American classics such as To Kill A Mockingbird enjoy a controversial history that makes them all the more worth exploring. Harper Lee’s novel celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. You can find it and so many other great literary works at your local bookstore or library, or download them onto your personal electronic tablet.

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Looking for some great summer reading to help get you through the dog days of the season? Why not catch up on American classics you might have missed in your youth.

The long sunny days are great for lounging and meandering through some American classics, many of which enjoy a controversial history that makes them all the more worth exploring.

The Civil War

Historic and huge, Shelby Foote’s three-volume history of the Civil War is a must for American history buffs. Focused on the military campaigns, “The Civil War: A Narrative” was published between 1958 and 1974. Yet, it has been criticized in recent years for its neglect of political and social factors in the war, particularly slavery. 

This year, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, the complete set has been reissued with commentary by Jon Meacham, a Pulitzer-prize winning author himself. B

ut if any amount of reading about the Civil War seems dry, check out Ken Burns’s PBS documentary, The Civil War, which relies heavily on Foote’s research.

Atlas Shrugged

More than 50 years after “Atlas Shrugged” debuted as a New York Times bestselling novel, it has made the bestseller lists again this year, bringing total sales to over seven million copies. And with the recent release of a movie of the same name, conservative and liberals across the country are engaging in spirited debates over the writings of Ayn Rand, a controversial philosopher who espoused individualism over collective interest.

“‘Atlas Shrugged’ is an interesting and compelling story today,” said David Kelley, president and founder of The Atlas Society, a nonprofit organization based on Rand’s teachings about Objectivism and capitalism. “It provides incredible parallels with our current state of affairs.” 

Whether you agree or disagree with Rand’s worldview, her work is a must-read for anyone interested in the political and economic history and future of America. Her books have sold a cumulative 25 million copies and even sparked a social movement focused on the championing of personal liberty and entrepreneurialism.

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To Kill A Mockingbird

Celebrated and banned, Harper Lee’s only published novel is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Loosely based on an event in Lee’s own hometown of Monroeville, Ala., the book is a coming-of-age novel narrated by a young white girl named Scout as she watches the trial of a falsely accused African American man, defended by her father, Atticus.

The novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, but has also been banned by schools for use of profanity and frank discussion of race. Yet the 1962 film starring Gregory Peck and Robert Duvall met with critical acclaim.

Through controversy and poetry, history and plot, these works continue to influence public debate in America. Isn’t it time you got in on the conversation?

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