Some people like to keep in mind the “death of the author,” a literary theory that removes a work of fiction from the person or time that produced it. At other times, however, context can be helpful, and this timeline reveals when popular authors lived, died, thrived, and published their most famous work.
It can reveal some of that missing context, broadening one's perspective. For instance, you don’t have to know anything about Mark Twain himself to enjoy The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but keeping in mind that the book was published nearly a decade after the end of the American Civil War may change the way you view the book.
This chart contextualizes the top 50 novels in literature with their authors, their contemporaries, and major world events. You can easily see generational impacts on works, like the Lost Generation, and the types of stories they wrote. Who decided on the cannon? This is a list of the top 50 books voted on by the American public in the Great American Read survey.