Press Highlights

A Best Non-Fiction Book of 2009: You’ll learn more from this thick pleasure tome than any other single volume you’ll find all year.”—Entertainment Weekly Best of 2009 review

A Best Non-Fiction Book of 2009: This magnificent volume is a vast, inquisitive, richly surprising and consistently enlightening wallow in our national history and culture...Neither reference nor criticism, neither history nor treatise, but a genre-defying, transcendent fusion of them all, a treasury to keep by your bedside. Read an installment every night and end the year with a much deeper understanding of the exhilarating and heartbreaking nation it chronicles. Inevitable, necessary and profoundly welcome...In the age of Wikipedia, a reference book like this needs more than just the facts; it need to tell us what the facts mean, and A New Literary History does just that.”—Laura Miller, Salon
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“In this thousand-page’s clear that nothing remains of the boundaries that traditionally separated literature, history and popular culture. The book comprises more than 200 essays on American life...In snapshots of a few thousand words each, the entries...put on display the exploring, tinkering and risk-taking that have contributed to the invention of America...A New Literary History of America gives us what amounts to a fractal geometry of American culture. You can focus on any one spot and get a sense of the whole or pull back and watch the larger patterns appear...The editors have drawn a new map for us and inscribed it boldly with the strange name America.”
—Wes Davis, Wall Street Journal

“For budding scholars, academics, the historically fascinated, and folks who just like to read...This may be the most unique attempt yet to tell the story of the United States...It’s a feast for anyone who cares about history and national identity, not to mention a showcase for virtuoso writing: Carlo Rotella, David Thomson, [Stephanie] Burt, Hua Hsu, Robert Polito, Walter Mosley, David Treuer, Luc Sante, and Ishmael Reed are just the tip of the book’s contributor list.”—The Onion A.V. Club

“Reading this gorgeous compendium on the written word in America should be required for gaining or maintaining U.S. citizenship.”—Ron Antonucci, Cleveland Plain Dealer

NLHAA Best Gift Book of 2009: it lifts the spirit to know that in a time of radical downsizing, publishers remain dedicated to crafting gorgeous and stimulating coffee-table gems...Teeming with colorful characters...this new-breed reference book—featuring freshly penned and eccentrically focused essays by a heterogeneous who’s who of academics, journalists and authors—ventures to remap the expanse of American history through five centuries of literary and cultural landmarks...Although it shares with its history-book forebears unimpeachable intellect and seriousness of intent, this is not the Oxford Companion to American Literature. For one thing, it’s a lot more fun.”—NPR

A Best Gift Book of 2009: A browser’s delight. Ranging over many high points and exploring interesting crannies of the American experience from 1507 to 2008, A New Literary History offers those interested in culture, history, and politics much to savor and more than a little with which to match wits.” —Boston Phoenix

New York Times ReviewEntertainment Weekly Review

“Ambitious, thought-provoking, and comprehensive.”—Elle Magazine

“This is an astounding achievement in multiculturalism and American studies, which in the age of Google and the Internet lights the way toward serious interpretive reference publishing.”—Publishers Weekly

PINCUS: [This is] not a reference book in the sense that it actually is fun to read. The essays are clearly written with an idea toward readability. And I think what’s fun about it is that it just takes you in all sorts of different directions where literary history can go...If you thumb through a book like this, it’s just a lot of fun.
CAVANAUGH: Now, I’m wondering, does this book attempt to give a new literary or cultural history of America that’s more representative of modern America?
PINCUS: Yes...[it’s] really inclusive...You’ve got a lot more African-American literature, a fairly good representation of Latino literature...[and] including people like...Billie Holiday and Bob Dylan...and having Kara Walker do a thing about Barack Obama toward the end of the book really tries to make it much more contemporary. But I have to say it also starts way back at the beginning...1600s to the present.
PINCUS: And a lot of really good writing.
Hear more about NLHA in "Ten New Books Recommendations That Aren’t The Lost Symbol" on public radio station KPBS

New York Magazine Review

Is This Literary History?
“I found the writing to be a particular strength of the collection, partly because it is so varied. The choice of editors signals from the outset a different kind of literary history. Sollors is known for his pioneering work on ethnic American literature, and Marcus for his music journalism and cultural criticism. Not surprisingly, the editors chose a wide assortment of contributors, including academics from a range of fields and disciplines, creative writers, and even visual artists. The result is [a] Bakhtinian carnival...of style, voice, and topic.”
—Read a dialogue between Mark Bauerlein and Priscilla Wald in The Chronicle of Higher Education

Fortune Magazine

“Some intriguing tidbits of American history that I gleaned from recent reading: The lone judge to repent of his part in the Salem witch trials was also one of the first white Americans to write against slavery...Stories involving balloons have long been apt to take in and fool the American media...When Lincoln delivered his Second Inaugural Address, it was mostly African Americans who appreciated it...At first the telephone was conceived as a prosthetic enhancement...The theme of God's judgment being rendered through natural disasters has a long pedigree in America...At his genesis, Tarzan was a hero for racists...Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ was composed on the edges of newspaper, pieces of toilet paper and anything else his confidantes could smuggle in to King....If you find these gleanings even half as fascinating as I do, you will be interested in my single-volume source: A New Literary History of America...This 1,128-page book never fails to engross and edify. I could say more, but you have to experience it for yourself. So while you hie to a bookstore, I'm going to read the articles on the Winchester rifle, the first appearance of Mickey Mouse and ‘The Plight of Conservative Literature.’”
—by Rodney Clapp, The Christian Century

NLHA is published by Harvard University Press. Read more reviews and buy the book online.