Can You Match the Great American Novel to Its Author?

Bambi Turner

Image: Wiki Commons by Harper Lee & Eric Draper

About This Quiz

Let's face it -- unless science and technology make some major leaps, you're probably never going to get to experience time travel in your lifetime. Of course, that doesn't mean you'll never get to know what it was like to live in the past, or get a glimpse into the future. 

Slipping between the pages of a book not only allows you to walk in someone else's footsteps, but also gives you an opportunity to see the world through their eyes, reflected through their experiences. That means that even though you will never walk onto the battlefields of WWI, live the gilded life of the Roaring Twenties or live in a Matrix-like future, you can still take a journey through these experiences thanks to some of history's greatest authors.

While any book can be an adventure, some classics have earned the title of Great American Novel because they so perfectly capture a specific time or place in American history. It's almost like the reader is transported back in time -- or in the case of postmodern novels, transported into a future that hasn't yet been. 

Think you can match these beloved titles to the author who wrote them? Prove your Great American Novel IQ with this quiz!


"The Great Gatsby" offered readers an entertaining glimpse into the Roaring Twenties. Do you know who wrote this novel?

F. Scott Fitzgerald released "The Great Gatsby" in 1925, and the future classic was a solid flop at the time. Thankfully, readers have learned to appreciate the tale of Jay Gatsby, his wild parties and his lust for Daisy in the years since Fitzgerald's death.

You can call the narrator Ishmael, but do you know the name of the author who wrote "Moby-Dick?"

The 1851 novel "Moby-Dick" takes readers along on a 19th century whaling ship, with a captain obsessed with revenge -- on a whale. Herman Melville's classic book is set on the Pequod, and features a narrator named Ishmael who survives the tale by floating on a coffin.

I'll let you help me whitewash this fence if you can guess which of these authors wrote "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer."

Mark Twain was inspired by his own childhood in Hannibal, Missouri, when writing "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer." This classic coming-of-age novel from 1876 tells the story of a boy named Tom, who falls for a girl named Becky Thatcher, hangs out with his best friend Huck and even attends his own funeral.

Who wrote the angst-filled classic "The Catcher in the Rye?"

J.D. Salinger's tale of teenage rebellion began as a serial in the '40s before it was published as a novel in 1951. "The Catcher in the Rye" tells the tale of Holden Caulfield, a teen whose struggles modern generations have found themselves identifying with.

Which writer penned "The Grapes of Wrath," a powerful portrayal of the Great Depression?

In the 1930s, the United States experienced an economic downturn so devastating that it's now referred to as the Great Depression. At the same time, severe storms left many parts of the central U.S. unable to produce crops. This pair of twin disasters is captured in John Steinbeck's 1939 novel "The Grapes of Wrath."

Do you know who wrote "Uncle Tom's Cabin," which ranks as one of the bestselling novels of the 1800s?

Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" came out in 1852, just about a decade before the Civil War at a time when the abolitionist movement was gaining popularity. This powerful anti-slavery tome contains concepts that are offensive today, but were critical to changing minds -- and lives -- in the 19th century.

Which novelist penned "Lolita," a difficult book which focuses on an incestuous relationship between a stepfather and a young girl?

Russian-American writer Vladimir Nabokov wrote one of the most controversial novels of all time with his 1955 classic "Lolita." The risque book tells the tale of Humbert Humbert, a Professor who falls for his pre-teen stepdaughter Delores, whom he nicknames Lolita.

Who wrote the 1850 tale of shame known as "The Scarlet Letter?"

Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 classic "The Scarlet Letter" tells the story of Hester Prynne, who is forced to wear a red letter "A" on her dress as punishment for having a child out of wedlock. Set just 50 years before the Salem Witch Trials, the novel captures the heavy-handed Puritan rule in 17th century New England.

Can you remember who wrote "An American Tragedy," a novel which was inspired by a real criminal case from the early 20th century?

Theodore Dreiser drew from real-life inspiration when writing his 1925 novel "An American Tragedy." The book tells the story of social climber Clyde, who makes a series of terrible decisions that culminate in the murder of his lover.

Which novelist wrote "Invisible Man," a 1952 tale of race and identity?

The 1952 novel "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison is a powerful tale of race, rights and finding your place in the world. Told from the perspective of a nameless narrator living in the early 20th century, it takes readers from the south to Harlem during the Civil Rights era.

Which American novelist penned "Absalom, Absalom!," a tale inspired by a biblical son of David?

William Faulkner's southern gothic "Absalom, Absalom!" came out in 1936. Set in the 19th century, it tells the story of Thomas Sutpen, who moves to the south, founds a grand plantation, then loses everything after the Civil War.

Which author won the Pulitzer Prize for her beloved 1960 novel "To Kill a Mockingbird?"

"To Kill a Mockingbird" gives readers a glimpse into the injustices of the Deep South in 1930s Alabama through the eyes of a child named Scout. It was Harper Lee's only novel until the 2015 release of "Go Set a Watchman."

Which writer took readers on an epic voyage in "On the Road?"

"On the Road' is a 1957 roman a clef by Jack Kerouac. It tells the story of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarity as they travel the country in the late '40s, and is still renowned today for its depiction of Beat culture.

Which author based her 1987 novel "Beloved" on a tale written by a real-life slave who escaped to freedom?

Sethe is a former slave haunted by her dead daughter in the 1987 novel "Beloved" by Toni Morrison. The book won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988, and was chosen in 2006 as the best book of the past 25 years.

Which writer dreamed up the very unique "Gravity's Rainbow," a 1973 novel set during WWII?

It was Thomas Pynchon who wrote "Gravity's Rainbow." Published in 1973, the novel focuses on the race by the German military to build V-2 rockets. The book gets its name from the fact that the rockets' path resembles the shape of a rainbow.

"Tropic of Cancer" was so scandalous that it inspired a Supreme Court case. Do you know who wrote this 1934 novel?

Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer," a tale about his life as a struggling writer in Paris, so scandalized the public in the '30s that it was deemed obscene. It took a 1964 Supreme Court verdict to get the book unbanned, but its graphic sexual nature and language might still shock you today.

Which novelist wrote "Native Son," a story about the struggles of young Bigger Thomas?

Set in the southside of Chicago in the 1930s, Richard Wright's "Native Son" was released in 1940. The main character Bigger Thomas murders both an acquaintance and his girlfriend, leading the reader through themes related to race, poverty and identity.

Released in 1985, "Blood Meridian" is an epic western for the ages. Do you know who wrote this much-loved novel?

"Blood Meridian" was the fifth book published by celebrated novelist Cormac McCarthy. It tells the story of the Glanton gang, and focuses on a character known only as the kid. Shockingly violent, even for a western, the novel features graphic tales of scalping and fighting among natives and members of the gang.

People who read this writer's short story "The Tell-tale Heart" when it was first released spent just as much time shaking in fear as modern readers who discover his work.

"It is the beating of his hideous heart!," screamed the murderous and totally-not-insane narrator of Edgar Allen Poe's 1843 story "The Tell-tale Heart." Published two years before Poe earned a cool $9 for "The Raven," this tale of a murderer whose secret is slowly driving him insane is as scary today as it was in Poe's day.

Which American author penned the Bildungsroman "The Adventures of Augie March?"

Saul Bellow's "The Adventures of Augie March" is a coming-of-age novel released in 1953. It follows the title character from youth through adulthood as Augie fails to commit to any job, woman or family.

"The Poisonwood Bible" swept readers along to the Congo in the mid-20th century with the Price family of missionaries. Can you name its famous author?

Released in 1998, Barbara Kingsolver's "The Poisonwood Bible" is one of the newer novels to be declared an American classic. The beloved book tells the story of the Price family, who travel with their four daughters from the American south to Congo in the 1950s to serve as missionaries.

Which author wrote the 1985 favorite "City of Glass," which was later compiled into a collection known as "The New York Trilogy?"

Paul Auster became a literary legend with this "New York Trilogy" in the '80s. He followed up this postmodern detective series, which consists of "City of Glass," "Ghosts," and "The Locked Room" with his 1989 novel "Moon Palace" -- a story about an orphan who is forced to sell his books to survive.

Which author continues to charm new generations of readers with her 1868 novel "Little Women?"

Louisa May Alcott drew inspiration from her own childhood when writing her classic novel "Little Women." Generations of readers have laughed and cried with the March sisters -- Meg, Amy, Beth and Jo -- who was molded after Alcott herself.

Which author takes up behind the facade of the American dream with his 1997 novel "American Pastoral?"

Philip Roth's "American Pastoral" tells the story of Seymour "Swede" Levov, a man whose seemingly perfect life is destroyed by affairs and by his daughter's militant activism. The book was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1998.

Who wrote "The Red Badge of Courage," a book known for its realistic take on the Civil War?

Stephen Crane's "Red Badge of Courage" didn't come out until 1895, but it continues to transport readers back to the days of the Civil War. The story is shown through the terrified eyes of Henry Fleming, a soldier torn between fear and loyalty to his unit out on the battlefield.

Which legendary author penned the semi-autobiographical "Go Tell It On the Mountain," which was inspired by his childhood in New York?

James Baldwin grew up under the watchful eye of a stern -- and abusive -- Baptist Minister stepfather. He relied on this experience when telling the story of John Grimes, the narrator of his classic 1953 novel "Go Tell It On the Mountain."

Whose "Rabbit, Run" spawned three sequels after its 1960 release?

John Updike's 1960 release "Rabbit, Run" tells the story of a former basketball star who is disenchanted with his life as a working father. The character of Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom was such a hit that Updike wrote three more books in the series.

Do you remember who wrote the somber war novel "For Whom the Bell Tolls," which was published in 1940?

Ernest Hemingway wrote some of the most famous American novels ever published, from "A Farewell to Arms," to "The Old Man and the Sea" and "For Whom the Bell Tolls." "Bell" tells the story of Robert Jordan, a soldier fighting in the Spanish Civil War, which Hemingway himself fought in.

Which author introduced readers to Chingachgook in "The Last of the Mohicans?"

James Fenimore Cooper wrote the 1926 classic "The Last of the Mohicans." Set during the French and Indian Wars of the 1750s, the novel follows a group of colonists and Native Americans as they travel through the New York wilderness.

Do you know which novelist penned the "U.S.A. Trilogy," which was published in the 1930s?

John Dos Passos' "U.S.A. Trilogy" focuses on 12 characters living around the time of WWI. It paints a picture of the events and happenings of the era, and is made up of three novels Dos Passos published between 1930 and 1936.

Do you know who wrote "White Noise," one of the most beloved postmodern novels of all time?

In Don DeLillo's "White Noise," the main character Jack Gladney is so scared of death that he will do anything to avoid it -- even commit murder. This 1985 novel is known for its satirical postmodern theme.

Which author wrote the 1984 cyberpunk favorite "Neuromancer?'

Despite the fact that it was William Gibson's debut novel, "Neuromancer" ended up being much-celebrated by fans and critics alike. The first in the "Sprawl" trilogy," which helped to inspire the 1999 film "The Matrix," the novel focuses on a Artificial Intelligence and technology run amok.

Whose 1961 book "Catch-22" paints a brutal picture of life and war?

Set in WWII, "Catch-22" by Joseph Heller tells the story of Captain John Yossrian and his crew, who are stationed in the Mediterranean during WWII. The novel is famous for its stark and brutal depiction of battle and the horrors associated with warfare.

Who wrote the 1946 novel "All the King's Men," which focused on the rise and fall of larger-than-life politician Willie Stark?

Robert Penn Warren won a Pulitzer Prize in 1947 for his 1946 novel "All the King's Men." With a name taken from the classic tale of Humpty Dumpty, the book outlines the rise of a corrupt southern politician -- who some believe was inspired by former Louisiana Governor Huey Long.

Which author penned the 1996 novel "Infinite Jest," whose title was inspired by Shakespeare's "Hamlet?"

"Infinite Jest" is a wonder of a novel published in 1996 by David Foster Wallace. In the book, years are sponsored by corporations, and the story takes place at a halfway house and a tennis academy during the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment.

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