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American Stories: Fiction

Book Collection

This collection features some of the best American fiction of the twentieth century, with stories that illuminate life from coast to coast and beyond. The Land Breakers is John Ehle’s great American novel: the harrowing saga of a young couple who pioneer an Appalachian settlement during the Revolutionary War, by a master of prose Harper Lee once deemed “our foremost writer of historical fiction.” A quieter family epic, Joan Chase’s During the Reign of the Queen of Persia is the poignant tale of three generations of women haunted by trauma on an Ohio farm. Margaret Atwood has called it “moving, unusual and accomplished . . . a Norman Rockwell painting gone bad, the underside of the idyllic hometown, main-street, down-on-the-farm dream of Middle America.” John Williams’s Stoner, an unassuming story of a Missouri professor’s dashed dreams, is one of the most beloved books in the NYRB Classics catalog and often hailed as a perfect novel.

In A Way of Life, Like Any Other by Darcy O’Brien (with an introduction by Seamus Heaney), a teenage boy narrates the fall of his once glamorous Hollywood family. Set in the 1940s, it’s a hilarious ode to a bygone Los Angeles and Hollywood’s Golden Age. Don Carpenter’s gritty masterpiece Hard Rain Falling takes us to the streets of Portland, Oregon, following two kindred-spirit juvenile delinquents—an orphaned white teen and a young Black runaway—into adulthood, from their failed attempts at domestic life to their bittersweet reunion in the prison system. And Darius James’s Negrophobia, a satiric journey through the annals of American racism, careens across genres and confronts stereotypes by indulging them to outrageous extremes. Paul Beatty, winner of the Man Booker Prize for The Sellout, calls it “American arcana of the highest order. And like all truly cool books, destined to forever be ahead of its time.”