Books: The Library of America

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I’ve been meaning to write about the Library of America for some time, but today, browsing Amazon, I found that they are selling the entire collection of 183 books from the Library of America in one lot. Okay, it’s expensive: nearly $3,900, but you get free shipping. That comes to around $21 per book, less than if you subscribe to the series directly (from the Library of America website, and about 40% off the books’ retail price.I’ve been a subscriber for several years, and own about seventy volumes (I’ve read about forty of them), including such great authors as Henry James, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, John Dos Passos, Eugene O’Neill, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain and many more. I’m a big fan of American literature, and the Library of America has helped me discover the founding authors of the literature of my country, as well as some lesser-known authors. I think of Sinclair Lewis, once a hugely popular author, now more or less forgotten; Frank Norris, author of McTeague, which was made into the famous silent movie Greed; and Theodore Dreiser, author of such works as Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy. Not to mention the recent volumes of authors of the second half of the twentieth century: The LoA has just begun a complete edition of Philip Roth and next year, they’ll be publishing their first volume of Jack Kerouac. They’ve recently added a volume of Philip K. Dick, and have some mysteries, so their catalog goes beyond what you might consider to be “classic” literature.

Frankly, I don’t know anyone who could afford to buy this set, but it would certainly be one of the greatest literary investments you could make. While you may not be interested in all the authors, this is a collection of founding writers, as well as of the founding fathers: Washington, Jefferson, Paine, Franklin and many others. If your local library doesn’t have this set, you should prompt them to investigate it. At this price, such a solid collection of great American literature would be a fine addition to any library’s shelves.