'Small-town America' Literature - recommendations?

Three days off from work, sick with the ferschlugginah flu, so I’ve been rereading some small-town American themed literature, and forgot how much I’ve liked it.

Already finished Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, Sinclair’s Arrowsmith, Wilder’s Our Town **, and currently in the middle of Master’s Spoon River Anthology. To Kill A Mockingbird is next on the list. Rather like the idea of small adorable town America with all the horrible scandals and such. And of course, I’m playing Aaron Copland as background music.

Never had an actual course on American literature, so what are your favorites to recommend while I recuperate? Aw heck, any movies (or movie versions of the above) you’d recommend along the same theme?

** Yeah, it’s drama, but it fits my theme

“The Last Picture Show” and “Texasville,” by Larry McMurty. The movie of “Picture Show” is a pretty decent adaptation, and “Texasville” wasn’t bad, although it didn’t make me roar with laughter in places the way the book did.

Dunno if those really meet your definition of ‘literature,’ but I enjoyed them. Heh-as an English lit major, I read my share of ‘trash’ just to stay sane at times.

Pretty much anything (that I’ve read, at least) from Garrison Keillor sounds like it would fit the bill.

Almost anything by the great Booth Tarkington.

Plainsong, by Kent Haruf (National Book Award Finalist). Also Eventide by the same author, same setting.

Plainsong is fantastic.

Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis. The book is not what people think it’s like.

These may be too rural, but

Bobbie Ann Mason
Gurney Norman
Chris Offut (son of SF/Fantasy author andy offut)

Suddenly, I’m not sure if I’m spelling Offut correctly, but am too lazy to go look.

Sir Rhosis

Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio should be right up your alley given the books you listed in the OP. (In fact, I was surprised it wasn’t on your list already!)

One of the more memorable legs of the literature marathon that was my AP English class…

Another vote for Sherwood Anderson here. Winesburg, Ohio is excellent.

You might also enjoy books and stories by Willa Cather.

Paradise Falls by Don Robertson is small town American life just after the Civil War. The book is huge – it was published in two volumes – but there’s no padding and it doesn’t feel bloated. It’s in my all time top ten, for whatever that’s worth. :slight_smile:

Somebody’s gotta do it – don’t forget Peyton Place by Grace Metalious, and Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, which was Peyton Place with vampires.

Another vote for Winesburg, Ohio, one of my favorites ever.

Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street is awfully good too.

Cold Sassy Tree

Trust me.

Richard Russo’s Empire Falls

If you like children’s novels, there’s Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn Dixie.

Another huge vote for Winesburg, Ohio - amazing book, underrated author who influenced the Big 4 - Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner and Steinbeck.

Also agree with Babbitt - amazing book.

Babbitt is a fine novel, but it is not about a small town. The city of Zenith has skyscrapers, factories, and suburbs. The opening sentence:

May I recommend instead Green Town, Illinois, the hometown of 12-year-old Douglas Spaulding in the magical summer of 1928: Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, one of the most exhilirating reading experiences I ever had.

But before you read anything else, read

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

My then sixteen year old granddaughter begged me to read it and now everyone in my family has (thirty somethings to sixty somethings).

Richard Russo again - but *Nobody’s Fool * instead.

Thanks for all the suggestions. I’d already read Winesburg, Ohio waaaay back in 10th (?) grade, but that one is definitely on my list (don’t have a copy at the moment, else I’d prolly have finished it by now).

This is one of the best novels I have ever read.

And most of John Irving’s other stuff is set in smalltown America.

I heartily recommend DBC Pierre’s fantastic debut novel Vernon God Little, which won the Man Booker Prize in 2003.