We all have a favorite book, or two or three. The Great American Read asks what is America’s favorite book? And everyone gets a vote in this nationwide literary quest for the best loved novel. What would you choose? Is your favorite on this list of 100?
The Great American Read is a celebration of the power, passion and joy of reading through the lens of 100 best-loved fiction books as chosen by the public in a national survey of 7,200 people. They include a diverse range of genres, styles, subject matters and time periods, from classics like Herman Melville’s Moby Dick to contemporary young adult novels like John Green’s Looking for Alaska. Fifty-one of the books are set in the U.S., sixty-four are written by Americans, seventy have been published after World War II. The list includes books from as far back as the seventeenth century to as recent as 2016 and, in total, represent the human experience told from a diverse range of perspectives. The Great American Read offers a forum for readers to express what titles and stories they’re passionate about and to share how novels impacted their lives.
Hosted by Emmy Award-winning executive producer and anchor Meredith Vierra, the eight-part PBS series was launched on May 22nd and continues all summer. Voting closes on October 18 and the series finale will air October 23rd when the winning book is named. Voting has already begun online and on social media, through hashtag voting on Facebook and Twitter, and later will include SMS and toll-free voting. The series is the centerpiece of an ambitious multi-platform digital, educational and community outreach campaign, designed to get the country reading and passionately talking about books. Vierra summed up the power of reading like this: “It allows us to escape to new worlds, introduces us to a diverse range of people, opens our minds to different ideas, and allows us to keep learning no matter our age or background.”
The Great American Read website asks how many of the one hundred you’ve read. I thought I was well read—after all, I’m a writer AND a bookseller—but I’d only read thirty-one of the one hundred books chosen. Thirteen more are on my must-read list (Don Quixote and One Hundred Years of Solitude among them), a pile that grows daily. While quite a few of my all-time favorites are on this list, like War and Peace, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, The Underground Railroad, and Charlotte’s Web, there are a number of novels I found unforgettable that are missing from The Great American Read. Novels that could’ve made my number one pick if they were on this list include A Little Life, A Visit from the Goon Squad, Olive Kitteridge, and Never Let Me Go. Regardless of whether each of our favorite books made this particular list, the value of The Great American Read is getting us focused on reading as it investigates how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by their stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience.
The PBS launch program began with a voice-over that offers the reason why fiction matters so much: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” he said. “A man who does not read lives only one.”
Written by Linda Kass
About the author: I began my career as a magazine writer and correspondent for regional and national publications and am now an assistant editor for Narrative, an online literary magazine. My debut novel, Tasa’s Song, was inspired by my mother’s early life in eastern Poland during the Second World War. It won a Bronze Medal for Historical Fiction from the Independent Publisher Award Program and was a 2016 Foreword INDIES Award Finalist. I am also the proud owner of Gramercy Books, central Ohio’s newest indie bookstore!
Learn more about me on my personal website.