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"The Great American Read" is an eight-part series that explores and celebrates the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels (as chosen in a national survey). It investigates how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience.
THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton
I love this book because it gave me a new perspective on class division. I really relate to the main character and also, it was the first book that I was forced to read in school that I actually liked. People should read it because it’s really well-written, it’s a beautiful book, it’s really interesting and the plot is very, very good.
- Thea Standridge
A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES by John Kennedy Toole
It was the first book my daughter suggested I had to read. She was 16. She said, “you have to read this.” And it was such a nice surprise, pleasure, that my kid would recommend that book for me to read. And she said it made her laugh, and that was the second pleasure because she was always way too serious.
- Graham Underwood
HATCHET by Gary Paulsen
It’s a survival story and Gary Paulsen is an awesome author, and has written lots of other books. It’s one book that I really enjoyed teaching and the kids enjoyed reading.
- Nathalie Coulter
A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES by John Kennedy Toole
I really like it because there is such a complex main character, and he’s deeply flawed. He’s highly intelligent, and misunderstood by many, but I’m fascinated by it.
- Tracy Scotts Weed
THE BARON IN THE TREES by Italo Calvino
It's just infused with the joy of living. It’s not blind to the pain of the world, but you get the feeling reading it that this is a writer who is performing out of a love of performance in some ways. A lot of the books I love the best are very sorrowful and about what it’s like to be alive and grieving, and this is a book that’s the opposite of that. It reminds you what it’s like to be alive and celebrating.
- Kevin Brockmeier
HARRY POTTER by J.K. Rowling
I’m always constantly re-reading Harry Potter. I think you need to read this book because you’ll get lost in a magical world that you’ll want to read time and time again. And, sometimes when life is hard, I think, man, wouldn’t it be better to be magical right now!
- Tafta Rogers
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE DEAD by Kevin Brockmeier
It has probably the strongest hero of any book I’ve ever read. It doesn’t fall into the trap of a happy ending, or an unhappy ending. It has a transcendental ending. It’s truly heroic in every sense, in these unheroic times. It’s about someone who’s brave and decent and persevering who deserves to be remembered in the best ways possible.
- Larry Mitchell
THE DARKEST CHILD by Delores Phillips
It’s a really good story of the struggle of this child, that was the darkest-skinned child, and all the abuse she had to take, not only from the outside world but internally from her mother. I guess it’s a historical fiction book, and I just like the story of how she made it through all those difficulties.
- Lajean Frisch
A LESSON BEFORE DYING by Ernest Gaines
It pretty much moved me from page to page. It’s about a young man who moves back to his hometown to be a teacher, and he somehow begins giving lessons to a young man who is in jail, who is on Death Row. He’s teaching the young man but he’s also learning from this young man.
- Arthur Lee Pruitt Jr.
FRANKESTEIN by Mary Shelley
I love this novel because it not only enriched my experience of the sci-fi movies and the series that I’m vividly watching on Netflix right now, but also, I’m going to be graduating from medical school in like three weeks, and it really talks about the importance of not pursuing knowledge just for knowledge itself.
- Cassandra Lautreder
THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY by Douglas Adams
I just loved it. It was so funny and in a way that I thought was just so intellectually stimulating while still being that kind of absurd hilarity. It’s still so timeless. So many years after it’s been written, it’s still hilarious today, and I think if you want just that kind of funny but thought provoking novel, it’s just something you should read.
- Frankie Alford
WAR AND PEACE by Leo Tolstoy
It’s absolutely absorbing and covers war and romance and peace and everything – I just love that book. I think what really makes a great book is that it reaches people at a visceral level. Tolstoy was writing over a hundred years ago, but there is so much about that book that touches me on a visceral level.
- Stephanie Vanderslice
HUCKLEBERRY FINN by Mark Twain
I feel that Mark Twain is expressing himself through Huck Finn, and Huck’s naivity hides Twain’s brilliance. Twain makes a statement about slavery through this very smart, but naïve boy, and it’s very moving. He makes real statements, and those statements make sense even now.
- Trina Robbins
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen
Why do I love it? Because I am the third of three daughters, and so I know what it’s like for a family to constantly be obsessed with trying to marry off their daughters. And so I found in the story of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, Jane who is very much an impowered woman herself, a reflection of who I am myself.
- Daisy Khan
THE COLDEST WINTER EVER by Sister Souljah
It’s set in New York City. It’s my New York City, and it’s kind of representative of my upbringing as a teenager in the ‘90s. And it’s a very interesting, gritty read, and I remember everyone reading it. And I felt like it was a story that belonged to us - “us” meaning people, kids who grew up in New York City at a certain time – and I kind of feel protective of it.
- Ibi Zoboi
THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I probably had an ambivalent relationship with in high school, when they taught it in kind of a very specific narrow way. The more that I’ve been able to encounter it on my own, the more I realize how beautifully constructed, how symmetrical the whole book is, the whole enterprise. What a fascinating job Fitzgerald did in painting Nick as this narrator who thinks really highly of himself, but also is blind to a lot of things.
- Matthew Pitt
AND THEN THERE WERE NONE by Agatha Christie
It’s a very short book, and it’s fairly simple. It’s just people who have secrets. Each one of them is a normal, ordinary person with reasons for what they did, and they still have done these horrible things. And in combination with that very normalized horror and darkness, the atmosphere is wonderful. There’s tension. There’s suspense. And it’s a mystery puzzle, and the mystery puzzle is very good
- Amanda Hayes
Whether it's rediscovering an old favorite or engaging with a new title, "The Great American Read" encourages people to read as many novels as they can from the top 100 list. We have created some tools to help you keep track of your progress.
"The Great American Read," a new PBS series and multiplatform initiative that celebrates the joy of reading and the books people love, launched with a two-hour premiere episode Tuesday, May 22, at 7 p.m. Hosted by television personality and journalist Meredith Vieira, the program introduced viewers to a list of America's 100 favorite novels selected through a demographically representative national survey. Features included interviews with celebrities, authors, super fans and everyday Americans discussing the way particular books have influenced them and the significance in American popular culture. The series culminates in the Fall 2018 with the finale episode presenting the results of the first-ever national vote to choose America's Best-Loved Novel.Watch the Trailer E Watch the Premiere E
The top 100 book list is based on a public opinion poll, conducted by YouGov.com on behalf of PBS for "The Great American Read," that asked respondents to name their favorite novel. An advisory panel of book industry professionals compiled the results. Each author was represented only once, and series such as the "Alex Cross Mysteries" were included as one entry. The chosen books span five centuries, from "Don Quixote" (1603) to "Ghost" (2016). Authors from 15 different countries are represented, with genres ranging from beloved children's classics such as "Charlotte's Web" to modern best sellers such as "Twilight."
Voting is open and continues throughout the summer, leading up to the grand finale in October 2018. Over the summer, viewers will be able to vote here at this website and through hashtag voting via Facebook and Twitter using #GreatReadPBS. In the fall, viewers will also be able to cast their vote toll free by phone and through SMS texting.Vote Now 3
There are so many adventures to find in books! If you’re looking for ideas or a book you haven’t read yet, PBS KIDS has drawn together a list of books we think are pretty great. We’ve sorted our recommendations into lists of books you can read aloud to your kids, read along with your kids, and books that are fun for kids to read on their own.