1. JACK KEROUAC, ON THE ROAD
Published in 1957, Kerouac’s masterpiece captured the voice of America’s ‘Beat Generation’, an iconoclastic group of writers that sprung up in the post-war US as a reaction against mainstream social values:materialism, capitalist accumulation, passive acceptance of religious and ethical codes. On the Road describes the whistle-stop travels of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty. The story is enriched by the clarity of Kerouac’s spontaneous prose, yet has resounded with young readers to this day for its underlying values of exploration, experimentalism, and the (ultimately fruitless) search for true value in life.
凯鲁亚克在1957年出版的这部杰作发出了美国“垮掉的一代”的声音，这一派作家的思想有悖于传统信仰，在二战后的美国迅速崛起，反应了对战后祖国主流价值观，即物质主义、资本积累、对宗教和道德准则的被动接受等的抗议。《在路上》描绘了萨尔（Sal Paradise）与狄安（Dean Moriarty）的美国之行。凯鲁亚克的散文自然真切，也因为故事内在的价值观——探索、尝试、（虽说最后没有成功却）不断寻找生命的真实意义等——一直引起年轻读者的共鸣。
2. JOHN STEINBECK, THE GRAPES OF WRATH
Arguably Nobel Prize-winning American writer John Steinbeck’s greatest work, The Grapes of Wrath follows the fortunes of the Joads, a family of Oklahoman farmers forced to flee their Dust Bowl home during the Great Depression. On the road to California, they encounter hunger, poverty, abandonment, and exploitation, yet also great generosity, sacrifice, maturity, and finally rebirth. Upon publication, the novel’s accessible prose and sensitivity to the plight of America’s labouring poor both resonated with the country’s working classes and aroused the ire of some of Steinbeck’s contemporaries. A true paean to the power of the human spirit, it is studied in high school English classrooms to this day.
3. ROBERT M. PIRSIG, ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE
Simultaneously a thrilling piece of travel literature and a philosophical treatise, Robert M. Pirsig’s 1974 novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance traces the author’s bike trip from Minnesota to California. Interspersed with vivid sweeps of the American prairies, each chapter also chronicles a series of philosophical discussions as a father recovering from electroconvulsive therapy gradually tries to reconcile his own worldviews with those of the people around him and liberation from a materialist spiritual vacuum. Drawing on both the Western and Eastern philosophical canon, this challenging read ultimately serves as a platform for Pirsig to introduce his own Metaphysics of Quality.