When I took my degree as a mature student a few years ago, the American Literature module was by far my favourite part of the course. I would probably never have discovered the poetry of Emily Dickinson or the novels of Willa Cather if I hadn't taken that module. The course was also memorable for what it left out. No F Scott Fitzgerald, no Edith Wharton and no Native American texts.
John Steinbeck didn't feature on the reading list either. I suspect some aspects of his work are a little sentimental for some, but he is a very fine writer. I've been reading Travels with Charley for the Cornflower reading group and Sweet Thursday which is the follow-up to Cannery Row. Oh to visit Steinbeck's California! To hear the sea lions barking at China Point, to beachcomb the spring tides at La Jolla, to see the pelicans on the sea rocks and the orange monarch butterflies descending in clouds on Pacific Grove.
Speaking of vintage American literature - Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country arrived today!