The Daily Circuit quiz: American literature

Tomorrow, we’ll be talking about the Library of Congress’ new list of 88 Books that Shaped America.

Which books do you think were the most important to American society? To you personally?

In honor of the new list, how about an American literature quiz?

–Stephanie Curtis, social media host

  • Susan

    There is an error in the quiz. “In True Blood” should be “In Cold Blood.”

  • stephanie curtis

    Oy. Mike Mulcahy, our political editor, also pointed that out. It’s been fixed.

    HBO marketing infiltrated my brain.

    I have never even seen True Blood, but I’ve the Capote.

  • Julie

    According to this quiz, I’m too stupid to be in Kerri Miller’s book club. Maybe MPR has a reality TV show club I could try? Ask me about Snooki, hoarding, and storage lockers and I will get 100%.

  • Stephanie Curtis

    Luckily, there are no quizzes to get into the Kerri Miller Book Club.

    Storage Wars is addictive.

  • G.G.

    How can “An American Tragedy” by Theodore Dreiser NOT BE ON THAT LIST!! Honestly, the novel not only inspired a great American film (George Stevens’ “A Place in the Sun”) but also tells the epic tale of the American dream and its dark currents. Not this, and yet we have “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats?

  • Giles

    Not a single Sinclair Lewis on the list? The US’ first literature Nobel prize winner? One of the most consistently descriptive and societal-critical writers of the first half of the 20th century.

    That can’t be right.

  • Markus

    I am not worthy.

  • John Holck

    For starters I would add Mainstreet by Sinclair Lewis , The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer and Black Elk Speaks. Throw in Woody Guthrie’s autobiography and an Anthology of Bob Dylan’s work for good measure.

  • Luke

    “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” by Jane Jacobs should maybe be on the list, though I was pleasantly surprised to see Jacob Ries’ “How the Other Half Lives” on the list.

  • Charlie

    I suppose they might be looked down upon, but I devoured Earle Stanley Gardner books, John D. MacDonald books, the Horatio Hornblower series, and such comic books as the Blackhawks.

    Also My Life and My Work by Henry Ford, and Spirit of St. Louis by Charles Lindbergh.

    I know that British authors had as much influence as native authors. Perhaps the one most frightening was “On the Beach” by Nevil Shute Norway.

  • Derek Waller

    Death of a Salesman!!! Arthur Miller! How could that NOT make the list? That play still has extraordinary relevance.

  • Curt Prins

    Given the influence of religion on our country (despite our secular leanings), why aren’t religious text included?

  • Rochelle woldorsky

    James Agee’s “A Death in the Family” certainly made

    me think

    also John Dos Passos “USA”

    I haven’t looked at the list but wonder if there is an

    Saul Bellows

  • Brooke

    “In True Blood” – HAHHAHA. We know what someone is thinking about.

  • Steve

    I’m presume the Bible is included, but recent history has been shaped far more by the Koran. Being agnostic I’d prefer neither.

  • Curt Prins

    What about George Orwell’s Animal Farm or 1984?

  • Lucy

    @ Curt.

    I had the same thought buy ‘George Orwell’ was from the UK. I believe that’s why those are not mentioned. Yeah, what’s more influential that 1984?!

  • Michelle Meyer

    What about ‘The Ghost Tree Speaks’ by Richard J. Dorer?

  • Dominic

    The Phantom Tollbooth is definitely a book that shaped America. It shaped America because it is one of the first books that was written for children at the level that they could truly think. Most children’s books before that time were written down at children. This one looked at children more on a level playing field, not underestimating their comprehension abilities. This book, almost single-handedly changed children’s literature thus impacting futrure generations.

  • Brittany Werner

    The Things They Carried. Seriously. How is this not included?

  • Brady

    I echo the call for at least one work by George Orwell. I know he was a British writer, but his Animal Farm and 1984 continue to inspire and profoundly shape history and ideology. There ought to be representation of some response to Communism and/or Authoritarianism. What are your thoughts on Orwell or even The Communist Manifesto?

  • Eric Vogel

    “A Sand County Almanac” by Aldo Leopold is credited by some with starting the conservation movement in America.

  • Curt Prins

    Give the arguments of sexuality over the last few decades, what about “And Tango Makes Three”? Is it too new?

  • Christopher Vondracek

    As a college literature instructor, I have to admit this list feels a little aspirational. Like the Nielsen ratings, is there some possible way to track/measure “raw reads?” I’d be more interested in the 88 books with the most readers in American history (perhaps weighting for population growth) rather than what people like me (academics) think are the most influential. I’m not denying vital importance of a healthy scholarly community or literature for aesthetic and educational reasons. But “influence” implies something broader. Would we see, for example (oh the horror), something by “pop lit” folks?

  • Judy B

    So, do we get the answers to the quiz,

    or our score,

    or what? I’m missing something

  • Rupa

    “The Help” has drawn parallels between the struggles of African American people and their allies of the 1960s to the struggles of the LGBT community and those who argue on their behalf in the 21st century. Not sure if Stockett was doing this intentionally or was aware of it during her writing process, but many people have brought up the similarity in discussion of her novel.

  • steve austin

    Kerri Miller

    Why did you find it necessary to make disparaging comments about Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand on air today?

    Do you consider it your job to attempt manipulation of the book list according to your own feelings about certain books? Your own political position?

    Reminds me of the time you had a woman on who had authored a book about Clarence Thomas. She was obviously a Democrat and hated Thomas. At one point she criticized him for speaking out against Affirmative Action, on the grounds that he had benifited from AA. You, Kerri, piled on, saying, “Yeah, how can he do that when he took AA himself?”

    The answer is, of course, that the object of education is to learn the truth, and promote it, instead of being forever enslaved to wrong ideas merely because you may have eaten a tuna sandwich at some point that someone else paid for. I knew a guy like that once. He always insisted on picking up the check, but he expected everyone to treat him like the King, and never challenge anything he said. Democrats are the same way. If you take a nickel of the Taxpayers money, you are never allowed to critcize big government. Real people are not that easily bought. Leftists would do well to learn the lesson.

    A wise host of a show about books tends to be more open minded. Inclusive. Tolerant.

  • Snap Judgment

    Ditto Judy B’s comment. Reading the comments is diverting, sure, but the quiz is why I visited this page. Where are the answers?

  • Travis Thompson

    Here are my additions, those with stars are MUSTS

    Robert Frost, The Collected Poems

    *Edgar Allen Poe, The Tell Tale Heart and Other Writings

    Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughter House Five

    Joseph Heller, Catch-22

    David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

    Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

    *Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

    *Carl Sandburg, Collected Poems

    Carl Sandburg, Rootabaga Stories

    Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

    Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance and Other Essays

    Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

    Walter Van Tilburg Clark, The Oxbow Incident

    John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever

    Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat & Other Clinical Tales

    *Lewis Thomas, The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher

    Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

    Roger Tory Peterson, A Field Guide to the Birds (1934)

    *John McPhee, Levels of the Game

    John McPhee, The Survival of the Bark Canoe

    Tom Wolfe, Radical Chic and Mau Mauing the Flack Catcher

    Edward O. Wilson, Consilience

    *Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Cat’s Cradle

  • Pogo du Plessix Trout

    Depressingly unimaginative selection with paint-by-numbers nods to ethnic, gender and genre constituencies. For reasons best known to the literary commisars, Ben Franklin gets three (!) slots. How about giving him just one and including something really interesting from the eighteenth century (say, Mercy Otis Warren or William Byrd) and something, anything from the 1600s: poetry, politics, science and exploration, settlement, first contact and first wars with native inhabitants, witchcraft and heresy trials. These were the first books written in English in “America”, the ones that set the tone for what followed, but of course you only want “the books that shaped America.”

    The choices for the eighteenth century are bizarre or boring or both and the first century of “American Literature” is treated as a black hole.

  • Daniel

    How about “Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge” or “The Archaic Revival” by Terence McKenna?

    and “Angel-Tech: the Modern Shaman’s Guide to Reality Selection”…

    and Howard Zinn’s People’s “A People’s History Of The United States”?