There is no point in complaining that he left out this book or that author. He is clear from the get go. This is his list. If you don't like it, make your own. If Henry James doesn't get a book on it, well at least he gets honorable mention in a final chapter on fifteen also rans. Edgar Alan Poe doesn't even make his way into that. Nothing against them, indeed Foster has nice things to say about Poe in the course of his discussions of other books, even if he is less enthusiastic about James. The point is he has a criterion for his choices, and Poe and James, at least by his lights, great though they may be, do not meet his criterion as well as those who have made the list. Criterion? It's in the title: Twenty-Five Books That Shaped America, shaped in the sense that they are the literary works that created the American image, the American myth. And besides, you can always manage to sneak two or three other writers and books into the discussion of one of the books that did make the list without getting readers too upset.
Okay, so who makes the cut? Ben Franklin gets in with his Autobiography. This despite the fact that as Foster is quick to point out, old Ben is not always as truthful as one might like. James Fenimore Cooper gets in despite what Mark Twain has to say about him and Foster's own critique of his clunky prose and narrative inadequacy. Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter is included even though Foster claims he would have preferred the short stories or even The House of the Seven Gables. Given his assertions in the introduction, this seems like a cop out, but again as he likes to point out it's his ball. If you don't like it, you don't have to play. He includes representatives of nearly all the neglected minorities -- women, Afro-Americans, Native Americans and gays. There are a few outliers: Dr, Seuss most notably. Most all the big names are there: Melville and company for sure. Seventeen of the authors are post-19th century which might seem a bit late in the myth-making game. Again, it's his ball.