While clear-eyed about the country's injustices, Melville never succumbed to cynicism. On the author's bicentennial, American readers could use a dose of his ability to fuse realism with idealism.
The great thinker left thousands of comments in the margins of his personal library. Now these are being digitised and catalogued.
Leigh Hunt is a nineteenth-century writer who grappled with the question: How can we celebrate and enjoy ourselves at this time of the year when there is so much misery in the world?