July 11 will mark 50 years since the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee's first and only published novel. A staple of middle and high school English classes, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, inspiration for a classic 1962 film version, and beloved by readers of all ages, To Kill a Mockingbird is considered by many to be The Great American Novel...which begs the question: What IS the Great American Novel?
For starters, it should represent a time or place that's uniquely American, such as the Civil War, Great Depression, Beat era, or contemporary Wall Street. The book also needs to stand the test of time, and be accessible and appealing to a wide range of readers. With those standards in mind, we've compiled a list of 10 outstanding candidates below. Since it's not really possible to choose one definitively above all others, The Great American Novel remains an ever-elusive concept that inspires authors and intrigues readers. As we celebrate the golden anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird and remember Scout, Atticus, and Maycomb, Alabama in 1936, we're also celebrating American writers and their novels. Happy 50th to Harper Lee's masterpiece!