Synopses & Reviews
“These thirteen books must be seen as representative, not definitive, works. They are nodal points, places where vast areas of thought and feeling gathered and dispersed, creating a nation as various and vibrant as the United States, which must be considered one of the most successful nation-states in modern history, and a republic built firmly on ideas, which are contained in its major texts. Where we have been must, of course, determine where we are going. My hope is that this book helps to show us where we have been and engenders a lively conversation about our destination, which seems perpetually in dispute.”
—from Promised Land
Americans need periodic reminding that they are, to a great extent, people of the book—or, rather, books. In Promised Land, Jay Parini repossesses that vibrant, intellectual heritage by examining the life and times of thirteen "books that changed America." Each of the books has been a watershed, gathering intellectual currents already in motion and marking a turn in American life and thought. Their influence remains pervasive, however hidden, and in his essays Jay Parini demonstrates how these books entered American life and altered how we think and act in the world.
The thirteen "books that changed America":
Of Plymouth Plantation • The Federalist Papers • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin • The Journals of Lewis and Clark • Walden • Uncle Tom's Cabin • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn • The Souls of Black Folk • The Promised Land • How to Win Friends and Influence People • The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care • On the Road • The Feminine Mystique
Promised Land offers a reading of the American psyche, allowing us to reflect on what our past means for who we are now. It is a rich and immensely readable work of cultural history that will appeal to all book lovers and students of the American character alike.
"Poet, novelist and literary critic Parini (The Last Station) examines the books he believes represent the soul of the American republic. Some of these books are masterpieces, others icons of a moment in American history. Throughout, Parini makes his case while wearing his learning lightly. All of these works, from William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation to Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, had a profound impact on America's complex identity. The evolving American dynamic is noted in the way the subjects cluster: the American experiment (The Federalist Papers); exploration of a continent (The Journals of Lewis and Clark); a new connection with nature and self (Walden); issues of race and urban ethnicity (Uncle Tom's Cabin and The Souls of Black Folk, among others); business and its opposite, the counterculture (How to Win Friends and Influence People and On the Road). A terrific chapter explores Dr. Spock's The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care ('Spock said no to no'). A listing of 100 additional books with seismic impact rounds out this engaging discussion, which ought to be on the syllabus of American studies courses." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Jay Parini, a poet and novelist, teaches at Middlebury College in Vermont. His novels include The Apprentice Lover, Benjamin's Crossing, and The Last Station (soon to be a motion picture). His fifth volume of poetry was The Art of Subtraction: New and Selected Poems (2005). He has written biographies of John Steinbeck, Robert Frost, and William Faulkner, in addition to The Art of Teaching (2005) and Why Poetry Matters (2008). His reviews and essays appear frequently in major periodicals, including The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Guardian.