These 10 American Literature Classics Still Belong on Your Syllabus


There are certain books that have earned themselves a permanent place on literature enthusiasts’ shelves and educators’ syllabi across the globe. The following ten American literature classics still possess significant relevance in today’s world and continue to leave a lasting impression on readers of all ages.

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)

This timeless novel explores themes such as racism, prejudice, and moral growth through the eyes of a young child in the Deep South.

2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

Fitzgerald’s masterpiece offers a glimpse into the decadence, ambition, and shattered ideals of the Jazz Age while serving as an exploration of identity, class, and materialism.

3. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851)

This epic tale of one man’s obsessive quest to hunt down an elusive and legendary white whale is a intricate allegory for the human condition, nature’s power, and the depths of the human spirit.

4. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)

Hawthorne’s gothic romance delves into the themes of guilt, repentance, and personal identity as it follows Hester Prynne after she is branded with a red letter “A” for her act of adultery.

5. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884)

Widely regarded as a great American masterpiece, Mark Twain’s novel follows the journey of Huck Finn and his friend Jim down the Mississippi River as they learn about friendship, freedom, and societal hypocrisy.

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

Salinger’s coming-of-age novel fascinates generations with its poignant portrayal of teenage angst, rebellion, alienation, and disillusionment as experienced by the protagonist, Holden Caulfield.

7. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)

This heart-wrenching saga tells the story of the Joad family during the Great Depression and their quest to find a better life in California, ultimately revealing the resilience and strength of the human spirit in face of adversity.

8. The Crucible by Arthur Miller (1953)

Miller’s play serves as a powerful parable about mass hysteria and the dangers of extremism through its dramatization of historical Salem witch trials, reflecting its contemporary context of McCarthyism in 1950s America.

9. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1952)

This groundbreaking novel addresses complex issues related to race, identity, and personal discovery while exploring different aspects of Black American experience in the 20th century.

10. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937)

Hurston’s classic work is a testament to personal strength and self-identity as it follows Janie Crawford on her journey through multiple marriages, hardships, and ultimately self-discovery.


These ten American literature classics defy the passage of time by remaining relevant to modern society. Whether you are an educator crafting your syllabus or an avid reader seeking thought-provoking novels, these powerful works should undoubtedly have a place on your bookshelf.