Great American Bestsellers: The Books That Shaped America : The Great Courses: English Literature

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Peter Conn
  • Series: The Great Courses: English Literature
  • 12 hrs and 25 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

Best-selling books have played a critical role in influencing the tastes and purchasing habits of American readers for more than 100 years. But there is more to America's great best-selling books than the sales figures they rake in. American bestsellers also offer us ways to appreciate and understand particular periods of American culture.
In this series of 24 lectures you'll enjoy a pointed look at key best-selling works and their places within the greater fabric of American cultural history. Guided by an award-winning teacher, you'll explore representative bestsellers at various stages of American history, from the first book published in the English-speaking New World to the blockbuster authors who dominate the 21st-century publishing industry.
The result is an expert look at the evolution of American culture - its tastes, its hopes, its dreams - through the unique lens of the books that have captivated its readers at various points in American history.
Each of the 22 works discussed - from literary masterpieces (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) to enduring self-help books (How to Win Friends and Influence People) - has had a crucial and unique impact on American society.
Studying these representative works will give you a deeper understanding of how American literature can both mirror the events of its time and, in many instances, have a pronounced impact on them. These lectures are your opportunity to see our nation's best-selling books as more than just popular forms of entertainment that have managed to make their authors lots of money, but as stunning microcosms of American cultural history.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Informative and entertaining

I enjoyed these lectures immensely. He tells you a bit about the author, the social conditions when the book came out, and the plot. The books I knew, I learned more about, the ones that I didn't made me want to read them. I wish that this professor had more courses out there. His style was easy and not hard to follow.
I do hate the teaching companies compulsion for canned music and clapping, it's more than a little silly. Rather undignified for this genre.
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- Mary Elizabeth Reynolds "author of Lowcountry Legend's series"

Engaging, focused on context of the book.

I really enjoyed this, particularly as the lectures focused on the context in which a book was published, which informed why it may have been a bestseller. He also discussed the plots of the books enough that if you had not read it (one went back to the days of the Puritans) you could still understand how it fit in its period of history.

It's final lecture on 'mega-authors' (I don't think that's the word he actually used, but it's how I think of them) was a little depressing. It's an important comment on how the business of publishing impacts what will be presented to readers, but it's also something that people need to be cognizant of if they want to understand why some of the great novels of the past may not even have been published today. The lecturer does this without sniping at the actual writing of the mega-authors, which I think is important.
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- ricketsj

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-08-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses