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Literature and Popular Books

In the nineteenth century, American authors such as Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Edgar Allen Poe, Henry David Thoreau, John Greenleaf Whittier, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, and Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain, the most beloved of all American writers) established American literature on the world scene. The twentieth century has seen such giants as Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Sinclair Lewis, and Thornton Wilder. Current writers like Anne Tyler, Toni Morrison, William Kennedy, Alice Walker, Norman Mailer, Saul Bellow and John Updike are all highly regarded in world literary circles. Their work can be classified as “quality” literature.

American popular literature is an immense field. Despite TV, Americans read more than ever. American women read more than men. Popular fiction genres are mystery, suspense, horror, romance and historical fiction. The sweeping novel of four generations of Americans is a popular type of book. In the world of non-fiction, advice and how-to books are extremely popular. These books cover many health issues. At least one diet book is always on the best-seller list. Self-development how-to books of all types are popular, as well as inspirational titles.

The New York Times Book Review has the most respected coverage of the world of American books. The titles on its weekly best-seller list give a good idea of what Americans are concerned with: everything from preventing World War Three to achieving humanity’s ultimate goal: thin thighs in 30 days.

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