U.S. library's 88 ‘Books that Shaped America' includes titles tied to the Berkshires

Friday June 22, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- The Library of Congress has released the titles of 88 "Books that Shaped America," and "Moby-Dick" -- the novel Herman Melville wrote while in Pittsfield -- is on the list.

The library released its picks of the most influential books Friday. Librarian of Congress James Billington says the titles aren't meant as "best" books. Instead, he says the library wants to spark a conversation about books that influenced the nation.

Melville was not the only writer with ties to the Berkshires to make the list. It also includes Great Barrington native W.E.B. Du Bois' "The Souls of Black Folk" (1903).

Melville's "Moby-Dick" is the subject of the Call Me Melville, Berkshire County's summer-long community read and festival celebrating the writer's famous work. Melville wrote the novel while living at Arrowhead, his home on Holmes Road.

In its list, the Library of Congress said "Herman Melville's tale of the Great White Whale and the crazed Captain Ahab who declares he will chase him ‘round perdition's flames before I give him up' has become an American myth. Even people who have never read ‘Moby-Dick' know the basic plot, and references to it are common in other works of American literature and in popular culture, such as the Star Trek film ‘The Wrath of Khan' (1982)."

About Du Bois' work, the library listed it because "'Few books make history and fewer still become foundational texts for the movements and struggles of an entire people. The ‘Souls of Black Folk' occupies this rare position,' said Du Bois biographer Manning Marable. Du Bois's work was so influential that it is impossible to consider the civil rights movement's roots without first looking to this groundbreaking work.

The Library of Congress is celebrating "Books that Shaped America" with an exhibit in Washington.

The list begins with Benjamin Franklin's "Experiments and Observations on Electricity" from 1751. It includes Thomas Paine's "Common Sense," novels including "The Scarlet Letter," "Little Women" and "The Great Gatsby" and other famous titles like "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" and "The Cat in the Hat."

The library wants the public nominate other titles. An exhibit on the "Books that Shaped America" opens Monday.

Read more: http://www.loc.gov/bookfest/


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