Hello reader!

I asked people the other night for the books they read in American Lit classes. Did they remember anything other than The Great Gatsby? Eighty-four comments later, it was clear: they did. 

Two things emerged for me: 1) American literature and British literature is all mashed up in our minds, which tells me the books are all too similar, and 2) High school readings lists haven't changed much over the decades. Millennials to baby-boomers answered me, and we all read the same books and authors. Dickens and Steinbeck, Animal Farm and The Scarlett Letter. Books about war and honor. I like a lot of these books — The Crucible! It sent me on a years-long reading list about the Salem witch trials. — but, like my friend Rachael, I'd argue we should update these lists to include a wider range of American experiences. Yes, let's read Willa Cather — O! Pioneers — but let's read Louise Erdrich, too, and consider what happened once the pioneers settled the west. 

Rachael suggested replacing Red Badge of Courage with Cold Mountain. I'm here for that. I also like the idea of reading old and new books together — The Scarlett Letter alongside Their Eyes Were Watching God, discussing the restrictions put on women throughout American history, maybe.

What books would you suggest to update the traditional high school reading list? 

We can't redo our high school reading. But we can think about the gaps and use our library cards to fill them. Some booklists I've been using to fill my gaps: 

Books we should stop making high-schoolers read — and what to replace them with

Books for every state

A booklist from Twitter, inspired by a bad book recommendation from our president

My point, as always, is simple: Let's all be promiscuous readers. Let's read more, more widely. Let's read more books by more authors, from more genres. 

— Hillary

Make America Read Book Discussion

Get in the spirit of Halloween with a spooky read. Shirley Jackson's literary ghost story was a finalist for the National Book Award.
We'll chat on Slack at 8 p.m. EST Oct. 30. Email to be included. 

What I'm reading

The favorite: Sing, Unburied, Sing, Jesmyn Ward
You guys knew this one was going to be here, right? Sing, Unburied, Sing is a beautiful, timely book. Ward's writing is, as always, lyrical and mesmerizing, almost musical, even as she tells brutal stories. But that stylized writing also is this book's flaw. Ward tries to tell the story through the voices of three different characters, but they all end up sounding the same. Still, I gasped aloud at the reveal; books rarely make me gasp. And I'm still thinking about the characters and the story. This one is worth a read. 

Up next: Lincoln and The Abolitionists, Fred Caplan


What's the best time of year for reading? Do you prefer beach reads or books and blankets?

Share your answer on social media with #MakeAmericaRead

Reading links

Call something a fairytale, and I will read it. Always. This list of dark fairytales for grown-ups is excellent. Boy, Snow, Bird is my favorite.

Books on race every white person should read. If that description makes you uncomfortable, these books might help you understand why.

Allow me to fangirl for a moment: Jesmyn Ward and I like the same feminist children's novel! (The Hero and The Sword. It's great. you should read it.)

Also, a very specific list from Ward: Six books featuring absent parents

I've said I'm giving myself an American History course with my library card. Here's 10 college courses you can read along with. (Border Literature sounded most interesting to me.)



I have a galley copy of Sing, Unburied, Sing to share.
(Thanks, Jennie!) 
For your chance at the copy, share your favorite new American classic — the book you'd add to every high school reading list — on social media with #MakeAmericaRead.
I'll choose a winner randomly by noon Sept. 11. 
Housekeeping note: I use Amazon affiliate links for books throughout this newsletter.
If you purchase books through these links, I will earn a small commission, which I probably will spend on books. 
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