a collage of book covers in the PEN 100 reading list

This year is PEN America’s 100th anniversary, and to celebrate, we have a new reading list highlighting members of the organization who have produced some of the most influential works of the past century. What began in the aftermath of World War I as an American literary club with the intent of providing intellectual community among poets, playwrights, editors, essayists, and novelists has evolved into an organization that is at the forefront of the global defense of free expression and the largest of the more than 100 PEN centers worldwide.

To track this evolution, PEN America has also curated an anniversary exhibit, PEN America at 100: Celebrating a Century of Defending the Written Word 1922-2022, which will be open from July 22 to October 9, 2022. We hope to see you there! 

In this reading list, we are looking back at the works of some of the many people who made PEN America what it is today. In the books below, themes that are central to PEN America’s legacy, including internationalism, censorship, and human rights, emerge again and again, and demonstrate why PEN America was first established. They remind us that writers have been tackling these themes with passion, skill, and creativity throughout the generations.