunday. The inclusion of "Where the Wild Things Are" among "Books That Shaped America" played a large part in Billington selecting the book for his National Book Festival reading, Gavin said.

"This year and next year we are doing a celebration of the book (and) trying to focus attention on the book as a valuable way of conveying information throughout the history of mankind," she explained. "And as part of that we decided to put up this exhibition called 'Books That Shaped America.' "

"You notice we didn't call it 'The Books That Shaped America,' because we felt we were opening a dialogue. ... What we're trying to do is get people thinking about books that they have read or that they know about, that might have actually influenced American history, events, policy, social trends and even their own lives."

Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Carolyn Kellogg reported, "The (Books That Shaped America) list includes poetry, novels, nonfiction, plays, a polemic, books of science and grammar, cookbooks and children's books. The list includes 26 books published since 1950, 35 published from 1900 to 1950, 15 published from 1850 to 1900, six published from 1800 to 1850 and nine published before 1800."

The Washington Post's Michael Dirda celebrated the exhibition's eclectic composition: "Happily, (it) ignores the familiar high-culture shibboleths and embraces cookbooks (Irma Rombauer's 'The Joy of Cooking') and schoolbooks (McGuffey's 'Primer'), mysteries (Dashiell Hammett's 'Red Harvest') and science fiction (Ray Bradbury's 'Fahrenheit 451'), political tracts as well as poetry, both Dr. Seuss and Dr. Spock."

88 'Books That Shaped America'

"Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain (1884)

"Alcoholics Anonymous" by anonymous (1939)

"American Cookery" by Amelia Simmons (1796)

"The American Woman's Home" by Catharine E. Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1869)

"And the Band Played On" by Randy Shilts (1987)

"Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand (1957)

"The Autobiography of Malcolm X" by Malcolm X and Alex Haley (1965)

"Beloved" by Toni Morrison (1987)

"Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" by Dee Brown (1970)

"The Call of the Wild" by Jack London (1903)

"The Cat in the Hat" by Dr. Seuss (1957)

"Catch-22" by Joseph Heller (1961)

"The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger (1951)

"Charlotte's Web" by E.B. White (1952)

"Common Sense" by Thomas Paine (1776)

"The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care" by Benjamin Spock (1946)

"Cosmos" by Carl Sagan (1980)

"A Curious Hieroglyphick Bible" by anonymous (1788)

"The Double Helix" by James D. Watson (1968)

"The Education of Henry Adams" by Henry Adams (1907)

"Experiments and Observations on Electricity" by Benjamin Franklin (1751)

"Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury (1953)

"Family Limitation" by Margaret Sanger (1914)

"The Federalist" by anonymous (1787)

"The Feminine Mystique" by Betty Friedan (1963)

"The Fire Next Time" by James Baldwin (1963)

"For Whom the Bell Tolls" by Ernest Hemingway (1940)

"Gone With the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell (1936)

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