The Great American Read

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This week I stumbled on an ad for a new show: The Great American Read on PBS. It airs this week on Tuesday, and I’m so excited! They’ve picked 100 favorite books, and assembled a bunch of mini-documentaries about the books, why we love books, and how authors write books. Then we get to vote to choose America’s favorite book! YAY!

Based on the preview, the list looks like it has a lot of variety, from classics to very new, YA, kids, adult, science fiction, fantasy, a little bit of everything. I’m really looking forward to whatever the show has to tell us about these books, listening to favorite authors talk about their favorites, and (of course) casting my own vote!

Here. Watch the preview.

And, of course, what kind of book blogger would I be if I didn’t go through THE LIST (!!!!!) and see how many I’ve read? I haven’t looked at the list yet, but I’m guessing I’ll have read less than half. I never do well on lists like these. Still, I’m excited to find out what books they’ve picked, to see how many I read, and to get an idea of what I might be hearing about on Tuesday night.

Well, here goes nothing!

Title Author Read?
1984 George Orwell Yes
A Confederacy of Dunces John Kennedy Toole
A Prayer for Owen Meany John Irving
A Separate Peace John Knowles Yes
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Betty Smith
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Mark Twain Yes
The Alchemist Paul Coelho Yes
Alex Cross Mysteries (series) James Patterson
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carroll
Americanah Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
And Then There Were None Agatha Christie  Yes
Anne of Green Gables Lucy Maud Montgomery
Another Country James Baldwin
Atlas Shrugged Ayn Rand
Beloved Roni Morrison
Bless Me, Ultima Rudolfo Anaya
The Book Thief Markus Zusak Yes
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Junot Diaz
The Call of the Wild Jack London Yes
Catch-22 Joseph Heller Yes
The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger Yes
Charlotte’s Web E.B. White Yes
The Chronicles of Narnia (series) C.S. Lewis Yes
Clan of the Cave Bear Jean M. Aul Yes
Coldest Winter Ever Sister Souljah
The Color Purple Alice Walker
The Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas Yes
Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dosteyevsky
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Mark Haddon Yes
The Da Vinci Code Dan Brown Yes
Don Quixote Miguel de Cervantes
Dona Barbara Romulo Gallegos
Dune Frank Herbert
Fifty Shades of Grey (series) E.L. James
Flowers in the Attic V.C. Andrews
Foundation (series) Isaac Asimov Yes (1st book)
Frankenstein Mary Shelley Yes
Game of Thrones (series) George R.R. Martin Yes
Ghost Jason Reynolds
Gilead Marilynne Robinson
The Giver Lois Lowry Yes
The Godfather Mario Puzo
Gone Girl Gillian Flynn
Gone With the Wind Margaret Mitchell Yes
The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck
Great Expectations Charles Dickens Yes
The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald Yes
Gulliver’s Travels Johnathan Swift Yes
The Haindmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood Yes
Harry Potter (series) J.K. Rowling Yes
Hatchet (series) Gary Paulson Yes (1st book)
Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad Yes
The Help Kathryn Stockett Yes
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galexy Douglas Adams Yes
The Hunger Games (series) Suzanne Collins Yes
The Hunt for Red October Tom Clancy
The Intuitionist Colson Whitehead
Invisible Man Ralph Ellison
Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte Yes
The Joy Luck Club Amy Tan
Jurassic Park Michael Chrichton
Left Behind (series) Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
The Little Prince Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Little Women Louisa May Alcott Yes
Lonesome Dove Larry McMurty
Looking for Alaska John Green
The Lord of the Rings (series) J.R.R. Tolkien Yes
The Lovely Bones Alice Sebold
The Martian Andy Weir Yes
Memoirs of a Geisha Arthur Golden
Mind Invaders Dave Hunt
Moby-Dick Herman Melville
The Notebook Nicholas Sparks Yes
One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Outlander (series) Diana Gabaldon
The Outsiders S.E. Hinton
The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde Yes
The Pilgrim’s Progress John Bunyan
The Pillars of the Earth Ken Follett Yes
Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen Yes
Ready Player One Ernest Cline Yes
Rebecca Daphne du Maurier
The Shack William P. Young
Siddhartha Hermann Hesse Yes
The Sirens of Titan Kurt Vonnegut
The Stand Stephen King
The Sun Also Rises Ernest Hemingway
Swan Song Rober R. McCammon
Tales of the City (series) Armistead Maupin
Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston Yes
Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe
This Present Darkness Frank E. Peretti
To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee Yes
The Twilight Saga (series) Stephanie Meyer Yes
War and Peace Leo Tolstoy
Watchers Dean Koontz
The Wheel of Time (series) Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Where the Red Fern Grows Wilson Rawls
White Teeth Zadie Smith
Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte Yes

Total Read: 44

Wow! That’s like, the most I’ve ever read on a list like this! And I have to say, PBS, this is an outstanding list. Almost every book I would expect to see on it is. There were only a couple surprises. For example, I’m a little shocked that Looking for Alaska was the John Green novel they picked. I mean, the TFIOS bench is now on Google Maps…

It’s important to remember as you go through this list, however, that it’s a list of most popular books, not the best books. That’s how picks like Fifty Shades of Grey and The Da Vinci Code made it. They’re not awesome, but MAN are they popular!

I’m super excited to watch and see how voting goes. I have no idea what I’m going to vote for. Both of my favorites are on this list, and choosing between them would be like choosing a favorite child. DECISIONS, DECISIONS!

To find out more about The Great American Read you can visit PBS’s webpage here. Look forward to seeing you all on Tuesday night!


What’s your favorite book? Did it make PBS’s list?

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23 thoughts on “The Great American Read

    • LOTR and P&P are the two that I’m never going to be able to choose between. Never read Dune, mostly because I started the movie once and was bored out of my mind. But it’s on my someday list. Definitely want to, just can’t commit the time to that monster at the moment. Too many other monsters on my shelf, lol.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think I’d pick LotR over Pride and Prejudice. My history with Tolkien is longer than my history with Austen.

        Did you try to watch the David Lynch movie, or the SyFy miniseries? The David Lynch version is just dreadful and wanders well away from the book in many ways. The SyFy version is much closer to the book, though the color of the production design and the cinematography are weird.. Apparently, Denis Villeneuve (who directed Arrival and Bladerunner 2049) is working on a two-part film version, so we’ll see if that becomes a reality.

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        • Don’t know, it was a long time ago. Based on how your spelling SyFy I would guess NOT that version, because back in those days it was still the Sci Fi channel.

          My history with Tolkien is longer too, by almost five years. But they’re just too different to compare. I love them both in very different ways, so who is to say which one I like better?

          Liked by 1 person

          • SyFy’s version came out with it was still The Sci Fi Channel, but I’m used to calling it SyFy…. I think it was around 2000 or 2001? David Lynch’s version came out around 1980 and starre Kyle McLachlan. Sting made an appearance, as did Patrick Stewart.

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          • It was probably that movie. We rented it from Blockbuster (showing my age, here, lol), and I’m thinking they wouldn’t have had a Sci Fi mini-series there. Also, I googled the poster, and it looks familiar.

            Liked by 1 person

  1. I love the way you compared your real-life reading to the list! I’m too lazy to really figure this out for myself, but I’m guessing I’ve read even less than you. It’s interesting that a lot of the books they’ve chosen seem to be cultural sensations rather than “good” literature, like Fifty Shades. The sociologist in me finds this intriguing!

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  2. I have read, (or attempted to read) 21, I am surprised about a few of these though. I suspect some of the people that were asked haven’t read a book since middle school because a few of these are required for english class. Who knows, maybe for someone out there “The call of the Wild” really is their favorite book, but I never cared for it. Many of these books like “The Stand” I started, but after a few hundred pages still couldn’t handle it. A lot of awesome picks too, and many I haven’t even heard of. (Yes, I’m a barbarian) But all in all it sounds awesome.

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    • Based on the website, it sounds like the list was compiled through a survey of a couple thousand Americans, but then sorted through by a handful of literature experts. The experts were allowed to add whatever book they wanted (I think) regardless of whether anyone voted for it or not. Which is how I imagine some of the books I’d never heard of made it.

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