For those of you who missed it, PBS launched their Great American Read project on Tuesday. The project is an effort to find America’s most loved novel, with a list of 100 possible candidates chosen from nationwide surveys. The only rules for inclusion on the list were that the novel had to be fiction, had to published in English, and there could only be one entry per author to keep things varied (series count as one entry), resulting in a list of titles spanning many different countries, time periods, and genres.
You can go online to vote for your favorites for the rest of the summer (although you can only vote once per day), and phone/text voting opens in September when the series begins, with each episode focusing on a select group from the list and exploring what makes people love them.
I’ve (completely) read 22 of the 100 books on the list, and here are the ones that hold a special place in my heart:
1. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
I’ve enjoyed this series as a child and as an adult. I also played the White Witch in my junior high school’s production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, so I have a lot of special memories associated with it. Like many kids, I wished there was a way to actually visit Narnia and the other book worlds I loved, and when my experience in the play was compounded with the release of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe film that same year, I had the lightbulb realization that while I couldn’t really visit these places, with a creative job like acting, writing, or directing, I could get about as close as humanly possible.
2. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
I got the chance to play Vera in a high school production of the play, so this one also has fun memories associated with it. What I didn’t realize was that the play has a different ending than the novel, so when I read it for character research late one night I really got spooked!
3. The Giver by Lois Lowry
My first exposure to quality dystopian fiction.
4. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
My first favorite “real” book. I felt like quite the accomplished kid when I finished this one, especially since it wasn’t strictly classified as a children’s book. With a different ending, I would have been tempted to name my dog Big Dan a couple of years later.
5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My favorite required high school reading.
6. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
A modern classic, and it’s a fantasy to boot. This series grew up with me, as I started it around 3rd grade and celebrated the last book’s release in high school, the characters developing and the plot deepening right alongside me.
So there’s the pitch for my favorites. If I’ve convinced you, you can cast your vote at pbs.org/the-great-american-read. What would you choose as America’s most loved novel? Any books you think were overlooked on the list of 100?