An iconic big red dog. A dystopian battle to the death for scarce resources. A pioneering work of feminist literary criticism. Indiana University authors have produced a diverse range of groundbreaking creative and scholarly writing worth celebrating at the bicentennial—and beyond.
The Public Burning by Robert Coover
Robert Coover’s third novel is a fictionalized account of the events leading to the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenburg, narrated by Richard Nixon. New York Times reviewer Geoffrey Wolff gave the controversial book high praise, writing, “I would guess that since World War II only Lolita, The Invisible Man, and Catch-22 are in [The Public Burning’s] class for durability.” Coover received his BA in Slavic Studies at IU in 1953.
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
Bloomington, Ind., native Meg Cabot, BFA’91, published The Princess Diaries in 2000, just nine years after graduating from IU. The Princess Diaries was expanded into a 10-book series, spawning two feature films starring Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews. In total, Cabot has written over 50 books, selling more than 25 million copies worldwide.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Suzanne Collins, BA’85, published The Hunger Games in 2008, the first in a trilogy followed by Catching Fire (2009), and Mockingjay (2010). The Hunger Games trilogy prequel, Songbirds and Snakes, was released in 2020. To date, her novels have sold more than 100 million copies worldwide and are the basis of a billion-dollar movie franchise.
Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell
Norman Bridwell, a Kokomo, Ind., native, attended the John Herron School of Art at IUPUI before releasing Clifford the Big Red Dog in 1963. In the five decades that followed, Clifford would be the basis of more than 40 books, three animated television series, and a live musical.
Bridwell passed away in 2014 at the age of 86, but his legacy lives on: There are over 126 million copies of his books in print in 13 languages.
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
Born in Terre Haute, Ind., in 1871, Dreiser attended IU from 1889-1890. He published An American Tragedy in 1925, a novel based on a notorious murder trial at the turn of the century. In 2005, Time Magazine included the book on its list of the top 100 novels written in English since 1923.
Raintree County by Ross Lockridge, Jr.
Bloomington, Ind., native Ross Lockridge, Jr. graduated from IU in 1935. In 1948, after an arduous, two-year editing process that cut Raintree County from 600,000 words to 450,000, the historical novel based on a fictionalized version of Henry County, Ind., became an instant bestseller.
While the book gained momentum, Lockridge committed suicide at the age of 33. Nine years after his death, a movie adaptation of Raintree County earned four Academy Award nominations, including one for Elizabeth Taylor.
Mosaic (Star Trek: Voyager) by Jeri Taylor
Jeri Taylor, BA’59, is an accomplished television writer, director, and producer, contributing to series ranging from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Magnum P.I. to Little House on the Prairie and The Incredible Hulk. Mosaic is one of three Star Trek novels Taylor wrote for Pocket Books. In 1995, Taylor donated a collection of her screenwriting work to the Indiana University Lilly Library.
Turtle Island by Gary Snyder
After earning his BA from Reed College in Oregon, Gary Snyder studied linguistics at Indiana University before returning to the west coast, where he became a member of the Beat Generation circle of writers. Snyder produced numerous books of poetry and prose, including Turtle Island, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1975.
Neon Vernacular by Yusef Komunyakaa
Celebrated poet Yusef Komunyakaa served as an associate professor at IU from 1985 to 1997. During that time, he released his seminal work, Neon Vernacular, which earned the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1994.
Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue by Jane Pauley
Jane Pauley, BA’72, co-hosted the Today show on NBC from 1976 to 1989 and Dateline from 1992 to 2003. In 2004, she released her bestselling memoir, Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue, in which she revealed her struggle with bipolar disorder. In 2016, she replaced Charles Osgood as the host of CBS Sunday Morning, a position she still holds in 2020.
Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta
Bloomington, Ind., native Michael Koryta, BA’06, is the author of 14 crime novels, nine of which have been optioned for potential film or television production. Those Who Wish Me Dead was released in 2014 and named the summer’s best thriller by both Amazon and Entertainment Weekly. The novel is currently in production as a major motion picture starring Angelina Jolie.
The Behavior of Organisms: An Experimental Analysis by B.F. Skinner
B.F. Skinner’s first book was released in 1938, establishing him as a pioneer of modern behaviorism. He chaired the Department of Psychology at Indiana University from 1946 to 1947 before accepting a position at Harvard University, where he would end his career in 1974. The American Psychological Association ranked Skinner as the 20th century’s most eminent psychologist.
The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the 19th-Century Literary Imagination by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar
In this classic work of literary criticism, Susan Gubar and co-author Sandra M. Gilbert examine Victorian literature from a feminist perspective. Gubar, distinguish Professor Emerita of English and Women’s Studies, taught at Indiana University from 1973 until her retirement in 2009. In 2012, Gilbert and Gubar were awarded the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award of the National Book Critics Circle.
Follow the River by James Alexander Thom
James Alexander Thom’s historical fiction focuses primarily on colonial America. Follow the River, released in 1981, is based on the Draper’s Meadow massacre of 1755. The novel became a national bestseller and was later adapted into a made-for-TV movie in 1995. Thom taught at the IU School of Journalism from 1976 to 1980 before leaving to focus on his writing.
Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay
Ross Gay has taught poetry at Indiana University since 2007. His third poetry collection, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, won the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Prize. Gay’s most recent collection of essays, The Book of Delights, landed on the New York Times bestseller list in 2019.
Can I Finish, Please? by Catherine Bowman
Catherine Bowman has served as the director of the MFA Creative Writing Program and the Ruth Lilly Professor in Poetry at IU. She’s released five collections of poetry to date, including 2016’s Can I Finish, Please? Her poems have appeared in several editions of Best American Poetry.
This article was originally published in the fall 2020 issue of Imagine magazine.