Invisible Man: Ralph Ellison
Perfect placing. This is the greatest novel written about the African-American experience, largely because Ellison is smart enough to realize that blacks can't blame all their problems on white racism: self-destructive patterns of behavior (substitute Ras the Destroyer for Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton) have held blacks back as much as white oppression. Nearly a half century later, it still reads like today's headlines. Oh, and by the way, the same people who criticize Steinbeck for being political never criticize Ellison or other black writers for being political - because Ellison & Co. are black, and criticizing them for writing about politics might seem racist. It's called hypocrisy, folks; look it up.